High-end graphics cards are out of stock all over the world and even if you can find one, chances are that prices have jumped considerably. People are finding that they can even sell their own cards second-hand, and often get more for them than they paid a year or more ago. The reason is simply that professional cryptocurrency miners use these cards to perform math-intensive calculations that can be sped up considerably using a GPU’s parallel processing architecture. AMD’s GPUs have proven to be better, but the lack of availability has pushed buyers onto Nvidia products as well. The recent astronomical rise of a new currency called Ethereum, plus the continued appeal of Bitcoin, have resulted in stocks being diverted away from gamers, and there’s no end in sight.
To capitalise on this, Nvidia has been working on specially tuned versions of its GeForce GTX 1080 (P104) and GTX 1060 (P106) GPUs. Cards based on a new P106-100, manufactured by MSI and Galax, have surfaced online in a YouTube video, while others based on an alleged P104-100 GPU are also reportedly in the pipeline, according to Videocardz. The cards lack video output ports in order to differentiate them from consumer graphics cards and improve airflow, but are said to be only slightly better at currency mining than their mainstream counterparts. Though not announced yet, these cards are reportedly being sold by Chinese distributors already. They also have only a 90-day warranty because they are expected to be run non-stop, potentially leading to earlier failures.
The cards also do not get to use Nvidia’s gaming-centric GeForce branding. An official announcement was previously rumoured to be coming before the end of June, but there might not be one at all, since Asus is already advertising its MINING-P106-6G card on its website and more have been leaked widely. Official prices could be lower than those of equivalent graphics cards, but high demand could easily result in inflated end-user prices.
Meanwhile, AMD’s partners are already reworking stocks of mid-range Radeon RX400 and RX500 graphics cards. Sapphire has released four models based on the Radeon RX 470 and one based on the RX 560. The RX 470 Mining Edition will be available with either 4GB or 8GB of GDDR5 RAM, with slightly more expensive versions of each using Samsung RAM chips rather than Elpida ones because they run a few MHz faster. The RX470 models lack video outputs, while the RX560 Mining Edition has a single DVI port. All cards have one-year warranties. Asus also has a MINING-RX470-4G model listed on its website, with descriptions that promise “non-stop coin mining” and “maximum hash-rate production at minimum cost”.