Cracked GPUs pop up in Frankensteined Chinese discrete graphics cards built from RTX 4080M and RTX 4090M mobile chips

GeForce RTX 4090
(Image credit: Nvidia)

Chinese online stores tend to carry graphics cards based on Nvidia's laptop graphics processors, but some are coming to market with cracked GPUs. The sellers clearly state that these are mobile GPUs with lower performance and power consumption than their desktop counterparts. But where do they get these graphics chips? Since some of these GeForce RTX 4080M/GeForce RTX 4090M GPUs come with cracks, experts from PRO Hi-Tech believe that they may well come from scrapyards.  

Graphics cards are popular and in high demand. With plenty of manufacturers around, getting components for add-in cards, including printed circuit boards (PCBs), is relatively easy. Perhaps the hardest part is getting graphics processors; after all, these are the most expensive parts of graphics cards. Some GPUs can be obtained from a distributor, but these companies sell in significant quantities, and small shops do not deal with significant quantities. So, they use other options, like buying defective laptop motherboards with GPUs, which were meant to be destroyed but ended up on various internet auctions, as well as motherboards that have qualification samples. 

Removing the GPUs from their original boards and soldering them to a new PCB is hardly a hard task for these shops. In fact, it is an easy job performed widely in the industry, and in many cases, these 'Frankenstein' graphics cards will work. Of course, such 'converted' graphics cards based on mobile GPUs perform worse than standard desktop models. Also, these cards have variable power consumption, as Nvidia sets very precise clocks for each mobile GPU SKU, and their overclocking potential is limited, too. Of course, these graphics cards require modified drivers, which practically eliminates Day One support for the latest games and poses security risks. 

There are more significant problems — with damaged (cracked) GPU packaging or processors not qualified for prolonged use, these graphics adapters may be unstable or malfunction. The long-term reliability of these cards is questionable due to their origin from defective parts. 

Overall, while desktop graphics cards based on mobile GPUs are cheaper than their standard counterparts, lower prices do not necessarily justify the potential risks and performance issues.

Anton Shilov
Freelance News Writer

Anton Shilov is a Freelance News Writer at Tom’s Hardware US. Over the past couple of decades, he has covered everything from CPUs and GPUs to supercomputers and from modern process technologies and latest fab tools to high-tech industry trends.