Many moons ago, you could simply swing by Amazon and order a new video card, easy peasy. Now, you’re lucky to see a high-end video card selling for double its MSRP. There are several market forces driving up the price, but the only one Nvidia can address is crypto mining. After launching the RTX 3060 with capped hash rate to limit its attractiveness to miners, Nvidia has announced it will release new versions of other RTX 3000 series cards with the same limitation.
The value of cryptocurrencies has exploded over the past years, and GPUs are ideal for mining one of the most popular: Etherium. With miners snapping up the already limited supply of RTX 3000 Ampere-based cards, prices have reached certifiably insane levels. A $699 RTX 3080 is selling for more than $2,000 from resellers.
Nvidia’s first move to address the GPU shortage was the crypto mining cards (CMP). These tweaked GPUs don’t have any video outputs, and they’re fully unlocked for crypto mining. The CMP cards are still in short supply, but Nvidia hopes miners will increasingly buy these instead of regular GPUs that can be used for gaming.
Now, Nvidia will start pushing miners toward CMP more aggressively. Newly manufactured RTX 3060 Ti, 3070, and 3080 cards will be so-called “Lite Hash Rate.” They’re still just as good at gaming, but the mining hash rate has been artificially limited by half. Like the RTX 3060, these cards will be essentially useless for crypto mining, and that should increase supply for gamers.
Nvidia says all the new cards that limit mining will have Lite Hash Rate or LHR branding on the box and in the product listing so you know what you’re getting. There are no hardware changes to limit hash rates. The limits are imposed at the driver level, and Nvidia already flubbed by unlocking the 3060 with a beta driver. It rolled the change back, but the beta driver is in the wild. It’s possible someone will be able to use that to unlock the new cards for mining.
The new hash limitations don’t apply to existing GPUs. So, if you’ve got a classic RTX 3080, it just became more valuable. In the short term, the price of unlocked GPUs will probably increase, but the LHR versions should clock in closer to the retail price. LHR cars should start appearing in the coming weeks, but don’t expect them to be sitting on shelves collecting dust. The semiconductor shortage and vastly increased interest in gaming are problems you can’t fix with a hash rate limit.
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