Another GeForce RTX 4090 16-pin Adapter Bites The Dust (Updated)

GeForce RTX 4090
(Image credit: Charlie Woods/Twitter)

Update 10/27/2022 5:15 pm PT

Two new incidents have emerged: one on Reddit (opens in new tab) and another on the Korean Quasarzone forums (opens in new tab) (via harukaze5719 (opens in new tab)) (opens in new tab). The former took to Reddit to share an image of his partially melted 16-pin power adapter. Luckily, his Asus TUF Gaming GeForce RTX 4090 OC Edition graphics card was still working correctly, and he had caught on to the problem before it damaged his graphics card.

Unfortunately, the Korean forum user didn’t have the same luck. One of the ports from his power adapter was melted entirely and ended up moderately harming the 16-pin power connector on his MSI GeForce RTX 4090 Suprim X, meaning he’ll have to RMA the graphics card.

The number of incidents currently comes down to seven, but more cases may emerge. Independent analysis from German news outlet Igor’s Lab reveals that the bad design of Nvidia’s 16-pin power adapter is the culprit for the meltdowns. Meanwhile, Nvidia is having its AIB partners ship the damaged graphics cards back to the chipmaker’s lab for further analysis.

 Update 10/26/2022 6:15 pm PT

Gigabyte has sent Redditor reggie gakil (opens in new tab) a replacement for his GeForce RTX 4090 Gaming OC. Next, the damaged graphics card and melted power adapter will make their way to Nvidia for inspection.

Meanwhile, a fifth GeForce RTX 4090 owner has come forward on Reddit (opens in new tab) to report a similar meltdown on his power adapter. He accidentally discovered it when disconnecting his Asus TUF Gaming GeForce RTX 4090 OC Edition to install his newly acquired Core i9-13900K Raptor Lake processor.

The Redditor's photograph (opens in new tab) showed that some pins had experienced excessive heat. The corner terminals look slightly backed out, whereas one of the ports has already started to melt. The user shared another photograph (opens in new tab) of his system, and the power adapter appears to be seated properly, and the cable isn't overly bent, which discards a bad installation.

Update 10/25/2022 4:30 pm PT

A fourth case has allegedly surfaced on a YouTube video (opens in new tab) from the Bang4BuckPC Gamer channel. The user (Hakam Salman) allegedly purchased a prebuilt gaming PC from CyberPowerPC with a GeForce RTX 4090. Unfortunately, the power connector for the graphics card seemingly melted, and the user returned the PC to CyberPowerPC. 

CyberPowerPC has contacted the YouTube user to follow up on his claims.

Original Article

The GeForce RTX 4090 is hands down the best graphics card that money can buy for the time being. Unfortunately, while the Ada flagship graphics card is fine, the included 4x8-pin to 1x16-pin power adapters reportedly pose a fire hazard, according to multiple user feedback.

Previously, two GeForce RTX 4090 owners have reported experiencing 16-pin power adapter meltdowns. Both owned custom models, with the first owner (opens in new tab) rocking a Gigabyte GeForce RTX 4090 Gaming OC and the second user (opens in new tab) with an Asus TUF Gaming GeForce RTX 4090 OC Edition. The third report comes from a Facebook user Charlie Woods (then tweeted via WCCF's Hassan Mujtaba (opens in new tab)), who coincidentally has an Asus TUF Gaming GeForce RTX 4090. According to the owner's recount of the facts, he was benchmarking when he smelled the smoke from the power adapter. Fortunately, he could pull the connector out before it did any damage to the graphics card.

Nvidia launched an investigation into the matter when the first case surfaced, and with good reason, since meltdowns are starting to become widespread. The user feedback shows that the problem may reside with the design of the 12VHPWR power connector. Bending the cables too close to the connector seemingly causes some terminals to loosen up, leading to uneven mating. In addition, it unbalances the load across the other terminals. PCI-SIG documented the potential thermal variance issue long before the 12VHPWR power connector debuted on the GeForce RTX 4090. Therefore, it certainly comes as a shock that the problem is still present in the finished product.

According to the PCI-SIG slides, which Seasonic shared on its Bilibili account (opens in new tab), the standards body stated that multiple suppliers and designs failed the tests. Cables, even if they have low cycles, didn't fail as long as they weren't bent. PCI-SIG tested the cable bending problem with the connector to the power supply. It didn't test the issue on the graphics card side. PCI-SIG found bending the cable less than 30mm from the connector provokes meltdowns. Exceeding 40 connection cycles on the connector also causes the problem. Do note that PCI-SIG tested on a "benchtop/lab" environment, which we assume is an open-air test bench. It's not the same setting as a conventional PC case, but the results are what is essential here.

(Image credit: Seasonic/Bilibili)

PCI-SIG’s tests revealed that the power connector was overheating at the mating point. The problem affected both rows of pins. PCI-SIG performed the tests at an ambient temperature of 26 degrees Celsius and took readings from the hot spots at 2.5 hours. The end of the cable connected to the power supply showed readings between 51.3 to 52, whereas the end to the graphics card peaked at 150.2. PCI-SIG observed melting between 10 to 30 hours. The unbalanced current resulted from the resistance variation between the different pins. The standards body noted that bending led to high resistance in the other pins, causing the current to transfer to the lowest resistance.

