Earlier, I reported about the thermal pads used on RTX 3080 and RTX 3090 from Nvidia and its AIC partners. Enthusiasts in Reddit and Facebook groups talked about thermal pad on the relatively new RTX 3080 and 3090’s inability to cool GDDR6X memory during use. Some cases also showed these thermal pads were barely in usable condition. Such cases have been observed since December 2020, but the complaints have increased over the months. Since then, there is a significant increase in the purchase of aftermarket thermal pads. But it leaves an underlying issue: the official statement from Nvidia and AIC partners.
I did reach out to Ben Beraondo, the Head of Consumer & Regional PR EMEAI at NVIDIA. As much as we can speculate the reason behind it, it’s only fair to ask if Nvidia is aware of the issue and providing any workarounds. The following was asked via email with the links as a reference:
Earlier we did a news post involving the thermal pad cooling inefficiency on the RTX 3080 and RTX 3090 on many SKUs and Founders Edition. As a result, users have found overheating due to GDDR6X memory up to 100c or even more. But after replacing the thermal pad, this resulted in a drop of 25c at best.
Apart from Founders Edition, SKUs from other AIC units have been reported to have similar issues. Via r/nvidia, the community-driven subreddit, users have confirmed that Nvidia is allowing them to change thermal pads under the condition the end-user does not damage the card. I wanted to ask you if Nvidia is making the same exemption for its RTX 3080 Founders Edition and RTX 3090 Founders Edition users . Although there are multiple collections of reports in Nvidia‘s community subreddit, I wanted to ask if this is an issue Nvidia acknowledges and has a global/ region-specific policy for this.
I understand that there are different policies internationally and with India, hence I am requesting an official statement to post a follow-up article as a result of this subreddit post.
The reply of no hope?
Usually, we ask questions to our contacts in India but due to the lack of response about anything in the past, it was best to ask questions to the international representatives. To my surprise, I did get a response from Rohit Biddappa, the Head-Enterprise Marketing, Corporate Communication & Digital for Nvidia. Unfortunately, the surprise wasn’t equivalent to hoping for a positive response:
I trust this finds you well? In response to your email to Ben Berraondo, we have no comment at this time.
And- that’s it. The reply was given on March 30th. I asked with a follow-up question, requesting the specification of the stock thermal pads. I was curious to know from Nvidia about the thermal pad they use and may be recommended to AIC partners. It’s an assumption, but it’s something anyone will naturally be curious about. Changing to a thermal pad with 6.0 W/mK thermal efficiency is reported to have a drop of up to 19°C. So, you can only assume these stock thermal pads are substandard.
I assumed the thermal pads used on the GDDR6X memory might be used on GDDR5-powered GPUs. AIC partners may have done the same. But it needed clarification on behalf of those who face this issue. Any response will be added here, but the issue is not localised or limited to Founders Edition or some AIC partners- or method of cooling:
Response (or lack of it) from AIC partners
I did reach out to multiple AIC partners who sell Nvidia GPUs independently. One company did informally inform me they will have a response, only not give one even after a follow-up. And that’s the state of affairs towards paying enthusiasts. Yikes!
It is likely some GPU makers, depending on one/ some or all its SKUs, may have used better thermal pads than the typical stock ones. Some AIC partners might be using better thermal pads. But AIC partners don’t disclose the quality of the thermal pad and thermal paste.
I received the following official comment from Asus regarding the widespread complaints about RTX 3090 and RTX 3080 GPUs, not necessarily limited to Founders Edition:
“In reference to the overheating issue with the new RTX 3000 SKUs which may be directly linked to the type of thermal pads used, we have not reported any case for ASUS RTX 3000 VGA SKUs in India. In the remotest possibility should this occur with any of our RTX 3000 graphics cards, we would only recommend the end-user to submit their graphics card to our authorised service centre to have this corrected. This is to avoid any discrepancies irrespective of the technical capability of the end-user.”
I can confirm there I did not hear any issue regards ASUS RTX 3080 and RTX 3090 variants. But it was best to ask most GPU manufacturers even if their units are not reported to have this issue. While I would have liked to know more about the thermal pads they use, the good news is if Asus RTX 3080 and RTX 3090 users have this issue, the service agency will take of this. The same questions were asked to ZOTAC, GIGABYTE/ AORUS, MSI and Nvidia. Apart from Nvidia’s response above, there’s nothing from others. But it’s refreshing to see for a change that someone provided a reasonable response considering the situation at hand.
