Potential causes of melting Nvidia RTX 4090 power connector 'disaster' identified

Nvidia RTX 4090 Founders Edition
(Image credit: Future)

A solution to the ongoing saga of Nvidia’s melty RTX 4090 16-pin power adapters just took a step in the right direction thanks to some in-depth analysis at Igor’s Lab. The German tech site has identified two different manufacturers of the infamous 12VHPWR connector and found one is significantly more prone to overheating issues, deeming it a "complete disaster".

The manufacturers in question are NTK and Astron, with the latter’s connector the more problematic of the two. Igor reckons some batches of connectors from Astron suffer from substandard soldering quality, in part due to inadequate strain relief. It’s thought this is down to a production errors rather than inherent to the design given the soldering contradicts Astron’s own schematics for the connector as obtained by Igor’s Labs. That helps explain the randomness of the failures. The production error may have been the result of a single worker and thus doesn’t apply to all the connectors produced by Astron.

Igor also identified fundamental design differences between the NTK and Astron connectors. The NTK design both attaches more securely and is also easier to detach, issues that are important given incomplete attachment is also implicated in melting connectors.

The internal spring contacts differ between the two vendors, too, with Astron using contacts with two slots, NTK only one and also of a different shape. Net result? The Astron connector tends to have more electrical resistance, especially after multiple insertions. Igor likewise found the Astron connector’s injection moulding was of poorer quality, along with a range of further issues.

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However, given the NTK connector has also been shown to melt, this is clearly a complex multi-factor problem. Indeed, Igor does not lay all the blame at the feet of Astron and its sub-standard product. Igor also helpfully provides a list of solutions to at least some of the identified failure points.

All of this also serves to highlight just how reliable hardware is most of the time. PC components are incredibly complex and it only takes a tiny error to bring the whole shebang crashing down. Of course, if you’ve just spent the thick end of $2,000 / £2,000 on what it supposed to be the most epic graphics card in human history, only to find the thing melting inside your PC, that won’t be much consolation.

Jeremy Laird
Hardware writer

Jeremy has been writing about technology and PCs since the 90nm Netburst era (Google it!) and enjoys nothing more than a serious dissertation on the finer points of monitor input lag and overshoot followed by a forensic examination of advanced lithography. Or maybe he just likes machines that go “ping!” He also has a thing for tennis and cars.