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GPU Mining No Longer Profitable After Ethereum Merge

Zhejiang
(Image credit: Zhejiang)

Just one day after the Ethereum Merge, where the cryptocoin successfully switched from Proof of Work (PoW) to Proof of Stake (PoS), profitability of GPU mining has completely collapsed. That means the best graphics cards should finally be back where they belonged, in your gaming PC, just as god intended. That's a quick drop, considering yesterday there were still a few cryptocurrencies that were technically profitable.

Looking at WhatToMine (opens in new tab), and using the standard $0.10 per kWh, the best-case results are with the GeForce RTX 3090 and Radeon RX 6800 and 6800 XT. Those are technically showing slightly positive results, to the tune of around $0.06 per day after power costs. However, that doesn't factor in the cost of the PC power, or the wear and tear on your graphics card.

Even at a slightly positive net result, it would still take over 20 years to break even on the cost of an RX 6800. We say that tongue-in-cheek, because if there's one thing we know for certain, it's that no one can predict what the cryptocurrency market will look like even one year out, never mind 20 years in the future. It's a volatile market, and there are definitely lots of groups and individuals hoping to figure out a way to Make GPU Mining Profitable Again (MGMPA hats inbound...)

Will anything every recapture the highs of Ethereum mining? Perhaps, but I wouldn't bet on it. I also wouldn't be against it. It will either happen or it won't, and I'm not going to worry much more about it.

In the meantime, here's a quick rundown of the current profitability — or non-profitability — of the current generation graphics cards.

Update, 9/18/2022: The information below was taken on 8/16/2022. Since then, potential profitability has dropped even more. At present, almost no GPUs are showing net positive results after accounting for power costs, with most showing losses of at least $0.10 per day — and that's with a relatively low electricity price of $0.10 per kWh.

GPU Mining Profitability, September 16, 2022
GPUeBay PriceDaily ProfitabilityBreak Even
GeForce RTX 3090 Ti (opens in new tab)$1,163-$0.31Never
GeForce RTX 3090 (opens in new tab)$897$0.0422,433 Days
GeForce RTX 3080 Ti (opens in new tab)$766-$0.11Never
GeForce RTX 3080 12GB (opens in new tab)$683-$0.01Never
GeForce RTX 3080 (opens in new tab)$609-$0.01Never
GeForce RTX 3070 Ti (opens in new tab)$511-$0.01Never
GeForce RTX 3070 (opens in new tab)$430$0.00Never
GeForce RTX 3060 Ti (opens in new tab)$390-$0.04Never
GeForce RTX 3060 (opens in new tab)$331-$0.03Never
GeForce RTX 3050 (opens in new tab)$272-$0.02Never
Radeon RX 6950 XT (opens in new tab)$769-$0.14Never
Radeon RX 6900 XT (opens in new tab)$649-$0.10Never
Radeon RX 6800 XT (opens in new tab)$545$0.069,076 Days
Radeon RX 6800 (opens in new tab)$441$0.058,821 Days
Radeon RX 6750 XT (opens in new tab)$437-$0.02Never
Radeon RX 6700 XT (opens in new tab)$350-$0.02Never
Radeon RX 6650 XT (opens in new tab)$316-$0.01Never
Radeon RX 6600 XT (opens in new tab)$255$0.0125,504 Days
Radeon RX 6600 (opens in new tab)$211$0.0121,087 Days
Radeon RX 6500 XT (opens in new tab)$150-$0.06Never
Radeon RX 6400 (opens in new tab)$137-$0.05Never

Of the 21 current generation graphics cards from the AMD RX 6000-series and the Nvidia RTX 30-series, only five are theoretically profitable right now, and those are all just barely in the black. This is using data from NiceHash and WhatToMine, so perhaps there are ways to tune other GPUs to get into the net positive, but the bottom line is that no one should be using GPUs for mining right now, and certainly not buying more GPUs for mining purposes.

Sure, you could make the argument that cryptocurrency valuations might go back up again in the future, and so you could mine at a loss until that happens. But if you really believe that, why bother investing potentially thousands of dollars into PC hardware to mine at a very low rate, when you could just invest directly in whatever coin(s) you happen to like?

