Stuff that matters

Two weeks ago, Nvidia and tech watchdog GamersNexus agreed on one thing: if your Nvidia RTX 4090 graphic card’s 12VHPWR power cable starts smoking and melting, it’s probably because you didn’t plug it in all the way. But the PCI-SIG standards body is now suggesting that Nvidia and partners should have accounted for that.

GPU manufacturers “need to take all appropriate and prudent measures to ensure end user safety, including testing for the reported problem cases,” reads part of a statement from the PCI-SIG. The group also spends 49 words deflecting any blame away from itself:

Members are reminded that PCI-SIG specifications provide necessary technical information for interoperability and do not attempt to address proper design, manufacturing methods, materials, safety testing, safety tolerances or workmanship. When implementing a PCI-SIG specification, Members are responsible for the design, manufacturing, and testing, including safety testing, of their products.

The PCI-SIG created the 12VHPWR standard — as well as all of PCI Express, for that matter — and there are some good reasons it might want to send this note now.

For one thing, it hopes the new connector will become the standard for PCIe 5.0 graphics cards. That may not happen now that Nvidia’s melting power connectors have become a meme and safety concern. AMD gaming marketing director Sasa Marinkovic practically suggested the 16-pin connector was a fire hazard in a tweet: “Stay safe this holiday season,” he wrote, alongside a picture of the two old 8-pin connectors that AMD includes on its latest graphics cards, the RX 7900 XTX and XT.

Asus will even have a custom version of the RX 7900 with three 8-pin connectors instead of embracing 12VHPWR. Still, the new AMD cards use PCIe 4.0, not 5.0, so AMD could still switch with its next generation.

The PCI-SIG also probably wants to avoid those who might see the organization’s own upcoming changes to the 12VHPWR cable as evidence that the standards body is to blame. TweakTown reported earlier this month that a new version of the connector extends its shroud over its four data pins. Admittedly, if you compare that tiny change to GamersNexus’ reporting about when and where fried cables are likely to happen, it doesn’t seem like a slightly longer shroud would help. What would help is a design with a more audible click or other indications that the power cable is fully secure.

As of November 18th, Nvidia said it had received around 50 reports of burning or melting power cables so far, and it promised replacements for anyone affected by the issue. There’s currently no official recall. One buyer did file a lawsuit in California (PDF), accusing Nvidia of selling the card with “a dangerous power cable plug and socket” that “poses a serious electrical and fire hazard for each and every purchaser.”