Time for a crypto GPU? Gamers and miners spar over scarce top hardware

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The rise of cryptocurrencies over the past few months, especially with the onset of 2021, has certainly catapulted the crypto niche into the mainstream. While traders buy and sell and try to calculate how much this or that currency has grown by and as large investment funds predict that Bitcoin (BTC) will soon reach $100,000 per coin, big things are also happening in the crypto mining space.

Miners in the largest pool, F2Pool, reportedly contributed to the recent fall of BTC price and then to its subsequent recovery, while individual miners from the United States and France are even heating houses in winter with their machines. This indeed suggests that Bitcoin is one of the lifelines of the industry, especially with 2021 promising to be a year filled with new crypto mining products, especially video cards.

AMD on the scene

At the end of 2020, several new products were expected from the two largest GPU card manufacturers, Nvidia and AMD, and it didn’t take them long to deliver. During the annual CES technology conference at the beginning of January, the manufacturers did not present the final versions of their GPU cards but confirmed that they will arrive on shelves very soon.

Users will be interested in the AMD Radeon RX 6700 and RX 6700 XT cards, which are intended to replace the Radeon RX 5700 and RX 5700 XT cards. This new series is interesting because according to some experts, the RX 6700 will be able to outperform its competitor and undisputed leader among miners, the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti.

The new card can support up to 12 GB of GDDR6 memory, a powerful cooling system — like the GeForce RTX 3070 has — a 192-bit memory bus and 96 MB of Infinity Cache memory. An important factor for the popularity of the card will be the price, and because it’s reportedly cheaper to produce than the GeForce RTX 3060 Ti, the retail price is expected to be lower.

Why then can the RX 6700 be a success? Before purchasing a GPU card, miners look at the profitability of the cards — but here, AMD has problems. Of the 10 most profitable cards, almost all positions are occupied by Nvidia products. Of course, there is the AMD Radeon VII, which is very good, but when talking about cards that occupy the middle price category of $400 to $500, AMD is not in a strong position. This is why the RX 6700 series can possibly become a contender for the top five video cards of 2021.

A special product from Nvidia

What about Nvidia? Unfortunately, the company has yet to unveil a launch plan for a new card, perhaps because the RTX 3000 series just came out and is breaking all demand records, leading to a shortage of cards. Even before the new year, the new RTX 3080, 3070, 3060 Ti and 3090 were hard to find, even at several times their retail prices. The company admitted that this problem will likely not be resolved until April or May.

The RTX 3000 series is so popular because they are the most profitable cards for mining. According to some estimates, one GeForce RTX 3080 card can bring in $6 to $9 per day when mining Ether (ETH), and investments can be recouped in just two to six months — not bad for today’s network complexity.

But the manufacturer can get out of the crisis in a fairly simple way: Make cards specifically for miners and thus reduce the demand for the RTX 3000 series and end the struggle between gamers and miners.

Recently, the chief financial officer of Nvidia said that if demand from miners continues to grow, then the manufacturer may resume the production of the crypto-mining processor series. At the moment, the decision regarding their production has not yet been announced, which is understandable, as the previous generation of such cards in 2017 to 2018 was not widespread and the manufacturer fears another failure.

But that time, Nvidia presented special equipment for mining rather late, when many were already mining on readily available cards. Additionally, the timing was bad, as the wave of interest in crypto began to subside and the market entered a prolonged bearish period. This time, if Nvidia does a quick job of it and manages to release the cards within the next six months, then these cards may still come out while there is an ongoing shortage for the RTX 3000 series.

While Nvidia is cautious regarding announcing its own new mining cards, other manufacturers are starting to produce mining video cards based on the Nvidia architecture. MSI recently registered several products with the Eurasian Economic Commission — the main regulatory body of the Eurasian Economic Union, which consists of Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan — including the MSI GeForce RTX 3060 Ti Miner 8G and 8G OC GPU cards, which are designed specifically for mining.

Of course, this registration does not necessarily mean that the company will release these products, and it does not reveal a possible launch date, but this step clearly means that some manufacturers are interested in catering to the needs of miners and are determined to release very specific solutions.

Gamers vs. miners

The fact is that while there is no special, up-to-date equipment for mining, all users end up buying the same latest cards, which operate well in both scenarios. For gamers, the main indicator of the quality of a card is the frame rate per second it achieves when playing the newest game at the maximum video settings.

The leader among gamers right now is the new Nvidia RTX 3090, which achieves 152.7 fps. A more popular card is the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 with 142.1 fps, which costs about $700 and works on the improved Ampere architecture. The only problem is that this card is as hard to find as a Sony Playstation 5.

But gamers should not be discouraged because there are signs that manufacturers are generally moving toward dividing equipment into mining and gaming. Nvidia announced that in February, the GeForce RTX 3060 will be released for sale and come equipped with 12 GB of GDDR6 video memory.

These cards will only be issued by Nvidia partner companies. Hong Kong-based Zotac has already presented two versions of the cards. The main thing that should please gamers is that they will not be powerful enough for mining and will only be suitable for games.

There’s no consensus

It seems that for the near future, unfortunately, miners should be looking out for any GPU available on the market and cease hoping to strike gold by buying the latest and greatest. Ilya Goldberg, managing partner of Ecos-M — which operates a cloud mining center — said that 2021 will likely go by without any major shocks for the mining industry:

“As far as we know the main global hardware vendors have not purchased many chips for this year. Most likely, the new equipment will be released in the spring–summer of 2022. Therefore, we expect that this year the network hash rate will not grow much, and the profitability for miners will be good.”

Anyways, there is no need to fall into despair, as hardware manufacturers are evidently taking steps to meet the demand of all consumers — miners and gamers — which means that slowly but surely they are recognizing the power and demand of mining and are looking to deliver products for the industry.

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