The foreseeable Consequences…
This is a serious issue for many reasons, even though thermal pad swapping is not hard for enthusiasts. Depending on the country you’re in, you’re likely to void the warranty of your graphics card. In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission said the warranty stickers are not valid. At the time, it warned companies to reverse this in 30 days or it would result in law enforcement action. But the FTC regulations are only applicable in the United States.
If you look at countries like India, thermal pads from known brands like Arctic Cooling and Thermalright are not as easily available as thermal pastes and CPU coolers. So we rely on service centres who rely on the instructions and materials provided by AIC partners and Nvidia for Founders Edition who may rely on Nvidia assuming they set the guidelines for thermal pastes and thermal pads for everyone.
Cause and Solution?
This issue is only on the RTX 3080 and RTX 3090′ VRAMs which uses GDDR6X. Micron, the GDDR6X VRAM manufacturer for the RTX 3090 and RTX 3080 specifically said that its maximum operating temperature is up to 95° C . An Australian streamer who a system made by a system integrator with an RTX 3080 said they had to downclock the graphics card until replacements or better variation of the card arrives in the market. It’s not certain that would be the case, but it’s difficult to confirm this with Nvidia since they have no words for this issue, let alone this one.
Why not just give a solution?
Had Nvidia and its AIC partners gave an option to allow everyone to swap thermal pads of their choice or something they will do via their service centres, the concern would have been reduced. The ‘no comment’ raises concerns, mostly because buying these graphics card is extremely difficult and sometimes non-accessible. So we cannot be sure what can be done. When EVGA had a heat issue in its earlier variants, the company responded by providing additional thermal pads and instructions. That’s a natural response towards your enthusiast user base. It is nothing new. If Nvidia and AIC partners can provide new BIOS to enable Resizable BAR even at the risk of bricking the graphics card to the end-user, a simple workaround can be given for this issue.
Addressing and considering crowdsourced solutions is important. The best example can be seen with the recent issue involving AMD’s random USB disconnection issue. Before it can provide the new AGESA update, it confirmed and recommend two steps discovered by its community members to temporarily get around the random USB issues.
So where do we stand?
At best, if your country has specific laws against such warranty voids, you can freely swap the thermal pads. You may have to get variable size thermal pads depending on the version you’ve purchased. In the US, these are the options that are available.
In other countries- either we risk voiding the warranty to save a perfectly working card, or just put pressure on Nvidia and its AIC partners individually. Unfortunately, it is at your discretion and potentially losing multiple years of warranty.
The Right to Repair and Right to Self Maintain
The Right to Self Repair is something that’s started in the United States due to issues with Apple products and TeslaX. But its consequences apply to everything that can be purchased. Also, changing thermal paste and thermal pads on a GPU is not as complex as Apple products or Tesla cars. The simple question is: If you’re disassembling for maintaining and not altering or damaging anything on the PCB, why should something as simple as changing the thermal paste and thermal pad void the warranty? This applies to all graphics cards, and even M.2 SSDs since some come with heatspreaders with thermal pads.
This might be just one issue with thermal pads but it’s not new. Warranties last as high as four to five years, all the more reason to have clarification about self-maintenance. Whether it’s a specific issue with a variant or a batch of graphics cards (and laptops) or widespread, bad thermal paste and thermal pad application is common. The natural assumption by enthusiasts is that most aftermarket thermal pads should be much better than the stock thermal pads. That’s true, but how bad are these?
These are ones that are available in the retail market:
There are a few more companies that make thermal pads- Thermalright, Arctic Cooling and Grizzly. The spacing between VRAM varies depending on the graphics card so you’ll have to eyeball it. It is better to change the thermal pads on the VRMs and on the contacts under the backplate.
Damn if you do! Damn if you don’t.. depending on where you live!
This is worrying because end users spend so much money on graphics cards with supposedly good GPU coolers costing atleast 100$ (‘allegedly’) with all the bells and whistles and RGB, not spending on a good enough thermal pad and thermal paste but threatening warranty voids prevent damage or maintenance is something we need to talk about. Especially when companies say they have no control over price increase but don’t give a resolution to an ever-increasing problem that can be solved easily. This is a community-driven enthusiast space.