About that Fancy 12-pin Power Connector
To achieve the main design goal around airflow through the card and from the back, NVIDIA had to make the PCB shorter than the card itself. The PCB is less than two-thirds the length of the card and isn't rectangular in shape. A PCB of this size would be fine for a mid-range graphics card with 128-bit memory and a single 8-pin connector; however, the RTX 3080 is a high-end beast. AMD has made high-end cards with PCBs of this size in the past, but leveraged expensive multi-chip module GPUs that have HBM stacks on the chip package to keep the PCB footprint down. The RTX 3080, however, is based on a conventional GPU package that relies on GDDR6X memory chips outside the GPU. To cram the already large GPU, ten GDDR6X memory chips, and an elaborate 18-phase VRM solution into a tiny PCB must have been a difficult engineering feat.
As a high-end card with 320 W typical board power, conventional wisdom would have had the RTX 3080 feature two 8-pin PCIe power inputs (150 W per input, with the remainder from the PCIe slot). However, space is at a great premium on this PCB, and two 8-pin connectors take up a lot of space on the PCB. NVIDIA hence made a radical design decision by opting for the Molex 12-pin MicroFit 3.0 connector. This tiny connector is a pure 12 V interface and only slightly wider than a single 8-pin PCIe connector, but thinner, with each pin contact smaller. The contact points themselves use high-grade materials, and Molex prescribes higher gauge copper cables to go with the connector.
A single 12-pin connector can deliver at least 300 watts of power, double that of an 8-pin PCIe connector. The connector itself is rumored to be capable of more, but we haven't seen specific numbers yet. What's more, the connector can be oriented sideways on the PCB as NVIDIA did with the RTX 3080, which means the footprint is reduced even further. The tail end of the PCB protrudes outward as shown in the picture above so the cavity of the second fan can be accommodated. One of these openings has the 12-pin connector. On the PCB, it barely takes up the space of a 2-pin DC input of a laptop.
Our only gripe with the 12-pin connector on the RTX 3080 has to be its somewhat awkward location towards the center of the card. When installed with the included 2x 8-pin to 12-pin adapter, the location of the 12-pin input could make the whole setup look a little unappealing, especially to those with cable-management OCD. I'm sure case modders are already looking into off-spec adapters to work around this.
But My PSU Only Has 8-pin Connectors
As of this writing, there's no PSU in the market that has 12-pin connectors. NVIDIA includes an adapter in the package that converts two 8-pin PCIe power connectors to a 12-pin connector. The card's warranty requires you use this adapter if your PSU lacks a 12-pin connector—using third-party 8-pin to 12-pin connectors voids the warranty. We're not sure if this warranty term can hold up in a court of law since it's essentially like saying "charge your iPhone only with the included Apple cable."
That said, almost every PSU manufacturer we spoke with is preparing 12-pin modular cables you can use with their existing modular PSUs. Some are even giving them away for free if you can prove you own a graphics card with a 12-pin connector. Modular cables aren't strictly the same thing as "third party 2x 8-pin to 1x 12-pin adapters." These cables plug into the high current backplane of your modular PSU and put out a 12-pin connector. On typical modular PSUs, one of these high-current modular outputs puts out a cable with two 8-pin PCIe connectors.
Leading PSU manufacturer Seasonic sent us a modular cable to use with our PSU. This cable plugs into the high-current backplane of the PSU as we explained in the above paragraph, putting out a single 12-pin connector. It doesn't convert two 8-pin PCIe to the 12-pin and shouldn't void the NVIDIA warranty terms prohibiting the use of third-party 8-pin PCIe to 12-pin adapters. Note how the connector looks identical to the NVIDIA original. It even has the little "1" on a shaded backdrop in the top-left corner.
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New PCIe 5.0 GPU power connector could deliver an absurd 600W from a single cable
Details of a new power connector have surfaced online and are apparently linked to the rumoured RTX 3090 Ti. That's a rumoured GPU that will take on the mantle of the fastest 30-series GPU when it supposedly surfaces in January 2022. We're expecting a complete Super refresh of Nvidia's whole lineup around that time as well, at least if the rumours are to be believed.
