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Tested: Nvidia’s new drivers fix RTX 3080 crashes by sacrificing clock speed

Tested: Nvidia’s new drivers fix RTX 3080 crashes by sacrificing clock speed

Over the weekend, forums around the Internet exploded with news of Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3080 crashing in games for some users, followed by (very informed) speculation by Igor Wallossek at Igor’s Lab that part of the issue could by caused by the capacitors used on various custom boards. Read our explainer on the GeForce RTX 3080 crashing issues if you want to know more.

On Monday morning, Nvidia released new GeForce Game Ready drivers that appear to fix the stability issues. We were able to test the drivers on a on a troublesome RTX 3080 graphics card in PCWorld’s possession.

Nvidia’s article about the 456.55 Game Ready drivers overtly mentions only enabling Nvidia Reflex in Call of Duty. But buried deep in the release notes were an interesting tidbit: “The new Game Ready Driver also improves stability in certain games on RTX 30 Series GPUs.”  

I have a custom GeForce RTX 3080 brimming with an all-POSCAP capacitor configuration that reliably crashed in Horizon Zero Dawn with the older, original 456.38 drivers. The new 456.55 Game Ready drivers indeed puts an end to that, but it looks like it does so by slightly limiting the maximum GPU Boost clock speed. Let’s dig in.

The graphics card that never launched

evga ftw3 back EVGA

The EVGA RTX 3080 FTW3 cards you can buy include different capacitors than my pre-production version; you can see it includes MLCC arrays between the black, rectangular POSCAPs on the rear of the GPU.

If you read our guide to the RTX 3080 crashing issues, you’ll know that EVGA somewhat confirmed Igor’s analysis that the type of capacitor used can affect performance. EVGA’s hotly anticipated RTX 3080 FTW3 graphics card was delayed because the original configuration exclusively used POSCAP capacitors potentially tied to stability issues. (Again, read our RTX 3080 crashing guide to learn the difference between POSCAP and MLCC capacitors.) Here’s what product manager Jacob Freeman said in an EVGA statement:

“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.

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.”

To be absolutely clear in case you missed it: EVGA is not shipping FTW3 cards with an all-POSCAP setup, which couldn’t pass real-world testing. They delayed the card to include an MLCC array to ensure stability. The cards you can buy should be fine. Nvidia also tells me that “the appropriate number of POSCAP vs. MLCC groupings can vary depending on the design and is not necessarily indicative of quality.”

But what do you know: I just so happen to have one of those early pre-production FTW3 samples with six POSCAPs. And yes, I could get it to crash repeatedly while gaming.

POSCAPs vs. Horizon Zero Dawn

I’d shelved reviewing this FTW3 because EVGA told me they’d be shipping me a new one that matches the configuration buyers received. But after all the ruckus I decided to poke at my pre-production POSCAP sample to see if I could get it to misbehave reliably. I could.

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