Understanding ATX 3.0: The Latest PSU Standard from Intel

If you're planning to upgrade your GPU to a new RTX 40 series card from NVIDIA in the future, then yes, an ATX 3.0 power supply is well worth considering

by Sededin Dedovic
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Understanding ATX 3.0: The Latest PSU Standard from Intel
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When it comes to choosing a power supply unit (PSU), ATX 3.0 is the latest standard. Intel introduced the ATX 3.0 standard in March 2022 and heralded a new era. While PSUs might be overlooked in many computers, they play one of the most important roles in a build.

The power supply ensures that every other component has sufficient power and prevents interruptions due to power surges or outages. It's always a good idea to get a suitable power supply according to your needs and never opt for something too cheap.

Intel introduced the ATX 3.0 standard in March 2022. This was the first significant update to the power supply standard in about 20 years, since the ATX 2.0 standard was introduced. With this in mind, let's look at the changes brought by the ATX 3.0 standard and their significance, but first, let's recap what preceded ATX 3.0.

ATX 2.0

Before diving into the latest specifications, it is helpful to briefly touch on the previous specifications. ATX 2.0 was introduced about twenty years ago and has received several updates since, with the most recent being ATX 2.53 in May 2020.

Prior to ATX 3.0, all PSUs relied on 6- or 8-pin connectors rated for 75W and 150W, respectively. For many years, this was enough power, but recent advances in GPU technology have necessitated changes.

What is ATX 3.0?

ATX 3.0 is the latest standard for power supplies.

It includes a new 16-pin (12+4) connector for powering graphics cards. Known as the PCIe 5.0 12VHPWR connector, it is designed to provide up to 600W of power for new GPUs with PCIe 5.0. Previous GPU power connectors offered only 75W or 150W, so the new 12VHPWR cable is a significant leap in power limits.

The new 12VHPWR connectors are currently used mainly for the NVIDIA 4000 series graphics cards, but there is potential for other manufacturers to adopt them as well. With increased power capabilities, ATX 3.0 also brings better power efficiency thanks to Alternative Low Power Modes (ALPM).

ALPM isn't entirely new but allows for lower power consumption when your system is idle. There are additional changes worth mentioning, such as faster system wake-up times and power-on signals. This will allow your computer to turn on and wake from sleep mode more quickly.

The 12V rail can now reach 12.2V, allowing for lower voltage drops and better system stability. ATX 3.0 also provides 60% efficiency at a 10W load or 70% efficiency at 2% of maximum capacity. This offers better stability at lower loads and should consume less power when your computer is idle.

An ATX 3.0 PSU is better for anyone who regularly uses their PC for high-power tasks such as streaming, gaming, creative work like video editing or rendering, and software development. More specifically, an ATX 3.0 is a necessity if you plan on using an Nvidia 40 series GPU.

Not all PSUs currently on the market are ATX 3.0 compatible, as the specification is not necessary for more casual builds, so you will need to ensure that the PSU you are considering is indeed compatible with the latest specifications.

An exterior view of the NVIDIA headquarters on May 30, 2023 in Santa Clara, California. Chipmaker NVIDIA reached a $1 trillion m© Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Should you upgrade to an ATX 3.0 power supply?

Although ATX 3.0 power supplies have not been without issues, they are the new standard and have been available for about two years, giving manufacturers time to address problems.

The biggest issue we've seen was the melting/burning of 12VHPWR cables on some NVIDIA GPUs. While this doesn't happen to all of them, it has been a significant problem with the new 12VHPWR connector. The issue seems more related to the 12VHPWR cable itself rather than ATX 3.0 power supplies in general, but unfortunately, they go hand in hand.

We won't go into all the details, but many have seen melted 12VHPWR connectors on some NVIDIA GPUs, and there is much debate about whether this is due to user error or a flaw in the cable's standard. If you plan to upgrade your GPU to a new NVIDIA RTX 40 series card in the future, then yes, it is definitely worth considering an ATX 3.0 power supply.

If you also want the best power efficiency you can get, then it is absolutely worth it. Also, considering that the last major change to the standard was over 20 years ago, if you value future-proofing, an ATX 3.0 power supply might be a good choice, especially as it seems that the new NVIDIA GeForce RTX 5000 series will still use the 12VHPWR cable for their power supply.

To sum up, the ATX 3.0 PSU specification is designed to account for the higher power requirements of the newest GPUs, such as the Nvidia 40 series. With the new PCIe 5.0 12VHPWR connector and power excursion protection, an ATX 3.0 PSU is built to efficiently support the strongest GPUs performing even the most intensive tasks.

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