Chinese Factories Dismantling Thousands of NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4090 “Gaming” GPUs & Turning Them Into “AI” Solutions With Blower-Style Coolers

NVIDIA’s GeForce RTX 4090 “Gaming” GPUs are being turned into “AI” solutions in the thousands to cater to the growing demand within China.

Thousands of NVIDIA’s Gaming “GeForce RTX 4090” GPUs Are Being Converted Into “AI” Solutions In China

China was recently hit by major restrictions for AI hardware by the US Government. As per the new regulations, several GPU vendors such as NVIDIA, AMD & Intel are now blocked from selling specific AI chips to China. The ban on NVIDIA GPUs has been the worst with even consumer-centric Geforce RTX 4090 cards being forced out of mainland China due to its high compute capabilities.

Prior to the ban which went into effect a few days ago, NVIDIA was reported to have prioritized a large chunk of AD102 GPUs and GeForce RTX 4090 graphics cards from its AIB partners to China. This prioritization might’ve been one reason why the RTX 4090 is now in short supply in the rest of the world and the card is currently hitting over $2000 US pricing. Not only that but Chinese giants in the AI field had also amassed a large stockpile of NVIDIA GPUs that could power generations of their AI models.

Now an insider from the Chinese Baidu Forums has revealed that specialized factories are being formed all across China that are receiving these GeForce RTX 4090 shipments (sent prior to the ban). A single picture shows off several hundred NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4090 graphics cards from PALIT and it is reported that more are on the way. There are also ASUS ROG STRIX and Gigabyte Gaming OC variants pictured in the main thread. As for what purpose these cards serve, well it’s obviously not gaming if that’s what you were thinking.

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You see, the rising prices for the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4090 GPUs have made it out of reach for even the high-end gaming segment with prices close to $10,000 US per piece but there’s one market that is hungering for these cards and that’s China’s domestic AI segment.

For AI purposes, the software ecosystem is already there for the RTX 4090 and it requires little to no modification on a software level to support the latest LLMs. NVIDIA recently announced bringing TensorRT & TensorRT-LLM to Windows 11 PCs which makes it even more accessible. So the software side is all set but what about the practicality of using a gaming design in a server environment, that’s what these factories are built for.

Each card is a 3 or 4-slot design which means it takes up extra-ordinary space which isn’t a great fit for a server AI environment. So the workers in these factories are taking each card apart. First, the massive coolers are disassembled and then everything including the GPU and GDDR6X memory is removed from the main PCB. It is stated that a specialized “reference” PCB has been designed that gives these AD102 GPUs and GDDR6X memory a new life.

A Chinese factory worker makes sure that the newly assembled RTX 4090 AI solution qualifies through various tests. (Image Source: Baidu Forums):

Image Source: Baidu Forums

Each card is then equipped with a more tamer dual-slot cooler using a blower-style design. There are multiple versions of the blower-style cooler but they all feature similar specs. A blower-style GPU cooler is tuned specifically for large server environments where several GPUs are supposed to run together and effectively dissipate heat out of the heatsink.

After assembling the new unit, the newly born NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4090 AI solution is taken through a rigorous testing spree in the testing labs where we can see Furmark, 3DMark, & a host of AI applications being run on them to ensure that they are meeting the demands of AI customers. Once everything checks out, these GPUs are packaged and sent off to China’s AI companies.

China’s Reseller Market is flooded with disassembled RTX 4090 coolers and bare PCBs that once powered $1600US+ gaming cards (Image Source: Chiphell Forums):

This process has also led to an abundance of NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4090 coolers and bare PCBs being flooded in the Chinese reseller markets. These PCBs and coolers are now being sold at really cheap prices, often for less than $50 US since the most valuable components, the AD102 GPU & GDDR6X memory, have already been taken apart. They can definitely become a nice collection but it’s also sad that all of this engineering expertise is going to waste. These PCBs might come in handy with future RTX 4090 repairs as the card still occasionally finds itself to be a victim of the flawed 12VHPWR connector.

With the ban in effect, no more NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4090 GPUs can be shipped to China without a license under the “NEC” eligibility rule. With that said, we hope that AD102 supply returns to normal for other regions and prices start to normalize too.

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