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ID: 201177


Date: 2021-02-18

Nvidia says it won’t nerf the Ethereum mining performance of existing GPUs

This morning, Nvidia announced that it would artificially reduce the performance of its upcoming $329 GeForce RTX 3060 graphics card when it comes to one specific task: Ethereum cryptocurrency mining. As weird as that news might sound, it was music to the ears of some gamers — who have been trying and failing to get their hands on graphics cards for months due to the great GPU shortage, and blaming miners for part of that. You might be wondering: what does this mean for other GPUs? Nvidia isnt talking about its plans for future graphics cards just yet, but the company tells The Verge (in no uncertain terms) that it wont nerf existing GPUs. We are not limiting the performance of GPUs already sold, says a spokesperson. I was also a bit skeptical that the companys new batch of Cryptocurrency Mining Processor (CMP) cards, marketed as an alternative for those miners, would mean that gamers might actually be able to buy an RTX 3060 as a result. If Nvidias diverting its already limited production capacity of GPUs towards CMPs, doesnt that mean fewer gaming GPUs to begin with? Theres a global semiconductor shortage going on, you know. But Nvidia strongly suggests the new CMPs wont impact the ability to produce GeForce gaming cards at all. The chips used for CMP could not meet the specifications of GeForce and dont impact overall GeForce capacity or availability, replied a spokesperson by email. While Nvidia wouldnt confirm that its talking about binning — the process by which chipmakers like Intel, AMD, Nvidia and others take chips that arent 100 percent operational due to occasional manufacturing defects, and sell them as slower or less feature-filled parts instead — the statement certainly sounds something like that. But it could also be that theyre different altogether. The shot you see above of Nvidias CMP looks nothing like the layout of Nvidias GA102 used in the Ampere-based RTX 3080 and 3090, or the GA104 used in the RTX 3070 and RTX 3060 Ti. It doesnt look much like Nvidias previous-gen Turing desktop chips, either. Perhaps the CMP is simply a GPU design that hasnt publicly been revealed. Real GA102 Ampere Die-Shot, very close to the official rendering. If so, its vaguely possible that Nvidia has a stockpile of older chips its putting to use. The companys bringing back the GTX 1050 Ti from 2016, after all, and its doubtful that Nvidia switched over one of the RTX 30-series factories just to make that happen. But without knowing what the CMP actually is, your guess is as good as ours. You might also be wondering: will other distributed computing applications get caught in Nvidias web and similarly see reduced performance? No, says long-time GeForce PR manager Bryan Del Rizzo on Twitter: There is no impact on other applications. Thanks for the question. Why only nerf Ethereum mining, when other cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin have also seen incredible gains? Heres Nvidias full answer: Ethereum has the highest global mining yield for any GPU-mineable coin at the moment and thus is likely the main demand driver for GPUs in mining. Other algorithms do not contribute significantly to GPU demand and this cannot change quickly due to network effects within a given cryptocurrency. The rate limiter applies to anything that uses Dagger Hashimoto or Ethash-like algorithms. And in case youre thinking enterprising Ethereum miners will simply roll their own drivers to escape this limitation, Nvidia is suggesting that might be tough: There is a secure handshake between the driver, the RTX 3060 silicon, and the BIOS (firmware) that prevents removal of the hash rate limiter, Del Rizzo wrote Thursday evening. Hi Ryan. It's not just a driver thing. There is a secure handshake between the driver, the RTX 3060 silicon, and the BIOS (firmware) that prevents removal of the hash rate limiter. Were looking forward to seeing whether Nvidia can make the $329 GeForce RTX 3060 any easier to buy than previous GPUs when it launches February 25th at 12PM ET. After months of around-the-clock hunting, I finally managed to nab a 3060 Ti a couple weeks back — heres hoping you wont need to go that far. Update February 19th, 1:09PM ET: Added additional info from Nvidias Bryan Del Rizzo on Twitter. Related