Defective 12VHPWR connector: Nvidia takes a stand and blames users

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Around a month after the first reports of melted or even burning 12VHPWR connectors on GeForce RTX 4090 graphics cards (test), Nvidia has now issued a statement and confirmed the analysis from Gamers Nexus, according to which connectors that are not fully engaged are the problem.

Nvidia also sees the problem with application errors

Since the first charred and consequently defective 12VHPWR connectors became known shortly after the first Ada Lovelace graphics card with the new 12+4-pin connector went on sale, there has been speculation about the causes. Since the problem was initially only noticeable when using the supplied adapter for four 8-pin PCIe connectors, initial suspicions focused on just that rigid whiplash cable: Strong bending should lead to complications, it was said.

Later Igor's Lab and be quiet! attracted attention with an analysis according to which the adapter had fundamental design flaws. However, Gamer's Nexus disagreed and saw the cause as simply an incorrect installation of the plug – regardless of whether an adapter is used or not.

Defective 12VHPWR connector (image: Gamers Nexus)
Defective 12VHPWR connector (Image: Gamers Nexus)
Traces of incorrect installation on a 12VHPWR connector (Image: Gamers Nexus)

Nvidia itself largely sat out the debate after an initial statement that the manufacturer was investigating the problems. So far: In a statement, the company Gamers Nexus' analysis at. According to this, Nvidia is aware of around 50 cases of melted 12VHPWR connectors worldwide, with assessments of the graphics cards, cables and adapters sent in showing that the connectors were all incorrectly installed. Gamers Nexus claims to have found out, citing four board partners, that around 125,000 RTX 4090 graphics cards have been sold so far, so that around 0.04 percent of all users have been affected by defective connectors to date.

We are actively investigating the reports. We are aware of about 50 cases globally.

Our findings to date suggest that a common issue is that connectors are not fully plugged into the graphics card. To help ensure the connector is secure we recommend plugging the power dongle into the graphics card first to ensure it's firmly and evenly plugged in, before plugging the graphics card into the motherboard. We are investigating additional ways to ensure that the connector is secure before powering on the graphics card.

Nvidia has been able to test the cables that were RMA'ed by affected customers. In all of the cases a wear line is clearly visible that indicates the cable wasn't fully inserted into the 16-pin power connector.

Nvidia versus Gamers Nexus

ComputerBase can also confirm that the 12HPWR connector engages much less clearly than the well-known 8- and 6-pin PCIe connectors. In the editorial department, too, it happened once in the last few weeks that the supposedly correctly inserted 12+4-pin connector was not plugged into the socket on the graphics card as far as it could go. However, the graphics card was not exposed to long-term loads until the error was noticed – there was no melted connector.

Incorrectly and correctly inserted 12VHPWR connector (Image: Nvidia)
PCI-SIG stress tests of the 12VHPWR connector (Image: GamersNexus)

If the plug is not fully inserted and locked in the socket, this can either directly or over time through contact with the cable lead to the contact surfaces between plug and socket in one or more of the pins being much smaller than actually intended. The problem can be exacerbated if the bending radii on the connector are too tight.

Nvidia is once again encouraging buyers of a GeForce RTX 4090 or RTX 4080 (test) to ensure that the connector is fully inserted and illustrates the situation with a diagram. It is best, it is said, to first plug the 12VHPWR connector into the power connector on the graphics card and only then to install it in the PCIe slot on the mainboard. Nvidia is also looking for other ways to prevent operation with incorrectly connected connectors.

Nvidia assures affected users of a replacement

Nvidia's statements on warranty processing in the event of a melted 12+4-pin connector are relevant for affected buyers of a GeForce RTX 4090 or RTX 4080. The manufacturer assures Gamers Nexus that defects that occur in this context are always covered by the guarantee and that an exchange is guaranteed – even if it can be clearly established that an application error when plugging in is the cause of the defect. Furthermore, it doesn't matter which model of graphics card or 12VHPWR to 4×8-pin or 3×8-pin adapter was used.

Nvidia and our partners are committed to supporting our customers and ensuring an expedited MA process, regardless of the cable or card used.

Nvidia to Gamers Nexus

Nvidia was not able to comment on another potential culprit to Gamers Nexus: Foreign objects that can settle on the socket pins through repeated loosening and closing of the connection should also be able to cause a poorer contact surface of the pins. The question also remains unanswered as to why the problem did not already occur with the RTX 3090 Ti (test), which was the first gaming graphics card to use the 12VHPWR connector at the beginning of 2022. It remains to be seen whether the RTX 4080 will be affected again: The second Ada Lovelace graphics card has only been available in stores since the middle of this week.

The 12VHPWR standard is partly to blame

The blame for smoldering or even burning plug-in connections lies with it but ultimately not the users alone: ​​A sensibly designed plug would prevent such obvious mistakes during installation. With the 12VHPWR standard, on the other hand, too subtle snapping encourages errors. One suggestion is to simply let the plug snap in more clearly.

Another refers to the four sense pins. They are intended to communicate with the power supply to coordinate how much electrical power the graphics card is allowed to consume. If the four corresponding pins of the 12+4-pin connector were to be a little shorter, so that a sense connection would not be established if the 12VHPWR connector was not fully engaged, the graphics card would not even be able to boot.