As we noted in our recent GPU price check right before The Merge happened, it's difficult to imagine any scenario in which a lot of the former mining GPUs don't end up being sold at secondhand markets like eBay in the coming months. Factor in the warehouse space, power costs, personnel to run everything, and other infrastructure considerations, and even ultra cheap power doesn't make GPU mining sensible. It's a good time for mining farms to either pocket their earnings and sell off their remaining inventory, or cut their losses and close up shop.

Buying a used graphics card looks like it's set to become far more tempting in the near future, in other words. Our advice: buy from an established seller on a market (like eBay) that allows for returns. Conversely, don't pay cash to someone from Facebook Marketplace that you have to meet in a parking lot, and definitely don't send anyone BTC or ETH for a used card.

This is all great news for gamers, who for the most part have spent most of the last year making do with whatever card they had before the the cryptocurrency boom of late 2020. It means AMD and Nvidia aren't going to be able to charge high prices for any GPU that they hope to sell in large quantities. We might see RTX 4090 and RX 7900 XT launch with initially high MSRPs, but just like the RTX 3090 Ti and RX 6950 XT quickly fell below their launch MSRPs, the same will happen with the upcoming Nvidia Ada and AMD RDNA 3 GPUs.

If you're looking to build a new gaming PC or upgrade your existing graphics card, just wait a little longer and definitely don't buy any graphics card for more than $500. Prices on existing GPUs will continue to drop, and the new stuff is right around the corner.

Jarred Walton is a senior editor at Tom's Hardware focusing on everything GPU. He has been working as a tech journalist since 2004, writing for AnandTech, Maximum PC, and PC Gamer. From the first S3 Virge '3D decelerators' to today's GPUs, Jarred keeps up with all the latest graphics trends and is the one to ask about game performance.

  • peachpuff
    This is fine, I got my money back from the gpus 😁
    The 3080 will replace my aging r380.
    Reply
  • hannibal
    Heh. Maybe Nvidia buy all used 3000 series gpus from miners and sell them with a profit :)
    Reply
  • King_V
    hannibal said:
    Heh. Maybe Nvidia buy all used 3000 series gpus from miners and sell them with a profit :)

    STOP GIVING THEM IDEAS!!!

    I mean, I'm laughing as of it were a joke, but that laughter has a hint of panicked hysteria underlying it.
    Reply
  • gggplaya
    These are all negative profit, most places are well above 10 cents per kwh due to the energy crisis caused by the Ukraine war. Europe is like 30-60 cents per kwh, I'm paying 14 cents. If you redo the math, all these cards are negative profit. You're literally spending more on power than you get back in coin. So you might as well just buy the coin with cash instead of trying to mine it.
    Reply
  • razor512
    Sadly what will be seen now, will be a bunch of crypto bros who ran their cards into the ground, now acting like used car salespeople who try to sell former rental car (fleet cars). It is common knowledge that those cars are abused and rarely get serviced, since those vehicles can technically function without routine maintenance, they just won't last very long, and routine maintenance means downtime which cuts into profits. If you want to test yourself, next time you rent a car, check the oil, odds are that it will be missing 1-1./5 quarts, since newer engines use lower tension piston rings to improve efficiency, and thus burn oil, but when the oil is only change once probably every 18 months in a rental fleet, they are almost always chronically low on oil. Then when it is time to choice the oil, they add some engine cleaning solution to the oil, run it for a while, then flush out the oil before adding new oil, and then dumping the car on the used market.
    With all of that in mind, when it is time to try and sell them on the used market, they will make it seem like the cars were meticulously maintained, and driven only in the gentlest way possible.

    Sadly a common trend behind the scenes at mining farms, (small and large scale, was to maximize hash rate vs TBP). This often means keeping the cards near their limits by using fan curves that keep the cards near their thermal limits since the fans on the card can easily pull 20-25 watts at max speed. Basically every watt that is not directly generating Eth, is seen as a waste that must be kept as low as possible.

    Due to the compute arms race, the goal was not slow and steady, instead it was a rush for compute while trying to keep TBP low, and the easiest method, was keeping fan speed low.
    Thus you will end up with cards after a few years where the VRAM is unstable because it spent the last year+ running at 110C, and the GPU within 5C of its thermal limit (before the card starts to cut back on its primary frequency table), as whether they mine or not, the difficulty will increase, thus there is a desire to maximize hash rate, but without entering the realm of diminishing returns.
    People who end up buying those cards will likely end up with artifacting on their screen after a year or so of use.

