As graphics cards get more power hungry, the need to develop a new power connector arises. Igor's Lab (opens in new tab) has shared the schematics for a high-power PCIe power connector tailored for PCIe 5.0. The power connector could debut with the next generation of AMD and Nvidia graphics cards.
The 12VHPWR power connector consists of 16 pins in total, four more than Nvidia's 12-pin PCIe power connector. It would appear that the chipmaker was on to something or somehow anticipated the direction in which PCIe power connectors were going. With the 12VHPWR power connector, there are 12 power contacts with four smaller signal contacts at the bottom of the connector. For the moment, it's unknown what's the purpose for the signal contacts.
The 12VHPWR power connector is reportedly built for PCIe 5.0 graphics cards and isn't backwards compatible with previous generations graphics cards. This new connector aims to eliminate the usage of multiple PCIe power connectors and decrease cable clutter in the process. Instead of endowing graphics cards with up to three 8-pin PCIe power connectors, manufacturers can just implement a single 12VHPWR power connector.
According to the technical drawings, the 12VHPWR power connector doesn't adhere to the MicroFit Molex standard. The power pins are 3mm apart whereas the pitch on the existing 6-pin and 8-pin PCIe connectors is 4.2mm. It's 18.85mm long so it isn't exactly a small connector. However, it certainly takes up less space than three 8-pin PCIe power connectors. By comparison, the 12VHPWR power connector is only slightly shorter than 12-pin PCIe power connector from Nvidia, which measures 19mm in length.
Each power contact is rated for 9.2A, delivering up to 55.2A of continuous power via a 12V rail. Theoretically, the 12VHPWR power connector is good for up to 662.4W. However, it officially supports up to 600W. Amphenol ICC (opens in new tab) (via Olrak (opens in new tab)) has already listed the 12VHPWR power connector, which the brand has dubbed as the "Minitek Pwr CEM-5 PCIe Connector System." The company specified 9.5A per power contact, which is slightly higher than Igor's information.
Amphenol ICC confirmed that the connector is designed for 600W graphics cards. It didn't specify whether it's for gaming or data center graphics cards. However, the company did list AI and cloud, gaming consoles, graphic interface, networking, server and storage as potential target markets for the connector.
With Ampere, Nvidia pushed the 12-pin PCIe power connector, but it never caught on. Only the Founders Edition utilized that connector. The chipmaker's partners still preferred the standard 6-pin and 8-pin PCIe power connectors for their custom Ampere offerings. The introduction of the 12VHPWR power connectors will be troublesome for power supply manufacturers. They'll either have to design new products that comes with the 12VHPWR power connector or provide existing owners with an adapter.
It's a shame that graphics card seem to be going in the other direction instead of becoming more power efficient. The GeForce RTX 3090 already took us to the 350W threshold with some custom models hitting the 450W mark. The existence of the 12VHPWR power connectors insinuates that future graphics cards may be even more power-consuming. Let's just hope that the 600W from the connector is just over-provision, and vendors actually won't have to use its maximum capacity on a consumer graphics card.