One interesting outcome from these rumours is that they appear to have unearthed a new kind of graphics card power connector (via Igor's Lab). The PCIe 5.0 power connector is designed to solve one of the biggest, messiest problems with current graphics card power delivery: actually supplying enough power for high-end cards. Existing 8-pin connectors can supply up to 150W each, which is why the most power-hungry offerings take two or even three connectors.
The new connector (the picture above can be found on Minitek's website) may not look too different from what we've seen before until you spot the four smaller pin connectors on the bottom row. This row, along with the 12 main connectors means that in total you're looking at 16-pins. Only the main block is for power though, with those smaller pins apparently being signal lanes—although what these are actually for is unclear at this stage.
The PCI-SIG states that each pin in the main block can support up to 9.2A, which adds up to 55.2A for the entire connector, with a maximum supported power load of 662.4W. With tolerances, you end up with the 600W. That's a lot.
For reference, Nvidia's current lineup tops out at 350W for the RTX 3090 and the RTX 3080 Ti, with RTX 3080 having a TDP of 320W. The rumoured RTX 3090 Ti, which apparently won't use the Super suffix, has a TDP of 450W.
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Nvidia introduced a new single 12-pin connector with its Founder Edition 30-series cards last year. Nvidia's reasoning at the time was that it wanted a smaller connector on the card itself. This required a 2x 8-pin to 12-pin adapter to use, as no power supplies actually have such connectors as standard.
This adapter made for some untidy builds, so it wasn't ideal. Add-in-board partners didn't jump on board this new design either, with most sticking with twin 8-pin connectors instead. So as it was, only those that managed to grab the Founder's Editions actually got to see Nvidia's twist on the connector.
This rumoured power connector is part of the PCIe standard, which should hopefully mean it enjoys direct support from PSU manufacturers—no need for adapters in the long term. In fact, potentially saying goodbye to the dual, or even triple, 8-pin PCIe power connectors that high-end cards need today in favour of a single cable is reason enough to get excited about this new connector.
Obviously, in the short term, we'll have to use adapters, but any change to a connector standard is going to be plagued with that problem. Still, a little pain in the short term could be worth it if we end up with one cable that covers all your graphics card power needs.
Alan has been writing about PC tech since before 3D graphics cards existed, and still vividly recalls having to fight with MS-DOS just to get games to load. He fondly remembers the killer combo of a Matrox Millenium and 3dfx Voodoo, and seeing Lara Croft in 3D for the first time. He's very glad hardware has advanced as much as it has though, and is particularly happy when putting the latest M.2 NVMe SSDs, AMD processors, and laptops through their paces. He has a long-lasting Magic: The Gathering obsession but limits this to MTG Arena these days.
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Power requirements for NVIDIA Geforce RTX 30-series GPUs
Even before NVIDIA shook up the PC hardware world with the official launch of the company’s 30 Series graphics cards, rumors began to circulate about the physical build of these new powerful GPUs.
Specifically, people were speculating that the power requirements for these new cards were a little bit different than what consumers were used to. Some people claimed the 30-series GPUs would take a single 8-pin power cable, some claimed one card needed three 8-pin connectors, and others threw out weird combinations of 6-pins and 8-pins. As it turns out, these rumors probably came about due to a new type of power connector NVIDIA opted to use on the cards, but we’ll get into that later.
Fortunately, the rumor mill didn’t last long, as NVIDIA released the full specs for these new cards on Sept. 17, as did the manufacturers for other 30-series cards on the market. In those newly revealed specs, the power requirements were officially confirmed, disproving some strange theories and setting the record straight. Now you can know exactly what your new card will require without having to guess.
How many 8-pin connectors do 30 Series cards need?
As it turns out, some of the new 30 Series GPUs require two of the PCIe 8-pin connections (otherwise known as “6+2” connectors), while others require three – and even within the 3080 product line specifically, the power connection needs vary depending on the specific card. We’ve broken down the most relevant information below, to help you plan out your upgrade and make the purchase that’s best for you.