When excessively bending the cable, the loss of mating contact can happen to 6-pin or 8-pin PCIe power connectors. It’s nothing new. However, the problem seems more prevalent with the 12VHPWR power connector, so users should pay extra attention to the installation. Custom cable manufacturers, such as CableMod, recommend a minimum distance of 35mm from the connector before bending the cable. The company also sells a 90-degree power adapter to mitigate the cable bending problem.

German publication Hardwareluxx (opens in new tab) has gotten its hands on power adapters from Nvidia, be quiet!, and Asus. Unfortunately, the adapters have different designs. Out of the three reported power adapter meltdowns, one was from Gigabyte, and the other two were from Asus. Without more cases, it’ll be hard to pinpoint if a specific OEM is at fault. In addition, three Hardwareluxx forum users have reported problems with the be quiet! adapter. One user reportedly attached (opens in new tab) a cable tie at a 40mm distance from the connector, but one of the pins still came out easily. Be quiet! has replaced the user’s adapter and will investigate the issue.

GeForce RTX 4090 owners should probably recheck their graphics card’s installation and avoid bending the cable for the 16-pin power adapter where possible. Hopefully, Nvidia will get to the bottom of the issue quickly and provide consumers with a solution if needed.

Zhiye Liu
RAM Reviewer and News Editor

Zhiye Liu is a Freelance News Writer at Tom’s Hardware US. Although he loves everything that’s hardware, he has a soft spot for CPUs, GPUs, and RAM.

  • Kamen Rider Blade
    This is Incident Case #2 I believe?
    Reply
  • btmedic04
    Kamen Rider Blade said:
    This is Incident Case #2 I believe?

    this is the 3rd report of this issue in the last 24 hours

    Freddie Mercury Approves
    Reply
  • dehjomz
    $1600+ for a fire hazard? No thanks.
    Reply
  • DavidLejdar
    Such stories near Halloween... I am now all scared to stress-test the CPU of the DDR5 rig I just put together.

    I mean, I know that the story is about a specific thing with the 4090, and CPU temp looks good here so far I suppose, with pretty much constantly 39° C (idle). But still... spooooky.
    Reply
  • PlaneInTheSky
    Ok, this is now beyond a joke, and actually scary.

    These GPU are a fire hazard and need to be recalled.

    At first it was one guy with melted cables, now it's several reports in a matter of days. And that's a lot considering how few 4090 are even out there yet.

    At this point I would not even install a 4090 / 4080 (or any AMD graphics card with this plug), even if given for free.

    These GPU are clearly using power beyond the limit of what is safe with current PSU and standards, and the adaptors to make it all work seem nothing more than a dangerous hackjob. Just a matter of time before one of those things cause a fire.
    Reply
  • BX4096
    PlaneInTheSky said:
    Ok, this is now beyond a joke, and actually scary...
    Only if these reports are true. I'm not making any judgements for these particular cases , but it's a well known fact that people like to make <Mod Edit> up, especially for fame and profit.

    If all it takes is a few seconds with a cigarette lighter, you bet there will be some fake reports for this sooner than later.
    Reply
  • peachpuff
    BX4096 said:
    Only if these reports are true. I'm not making any judgements for these particular cases , but it's a well known fact that people like to make <Mod Edit> up, especially for fame and profit.

    If all it takes is a few seconds with a cigarette lighter, you bet there will be some fake reports for this sooner than later.
    Pci-sig also making this up?
    Can't believe how small this connector is, 600 watts throught that? lol

    Reply
  • PiranhaTech
    I wonder if DC has the same effect as AC for too thin wires

    I bet they made it this way to make a backwards-capable path. Otherwise, they should consider a really thick, single cable with 1-2 wires instead.

    PlaneInTheSky said:
    Ok, this is now beyond a joke, and actually scary.

    These GPU are a fire hazard and need to be recalled.

    At first it was one guy with melted cables, now it's several reports in a matter of days. And that's a lot considering how few 4090 are even out there yet.

    At this point I would not even install a 4090 / 4080 (or any AMD graphics card with this plug), even if given for free.

    These GPU are clearly using power beyond the limit of what is safe with current PSU and standards, and the adaptors to make it all work seem nothing more than a dangerous hackjob. Just a matter of time before one of those things cause a fire.
    The GPU maybe not, but the adapters I agree. However, it's bad design to have that plug on the top of the GPU that goes straight up if you need 3.5 cm of clearance. This doesn't matter if it's a 4090 or a 4060. Nvidia might be okay if they ship out 90 degree adapters though.

    I can see the 3.5 cm clearance being a huge reason why AMD didn't want to do it for their upcoming cards.
    Reply
  • Afrospinach
    What bothers me is quite a thing was made about the viability of these new plugs before the release at it was not looking good.
    Reply
  • atomicWAR
    Afrospinach said:
    What bothers me is quite a thing was made about the viability of these new plugs before the release at it was not looking good.

    I WAS close to pulling the trigger on a RTX 4090 but this gives me pause. I might only upgrade my cpu platform and see how this shakes out over the next few weeks.
    Reply