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Maybe the next generation of graphics cards could be smaller?

Huge if true

I’m testing an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 Ti this week. No fully-formed, review-style thoughts on it yet, though after an unusually stressy installation I do have a question: does it need to be so god-damned big?

“Yes, because heat” is probably the answer, as when you’ve got as many processor cores as the RTX 3090 Ti, running at such high clock speeds as the RTX 3090 Ti, and with as much memory as the RTX 3090 Ti, it’s a bad idea to try building an RTX 3090 Ti that’s the size of a postage stamp. But the best graphics cards aren’t huge as a rule, and when it’s got to the point where new GPUs can’t easily fit into a standard mid-tower PC case, it might be time for some course correction.

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For me, the case in question is the NZXT H510 that houses the RPS test rig, and the specific graphics card is the Zotac Gaming GeForce RTX 3090 Ti AMP Holo. I’ll cop to some blame here, as I failed to take my own advice about checking clearances before arranging for the card to come in – possibly while drunk on overconfidence, having previously installed an RTX 3090 Founders Edition into my own, broadly similar NZXT Source 340 case without issue.

Oh, but there was an issue. At 355.9mm long, Zotac’s card wouldn’t squeeze into H510 with the CPU cooler’s front-mounted radiator and fans still in place. The photo below thus shows the only way I could get everything functional: with the side window off, CPU cooler dangling outward with exposed fans that look primed for Harrison Ford to punch a Nazi into. The state of it, honestly.

A gaming PC with its CPU cooler radiator stood outside the case, as a result of the graphics card being too big to fit inside at the same time.
Technically, this belongs to Gamer Network. Sorry about the PC, Graham.

All bodging aside, it is a little concerning that higher-end graphics cards are getting so swole that they can’t reliably fit into the most middling of mid-towers. One of the cool things about upgrading your graphics card is that you can just pull out the old one and slot the new model in, but what if that new card effectively needs a new, more spacious case as well? That quick (if relatively expensive) upgrade suddenly becomes a full, even more expensive rebuild.

AMD have new GPUs coming out later this year, Nvidia likely do as well, and Intel’s first Arc graphics cards should arrive in the summer. Deep down I’m a performance nerd, and won’t stamp my feet if they turn out to be RGB paving slabs. But, if any clear effort at all goes into making them shorter and sweeter, that could be as good news for PC builders as any broken benchmark record.

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