Note: This information is pulled directly from NVIDIA’s official spec sheet for the new 30-series graphics cards, as well as official spec sheets from various manufacturers.
|Nvidia Geforce RTX 3070 Founders Edition||Nvidia Geforce RTX 3080 Founders Edition||Nvidia Geforce RTX 3090 Founders Edition|
|One PCIe 8-pin power cable (1x PCIe 8-pin)||Two PCIe 8-pin power cables (2x PCIe 8-pin)||Two PCIe 8-pin power cables (2x PCIe 8-pin)|
|GPU power: 220W||320W||350W|
|Required system power: 650W||750W||750W|
|ROG Strix GeForce RTX 3090 24G Gaming||ROG Strix GeForce RTX 3080 10G Gaming||ROG Strix GeForce RTX 3070 8G Gaming||DUAL RTX 3070 8G|
|3x PCIe 8-pin||3x PCIe 8-pin||2x PCIe 8-pin||2x PCIe 8-pin|
|GPU Power: Not provided||Not provided||Not provided||Not provided|
|Required system power: 850W||850W||750W||750W|
|AORUS GeForce RTX 3090 XTREME 24G||GeForce RTX 3090 GAMING OC 24G||AORUS GeForce RTX 3080 XTREME 10G||GeForce RTX 3080 GAMING OC 10G||GeForce RTX 3070 EAGLE 8G|
|3x PCIe 8-pin||2x PCIe 8-pin||3x PCIe 8-pin||2x PCIe 8-pin||2x PCIe 8-pin|
|Not provided||Not provided||Not provided||Not provided||Not provided|
|Required system power: 850W||750W||750W||750W||650W|
So there you have it. Nothing too crazy, but still, three 8-pin cables for a single graphics card might be a bit bulkier than what the average PC builder is used to. You’ll want to make sure you have the needed PSU cables on-hand before you install your card. Specifically for the NVIDIA Founders Edition cards, the company is also supplying a 12-pin adapter that can be used to make hooking your card up to power a little bit easier.
For more information on how to choose a new power supply for your build, you can read our PSU guide.
Do you need to upgrade your power supply for Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3080 graphics card? That’s a concern many people have, but it’s actually two concerns clumped into one.
First, people fear they’ll need a new PSU to handle the new 12-pin connector on Nvidia’s own RTX 3080 Founders Edition. Second, the RTX 3080 pulls more wattage than even the prior-gen RTX 2080 Ti flagship. That’s why Nvidia bumped the recommend power supply rating up to 750 watts to compensate, up from a 650W maximum last go-round.
One of these questions is simple to answer. The other takes some explaining. Let’s dig in.
Do you need a new power supply for the RTX 3080’s 12-pin power?
Yes, Nvidia created a proprietary new 12-pin power connectors to fit on the shortened custom PCB inside its GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition. But the Founders Edition ships with an adapter that converts a pair of 8-pin power cables to the new 12-pin connector. Plug it in and it just works. Note that Nvidia suggests using separate 8-pin connectors plugged into your power supply, rather than using a single PSU cable with a pair of connections daisy-chained on the business end.
That said, if you have a transparent case window and care about aesthetics, Nvidia’s 12-pin adapter looks janky in your case. It’s too short and chunky, and even somewhat blocks the illuminated white “GeForce RTX” logo on the edge of the card. If you don’t like it, some power supply makers such as Seasonic and EVGA will offer full-length 12-pin to 2x 8-pin cables, which you can buy and slip directly into your existing modular PSU.
No other RTX 3080 graphics cards announced so far feature Nvidia’s 12-pin connector. Everything but the Founders Edition sticks to standard 8-pin connectors.
Do you need a bigger power supply for RTX 3080?
The GeForce RTX 3080 is rated for 350W of total board power, and Nvidia recommends using a 750W power supply with it. That’s a lot more than prior-gen Founders Edition graphics cards required. The GTX 1080 needed only a 500W power supply, while the RTX 2080 and 2080 Ti required a 650W PSU. If you have a power supply under 750W, you’ll probably want to consider upgrading.
All that said, the GeForce RTX 3080 might work if you have a very efficient 650W power supply. We test whole system power draw for our graphics card tests. In a system with a six-core Core i7-8700K, two SSDs, 32GB of fast memory, a liquid CPU cooler, and RGB lights galore, the RTX 3080 Founders Edition maxed out at 482W of total system power draw.
