It would appear that Nvidia's 12-pin PCIe power connector may be here to stay after all. According to Asus' marketing for the latest ROG Thor II power supplies, the Nvidia 12-pin connector complies with the PCIe 5.0 specification.
During the brand's Z690 motherboard livestream, Asus highlighted the importance of power supplies as graphics cards are constantly drawing more and more power. Using the GeForce RTX 3090 as an example, Asus claimed that the Ampere-based flagship peaks up to 900W during gameplay, thus requiring power supplies with higher wattage. More importantly, Asus declared in the livestream that Nvidia's 12-pin connector is PCIe 5.0 ready and that the new ROG Thor II units will ship with "Gen 5 12-pin connectors." The company even confirmed to eTeknix that Nvidia's 12-pin cable is a Gen 5 PCIe cable.
Word of the PCIe 5.0 power connector (aka 12VHPWR) hit the streets a little over three weeks ago. In fact, connector manufacturers, such as Amphenol ICC, are already commercializing the 12VHPWR connector. The technical diagrams show the 12VHPWR connector with 16 pins, where 12 of those are the power pins, and the other four are contact pins. If we were to strip the four additional pins, we essentially have Nvidia's 12-pin connector. If Asus' marketing is accurate, the four extra pins are optional, and they may be since they're ultimately just sense wires. It would also mean that Nvidia's Ampere graphics cards, specifically the Founders Edition, were ahead of their time.
"Each ROG Thor 1000W Platinum II PSU is bundled with a 12-pin PCIe cable that can pipe up to 600W of power to PCIe Gen 5.0 graphics cards. Get Ready for the future of power delivery", states Asus on the ROG Thor 1000W Platinum II product page.
eTeknix already has one of Asus' ROG Thor II power supplies for review. The news outlet confirmed that the PCIe 5.0 cable is substantially thinner than a 6-pin PCIe power connector. The width is roughly the same, but the height is around half of a conventional PCIe connector. In addition, the PCIe 5.0 cable splits into two 8-pin power connectors that go into the power supply. The fact that Asus is including the PCIe 5.0 power cable with its ROG Thor II power supplies lends credence to the existence of the GeForce RTX 3090 Ti, which is rumored to use the PCIe 5.0 power connector.
The Nvidia 12-pin connector's 12V pins are rated for 9A, so it delivers a theoretical output of 648W. The 12VHPWR connector, on the other hand, has a slightly higher rating at 9.2A, amounting to 662W. It doesn't matter which connector offers more power since both meet the PCIe 5.0 specification of 600W.
Nowadays, the more power-hungry graphics cards come with three 8-pin PCIe power connectors. Along with the 75W from the PCIe slot, a graphics card with triple 8-pin connectors tops out at 525W. Obviously, the PCIe 5.0 power connector will give Nvidia and AMD complete freedom to exceed the 600W threshold. However, if we look at the bigger picture, it doesn't seem like a good thing at all since we're just setting the stage for chipmakers to produce more power-consuming graphics cards instead of more efficient ones. Nevertheless, the PCIe 5.0 power connector will likely be a thing for data center graphics cards, and it may be to a certain extent on mainstream graphics cards.
A single PCIe 5.0 power connector will allow companies to build graphics cards up to 675W, whereas twin connectors can provide up to 1,275W. Imagine having a third connector on there to push the limit to 1,875W. Suddenly, a 1,500W power supply doesn't seem like overkill. But, of course, we'll keep our fingers crossed that we never get to that point.