The last few weeks have provided a well-deserved respite for PC gamers and computer creators, after what have been two pretty horrible years since the release of the Nvidia Ampere and AMD RDNA2 graphics architecture.
Where before we faced global scarcity and soaring prices thanks to a miserable mix of different problems, now it’s pretty easy to walk into a physical store to buy a reasonably priced graphics card or add one to your online cart without having to worry about that. will be exhausted when you complete the transaction process.
This is a relief to many, and yet I still feel nervous. The multitude of issues that caused the original situation have not been completely resolved, which means we could return to a depressing familiarity when Nvidia and AMD release their next generation of desktop graphics cards later this year.
One of the most recognizable plagues was that of cryptocurrency mining, and the increasing demand for GPUs for use on mining platforms, from both small-scale operations to warehouses housing industrial mining farms. The bots were used by miners to buy the available stock of desirable GPUs such as the GeForce RTX 3060 and the Radeon RX 6700 XT before traditional consumers could complete their purchases.
Opportunists saw this sudden increase in demand and also got involved, which only made things worse. By also buying stock, they could re-list cards on sites like eBay or Facebook Marketplace for a profit, which inflated the original retail price by a staggering sum. At its peak, the RTX 3080s often appeared at more than three times their actual price.
How has cryptographic craze caused players suffering?
Interestingly, cryptographic mining itself probably played a smaller role in the global GPU shortage than it could have assumed, given that the global shortage of chips was also causing delays in manufacturing. However, that didn’t stop miners from being seen as the number one public enemy of desperate consumers looking to buy a reasonably priced card.
Finally, Nvidia tried to regain some of its lost audience appeal by relaunching almost the entire RTX 30 series as LHR or “low hashrate rate” versions of the originals, which limited its ability to extract cryptocurrencies without affecting game performance. Almost the entire RTX 3000 card series contains hashrate limiters since then (not including the GeForce RTX 3090 as it was considered too expensive to attract the mining market) which limited its ability to mine coins like ETH, but several of them were quickly defeated. . Some programs have been able to unlock cards with 70-80% efficiency in a matter of weeks.
It’s really hard to tell if this had any real impact, though it lost some credibility for its security when Nvidia accidentally broke its own LHR software with a faulty driver update.
In the end, it took almost a whole year for the LHR software to be fully unlocked thanks to a company called NiceHash, but even this only works on older versions of the LHR algorithm and does not include systems running on Linux. Nvidia has been diligent in continuing to update its LHR software, but we don’t know if it will move to its next generation GPU. We emailed Nvidia for clarification, but it’s worth remembering that we could see a very similar situation later this year, although cryptocurrency continues to fall in popularity.
You might think of Bitcoin when it comes to cryptocurrency mining, but it was actually Ethereum, the second most popular currency in the world, that was causing problems for gamers in 2020. Fortunately, Ethereum started passing the participation test in late 2021, using validators to find a block based on the number of tokens they have. The current working test system has computers competing with each other to be the first to solve complex puzzles, allowing miners to use warehouses full of consumer graphics cards to solve those puzzles, mining ETH more intensively in the process.
As ETH passes the game test, the need to solve these “puzzles” disappears and with it the viability of mining using traditional methods disappears. That said, there’s nothing stopping Ethereum’s success from being replicated by another currency that still uses the working test validation method, especially with the continuing threat of an impending financial crisis across the Western world.
It’s natural for desperate people to try to make some money in a decentralized marketplace, especially after seeing the success of people who invested in Bitcoin in 2009.
This is especially common when Elon Musk buys Twitter, a man known for having massive influence over the wider crypto market and who will soon be able to model Twitter on a better optimized platform to manage the ever-changing world of digital investment portfolios. All that is needed is a low-value currency that is viable for mining with consumer GPUs and could quickly feel like we’re back in the same inescapable hardware shortage again.
Stay tuned and learn from recent history
I don’t mean to say that any of this is seen as fostering fear. In fact, I was relieved to be able to report on falling GPU prices and improving availability after spending most of the last two years writing about how depressing the market was for new and established PC gamers at the time. a new one. graphics card, but I don’t want to fall into a false sense of security because of this current respite.
To escape the same situation that is unfolding, we need a perfect storm that works in our favor. We need next-generation GPU supplies to be plentiful (which could be affected by the recent Covid-19 blockchains in East Asia, where most hardware is manufactured), we need the cryptocurrency market to remain stable or to decline below. deter potential investors, and we need these new graphics cards to be reasonably priced at launch and somehow continue to do so despite high demand.
AMD has made it clear that consumers can use their cards for anything they want since they bought them directly, so Team Red is unlikely to implement a deterrent similar to Nvidia’s LHR algorithm and Intel seems to share this sentiment after announcing that ARC Alchemist desktop graphics cards will be launched without any problems of cryptocurrency mining.
If Nvidia decides to move LHR technology to Lovelace card generation, you’ll be alone, but that’s not necessarily bad news. If preventative measures work, no one loses, as miners will be driven to offer Intel and AMD to provide their farming platforms, while gamers, developers and desktop PC creators can get their hardware from Team Green, which could place him in a better public position than his rivals.
While all of this is speculative, it’s important to stay tuned in the coming months as interest in the next generation of graphics cards grows, so it’s best to buy one at launch.
If we can remove something useful from the last two years, it is that picking up a GPU editing founders directly from the manufacturer was one of the only ways to get a card in the MSRP, which may be your best option to avoid months of misery when trying. to upgrade your current system. It’s best to start warming your fingers now to add a little quick basket … just in case.