Thousands of RTX 4090 GPUs Are Being Rebuilt for AI Computing in China

nvidia geforce rtx 4090
Image Courtesy: NVIDIA

Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 is the company’s top-of-the-line graphics card for gaming. Based on the AD102 chip, it is also competently capable of handling AI computing. However, US sanctions banning the card in China (along with several other countries) have made things for AI computing difficult there, or so it would seem.

After this restriction, there was a lot of debate on whether China would be able to keep developing its AI industry. An insider report coming from the Chinese Baidu Forums has shown that several factories have been started in China with one very specific reason – to repurpose them for AI computing instead.

Reports from Chiphell forums show that many disassembled RTX 4090 units, without any actual GPU components except the once-attached cooler, are being sold in reseller marketplaces.

Nvidia RTX 4090 GPUs being rebuilt for AI compute
Image Courtesy: Baidu & Chiphell Forums

They have thousands of RTX 4090 graphics cards stockpiled in inventory. The engineers are literally removing the board components, including the GPU chip and GDDR6X VRAM, from the graphics card’s PCB.

Reportedly, a new PCB design has also been created and all the new components are installed here. A testing department also seems to be in place, verifying the GPUs through 3DMark and Furmark.

A new cooling solution for these GPUs is also prepared. It is a dual-slot cooler with a single-blower-style fan design. This GPU design is especially good at pushing all the heat out from the I/O (where the HDMI/DP ports lie). This ends up making them perfect for server environments. In this case, it is believed that these RTX 4090s will be used to provide high-performance computing for AI training.

RTX 4090 GPUs in China being tested for stability
Image Courtesy: Baidu Forums

Why are NVIDIA AI Chips Banned in China?

If you’re wondering why the restriction was put in the first place, the US government essentially wants to limit AI innovation in those countries. Nvidia’s high-end professional GPUs (such as Nvidia H100) were previously banned. Now, several of Nvidia’s other graphics cards, including the RTX 4090, are also banned from sale in China.

Despite the sanctions, it seems that China might not have too much trouble in terms of having enough GPU computing power to empower the AI industry within the country. Last week, Reuters reported that Tencent reportedly already has a stockpile of Nvidia AI chips. The report mentions Nvidia H800 AI chips, too, which are more powerful than the RTX 4090 for this task.

Currently, RTX 4090 is quite overpriced in the US, touching the $2000 mark at times. This has been attributed to the inventory being sent to China prior to the US sanctions coming into effect. This top-of-the-line GPU, aimed at gamers, is not landing in their hands due to this situation.

It is highly likely that consumers in China will also be facing even worse shortages after the sanctions of any RTX 4090 GPUs – due to most of them being sent to these newly set up factories for disassembly & repurposing for AI computing.

What are your thoughts on Nvidia AI chips being banned due to US sanctions? Do you think China will have any trouble continuing its AI innovation roadmap? Let us know in the comments below.

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