AMD's reference designs for its flagship RDNA 3 GPUs garnered early praise for being relatively sleek and for sensibly sticking with 2x 8-pin power connectors. But these Made By AMD (MBA) designs may suffer from thermal issues — at least, that's what German tech site HardwareLuxx is investigating, following a wake of reports that Radeon RX 7900 XT(X) cards are suffering from high-temperature hot spots, loud fans, and thermal throttling.
An AMD spokesperson confirmed that they're investigating the issues in a statement to HardwareLuxx: "Our GPU team is currently looking into the problem."
Using data from a handful of reviews as well as users from its forums, HardwareLuxx has shown that custom Radeon 7900 XT(X) designs appear to have a maximum delta of 20 degrees Celsius between the GPU's average temperature and high-temperature hot spots. This means that even if the GPU's temperature hits 80 C, the hot spot remains <100 C and the graphics card will not throttle.
However, MBA reference designs have been observed with GPU/hot spot temperature deltas as high as 53C (a 56C GPU with a 109C hot spot), and this seems to be a somewhat consistent issue. This means that a GPU with a modest average temperature of around 60C could start throttling if the hotspot reaches 110C.
If MBA designs are suffering from this large GPU-to-hot-spot delta and third-party designs aren't, it seems like the obvious culprit might be AMD's reference cooling designs. HardwareLuxx didn't jump to this conclusion, instead opting to discuss direct die cooling of the Navi 31 GPU being difficult due to the chiplet design presenting an uneven surface to the cooler. Specifically, editor Andreas Schilling said "we suspect that an uneven contact pressure is responsible for the high temperature differences."
Looking at a bare PCB, the publication says the central GCD and six MCDs are filled and look level, so there could be something else causing uneven contact issues (such as the GPU frame). In our testing, the reference-model Radeon RX 7900 XT(X) cards didn't seem particularly noisy, nor did they throttle or have any temperature issues (they reached a respectable maximum of 70C). However, it's certainly possible more strenuous workloads could result in higher temperatures — FurMark for example showed rather low GPU clocks in the 1650–1700 MHz range.
Whatever the issue is, it sounds like AMD is looking into it — hopefully they'll find a solution, and maybe they'll also take a look at the noisy fans and other issues Radeon RX 7900 XT(X) owners have been facing.