Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 crashing issues: What you need to know

Edna

Nvidia’s long-awaited GeForce RTX 3080 and RTX 3090 graphics cards are finally here, and these Ampere GPU-powered beasts are staggeringly potent. Unfortunately, some buyers lucky enough to score one of these hotly desired graphics cards have encountered stability issues that result in some games crashing to the desktop. Deeper analysis has led to speculation that the hardware some vendors used for their custom cards could be to blame.

Should you be worried about the RTX 3080 crashing? Are some graphics cards more unstable than others? It’s complicated, but here’s what you need to know about the GeForce RTX 3080 crashing issues.

Update: We’ve tested Nvidia’s new Game Ready drivers and they fix the crashing issue, albeit by slightly dialing back the maximum GPU Boost clock speed in ultra-fast RTX 3080 models. Read the details in “Tested: Nvidia’s new drivers fix RTX 3080 crashes by sacrificing clock speed” and download the new drivers here.

The root cause of the crashing remains unknown. Nvidia didn’t specify what stability changes were made in the driver. Our original article below gets into the speculation, and we’ve also added a statement from Nvidia about the POSCAP vs. MLCC debate.

What’s the problem?

In the week after the GeForce RTX 3080’s launch, users began reporting that their graphics cards were crashing to the desktop when playing games. Videocardz compiled a list of some of the reports from forums around the Internet. Further testing by affected users seemed to reveal that the crashes happened in some games when their GPU boost clock speeds hit roughly 2GHz or above.

It’s worth noting that the RTX 3080 crashing problems are not universal, and many people have been able to game without any issues.

Does RTX 3080 crashing only affect overclocked graphics cards?

Yes and no—but also not necessarily. (Hey, I said this was complicated.)

The GeForce RTX 3080 and 3090 are rated for boost clock speeds of roughly 1.7GHz, but that’s only part of the story. Nvidia graphics cards have a feature called GPU Boost that lets the core clock speeds increase in 15MHz increments if the card hasn’t hit its power or thermal limits. It’s a wonderful technology that lets your graphics card run faster than advertised if possible to give you extra performance. In practice, for example, we observed Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition running between 1800MHz and 1900MHz during many games.

dsc01076 Brad Chacos/IDG

That’s comfortably below 2GHz (2000MHz) and while there have been some reports of Nvidia Founders Edition cards crashing, they’re relatively rare. It appears to be a somewhat more common issue with custom cards from Nvidia partners like Zotac and MSI—though again, this is far from a universal problem.

Custom graphics cards often feature beefed-up cooling solutions and often ship with a factory-applied overclock out of the box. If you’ve got a factory overclocked GeForce RTX 3080 with a capable cooling system, Nvidia’s GPU Boost technology could push your card to 2GHz in some games out of the box, with no manual overclocking required. Some of these cards seem to be the ones affected the most by the RTX 3080 crashing issues.

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