Reports of RX 7900 XTX GPU overheating issues could be a big problem for AMD

An AMD Radeon RX 7900 XTX on a table against a white backdrop
(Image credit: Future)

AMD’s RX 7900 XTX flagship GPU could have a problem with its vapor chamber, and this might be the cause of worrying reports of seriously high hotspot temperatures plaguing the graphics card.

Tom’s Hardware reports that overclocking expert Der8auer bought four RX 7900 XTX graphics cards (with the reference design) and ran a bunch of tests (in a video on his YouTube channel) to determine what’s behind the overheating issues that have been pinpointed in some cases (which see temperatures hitting 110C or so).

Der8auer did find that mounting the RX 7900 XTX vertically made for cooler running compared to horizontally, at least with these four graphics cards, but this wasn’t the full story – there were complaints from people running a vertically mounted 7900 XTX about high hotspot temperatures, too (and in one case for Der8auer, a vertically mounted card saw pretty high spiking temps).

The question then was while the mounting configuration seemed to have an impact, what was the actual underlying cause of these hotspots?

Der8auer examined various theories, like whether the sheer weight of the cooler was problematic, pulling it away from the card, or whether the mounting pressure was insufficient – or indeed if there was an issue with the thermal paste. However, after some very thorough testing, he eliminated all these aspects as potential causes.

In Der8auer’s mind, that left only one culprit as the root cause: the vapor chamber. He suggested that the pressure inside vapor chamber could be wrong, or the wrong amount of liquid could have been used inside the chamber – or there might simply be a plain design fault with the way the chamber has been built.

In a follow-up video which has just been released, Der8auer says that there doesn’t appear to be a physical design flaw with the vapor chamber, but rather that AMD has not used quite enough liquid inside. While admitting he isn’t an expert on this matter by any means, that conclusion was reached in conjunction with Igor’s Lab and a vapor chamber manufacturer – but it’s still an assumption, mind you, so we must tread very carefully here.

Analysis: A bigger potential meltdown than Nvidia’s RTX 4090?

Naturally, we don’t want to jump to any conclusions based off a couple of YouTube videos involving looking at just four 7900 XTX graphics cards, and we need to see further exploration of this issue – preferably from AMD, of course, which has an investigation underway. That said, Der8auer is very firm with his assertion of the issue here, and he believes AMD could be in “big trouble” over this matter.

Mainly because compared to Nvidia’s melting adapter problem with the RTX 4090, which had around 50 or so incidents recorded, there are a lot more reports of this overheating flaw with AMD’s new flagship.

Because of this, Der8auer suggests that AMD can’t really engage in an RMA (returning and replacing) affected graphics cards, with there being so many; and rather, that Team Red might have to issue a recall of affected RX 7900 XTX models (those with the reference design and cooler – third-party custom designs are, of course, different).

As to what will actually happen, we’ll just have to watch this space. But right now, these are seriously worrying rumblings for AMD, with the company currently investigating these issues as we mentioned.

The last statement we heard from AMD on the subject was: “We are investigating reports that some AMD Radeon RX 7900 XTX graphics cards (reference models made by AMD) are reaching the 110C temperature and throttling. Thermal throttling may impact the performance of the card by reducing clock rates, but the graphics card can continue to be used.”

Team Red then advised affected parties to contact AMD support, but with the e-ticket system down for maintenance (until January 5), you can only do so by phone right now, which hasn’t gone down that well with the community either. None of this is a great look for AMD, particularly not when you consider Team Red’s jibes directed at Nvidia for the melting adapter fracas as part of the build-up to the RDNA 3 GPU launch.

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).