Nvidia says it will slash the cryptocurrency-mining abilities of newly made RTX 3080, RTX 3070, and RTX 3060 Ti graphics cards.
Those cards will be marked as LHR, or Lite Hash Rate, to indicate their capabilities have been limited, and will ship from the end of this month. It is hoped that by halving the hash rate of these devices, alt-coin miners will be deterred from snapping up the kit, leaving more of it for PC gamers, which may result in retail prices coming down as supply gets closer to meeting demand.
“Because these GPUs originally launched with a full hash rate, we want to ensure that customers know exactly what they’re getting when they buy GeForce products,” Nvidia's Matt Wuebbling said on Tuesday.
“To help with this, our GeForce partners are labeling the GeForce RTX 3080, RTX 3070 and RTX 3060 Ti cards with a 'Lite Hash Rate,' or 'LHR,' identifier. The identifier will be in retail product listings and on the box.
"We believe this additional step will get more GeForce cards at better prices into the hands of gamers everywhere."
GPUs excel at performing computations in parallel, making them more efficient at crunching through large amounts of data for machine-learning models, rendering scenes, and mining digital currencies. Demand for these components is high and supply is short, and Nvidia wants to see its RTX graphics cards in the hands of one of its long-term and long-time customer bases: PC gamers. These players have long complained, rightly, that cards are hard to obtain and expensive as hell.
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The chip-design giant developed driver-level software to detect when its hardware was being used for proof-of-work algorithms used in mining cryptocurrencies like Ethereum. The mining efficiency or hash rate is reduced by 50 per cent in these cases, making the chips less attractive to miners and in theory more available for video game players.
Nvidia debuted this anti-crypto software with its RTX 3060 GPU in February in an attempt to ward off miners from nabbing the affordable cards at launch. As was inevitable, a cunning albeit limited trick involving a beta driver was discovered that could be used to bypass the hash limit.
Meanwhile, Nvidia teased a brand of headless GPU cards collectively named CMP HX specifically aimed at cryptominers. These are said to come in four flavors – the 30 HX, 40 HX, 50 HX, and the 60 HX – and have specific cooling features, and operate at lower peak core voltages and frequencies to keep power consumption low, to suit mining needs.
While some may say Nvidia has its heart in the right place – trying to ensure at least some of its cards get into gaming PCs at a fair price rather than snatched up by well-resourced miners – this screwing around with hash rates may not be all that effective and not that great for the environment. Miners may buy the RTX LHR cards anyway in hope that they find a viable workaround for the limits.
It's not clear how Nvidia is proportioning manufacturing capacity between the RTX and CMP HX lines, the latter of which can't be connected to desktop displays and thus can't be recycled as gaming cards when they're no longer needed for mining, meaning it's possible there will be little or no increase in the number of chips that end up in gaming systems. On the other hand, the RTX and CMP HX assembly lines could be balanced so that the vast majority of GPUs from the fabs could go into RTX cards, and a few in CMP HX, to keep gamers and miners satisfied.
What Nvidia seems to be doing at the very least is trying to lower the retail price of its in-demand GPUs for computer game fans. Meanwhile, unencumbered RTX GPUs are likely to be even more expensive and sought after; they’re already going for up to three times their recommended retail price. One hopes the LHR cards won't be quite as dear. ®