The gaming GPU market has been in turmoil during the past months because crypto-miners are snatching all the GPU supplies. This buying surge has created broad discontent among potential GPU buyers who can’t get their hands on the latest NVIDIA GPUs, and definitely not at an “affordable” price.
A good example of that is the uproar that followed the recent Zotac post about GPU mining, representing exactly what NVIDIA wants to avoid: enraging their primary gaming customers and building up resentment around the brand or sector.
To make NVIDIA consumer GPU cards less palatable to crypto-miners and free up some supply, NVIDIA is taking a two-steps approach:
- Artificially cutting the ETH mining performance by half with a (Windows+Linux) driver update for new GPUs, starting with the RTX 3060
- They are selling GPUs dedicated to mining, without any display-related functionality at the chip level, not the board level. I say “functionality” because the display hardware blocks might still be on the chip and disabled permanently.
Reducing the mining performance (hash rate) will immediately cut the miners’ profit by half, which is “the stick.” While being able to buy mining GPUs might be “the carrot.”
On the surface, it sounds like it could work and let NVIDIA essentially control the supply of mining and gaming GPUs in an orderly fashion, but there are details worth considering.
The new mining GPU line is called NVIDIA CMP HX (30HX, 40HX, 50HX and 90HX), which would mine comparably to the GeForce RTX 2080 to the RTX 3080. CMP stands for Crypto Mining Processor, and here are the specs from NVIDIA:
Ethereum Hash Rate(1)
|26 MH/s||36 MH/s||45 MH/s||86 MH/s|
|125 W||185 W||250 W||320 W|
|1x 8-pin||1x 8-pin||2x 8-pin||2x 8-pin|
They don’t seem to be a lot better than consumer GPUs for key metrics such as performance per watt or absolute speed. That probably explains why NVIDIA needed to artificially cripple the mining performance. And without CMP pricing, we don’t have complete visibility on the value of this new line-up.
It would have been better if NVIDIA could have released a slightly more efficient CMP GPU and just let the market forces work, but the timeframe for a “solution” was probably too short for such a project. Without a doubt, people at NVIDIA are considering a longer-term solution as mining seems here to stay.
The question is, “who” buys these consumer GPUs in-masse to build mining farms? The largest farms have ASIC (special-purpose chips) that are much more efficient than GPUs, but perhaps they too suffer from a chip shortage.
Alternatively, you also have a myriad of smaller mom & pop mining shops with a dozen or more GPUs. Consumer GPUs are more affordable than ASIC and do not require 3000W and 220V power connectivity. That is why consumer GPUs are so easy for mid-size mining.
The big issue with the CMP GPUs is they cannot be resold into the consumer market when their mining usage is over. And this could mean additional pressure on these miners’ cash flow, who will have to guess what the aftermarket for the new CMP GPUs might be.
In the short-term, miners might try buying (older?) GPUs whose drivers don’t cripple mining performance, stick to an older driver, or try an unsafe patched GPU driver. At the moment, it is hard to tell where the chips will fall, but it should free up some supply for gamers, which is the end-game. Of course, this could also alienate gamers who want to make a buck with mining, while not playing, but that’s clearly not the majority of customers.
Update: since we published the initial article, NVIDIA has confirmed that
- GPUs launched prior to the RTX 3060 should not be affected by the (ETH) mining restrictions
- Mining other coins (non-ETH) is not affected
- The restriction is not just in the driver and also relies on the vBIOS, making it much more difficult to patch since the vBIOS is encrypted. The alternative is to load a non-official vBIOS and driver.