Melted RTX 4090 16-pin Adapters: A Sign of Things to Come?

Melted GPU power connectors
(Image credit: reggie_gakil on Reddit)

A recent Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 buyer has been lamenting his purchase on Reddit. It isn’t another case of a delivery switcheroo though, as this time the PC DIYer is feeling ‘burnt’ due to the graphics card power connector melting. A lot of power travels though a confined space with an RTX 4090 using the 16-pin 12VHPWR power connector, and so far this is the first report of a melted "quadropus" adapter — the standard 4x 8-pin to 1x 16-pin Nvidia adapter cable that comes with all 4090 cards.

Still, we have to wonder if the user was just unlucky, made a slight error in installation, or if this is the first of many such melting power connector tales we're going to see in the coming months. The RTX 4090 might be the fastest of the best graphics cards right now, but it's also one of the most power hungry GPUs to grace PCs.

Update, 10/24/2022: There are now two reports of melted RTX 4090 16-pin adapter cables, the second from a user with an Asus RTX 4090 TUF Gaming OC card. We don't know how many people have purchased RTX 4090 cards, but we urge caution in how you install the cables. We've reached out to Nvidia, Asus, and Gigabyte for comment and received the following response from Nvidia:

"We are investigating the reports. We are in contact with the first owner and will be reaching out to the other for additional information." —Nvidia's Bryan Del Rizzo

Original text follows below.

(Image credit: reggie_gakil on Reddit)

Checking out Redditor reggie_gakil’s setup via the above-linked thread, it's a powerful looking RGB infused PC system that packs in a potent mix of air and liquid cooling solutions. A reference RTX 4090 sucks 450W down though the compact power connector, but factory overclocked models can push that up to around 500W, and manual overclocking could increase that to 600W or more.

The Redditor asserts he was simply playing Red Dead Redemption 2, with a relatively modest GPU load of 400W, when the cable melted, which appears to rule out extreme overclocking. Assuming that's true, we still have several potential points of failure.

All power connectors need to be seated properly and fully engaged to ensure trouble-free conductivity. This is a particularly crucial concern with higher power components where a poor connection might cause overheating or even electric arcing, with disastrous consequences. Reggie_gakil’s images show signs that there was a connection issue present, causing the connector and socket to melt.

The big question is whether the issue was precipitated by user error, a fault in the connector, or something else. “Bend was not that aggressive,” the Redditor states in a comment following the publication of the connector pictures and questions from other social media users.  “Sure there was bend, still this should not happen on a 2K Euro GPU PSU Corsair RMX 1000.”

(Image credit: reggie_gakil on Reddit)

Looking closer at the images of the melted connectors, it might simply be the case that the bend in the cable was too near the connector, or that the sockets on the adapter were faulty / loose. There's clear damage that seems to originate on the top-right and top-left pins, while the center section doesn't show as much melting. And of course it's impossible to rule out a flaky power supply — what worked fine with a lesser GPU may have crossed some critical threshold with the RTX 4090.

Whatever the cause, we hope the manufacturer(s) contacted will help clear up reggie_gakil’s melted connector issues. Then he can get back to some high-resolution, fast frame rate, pistol packing fun in the wild west.

(Image credit: CableMod)

Beyond that, CableMod has a guide on the new 16-pin connector and cables. It recommends avoiding bend on the cables and notes, " appears that bending the wires too close to the connector could result in some of the terminals coming loose or misaligning within the connector itself. This may lead to an uneven load across the other wires, increasing the risk of overheating damage. The risk of this is substantially higher if the bend is done horizontally in relation to the connector orientation (left to right)." That almost feels... prescient given this Redditor's experience — look at the second image above and notice the horizonal bend on the cables.

For anyone else who manages to acquire an RTX 4090, we can only recommend verifying that all the 8-pin and 16-pin connectors are firmly seated and avoid bending the wires anywhere near the connector as much as possible. Leaving the case side off at first while you fire up some games and check the cable and connector temperatures might be wise.

Mark Tyson
Freelance News Writer

Mark Tyson is a Freelance News Writer at Tom's Hardware US. He enjoys covering the full breadth of PC tech; from business and semiconductor design to products approaching the edge of reason.

