One of the critical points during this period of high demand for graphics cards is that a portion of them are being purchased by professional users looking to mine cryptocurrency. The recent launch of new cards coupled with record highs in the cryptocurrency market has led to a rebirth of the mining community, who as of recently could earn ~$10 per RTX 3090 graphics card. These professional miners buy graphics card by the pallet load, sometimes bypassing retailers and going direct to distributors, as they can guarantee a complete shipment sale in one go. The knock on effect is fewer cards available for gamers looking to build new systems, causing prices to increase. On top of all this, the newest generation of graphics cards are rare to find in the first place, despite AMD and NVIDIA stating that they are being produced and sold at record rates.
In order to at least offer a fig leaf to gamers, in the past certain graphics board partners started producing mining-only graphics cards. These had no graphical outputs, making them almost impossible for gaming use cases, but it filtered off some of the mining market into buying those rather than taking stock away from shelves for gamers. This was a poor band-aid, and now NVIDIA has gone one step further to separate mining from gaming.
NVIDIA’s announcement today is two-fold: firstly addressing the upcoming launch of the RTX 3060 graphics on February 25th, and secondly announcing a new range of dedicated mining hardware.
RTX 3060: Halving the Mining Rate
One of the key drivers as to why the new graphics cards are being sold is because they are so good at doing the mining operations for various cryptocurrencies (namely for Ethereum and other derived coins) and earning the users a semblance of return on their purchase. Mining requires hardware and software, and it’s the software side that NVIDIA is tackling with this first announcement.
For the upcoming RTX 3060, the software drivers for this graphics card will automatically limit cryptocoin hashing rates to half – making how much they can earn specifically halved. The software drivers will do this by detecting the math coming through the pipeline and restricting access to the hardware for those operations. At this point we’re not sure if it’s a cut in frequency that the drivers will cause or simply limiting the operations to half of the hardware, but either way NVIDIA is hoping this will detract professional miners from buying these cards if the return on them is halved.
No plans are being announced for cards currently in the market, perhaps because the drivers for those cards already allow a full-rate compute solution, and those can simply keep older drivers installed.
NVIDIA CMP: Dedicated Mining Silicon for Ethereum
In the same way that ‘crypto’ cards without video outputs were pushing into the market for balance, NVIDIA is going a step further and removing the video outputs from the silicon entirely. There are other potential optimizations that could be made for power and performance, but at this point NVIDIA is simply stating as graphics-less silicon. This could be a mix of customized new silicon, or simply silicon already manufactured that had defects in the video output pipeline.
The new NVIDIA CMP HX dedicated mining cards will come in four variants up to 320 W, and from authorized partners including ASUS, Colorful, EVGA, Gigabyte, MSI, Palit, and PC Partner. These cards (along with drivers) are also set to be designed such that more of these cards can be enabled in a single system.
|NVIDIA CMP HX Mining Hardware|
|Eth Hash Rate*||26 MH/s||36 MH/s||45 MH/s||86 MH/s|
|Rated Power||125 W||185 W||250 W||320 W|
|Reference Connectors||8-pin||8-pin||2 x 8-pin||2 x 8-pin|
|Memory Size||6 GB||8 GB||10 GB||10 GB|
|*NVIDIA Measured to DAG and Epoch 394|
What’s interesting here is that these states aren’t that great. Here is a breakdown of what NVIDIA’s cards do today, and you can see why:
|NVIDIA Hardware Hash Rates|
|RTX 3090||121 MH/s||290 W||0.42|
|RTX 3080||98 MH/s||224 W||0.44|
|90HX||86 MH/s||320 W||0.27|
|RTX 3070||62 MH/s||117 W||0.53|
|RTX 3060 Ti||60 MH/s||120 W||0.50|
|RTX 2080 Ti||49 MH/s||240 W||0.20|
|50HX||45 MH/s||250 W||0.18|
|40HX||36 MH/s||185 W||0.19|
|30HX||26 MH/s||125 W||0.21|
|HX Data from NVIDIA
RTX Data from Minerstat
The only way these new CMP HX mining add-in cards make financial sense is if they are really cheap, around $600 for the 90HX, otherwise the retail gaming GPUs seem to be a lot more efficient.
NVIDIA isn’t giving any more details on when these mining add-in cards will be made available, aside from Q1 for the slower ones and Q2 for the faster ones. No word on pricing, nor on distribution methods – there’s a chance here that these cards will only be sold by distributors direct to professional mining outlets. By the pallet. Note that this doesn’t stop the high demand for power supplies. That market is also feeling the effects.
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