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Chip-Makers Can Do More to Help with GPU Scarcity

Any PC gamer worth their salt will attest to the hours spent combing sale catalogs and online marketplaces, searching for their next upgrade or compiling the parts list for their next build. Lately, those searches have been coming up empty or wildly overpriced for one of the most crucial component of any build:

The GPU

Graphics processors are being bought faster than they’re being made causing serious scarcity, but gamers aren’t driving the sales, crypto-miners are.

By now, everyone has heard of cryptocurrencies like BitCoin, Ethereum, etc. Like real-world money, these web-based currencies have a controlled supply. Though instead of being backed by gold or bonds, cryptocurrencies are metered out in exchange for processing power. And that’s where the Miners come in: Miners use a specific configuration of PC (a “Mining Rig”) to do a set amount of calculations. After the calculations are complete, the Miner is rewarded in the cryptocurrency he or she is mining for.

Due to the processing speeds required to make mining worth it, rigs are often fitted with 6 or more GPU’s.

To make matters worse, purpose-built Mining Rigs are quickly becoming a commodity. Several companies are now producing and selling mining rigs with 6, 8 or even 12 GPU’s. Obviously, consumption of the cards on an industrial scale has much more impact on the component market than individual miners throwing together rigs in their basements.

So severe is that impact, that many popular graphics cards (like NVIDIA’s GTX1080) are selling at nearly double their MSRP. Even mid to low end cards have experienced a price jump, caused by the scarcity of their top-tier brethren. Soon even hard-drives could be subject to price inflation, as new mining strategies use massive amounts of hard storage. If the trend continues, the cost to build a PC (which some already consider too high) could become astronomical.

The problem of rising costs is even becoming evident to companies like NVIDIA, but solutions to the problem are few and far between. Other than suggesting that distributors limit sales of multiple cards at once, not much is being done. It’s difficult to place blame on the distributors who are benefitting; they’re merely reacting to market trends. It’s equally difficult to blame manufacturers like NVIDIA or AMD. The products they make are designed to handle large, fast-paced computing tasks, perfect for slashing through the amount of calculations that mining rigs need to make. Denying purchases of large GPU orders could resolve the problem for individuals, but could hurt the business of small batch PC builders.

So, is there anything that can be done?

Crypto-currencies are not going away, at least not any time soon, and GPU’s just happen to be the most cost-effective and efficient way to mine them. Considering that card manufacturers already possess the means to develop, produce and market traditional GPU’s, maybe the solution is simpler than it seems:

Make a card specifically designed for crypto-mining.

A specific crypto-processing-unit would decrease the demand of traditional graphics cards, allowing gamers to get back to plotting their next upgrade, and allowing miners to continue mining.

Written by
February 01, 2018
Published in Editorial
Read 809 times