As if it weren't hard enough for consumers to buy RTX 3060, RTX 3070 and RTX 3080 cards already, MSI's now registered Ampere "Miner" cards with the Eurasian Economic Commision. This isn't the first news we've seen of MSI graphics cards built specifically for cryptocurrency mining — the company also registered Turing mining cards with the EEC last September (likely as a fallback in case Ampere stock runs out). But with Etherium hitting its highest prices that it's seen since 2018 this January, concerns over cryptominers pushing GPU prices higher and buying up already rare stock are becoming more valid than ever.
To be fair, an EEC registration doesn't mean that a product is coming. It's not uncommon for manufacturers to register products just to hold the name. Still, MSI has released mining cards before, back when Pascal was the top of the line and Bitcoin was starting to draw mainstream attention. These models, the P106-100 and P104-100, weren't exclusive to MSI and were part of a larger push from Nvidia and AIBs to create GPUs specifically for mining, which reduced cooling power and stripped away cosmetic features like RGB.
But neither is this an idle threat. At last week's 19th Annual J.P. Morgan Tech/Auto Forum Conference, Nvidia CFO Collete Kress said the company would consider restarting its mining line of GPUs, "if crypto demand begins or if we see a meaningful amount."
Given that Etherium is experiencing a price spike, there's certainly "meaningful amounts" to be made right now. And while AMD GPUs have traditionally been the mining cards of choice, Nvidia's GeForce RTX 3080 has been found to have a hashrate of 3x to 4x that of the RTX 2080 while RDNA2's mining performance is only marginally higher than RDNA1's. MSI's current registration is only for the 3060 Ti, but who knows what might come down the line?
Ampere cards are also more power efficient than their predecessors, with the RTX 3060 Ti in particular using 50W less power than the 2080 Ti while delivering similar hash rates. That's important for miners, since too much power consumption can drastically lower profits or even put them in the red.
We'll have to wait to see whether MSI's Ampere mining cards come to market, or if this is just the first sign of a larger mining push from other AIBs and even Nvidia itself. But if so, be prepared for the current Ampere shortage to continue into the foreseeable future.