Up until now, claims that miners had found a way around Nvidia’s Ethereum mining limitations on the RTX 3060 have been fake. That’s now changed after Nvidia inadvertently provided a beta driver capable of mining at full speed on the RTX 3060.
The driver in question was beta 470.05 and it’s already been yanked. With previous drivers, mining performance on the RTX 3060 was hitting about 28MH/s. With the 470.05 driver, the RTX 3060 is hitting 44-48MH/s. Whoops.
This news raises questions about the accuracy of the following tweet from Bryan Del Rizzo, Nvidia’s communications director:
Hi Ryan. It's not just a driver thing. There is a secure handshake between the driver, the RTX 3060 silicon, and the BIOS (firmware) that prevents removal of the hash rate limiter.
— Bryan Del Rizzo (@bdelrizzo) February 19, 2021
These events don’t mean there isn’t some kind of secure handshake between the BIOS and the driver under normal circumstances, but clearly, that handshake can itself be modified or omitted by Nvidia in driver code without any kind of failure or problem. Hopefully, miners won’t be able to figure out how this driver bypasses the code lockout.
A specific BIOS version is rumored to be required to use the driver, but other reports have indicated this isn’t necessary. Nvidia has yanked access to the driver from its own portals, but it’s likely to pop up again in other places. Miners aren’t going to let this one go. Nvidia’s rate-limiting should still be of some value here, since not literally every miner will find out about this driver, but this release effectively undoes some of the work the company had previously done to limit mining on its GPUs.
Here’s the good news. If Nvidia releases a hypothetical RTX 3080 Ti with the same mining limits as the RTX 3060 (limits not shared by the vanilla RTX 3080), said card won’t be supported in the GeForce 470.05 beta driver. If Nvidia was going to make a mistake like this, it made it at the right time — namely, before it launches any refreshed cards with mining limits.
Limiting cryptocurrency mining on GPUs may or may not improve overall availability, but it’s one of the only options for manufacturers to plausibly deploy. Nvidia has the right idea with the RTX 3060, in our opinion, this mistake notwithstanding.
GPU Availability Is Not Improving
In other news, DigiTimes is reporting that Nvidia GPU availability is “unlikely to ease by the third quarter of this year.” This could still change as the year progresses, but it’s likely to be due to a change in demand rather than supply. TSMC and Samsung should have full visibility into their own yields and wafer starts for the various chips AMD and Nvidia need to ship. AMD isn’t mentioned in the DigiTimes story, but Team Red has been facing its own severe GPU shortages.
If yields and shipments can’t grow, demand will have to drop. The two most likely causes for such an event are the slow end to the pandemic and a loosening of restrictions as more people are vaccinated and the end of the current crypto-mining craze. We don’t know how demand for electronics will shift as people can go outside again. We do know that the crypto market will probably cool off eventually, but not when. If demand stays high and the market is undersupplied through the end of the year, it could be 2022 before pricing stabilizes.
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