The performance gains probably won’t be enough to overcome Nvidia’s mining disadvantage.
Nvidia is set to release the next generation of its popular RTX series of graphics cards on Sep. 17. One of these will be the RTX 3080, which comes as the mid-range card among its peers the 3090 and 3070.
However, the performance of the card is set to eclipse the performance of the previous generation’s equivalent, the RTX 2080 Ti. According to Tom’s Hardware, the GPU is promised to be “twice as fast” as the last generation by Nvidia and its raw specifications suggest that the gains could even be higher. All of this while the price is set to remain the same at $700. The RTX 3090 appears to be a less efficient model in terms of performance to cost ratio, with twice the price but only a 20% performance gain.
But all of these figures apply to gaming, not necessarily mining. AMD has traditionally been dominant in this sector as its cards generally achieve higher hashrates per Watt or unit cost.
The RTX 2080 Ti generally benchmarks lower even compared to its predecessor, the 1080 Ti. Part of this is due to the specific nature of these cards. The RTX series focuses on providing innate ray tracing capabilities, which is very useful for high-end gaming but does nothing for miners.
Philip Salter, head of operations at Genesis Mining, told Cointelegraph what the RTX 3080 could mean for the mining industry:
“What hashrate the 3080 can do remains to be seen. In theory, Ethereum hashrate might be 60%-70% faster, if you look only at memory bandwidth. The advertised 1 TB/s of bandwidth has already been delivered by AMD with the Vega VII, and you can reach 100 MH with that card.”
But he explained that reaching such hashrates requires optimizing the memory timings for Ethereum mining. That can only be done by changing settings in the GPU’s VBIOS, an internal firmware. “Nvidia does not allow you to use custom VBIOS mods however, so you will be stuck with the memory timings that are set by the manufacturer,” Salter added.
Nvidia could release an official VBIOS mod to enhance Ethereum mining, but so far this hasn’t happened.
In addition to the performance issues, the pricing is also likely to be a problem. Nvidia has a “strong position in the gaming market” and the price of its cards generally reflects that, Salter said. The premium for the ray tracing cores also contributes to souring the deal for miners.
“In the end, the 3080 will probably not be able to beat AMDs offering of affordable, tunable GPUs for mining,“ he concluded. However, should the current Ether (ETH) price rally continue, demand for GPUs may become so large that Nvidia cards could suddenly become attractive, similar to how it happened during the 2017 bull market.