The Nvidia RTX 30-series launch is going about as well as the company could have hoped for given stock shortages, bots buying up cards and now it looks like capacitors on cards are causing instability.
Or at least that has been the prevailing thinking since Igor’s Lab published a piece at the weekend looking at the different capacitors various add-in board partners have used made use of in GPUs.
At the core of the current debate is the use of SP-CAP and MLCC capacitors in RTX 30 series cards.
Nvidia gives add-in board partners a reference design to work off of when manufacturing their cards, so that when a PC builder buys an Nvidia RTX 3080, they can expect a certain level of performance from a card.
The problem that Igor’s Lab encountered was that in some cards which used SP-CAP capacitors, the cards experienced instability when boosting. However, the publication also found that when using MLCC capacitors, the cards were stable.
This lead to the possibility that capacitor types may be cause of instability.
So what gives?
As it turns out, the answer is more complicated than which capacitors are used.
“It is false that POSCAP (SP-CAP) 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 (SP-CAPs) and MLCCs have different characteristics and uses, thus it is not true to assert that one capacitor type is better than the other,” Gigabyte said in a press statement sent to Hypertext.
This is further backed up by the slice of the reference design Gigabyte shared with us.
|Model||NVIDIA RTX 3080
|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|
As you can see, Nvidia itself states that SP-CAP or MLCC capacitors can be used in its GPUs. You will note that Gigabyte’s GPU has a bit more power delivery and so it may have a bit more headroom for overclocking.
Still not convinced? Well how about if somebody were to replace capacitors on a GPU?
Master overclocker Roman ‘der8auer’ Hartung has actually replaced SP-CAPs with MLCC on a Gigabyte RTX 3090 and tested to see which is better.
The short of this is that capacitors don’t have too much of an influence on the stability of the cards and once you start pushing the overclock, well then things become unstable as you would expect.
What is unclear is whether add-in board partners were perhaps pushing the limits to far with boost clock speeds or perhaps the quality of materials used wasn’t up to par.
For the record, Gigabyte states that it “values product integrity highly and definitely does not reduce costs by using cheap materials.”
As regards other manufacturers however, it remains to be seen what they state is the reason for GPU instability.
Meanwhile, Nvidia has released driver version 456.55 on 28th September that reportedly 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 centers or representatives,” Gigabyte added.