Crypto market remains strongToday we continue with an update about cryptocurrency mining. GPU supply was already tight last year and the crypto boom of the last couple of months put further pressure on the supply channel as miners are now once again competing with gamers to get their hands on the limited supply of GPUs. At press time, Ethereum is trading close to $1,500. It's a steep drop from the all-time high of over $2,000 that was posted a little more than a week ago -- but still double as much as at the start of the year.
Without a very steep drop, miners will likely continue to gobble up anything they can buy. This is bad news for gamers as miners put a higher value on video cards -- which results in some video card makers and distributors selling large amounts of cards directly to miners. Sometimes even before the cards are officially out -- as happened with the GeForce RTX 3060. The shortage of discrete video cards even results in absurd situations, where crypto miners buy up hundreds of laptops equipped with GeForce RTX 30 series cards. It's a total waste of resources -- but that's just how things are right now.
Actions taken by NVIDIA to limit miningOne sliver of good news is that NVIDIA is moving ahead with some measures to get more cards in the hand of gamers. Together with the launch of the GeForce RTX 3060, two big changes were made. First up, the GeForce RTX 3060 is the first video card from NVIDIA to limit mining performance. NVIDIA cooked up an algorithm capable of detecting Ethereum mining -- it basically lowers the hash rate by almost 50 percent. This makes cards less attractive to mining. NVIDIA has hinted that future GeForce cards will get a similar limiter. No changes will be made to existing cards -- that wouldn't make sense of course.
At the same time, NVIDIA introduced its first Cryptocurrency Mining Processors (CMPs). This is a line of GPUs designed specifically for miners. According to NVIDIA, this will result in more GeForce chips for the gaming market. Last week we learned that the first two CMPs, the CMP 30HX, and CMP 40HX, are based on the Turing architecture. These chips are made on a 12nm process, so they don't compete for foundry capacity with the newer 8nm Ampere GPUs. However, they may still compete for other critical components, like GDDR6 and certain substrates, which are said to be in short supply. At least for now, CMPs are not expected to be a major sales driver for NVIDIA. The company's CFO estimated sales of about $15 million in NVIDIA's fiscal first quarter.
NVIDIA CMP 90HX to be Ampere-basedNext quarter, NVIDIA will launch two more CMPs. VideoCardz reports one of these chips will be Ampere-based. The CMP 90HX is expected to feature an 8nm GA102-100 GPU, and will reportedly use the same PG132 board as the GeForce RTX 3080. The CMP 50HX, which also launches in Q2 2021, will be based on a 12nm Turing chip, just like the 30HX and 40HX. A derivative of the RTX 2080 Ti (TU102) will be used for the CMP 50HX.
VideoCardz claims NVIDIA is recycling chips that are unfit for the GeForce market. A separate CMP line allows the firm to bin parts that have certain defects, like broken Tensor, RT, TMU, or ROP components. Miners only care about mining performance -- so as long as the GPU can mine coin it's good enough for this market. Of course, these cards all ship without display connectors too.
Blower-style GeForce RTX 3090 cards getting discontinued?Another related story concerns NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3090 video card with blower-style coolers. VideoCardz reports that recently, NVIDIA's add-in board partners have quietly removed RTX 3090 cards with blower coolers from their websites. It was already strange to see these designs -- as such a cheap cooling design doesn't really belong on expensive, custom-design GeForce RTX 3090 cards.
So why are AIBs suddenly removing these SKUs? The exact reason is unknown, but VideoCardz speculates it's related to the launch of NVIDIA's CMPs. The idea here is that board partners are reserving the cheapest coolers they can find, which are the blower-style coolers, for the CMP cards. A lot of miners prefer blower-style cards too -- so it's a good fit for this market.