We all know that cryptocurrency mining is bad, not least because of its impact on us being able to buy graphics cards for the purpose they were designed for, i.e. gaming. Until now though, it's been tough to actually put a number on how many GPUs are ending up in professional mining rigs.
Jon Peddie Research (JPR) has done some number crunching though and thinks it has the answer—25% of all GPUs sold in the first quarter of 2021 ended up chipping away at the crypto coalface. That's approximately 700,000 high-end and mid-range graphics cards with around $500 million.
According to the research, this is just professional mining outfits, not amateurs dabbling in a bit of mining on the side to help pay for their new PC. We're talking about the big farms made up of rack upon rack of graphics cards, hammering away 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The model JPR uses makes some pretty big assumptions about where graphics cards are employed and how they're bought, but focuses on the fact that PC shipment sales are slightly down, while there has been a big spike in GPU sales. Pricing being all over the place for graphics cards right now doesn't help matters much, and the report does highlight this fact.
The report also talks about the fact that Nvidia has introduced mining-focused cards as well as its hash rate limiter to try and combat cryptocurrency mining on gaming GPUs, while AMD has done nothing of the sort. It does seem to miss the fact that the RTX 3080 Ti has the hash rate limiter though, and so isn't such a great option for mining, and certainly not in the same ballpark as the RTX 3090.
Even allowing for such assumptions though, this 25% doesn't sound completely out of whack, at least in the absence of data from all the hardcore mining operations that we'll probably never see (and probably wouldn't want to look at anyway).
With the price of Ethereum is still so high, new graphics cards still represent a tempting option for mining. Until that changes, getting a new GPU for gaming is going to remain a struggle.
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Alan has been writing about PC tech since before 3D graphics cards existed, and still vividly recalls having to fight with MS-DOS just to get games to load. He fondly remembers the killer combo of a Matrox Millenium and 3dfx Voodoo, and seeing Lara Croft in 3D for the first time. He's very glad hardware has advanced as much as it has though, and is particularly happy when putting the latest M.2 NVMe SSDs, AMD processors, and laptops through their paces. He has a long-lasting Magic: The Gathering obsession but limits this to MTG Arena these days.