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The PCI standards group denies responsibility and places the blame on the melted GPU power connectors

Rather of requiring extra space for three or four 8-pin power connections, the new RTX 4090 and 4080 GPUs from Nvidia employ a new connector dubbed 12VHPWR to transmit power to the GPUs. The PCI Express Special Interest Group (PCI-SIG), of which Nvidia, AMD, Intel, Arm, IBM, Qualcomm, and others are members, produced the requirements for the power connection and ensured that they would work with each other.

However, the recent reports of RTX 4090s overheating and melting have allegedly led the PCI-SIG to clarify which aspects of the specification it is accountable for. A statement emailed to members by the organisation, in which it was made clear that the PCI-SIG was not responsible for safety testing goods that adhered to connection specifications like 12VHPWR.

PCI-SIG reminds its members that its standards “do not seek to address correct design, manufacturing procedures, materials, safety testing, safety tolerances, or craftsmanship” but rather “supply critical technical information for interoperability.” Members are responsible for all aspects of product development, including design, production, and testing (including safety testing), when adhering to a PCI-SIG definition.

The PCI-SIG provides guidance on interoperability between 12VHPWR devices from different manufacturers, but it does not participate in the development or testing of any individual 12VHPWR product. In light of a lawsuit filed against Nvidia over the melting-power-connector story, this statement seems to exonerate the PCI-SIG itself from any culpability in the matter.

In most cases, overheating and melting connectors displayed evidence that they had not been fully inserted into the GPUs’ 12VHPWR connector, according to testing conducted by both independent parties and Nvidia, suggesting that user error, rather than a flaw in the design, is to blame for the RTX 4090 GPUs’ overheating power connectors. Even if you’re using an adaptor for 8-pin PCIe power cords or a native 12VHPWR cable that connects directly to your power source, you may have this issue.

A larger connector with louder and more easily visible retention clips has helped 6- and 8-pin PCIe power connectors avoid this kind of issue for years, but manufacturers could build in more failsafes to detect improper connections or make it more obvious when a cable is fully inserted and when it isn’t. Ideally, either manufacturers or the PCI-SIG will update their specifications to make this sort of user error less likely to occur. Since Intel’s ATX 3.0 specification for PC power supply includes the 12VHPWR connection, it’s safe to assume that it won’t be going away anytime soon.