Nvidia is taking a long-awaited step in its efforts to prevent its GeForce video cards from being commandeered for cryptocurrency mining: The company announced Thursday that it is releasing a line of products designed specifically for mining (and nothing else), while using software to limit the efficiency of mining operations on its upcoming RTX 3060.
Known as the Nvidia CMP, for “cryptocurrency mining processor,” these products are “optimized for the best mining performance and efficiency,” Nvidia said in its announcement post. It’s not accurate to call them video cards or GPUs — they don’t have video outputs, and they run with a lower peak core voltage and frequency, so they’re not suitable for gaming purposes. Because of that, said Nvidia, the CMP chips “don’t impact the availability of GeForce GPUs to gamers.”
Supply issues for both Nvidia’s and AMD’s consumer-oriented graphics cards date back at least as far as 2017. People mining for cryptocurrency such as Ethereum had realized that the chips in many high-end GPUs are well-suited to the task because of the processors’ capability to perform complex math. These folks often seek to build “mining rigs” containing multiple graphics cards working together to increase efficiency, and they have caused demand for GPUs to skyrocket over the past few years, making it harder for people who want to buy graphics cards for, y’know, playing video games to get their hands on them. Throughout much of 2017 and 2018, this drove the market prices for GPUs well above their suggested retail prices.
This tends to affect the lower end of the market more severely, since it costs less to buy GPUs in bulk when the cards themselves are cheaper. On Feb. 25, Nvidia is launching the $329 GeForce RTX 3060 — the lowest-priced GPU in its latest line of graphics cards — and the company also announced Thursday a move intended to make the card less attractive to miners. Software drivers for the RTX 3060, said Nvidia, will be able to “detect specific attributes of the Ethereum cryptocurrency mining algorithm.” If mining operations are detected, the RTX 3060 will automatically cut their efficiency in half.
Nvidia’s message to miners is clear: Leave the GPUs to gamers. The company did not announce pricing for the mining-oriented products, which are part of its CMP HX line, but said that they’ll be available from third-party partners such as Asus, EVGA, and Gigabyte in four models starting in the first quarter of 2021.