The nightmare of buying a graphics card in the era of Bitcoin and Ethereum

Although mining bitcoins currently will not make you rich , the explosion of this activity ( Bitcoin guide for novices ) for a year has caused an authentic chain reaction on many levels, from positive ones ( what Blockchain is being used for) beyond Bitcoin ) to the very negative, including black days , debts with banks or the one we are going to review now: the crisis of the graphic cards to play . If for almost a year you have been hunting and capturing, literally, a level graphic card to install your own PC Gaming , it is very likely that despair and even outrage has made an appearance on more than one occasion. The reason is none other than the high demand for this type of components by Bitcoin mining and other cryptocurrencies , especially Ethereum . We are not talking about individuals, which are no longer profitable, but systems specifically set up for this task. The definitive price increase and drastic reduction of stock, until leaving it at zero for months, took place in the last quarter of 2017 , coinciding with the value boom (reached $ 20,000 in mid-December , doubling its value in less than 20 days) and output in Bitcoin and company media. According to some analysts , the extra benefit of Nvidia and AMD due to this rise in crypto currencies would have been more than 500 million dollars between both companies. These benefits are correlated with the GPU sales growth of this past year in all the quarters, breaking records in some where sales historically should not grow but rather the opposite. Although the lower graph could indicate that the era of GPUs for the mining of cryptocurrencies reached its end some time ago, the proliferation of hundreds of cryptocurrency and the exponential increase in its price during the past year has once again left the world of gaming . Precisely the cards most valued by players, those that offer better performance / price ratio, are the most affected for months by the explosion of coins of type Etherum that prevail the amount of memory. But they are not the only ones, just those of very basic input range can be saved. This situation in the world of gaming is not new but it is more general. Already in the first Bitcoin boom in 2013 and more recently in June 2017 the game world has suffered unsustainable rises for ” non-miners ” in models that were great sales successes. We have the example of the Nvidia GTX 1070, one of the stars of last year in the mining of Bitcoin and Ethereum for being the model of Nvidia with better MH / s , unit that measures the mining power of a GPU. Evolution of the price of the new Nvidia GTX 1070 in the US, exceeding twice its price in the end-of-year rebound of the Bitcoin price On the side of Nvidia, this model along with the GTX 1060 and to a lesser extent the GTX 1080 (and its Ti versions), are the most demanded by miners. Such has been the situation that a priori models not suitable for mining cryptocurrencies such as the basic GTX 1050, has not seen an excessive rise in price but lack of stock. It is the second consequence of this blockchain boom: with much more demand than supply, buying a model is no longer just a matter of paying more, but of finding it in stock . Neither AMD nor Nvidia can keep up with market demand. And if they did and, as has happened, the interest in cryptocurrencies would fall again, they would have a serious problem of excess stock. Too much risk AMD, despite its lower relevance in the gaming sector, has not been spared either the price increase or of course the lack of stock. The lack of stock has been impressive in some AMD models, which remain in key markets like the US without stock for a year now. There are many more models of the RX 480 but none of them has stock when, despite having been replaced by the 500 series, we should be able to buy some As a summary and final photo of the crisis of the graphic cards of these last 12 months, we have compiled the recommended launch price in dollars of the main models of both Nvidia and AMD, as well as the highest price reached in Amazon. in this period . In the graph we can see in green that recommended price for sale, and in red the maximum increase that has had that particular model. If we continue with the more powerful models, the increases are in some cases well above 100%, and especially important in the AMD models . Given the ease with which the prices and stock of these cards fluctuate in just a few days, some of them may now be cheaper than their maximum price, which in many cases was reached last January. For any company, not being able to satisfy market demand would be an ideal situation . But it does not look like it will be like that with AMD or Nvidia beyond the direct benefit. Your regular customers in the consumer market, gamers, have practically a year of nightmare when it comes to buying, or better, try to get a graphics card for their gaming computers. That type of user who seeks the maximum return for their money can not compete with who from that purchase does not cover a playful aspect but commercial. The brands have been aware of the problem but in the end everything has been on the side of the distributors, others of those affected. Some stores have come up with proposals to limit the purchase per user and reward whoever gets more components for that desired first level gaming computer.
