About Ethereum Mining
Ethereum, one of the most popular cryptocurrencies, is largely responsible for the sudden shortage of GPUs. The price of Ethereum has grown slowly over the last couple of years, and it really took off at the beginning of 2017. The price of Ether climbed from roughly $10 in January 2017 to $50 in March. It eventually peaked at close to $400 in June, but it has recently been dropping. On July 3, Ether was at $286, but it dropped to $224 by July 10. Ether’s value has continued to decline to $189, as of July 14. This is a drop of roughly $97 in just eleven days, and it could mark the end of the Ethereum gold rush.
Although the price has declined, and the difficulty of extracting Ether has increased, thousands of people have rushed to take part in harnessing Ether in the hope of selling it later for a huge profit.
Graphics cards are the tool of choice for miners of cryptocurrency, because although you can also use CPUs for the task, GPUs simply perform the task better and more efficiently.
The Price Of Gaming (Or Mining)
The good news for the larger enthusiast community is that it appears that the GPU market has adapted to the GPU shortage. Prices are relatively stagnant and showing minor amounts of deviation. Prices remain high on several GPUs, but more graphics cards are back in stock. You’ll still have a hard time finding any AMD RX 570 or AMD RX 580 graphics cards, though; there are fewer than three models of each in stock on Amazon and Newegg at any given time, but at least they aren’t completely absent from the market. The majority of Nvidia cards are also in stock now, too.
The increased availability shows that the market is slowly recovering from the shortage, but it still seems unlikely to completely abate any time soon. Whereas it’s now possible to buy an AMD RX 580 or RX 570 if you want to, the $500+ price tag is more than double what most of these cards originally retailed for. Similarly, Nvidia’s GTX 1070s also sit close to $500, while GTX 1060 6GB cards range anywhere from $300 to $400.
The above raises the question of why anyone would want to buy these cards at their current prices.The AMD RX 580, AMD RX 570, and Nvidia GTX 1070 currently cost about the same as the Nvidia GTX 1080, which far outperforms them in games.
This may all change with the release of AMD’s upcoming Vega-based GPUs, but we still have a while to wait before that happens. In the meantime, companies continue to bolster their mining product portfolios. EVGA has now joined the likes of Asus, Biostar, Sapphire, and Zotac in developing a GPU targeted specifically at cryptocurrency miners.
We’ve also seen a new mining-focused motherboard from Asrock that can support up to 13 graphics cards. Biostar has a similar board for AM4 CPUs that can support six cards, and , although we haven’t seen it yet, MSI also has a mining GPU coming soon, as well as a motherboard designed for mining. Although these may be attractive to cryptocurrency miners, one source told us that they use the same GPU cores as traditional graphics cards and therefore don’t address the underlying supply problem.
A Supply Shortage At Heart
While investigating the GPU shortage, we were informed by our sources that many OEMs are struggling to receive GPU cores from Nvidia. The sources also pointed out that part of the issue may lie with TSMC, which typically takes orders months in advance and will likely be unable to rush new orders of Nvidia GPUs due to the need to create products for its other customers.
One company also informed us that they do not plan to increase production due to the instability of the market. They are concerned that if they increase production, the market could shift again, leaving them with large stockpiles of GPUs that are no longer in high demand.
EVGA, however, is having an easier time surviving the shortage than other OEMs. It currently offers the least expensive GPU in four categories and has more GPUs in-stock than its competitors. We asked EVGA about the shortage, and were told that the company is not having issues getting GPUs from Nvidia. The company is experiencing extraordinarily high demand for its products, however, so you’ll still see several models of EVGA graphics cards sold out on several retail sites.
Meanwhile, several OEMs, including Asus, Biostar, Sapphire, and Zotac, have announced new mining graphics cards that are tailored for cryptocurrency mining. We have also seen a new motherboard from Asrock that can support up to 13 GPUs for mining. Biostar has a similar board for AM4 CPUs that can support six GPUs. Although we haven’t seen them yet, EVGA and MSI also have mining GPUs coming soon, and MSI will also have a motherboard designed for mining. Although these may be attractive to cryptocurrency miners, one source told us that they use the same GPU cores as traditional graphics cards, and thus don’t address the underlying supply problem.