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Capacitors blamed for graphics card failures

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By Nick Flaherty




There have been some strange things happening with graphics cards lately, so much so that Panasonic has had to make a statement about its capacitors. Rarely does the detail of electronic components, especially capacitors, lead to discussion in consumer electronics.

The move came after a card sent to games reviewers failed, and the capacitors were highlighted as the problem. When the cards cost upwards of $1000, and are selling out quickly, the reliability is a key concern. The cards have huge current and power requirements to deliver the high performance, which puts the focus on the capacitors. This is especially important for the latest generation of high current cards being used as AI accelerators in data centres.

 “Recently there has been some discussion about the EVGA GeForce RTX 3080 series,” said card maker EVGA.

“During our mass production QC testing we discovered a full 6 POSCAPs solution cannot pass the real world applications testing. 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,” said the company.

“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.”

Panasonic took this personally.

“In response to the recent reports speculating that the use of POSCAP capacitors on the GeForce RTX 3080/3090 graphics cards could lead to stability issues and crashes, we would like to clarify the issue with the following statement,” said Panasonic.

“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.”

Nvidia of course took this seriously.

“Nvidia posted a driver that improves stability. Regarding partner board designs, our partners regularly customize their designs and we work closely with them in the process. The appropriate number of POSCAP vs. MLCC groupings can vary depending on the design and is not necessarily indicative of quality,” said Nvidia

Various card makers also made statements to highlight their design skills.

“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. The GeForce RTX 3080/3090 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,” said Gigabyte.

“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 encounter power-related issues with GeForce RTX 30 series graphics cards, Gigabyte will provide product replacement, free of charge.”

While the GPU technology is always under scrutiny, it’s not often that the underlying electronics of high performance systems comes in for examination. This has highlighted a gulf of understanding on the difference between poly capacitors and MLCCs. No wonder Panasonic has felt aggrieved.

www.panasonic.com

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