German resource Igor’s Lab conducted an interesting investigation of the problem of “crashes” in games that the first owners of GeForce RTX 3080 video cards encountered. According to the source, the reason may lie both in the rush of NVIDIA to release a new product, and in poor-quality components of printed circuit boards that have penetrated into third-party video cards manufacturers.
According to one of the resource’s assumptions, the tight deadlines for launching a new series of video cards could play a fatal role. NVIDIA partners had very little time at their disposal to adequately prepare and conduct all the necessary tests of their graphics solutions. Even before the official announcement of the GeForce RTX 30xx series, it became known that the company’s partners received drivers and other necessary software for full debugging of graphics cards literally a few days before their actual presentation. Before that, all tests were mainly limited to checking the power consumption level of various elements of the cards and its compliance with the declared characteristics of NVIDIA itself. In game modes, maps might not be checked at all. According to Igor’s Lab, it was this circumstance that could lead to the fact that some video cards received not the most suitable copies of graphics processors that are unable to work at the frequency declared by the manufacturer. That is why most often complaints from cardholders are related to “crashes” in games, when the frequency of the GPU exceeds the 2000 MHz mark.
Another reason for the incorrect operation of video cards can be the circuitry of the reference board PG132. This basic design as the resource calls it Igor’s Lab, was provided to NVIDIA partners for development of their own solutions based on it. But the problem is that the specifications provided by NVIDIA allowed the company’s partners to use capacitors of different quality levels for the power supply subsystems of the cards.
The source points out that the basic design dictates the use of six mandatory types of capacitors for filtering high frequencies on the voltage rails (NVVDD and MSVDD). At the same time, the choice of certain types of capacitors is very extensive. For example, tantalum-polymer solid capacitors (Conductive Polymer Tantalum Solid Capacitors, POSCAP) are generally worse than aluminum electrolytic capacitors with a solid polymer dielectric (Conductive Polymer-Aluminum-Electrolytic-Capacitors, SP-CAP), which in turn are worse, than multilayer ceramic chip capacitors (Multilayer Ceramic Chip Capacitor, MLCC), usually installed in groups.
Below you can see the power supply diagram of the NVIDIA GA102 GPU, which occupies the central area under the chip on the back of the PCB.
Below are photos of the printed circuit board of the GeForce RTX 3080 video card performed by the Founders Edition, as well as the MSI Gaming X, Zotac Trinity and ASUS TUF Gaming OC boards provided by the resource TechPowerUp…
NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition PCB
In its reference design, NVIDIA used a hybrid capacitor arrangement, with four SP-CAPs, two MLCCs, and ten single capacitors of each.
MSI used one MLCC capacitor bank in the center as well as five SP-CAP groups.
Zotac, in turn, decided to save on the GPU power subsystem. She used six groups of POSCAP capacitors, which, recall, are of inferior quality than ceramic chip-capacitors MLCC and aluminum electrolytic capacitors with a solid polymer dielectric SP-CAP. This may be one of the reasons why these cards are among the cheapest on the market.
As for ASUS, the Taiwanese manufacturer used six sets of MLCC capacitors for the TUF series graphics card, deciding not to skimp on such an important component as the GPU power supply system.
According to Igor’s Lab, the root of the problem with crashes in games can lie equally in the two circumstances described above. This is indirectly confirmed by the fact that when the peak GPU frequency is reduced by 50-100 MHz (below the 2000 MHz threshold), the problem of “overruns” disappears, since lower frequencies require less voltage supply to the GPU. In this case, even cheaper POSCAP capacitors cope with their task.
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