    A common misconception is people taking the false narrative from mining scalpers that they undervolt and underclock the cards and treat them delicately (the narrative is reinforced due to how widespread mining became and how many people on various sites and forums will be looking to offload those old mining cards, and they are not going to argue against their own interest. It is the GPU equivalent of a company that says a lemon is "certified preowned". One can even consider them to be along the mental lines of the NFT bros in how they will defend that crap, even though they know the issues with NFTs.
    Mining cards were not babied; they were run into the ground and kept just barely operational, they were then cleaned at the last minute and dumped on ebay.
    Reply
  • TJ Hooker
    razor512 said:
    A common misconception is people taking the false narrative from mining scalpers that they undervolt and underclock the cards and treat them delicately (the narrative is reinforced due to how widespread mining became and how many people on various sites and forums will be looking to offload those old mining cards, and they are not going to argue against their own interest. It is the GPU equivalent of a company that says a lemon is "certified preowned". One can even consider them to be along the mental lines of the NFT bros in how they will defend that crap, even though they know the issues with NFTs.
    Mining cards were not babied; they were run into the ground and kept just barely operational, they were then cleaned at the last minute and dumped on ebay.
    They are under volted and under clocked for the same reason you claim they lower fan speed: to minimize power draw and maximize profit. And doing so usually lets the fans run slower as well.

    The VRAM will usually be OC'd and ran hard though. I have no idea how likely VRAM failures are.
    Reply
  • jasonf2
    Best advice of the day. Don't buy a used GPU.
    On the upside new cards below MSRP are back!
    Reply
  • daworstplaya
    Great news! Good riddance. Maybe gamers will finally catch a break and GPU makers will stop raking gamer over hot coals.
    Reply
  • MonkeyNoSee
    agreed good time for change.
    Reply
  • razor512
    TJ Hooker said:
    They are under volted and under clocked for the same reason you claim they lower fan speed: to minimize power draw and maximize profit. And doing so usually lets the fans run slower as well.

    The VRAM will usually be OC'd and ran hard though. I have no idea how likely VRAM failures are.

    While some will try to undervolt, it is not done to the detriment of the clock speed. Often the point at which you will get the highest hash rate per watt pulled by the GPU and VRAM, will be far away from the peak performance of the card, such a move would require giving up most of the performance of the card. When someone does a large undertaking of setting up a mining farm, they are not only looking at instantaneous profit per watt, they are also extrapolating future trends in mining effectiveness as the difficulty increases, as well as changes that come from other miners increasing their overall compute. That arms race, forced miners who are looking to maximize long term profits, to balance peak hash rate and TBP.

    The current solution is effectively keeping TBP as close to the GPU and VRAM power draw as possible. This often leads to a small VRAM overclock, GPU undervolting if possible without losing clock speed, if not they will stay on stock, and then having a fan curve that keeps the GPU on the edge of throttling, and if needed, taking steps to level thermals, e.g., if a very low fan speed leads to ineffective cooling for the VRAM and some modules are starting to hit like 115C and corrupt data, they might zip tie a small heatsink with a blob of thermal paste to a specific part of the back plate, and then point a fan at it, if they can save 4 watts on the main fans by having a 1 watt fan targeted as a specific area of the back plate, thus allowing for more leveled thermals so that everything can be kept closer to their thermal limits.

    The mindset of the GPU miners is totally different from those who enjoy PC building and gaming where we will put in extra effort to lower our temperatures by an extra 5-10 C even if that reduction is not directly giving extra performance, of if the extra cooling will allof for an ever so slight performance boost that is extremely deep into the realm of diminishing returns on terms of performance per watt for total system power draw.

    The GPU miner mindset is one of a projected profitability life, and a goal to keep the card alive (barely) to last the length of the mining lifecycle, and if the card is still alive afterwards, they will clean it up and dump it on ebay. Just like the rental car fleets where they buy a car, and never change the oil for like 2 years, then doing an engine flush and adding some oil before dumping it on a used car lot where the salesperson will claim that the car taken care of so well that all life in the rest of the galaxy retroactively disappeared because they were so jealous of how well maintained the car was.
    Reply