  • -Fran-
    Thanks for this.

    I hope people that has obtained a 4090 (or more? rich people! xD) will actually read the warning labels on the adapter and the connector itself. And for any other future GPUs with the new connector.

    This is from Buildzoid where he rants (as always) about it in length as well:

  • RichardtST
    First of many is my prediction. That new connector is absolutely ludicrous. No way I would run the equivalent of 4.5 100-watt light-bulbs on that thing. Even a standard household AC wall outlet plug would have been more elegant. What on earth were they thinking? "Oh hey! Let's take these four massive connectors and squish them all down into this one llittle itty-bitty one so we can watch everyone's machine catch fire and they'll have to buy even more video cards!"
  • spongiemaster
    RichardtST said:
    First of many is my prediction. That new connector is absolutely ludicrous. No way I would run the equivalent of 4.5 100-watt light-bulbs on that thing. Even a standard household AC wall outlet plug would have been more elegant. What on earth were they thinking? "Oh hey! Let's take these four massive connectors and squish them all down into this one llittle itty-bitty one so we can watch everyone's machine catch fire and they'll have to buy even more video cards!"
    Highend FE Ampere models have the same compact 12 pin connector, minus the 4 signal pins which are not the cause of the melting here. 3090 TI has the same 450W TDP and no one has reported melted connectors for that one. This is an isolated case that may very well have been user created.
  • Eximo
    Combination of problems.

    These graphics cards are enormous in all dimensions. The adapter plugs in where the card designers put it and they don't know what chassis it is being installed in. Not something people have had to think about too much. So pushed up against the side panel, crushed against hard drive cages or the radiator/fans at the front. Outside of the pins and wires, lots of points of failure, connector on the GPU itself could snap, delaminate the PCB, etc.

    Plus having 4 cables by default means those will have to be crammed through gaps as well.

    6 12V wires would only have to carry ~8 AMPs a piece, well within spec for 16 gauge wire. 18 gauge wire might get a little warm at 600W.

    Corsair is confident enough to sell a two connector direct adapter from their 18 gauge standard wiring, that is 6 16 gauge wires. (Only downside there is that you can hook up two of them to like an 850W PSU, which is crazy)
  • dstarr3
    A disastrous consequence of a problem that should never have existed in the first place.

    The latest-gen CPUs and GPUs require just too damn much power. We gotta rein in the power demands and fast.
  • Giroro
    I question why somebody "simply playing Red Dead Redemption 2" would know the power load on their GPU. Most overlockers don't even know how much power their card is using, outside of a broad "the slider won't go higher because the card is capped at xxx watts". Somebody who knows (or think they know) how much power their card is using probably cares because they've been messing around with the card's power delivery.
    It's also questionable why fuses on the board didn't blow before the connector melted, which is most likely bad design. Still, it's not unheard of for extreme overlockers to deliberately bypass fuses.
    But it's Reddit, which is one of those platforms where users are strongly encouraged by "an algorithm" to generate viral clickbait sensationalism. So maybe this person really had this problem, or maybe they made up the story to try and return a card with a voided warranty, or maybe this person doesn't even own a 4090 and just wants attention, or maybe the person isn't even a person and is just some kind of spam bot. There's no way to be sure. It's reddit.
  • peachpuff
    Let's thank all the brave 4090 owners for beta testing this new connector...
  • Eximo
    As to reigning in the power requirements. OEMs will certainly do that to save a buck. Enthusiast desktop market is a pretty small segment. If you don't want high power requirements, you don't have to buy them. Or you can limit them yourselves.

    They were somewhat wise in adopting a new standard. It will prevent the average person from simply plugging in a super powerful GPU into an underrated power supply. (And hopefully they don't go shopping on Aliexpress for adapters)
  • Coffee Fueled Curmudgeon
    The sag on the GPU in that image....

  • Eximo
    Hmm, would have thought that a vertical mount like that would be able to take it. This is a job for some strategic fishing line. From the corner of the vertical mount to the rear fan grill.