Crypto Mining Version of RTX 2080 Ti Crippled By PCIe Lanes in Gaming Test

GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition
(Image credit: Nvidia)

Nvidia's crypto mining processor (or CMP) graphics cards were launched back in 2021 to capitalize on the interest in cryptocurrency, and were also locked down with supposedly no gaming capability. Of course, nothing in the tech world can be locked down forever, and users have found ways to get games running on CMP GPUs now. But even a CMP card with RTX 2080 Ti levels of cores can't do well in games thanks to one more trick Nvidia had up its sleeve: removing PCIe lanes.

The tests come courtesy of Professional Review (via Videocards), which got its hands on the CMP 50HX that's effectively a cut-down version of the 2080 Ti. You're not supposed to be able to run games on the 50HX since Nvidia's drivers don't work on it and it doesn't even have video ports. The workaround is to install modified drivers, get video output from the motherboard, and then set Windows to use the graphics card instead of the integrated graphics. It's basically like Optimus Technology from laptops, running on a desktop.

Although Professional Review got the 50HX working in games, it had low usage and performed horrifically (though we don't have specific numbers). This is perhaps because of Nvidia's removal of PCIe lanes. The 2080 Ti normally comes with 16 lanes, but CMP GPUs have just four. That was fine for mining Ethereum, but not so great for gaming — especially if you're doing rendering on the GPU and then transferring the finished frames over the PCIe bus to the Intel integrated graphics buffer.

Normally, GPUs have more PCIe bandwidth than they need, and cutting that bandwidth in half usually doesn't reduce performance. But there are occasions where the extra lanes and bandwidth are more useful, like Optimus Technology. It seems cutting the amount of lanes by 75% is a bridge too far for a cut-down version of the 2080 Ti that sends frames over the PCIe bus. Professional Review attempted to enable the other 12 lanes on the 50HX with a solder job, but wasn't able to bring them back online.

Between the lack of GPU drivers, video ports, and PCIe lanes, CMP GPUs aren't just difficult to hack; they don't even perform that well. Of course, CMP was a short-lived experiment. You can't get an Ada Lovelace CMP card since Nvidia stopped making them after it declared crypto had failed to "bring anything useful to society." They're an interesting novelty today, but not a serious alternative to standard gaming GPUs.

Matthew Connatser

Matthew Connatser is a freelancing writer for Tom's Hardware US. He writes articles about CPUs, GPUs, SSDs, and computers in general.

  • DataPotato
    This just feels like Nvidia made the right hardware for the task (no extra PCI-E lanes, no video ports)? Or, rephrased, "Gasp, a card made not-for-gaming is bad at gaming when forced to play games".
  • setx
    DataPotato said:
    This just feels like Nvidia made the right hardware for the task (no extra PCI-E lanes, no video ports)?
    It's just pure e-waste. The hardware isn't optimized for the task at all – just artificially crippled so it can't be re-used for other things. It's also undesirable for other GPU compute as often transfer speed is quite important.
  • abufrejoval
    There must be more at play here...

    My Phantom Canyon enthusiast NUC11 with an RTX2060m chip inside also just gets 4 lanes of PCIe for connecting the i7-1165G7 SoC with the dGPU and can use Optimus or direct output, depending on the video port you use and it performs quite well on anything full HD up to 60Hz and thanks to DLSS.

    BTW those are still being sold at near GPU-less NUC prices, and prices are slightly going up.

    I've also run games on V100s using VirtGL and VNC on Linux and Unigines Superposition was impressive enough even across 600km distance between the GPU and the rendering screen.

    I'd recommend some CUDA testing to ensure there is nothing else afoul in the setup.

    And you can always run LLMs on them, even if 11GB isn't giant, the bandwidth might be better than fully enabled GPUs at similar prices.
  • artk2219
    "Nvidia stopped making them after it declared crypto had failed to "bring anything useful to society."

    What they meant to say is "After we stopped making money hand over fist on them, and we built so many that we had a backlog of GPU's when the bottom dropped out of the market". Something more like that.
  • Order 66
    If only this had 4 lanes of PCIE 5, then it wouldn't be so bad. That would be pointless for its intended purpose though.
  • Vanderlindemedia
    Get a good board that allows the independent overclocking of the PCI-E bus. You have to swap out Nvme with Sata and you might be reachting 110 to 125Mhz of speeds.

    Now multiply that by 4 and you got a nice bandwidth increase. Perhaps there's a bit of hope.