Notice of a computer store that limits the units of cards to buy and offers discounts if you take more components for PC Gaming For now only partners dare with “exclusive” graphics to undermine Since the beginning of the cryptocurrency mining boom, we have been talking about the upcoming arrival of exclusive cards for this task. However, for now there have only been a few third-party manufacturers that, based on existing graphics , have created models that, by design and specifications, are intended exclusively for the cryptocurrency mining market. In these cards, like the ASUS Mining RX 470 (of course without stock ), it reinforces mainly its durability to optimize its life to the maximum with a continuous operation that had not been initially thought with the equivalent graphics for gamers. Here we have a clear example of a graph that “did not work” anymore for gamers (it was at a price of less than 200 dollars) but now, new, it costs almost 450 dollars. Beyond market valuation, in this war between the gaming world and cryptocurrencies, it is paradoxical that AMD has directly benefited the most . It has done it mainly by the greater demand of graphic cards, although it has not transferred it to market share in front of Nvidia. A very clarifying example, but not the only one, we find it in the RX 580 model . This graphics card had been received in a very warm way by the world of the game if we compare it with the equivalent solutions of Nvidia. However, suddenly, due to its good performance in the cryptocurrency mining, it has become a sales success and it is practically impossible to find a unit in stock or with prices inflated by the high demand. The same has happened with all your graphics cards , without exception. From the newly relieved ones, like the 400 series that has increased the price and exhausted the stock that perhaps AMD was not able to take out of the warehouses, until its Radeon Vega 56 and 64 , models that since its launch have been monopolized by the world mining and raised its price to more than double if you’re lucky and you find a unit for sale. “Mining” performance graph of the main GPUs ( wccftech ) On that clash with the players, AMD, asked by Engadget, admits the problem , although it does not seem to change for now. “The supply of AMD GPU in the channel is lower than we would like, due to the strong demand and shortage of memories that complicates our efforts to increase stocks and meet requests.” We are working to replenish the channel and increase supply. , which includes the development of solutions with our memory partners so that Radeon GPUs reach as many players as possible ” As we said, for now AMD do not have specific models but they have accepted the challenge of the industry clearly and last year, an update of the software of their graphics, adapted them to a mining use, specifically for Etherum and derivatives, that with the AMD GPUs found limitations with DAG files as they increased in size. Other driver updates added options to change / optimize the workload of the GPU to the computer part and not so much to the visual . The update is available for all your current cards and also some outdated ones, which puts in value the benefit that in terms of stopped stock has meant to AMD the Bitcoin and the cryptocurrencies in the last year. These AMD movements invite us to think that the blockchain world, with a great future , is on its road map and that it could be one of the pillars on which to start thinking about a potential market that might bring them closer to other, more arcane ones. to his rival Nvidia. Although he has not made statements when we asked the company about the situation of scarcity and price increase of its most interesting graphics cards, Nvidia does not seem to take a look at the world of cryptocurrency either. Once the price rise of the main cryptocurrencies (and their media impact that serves as feedback) has been broken, it would be expected that the situation will gradually return to that of a year ago. In the last 12 years the possible solutions have not arrived. In the US, as comments to Xataka Pieters Arts (Product Marketing of MSI), has even raised the regulation of the purchase of graphic cards by users , but it is a measure that is difficult to get ahead before the complexity of knowing whether a person buys cards to play or to perform cryptocurrency mining. MSI , like other third-party manufacturers of graphics cards, is suffering from high demand and the rise, partly because of it, of the price of some components of GPUs. According to MSI, the cost of memory, an essential element in GPUs, has increased by 200%. Pieters believes that this rise is temporary and that at some point the market will return to normal. For now and despite the collapse of cryptocurrencies , is not something that glimpses in the short term (this year), and the logical thing would be to see the opposite: that prices continue to rise.
John Hartshorne
Senior IT engineer by the UPM of training and technical editor by profession, I have been writing in print and online media since the late 90s.