EVGA has apparently acknowledged that problems with a certain form of capacitor might lead to a growing number of reports of factory-overclocked Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 graphics card-related crashes.
In a recent article by Igor’s Lab, these capacitors were cited as the possible source of the problems that have caused widespread complaints about unexplained RTX 3080 crashes and black screens in enthusiast forums and Reddit. EVGA’s statement, which appears in the form of a forum article, cites its problems with the capacitors in its designs.
What does it indicate?
Comments started circulating earlier this week. During gaming sessions, some of Nvidia’s latest RTX 3080 cards crashed, and stability problems were mainly observed during moments when those third-party graphics cards hit or exceeded 2.0 GHz. Particularly, that’s the factory-overclocked range of most RTX 3080’s from third parties. The manual downclocking of the affected cards by ~100MHz seemed to resolve the crashing problems with the RTX 3080, but this is based on anecdotal proof.
Igor’s Lab theory argues that the troubles emerge from the capacitors used under the GPU die on the rear of the PCB. Two types of capacitors are used by the RTX 3080 cards on the market to filter voltages, one called POSCAPS (Conductive Polymer Tantalum Solid Capacitors) but claimed to be SP-Caps, and the other called MLCC (Multilayer Ceramic Chip Capacitor). Using either POSCAPS or both POSCAPS and MLCC capacitors, graphics card makers build the Ampere graphics cards.
The POSCAPS color is red, while the MLCC color is green. A mixed POSCAP / MLCC design is seen in the first slide, while the second shows an all-POSCAP design. Images courtesy of Lab Igor.
With MLCC caps being smaller, cheaper, and working well at high frequencies, both types of capacitors have their respective advantages-however, they have temperature limitations and crack more commonly. POSCAPS, on the other hand, are more costly, larger, have a higher temperature rating, and do not crack as much, but at higher frequencies, they are not as strong.
The above statement by EVGA admits that with the all-POSCAP solution, its own cards were not secure, all but confirming that the capacitors could play a role in crashes. In reality, EVGA says its all-POSCAP prototypes were unable to pass their internal testing, so the company went with such a mixed design of POSCAP and MLCC, which solved the problems but at the cost of a delayed launch.
However, we do need to remain cautious. There is also the external possibility that this problem is not entirely related to capacitors. Nvidia’s Ampere cards have higher power supply specifications than previous-generation cards, and drivers are still commonly used in the early stages. As such, for all crash problems, capacitor-induced crashes cannot be responsible. There are many factors at play.
Instead of bundling them with MLCC capacitors, Nvidia’s RTX 3080 FE cards do not use as many POSCAP capacitors-and those cards do not seem to suffer as much from crashes black-screening problems. Custom cards using all-POSCAP implementations, on the other hand, tend to suffer more frequently from crash problems.
There is also no guarantee that all cards with POSCAP-only designs are faulty, although this may mean that they are more likely to have a problem (i.e., a relatively higher rate of failure). Nvidia provides its AIB partners with production recommendations, and it is unlikely to have passed design rules to partners that would lead to widespread failures.
Third-party (AIB) graphics card lists (compiled by Reddit /user / Roseking/) and their capacitor arrangements are available on the internet for reference. For more additions to the list, be sure to check the Reddit post.
Meanwhile, for the deep-dive information about the capacitor problems, be sure to head to Igor’s article over at Igor’s Lab.
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