A rumor has spread in hardware circles that Nvidia’s upcoming Ampere graphics cards may use a 12-pin PCIe power connector. Some news organizations report the rumor as a fact, while others treat it as a sham. Our own internal source has confirmed that the connector is real and has been submitted to the PCI-SIG standards body. However, it remains to be seen whether it will pass the approval.
The 12-pin PCIe power connector measures 19 x 14 x 8.35mm, or 0.30mm. If you want to get an idea of its size, the 12-pin connector should be roughly equivalent to putting two normal 6-pin PCIe power connectors side by side.
According to the technical illustrations submitted, the 12 pin PCIe power connector would have six 12V pins and six ground pins. Each 12V pin is designed for a maximum of 9A. Therefore, a single 12-pin PCIe power connector can theoretically deliver input power of up to 648W, which takes all existing PCIe power connectors out of the water.
The 12-pin PCIe power connector is essentially a combination of two 6-pin PCIe power connectors, although the pin layout is different. As a result, power suppliers can get away with simply replacing the cable with its corresponding connector with the new 12-pin PCIe layout. This would allow them to save money since it would not involve touching the PCB of the power supply.
The wire gauge will play an important role in delivering power. While the connector pins support 648W, you will need 16AWG cables to access it. This shouldn’t be a problem as we don’t expect Ampere to use that much power. The majority of modern power supplies use 18AWG cables, which have a maximum current of 7A. Even with 18AWG cables, the 12-pin PCI power connector can deliver up to 504W of power and should be more than enough for any graphics card.
Ampere graphics cards are rumored to draw up to 350W, which may explain Nvidia’s insistence on a new PCIe power connector. Even with current PCIe power connectors, it is possible to power a graphics card at over 350W. The PCIe slot provides 75W and a single 8-pin PCIe power connector provides up to 150 W. Thus, a combination of the PCIe slot with two 8-pin PCIe power connectors is good for 375W. If needed, you can also add another 6 or 8 pin PCIe power connector to the mix. High-end graphics cards, such as the MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Lightning Z or EVGA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti K | NGP | N depend on three 8-pin PCIe power connectors, so it’s not uncommon to find graphics cards with three power connectors.
It may not be whether the current offerings can deliver enough power for Amps – it depends more on marketing. Having multiple PCIe power slots can give a bad first impression that the graphics card is power hungry. To the untrained eye, a graphics card with a single PCIe power connector infuses the illusion of its energy efficiency.
At this time, it’s unclear whether the 12-pin PCIe power connector will be exclusive to Nvidia’s Founders Edition models or the same for all aftermarket models. In any case, one should not despair since the PCI-SIG group might not even endorse the 12-pin PCIe power connector.