That’s not a worst-case scenario though. We test power in a GPU-bound game at a GPU-bound 4K resolution to see what happens when the graphics card specifically is pushed to the max. For our games testing, we overclock the 8700K to 5GHz on all cores, which puts its performance on a par with the stock Core i9-10900K, per TechSpot’s benchmarks. With that overclock applied, we saw the system draw between 500W and 550W of total power in some games that hit the CPU hard too, like GTA V and Total War: Troy. Newer systems with more cores pushed under an aggressive overclock could obviously draw more.
Basic number skills tell you that 550W is still under 650W. Depending on the rest of your setup, and how hot it is in your room, you could probably run the RTX 3080 on a 650W power supply. But PSUs differ in how they deliver the wattage advertised on the box. Less efficient power supplies need to draw more energy from your wall socket to hit their rated maximums. An 80 Plus Bronze-rated power supply will convert at least 82 percent of your wall energy to PSU output, with the rest wasted as heat. A pricey 80 Plus Platinum PSU converts 89 to 92 percent of the power it draws from the wall to actual output into your computer, depending on the load.
So what? The less efficient your PSU is, the less reliable it is, and the harder it has to work to convert wall energy to actual power output. A power supply that needs to work harder tends to offer less reliability and longevity than more efficient models. Being in a hot room can also reduce your power supply’s output.
That could be an issue with the increased power demands of the RTX 30-series. Don’t take our word for it–Asus said exactly that while showing off its ROG Strix RTX 3080, which includes sensors on its trio of 8-pin power connectors to show you if they’re getting the energy they need. From our coverage:
“The company said a modern GPU can go from using nearly no power to suddenly spiking to hundreds of watts. That’s something a borderline PSU, or one that’s been driven hard, might not be up to, Asus said. ‘And even if they have a high-power PSU, if it has been run hard for a number of years, its voltage regulation may no longer be adequate to cope with the fast load changes,’ the company added.”
Your power supply isn’t the only concern if you’re buying a GeForce RTX 3080 with just two 8-pin power connectors, like Nvidia’s Founders Edition. The RTX 3080 is rated for 320W of total board power. Each 8-pin power connector can supply 150W of juice, leaving your motherboard’s PCIe slot to pump out the rest. Now, PCIe slots are rated for 75W of power, but less-complex motherboards may struggle to do so, Asus warns.
“This approach is perfectly within spec, but it may create additional power-delivery and thermal demands that some motherboards might not be built for,” the company said—especially if you want to overclock your graphics card. Asus and many other third-party graphics card suppliers have built their higher-end RTX 3080 offerings with a trio of 8-pin power connectors to alleviate the potential issue.
Those are a lot of words to get back where we started. Do you need a bigger power supply for RTX 3080? Definitely maybe. I’d strongly recommend using at least a 750W PSU like Nvidia recommends, especially if you’re using a system that’s full of budget or mainstream parts that have been ridden hard the last few years.
I’ll close this with an anecdote. My personal system packs an 80 Plus Platinum-rated 650W EVGA Supernova P2 power supply and a high-end Gigabyte Aorus X370 motherboard. I threw the GeForce RTX 3080 FE in it to see what would happen, and it worked just fine for a night of gaming at all the major resolutions—but if I planned on using it long-term, I’d feel much more comfortable upgrading to a 750W unit like Nvidia recommends.
Related Nvidia RTX 30-series stories:
Power connector 3080
The GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition has a 12-pin power connector, but it may be an NVIDIA-exclusive
Indeed, a cursory check of the specifications of the RTX 3080 Founders Edition reveals that the card requires two PCIe 8-pin connectors. Conversely, NVIDIA refers to the card as having a "new 12-pin power connector" in one graphic, albeit it has hidden this text somewhat.
Thankfully, Digital Foundry has cleared up the matter. At 2:55 minutes into its RTX 3080 hands-on video, Digital Foundry shows a close-up of the 12-pin connector, which we have included above. However, add-in-board partners (AIBs) will not be using the new connector, as Tweaktown suggested last month. We can confirm that at least KFA2, inno3D, MSI and Zotac have gone with two 8-pin connectors on their custom RTX 3080 cards, which begs the question of why NVIDIA created the 12-pin connector in the first place. Perhaps, NVIDIA will make the 12-pin power connector mandatory for future cards, but we fail to understand the fragmentation with its Ampere generation.
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