The RTX 3080 stability issue- A misplaced melodrama?
The Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 30 series has been decorated with issues since day 1. It all began with bot scalpers bulk-purchasing and price gouging the GeForce RTX 3080. Many manufacturers and online retailers made assurances, but even the RTX 3090 shared a similar fate. Limited availability, scarcity and stifled availability on launch pretty much dampened the mood for early adopters. But Nvidia and its AIC partners couldn’t catch a break, just yet.
To POSCAP or not to POSCAP?
The GeForce RTX 3080’s stability issues on certain non-reference variants followed suit, strongly speculated towards the use of POSCAPs (Conductive Polymer Tantalum Solid Capacitors). Most manufacturers used a combination of POSCAPs and MLCC (Multilayer Ceramic Chip Capacitors) capacitors. Based on observation many did not use any more than 5 POSCAPs in combination with MLCC capacitors. Some have responded. Some did not. One made the changes quietly while another recalled its review units, citing stability issues. The whole knee-jerking responses and testing contradicting the stability issue with all-POSCAPs doesn’t help. To make the situation weirder, Nvidia didn’t roll out any responses considering it doesn’t affect its Founders Edition.
The key difference between the capacitors
These capacitors are placed on the other side of the PCB, just where the core is soldered on. These capacitors have direct and close interaction with the GPU core for the best possible voltage filtration. POSCAPs are the larger, single block of capacitor which have higher temperature tolerance and voltage capacity. While this is a pro in itself, they come at a higher cost. They also take time to discharge after use. Toms’ Hardware claims they do not work well at high frequencies, while Vortez says it is slow to buffer.MLCCs are small, quick to discharge and buffer. They have a much smaller and cheaper footprint and can work well with higher frequencies. It does have a lower temperature tolerance in comparison. Therefore it fulfils two roles: provide clean power and provide a voltage buffer. Buffering is needed when GPUs have a sudden high power +12v draw in short bursts. Naturally, it also depends on the architecture and the way it works in Tandem with these capacitors along with other factors like PCB design, its components and even the power supply used in the PC.
It is one of those things where A is not necessarily better than B. But in this case, POSCAPs are being kept under the guillotine by various sources, claiming that it is responsible for certain RTX 3080 crashes. This is the collection of responses and reactions from manufacturers so far:
EVGA is the first to officially mention the issue with the use of all-POSCAPs regarding its RTX 3080 XC3. EVGA has other RTX 3080 variants which also do not use anything more than 5 POSCAPs- Hydro Copper, Hybrid and the FTW2. According to EVGA, the six POSCAP combination on the XC3 did not pass its quality checks. Eventually, after a few trial-and-error, they found success on XC3’s stability with a combination of 5 POSCAPs + 10 MLCC:
During our mass production QC testing, we discovered a full 6 POSCAPs solution cannot pass the testing of the real-world application. It took almost a week of R&D effort to find the cause and reduce the POSCAPs to 4 and add 20 MLCC caps prior to shipping production boards, this is why the EVGA GeForce RTX 3080 FTW3 series was delayed at launch. There were no 6 POSCAP production EVGA GeForce RTX 3080 FTW3 boards shipped.
But, due to the time crunch, some of the reviewers were sent a pre-production version with 6 POSCAP’s, we are working with those reviewers directly to replace their boards with production versions.
EVGA GeForce RTX 3080 XC3 series with 5 POSCAPs + 10 MLCC solution is matched with the XC3 spec without issues.
MSI’s subtle rendering swap
MSI revamped its RTX 3080 design, contrary to what was said in its MSI Insider podcast hinting towards a possible driver issue. Co-incidentally, Nvidia released new drivers stating it addresses certain stability issues.
Videocardz discovered that MSI removed its renders of the back panel on its RTX 3080 variants. The original capacitor deployment on the Gaming X Trio is five POSCAPs with one MLCC array. The new one, based on its updated renderings, had four POSCAPs and 2 MLCCs. Its Ventus 3X variant swapped the six POSCAPs for 5 POSCAP and 2 MLCC array. No official statement at all and no confirmation whether they did find any issue with their original configuration on these SKUs. Maybe it’s a knee jerk reaction to save face? Of course, that’s speculative. Point is, MSI should say whether they were able to replicate issues on these variants or not.
