A small and insignificant insect isn't the only thing that can impede a GeForce RTX 4090, one of the best graphics cards, from working correctly. Oxidation can cause an equal amount of havoc, too. In what appears to be another quality control failure, an MSI GeForce RTX 4090 Gaming X Trio 24G, retailing for $1,699, has seemingly escaped the factory with oxidation on some of the pads connected to the GPU.
The quick background story is that Tony from NorthWestRepair, a YouTube repair channel, received an MSI GeForce RTX 4090 Gaming X Trio 24G that was reportedly DOA (dead on arrival). The flagship GeForce RTX 40-series (Ada Lovelace) graphics card came inside a prebuilt gaming system from an unspecified company. There is a bit of mystery revolving around the case.
How did MSI's quality control department not spot the defective MSI GeForce RTX 4090 Gaming X Trio 24G? Graphics cards are thoroughly tested before leaving the factory. If it got past MSI, how come the system builder who put it together didn't catch the DOA? Again, system builders should test a system before sending it to the consumer. More importantly, why did the buyer send the graphics card to a repair shop instead of RMAing the system with the system builder since it's under warranty? Unfortunately, the questions will remain unanswered. Tony believes that the person who sent the MSI GeForce RTX 4090 Gaming X Trio 24G may have received a refund from the seller.
Tony did the usual due diligence on the faulty graphics card, such as checking the fuses and resistances and ensuring the power stages were operational with his oscilloscope. After Tony removed the massive AD102 silicon, he discovered about 100 pads had been ripped from the PCB. The revelation suggests that the graphics card was potentially damaged during shipping. It's plausible since the MSI GeForce RTX 4090 Gaming X Trio 24G is a triple-slot monster that weighs 4.8 pounds (2.17kg), so if the system builder didn't properly secure the graphics card, it would likely suffer damage in transport.
The second issue is that some pads have undergone oxidation, suggesting a deficient manufacturing and QC process. It wasn't just one or a couple of pads. There were many of them around the GPU area. Oxygen and moisture in the air cause a metallic oxide layer to form on the surface of the pads, which are typically made of copper or tin. The oxide layer obstructs the connection with the solder contacts. There are a few potential causes as to why the pads had developed the oxide layer. Humidity is the number one enemy, whereas incorrect PCB handling and storage can also contribute to oxidation. The oxide layer isn't a big issue since you can clean it with particular substances before the soldering process. In the MSI GeForce RTX 4090 Gaming X Trio 24G's case, the operator didn't remove the oxide layer from the pads.
The oxidized pads don't completely cut off the contact with the solder ball but degrade the connection. That's why the MSI GeForce RTX 4090 Gaming X Trio 24G might have worked before shipping. Nonetheless, the imperfect contact would have shortened the life of the graphics card, so it was a matter of time before it perished. Removing the oxide layer from the pads would have likely restored the graphics card to its functional state had it not lost so many pads. The MSI GeForce RTX 4090 Gaming X Trio 24G is broken beyond repair and has been donated for parts. The AD102 die and 12 GDDR6X memory modules didn't exhibit any damage, so they survived. Sadly, Tony can't be sure until another dead GeForce RTX 4090 drops on his lap where he can recycle the PCB.
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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.
Like with the literal bug story, "random 3rd party repairman received DOA device" always raises the question of why this 100% new straight from manufacture absolutely legit device didn't get immediately RMAed under warranty.Reply
Other than the obvious of these actually being brand new devices, but instead bodged-up high value devices stuffed back in boxes to look new and either fobbed off to buyers or used in return fraud.
< Samsung produced the chips. The chips were sent to TSMC (currently).Reply
< MSI produces the board with memory and other components installed (typical for most video card manufacturers today).
< MSI then sends the cards to TSMC for GPU packaging.
"The oxide layer isn't a big issue since you can clean it with particular substances before the soldering process. In the MSI GeForce RTX 4090 Gaming X Trio 24G's case, the operator didn't remove the oxide layer from the pads".
< The above process is machine automated. There is no "operator" wiping down cards.
< Initial TSMC QC would/should flag the card as defective for packaging if it could not be cleaned or there were pad anomalies.
< Packaged cards are sent back to MSI for final QC.
Two step QC process failing doesn't seem very logical but whatever..
It is possible that the shipping pulled the chip off the pads as stated, assuming not perfect solder of the balls to the BGA pads), and that exposed copper underneath, which resulted in the oxidation seen. The oxidation was a consequence as opposed to a source of the problem. My guess is that this would have been one of those boards that works for a while, and then starts having issues (provably after the warranty ran out :-( )Reply
Except the RTX 4090 only came out last October and should still be under warranty. And at least according to the article, the card supposedly arrived that way in a prebuilt system. Who would send their failed graphics card in to this repair channel rather than getting it replaced under warranty?rs77can said:It is possible that the shipping pulled the chip off the pads as stated, assuming not perfect solder of the balls to the BGA pads), and that exposed copper underneath, which resulted in the oxidation seen. The oxidation was a consequence as opposed to a source of the problem. My guess is that this would have been one of those boards that works for a while, and then starts having issues (provably after the warranty ran out :-( )
Tony believes that the person who sent the MSI GeForce RTX 4090 Gaming X Trio 24G may have received a refund from the seller.And what kind of seller is going to refund a $1700+ graphics card without having the customer send it back to them? There's a lot that doesn't add up here.
It's also rather suspicious that this comes just a week after we hear about another suspiciously defective 4090 from the same youtube channel. Some of the more likely scenarios are that either these are cards someone got out of a dumpster somewhere, that may have already had failed repair work attempted on them, or this is all being faked by the youtube channel for views. At the very least, the backstory of the cards doesn't make much sense.