GALAX and GAINWARD’s Official Statement
These respective partners have issued an official statement, mentioning its capacitor combinations for the respective SKUs. GALAX did mention about its unreleased RTX 3090 Gamer variant where its first batch of trial production samples used six SP CAPs (POSCAPs), without mentioning the manufacturer’s name. They didn’t give any confirmation whether this was an issue on this variant. It merely said they will make optimization and improvements.
ASUS did not use any POSCAPs in its TUF Gaming RTX 3080 OC which uses 10 MLCC. There’s no official response from ZOTAC and GIGABYTE/ AORUS at the time of writing. We’ll just have to wait and watch. Gigabyte RTX 3080 Master 10G‘s backplate covers the capacitor area of the core. The same for its AORUS Extreme variant.
The same for ZOTAC RTX 3080 Trinity. I am sure there are reviews of these graphics card that should confirm what they used in their cards, But lack of response doesn’t help anyone and puts their early adopters at unease.
Edit: ZOTAC South Korea did give a statement to an SK based website:
What you said is recognized by both us and the head office. We have been informed that we are aware of the current situation and are working with NVIDIA on a solution. If a countermeasure is available, we will notify you through a notice immediately.
We apologize for any concerns.
HardwareLuxx’s Andrea Schilling got a reply from INNO3D:
Short notice by @Inno3DHK:
„To all current users and prospective buyers,
Please be rest assured, and we hereby declare that INNO3D/ICHILL GeForce RTX 30 Series products do not have any instability problems.“
— Andreas Schilling (@aschilling) September 28, 2020
GIGABYTE’s official comment
Gigabyte sent a detailed response via email, specifying not only its non-reference variants but also the ratings of its POSCAPs since it uses all six-POSCAPs and no MLCCs.
In response to the recent reports speculating that the use of POSCAP capacitors on the GeForce RTX 3080 graphics cards could lead to stability issues and crashes, we would like to clarify the issue with the following statement:
- It is false that POSCAP capacitors independently could cause a hardware crash. Whether a graphics card is stable or not requires a comprehensive evaluation of the overall circuit and power delivery design, not just the difference in capacitor types. POSCAPs and MLCCs have different characteristics and uses, thus it is not true to assert that one capacitor type is better than the other.
- The GIGABYTE GeForce RTX 30 graphics cards are designed in accordance with NVIDIA specifications and have passed all required testing, thus the product quality is guaranteed. GIGABYTE GeForce RTX 3080 GAMING OC and EAGLE OC series graphics cards use high-quality, low-ESR 470uF SP-CAP capacitors, which meet the specifications set by NVIDIA and provide a total capacity of 2820u in terms of GPU core power, higher than the industry’s average. The cost of SP-CAP capacitors is not lower than that of MLCCs. GIGABYTE values product integrity highly and definitely does not reduce costs by using cheap materials.
NVIDIA has released a driver (version 456.55) on September 29, 2020, that improves stability. Users are advised to update to the latest driver for optimized performance. For users who have any concern, please contact our local service centres or representatives.
GIGABYTE has been constantly improving and optimizing product quality, especially in terms of thermal designs, to provide the best gaming experience to the consumers for decades. For the latest AORUS GeForce RTX 30 graphics card series, we have also paid extra attention to the cooling performance and introduced industry-leading solutions such as MAX-Covered Cooling to ensure that the operation of each component is stable.
|Model||NVIDIA RTX 3080 Founders Edition||GIGABYTE RTX 3080 GAMING OC & EAGLE OC|
|GPU core Power||SP-CAP 220u/9m OHM *5 MLCC 22u *10||SP-CAP 470u/6m OHM *6|
Though Gigabyte confirmed what many reviewers did, its actual information about the capacitor it uses helps. Sure, MLCC has certain pros but its something that needs to work in tandem with the GPU core. In any case, Gigabyte says the problem is fixed with the new GeForce 456.55 WHQL driver, as addressed in another article.
Outrage clickbait with vague reporting takes the blame?
GPU makers need to be communicative, including Nvidia. Tech journalists, reviewers, bloggers and Youtubers are not excused for creating a panic without proving it. Same sane folks waited and even tested to replicate this issue, but were unable to do so. Readers should note that reviewers use multiple benchmarks and torture tests, included post custom overclocked benchmarks. Therefore every review from a proper reviewer is a bi-product of stress-tests with multiple games, benchmarks, settings and programs. It is not as same as Quality Checks, but enough to debunk or confirm the speculation. Not many considered any other factors either with firmware or Day One driver release. While most news is regurgitated, Hardware BBQ included, some level of common sense among us should have prevailed- given a benefit of the doubt.