The value of the bitcoin has risen strongly since the beginning of this year. The most popular and valuable digital currency began the new year by breaking the $ 1,000 barrier, reaching its highest level in the last three years. Last May, it rose to more than US $2,000, a record never seen since the launch of the crypto-currency in 2009. And it doesn’t seem to be stopping here, given that at the beginning of June it traded above $3,000 for the first time.
Apart from Bitcoin, there are also other crypto-currencies like Ether (running on Ethereum blockchain) which also gained in popularity, being up over 2,300 percent this year. This decentralized computing network is backed up by big players like J.P. Morgan Chase, Microsoft or Intel, who are uniting to build business-ready versions of the software behind Ethereum.
This explosion of crypto currencies thirsts for more computing power, and GPU manufacturers seem to have already taken measures. According to DigiTimes, a site specialized in semiconductors and electronics, AMD and NVIDIA (the two biggest players on the GPU market) have already started manufacturing graphic cards specially designed for crypto-currency mining.
Cryptomining is an essential activity for digital cryptographic currencies. It relies on the computing power placed at disposal by users – called “miners” – in order to verify and secure transactions in the chain of blocks (this means a lot of expensive mathematical operations). In return, the users are rewarded, for each new validated block, by newly created bitcoins and by the costs of the processed transactions.
In the past, miners have used graphic cards designed for gaming in their computers. While this works rather well, these GPUs are not optimized for cryptomining. Nvidia and AMD will soon release new cards that are optimized to minimize power consumption and maximize the speed of cryptocurrency specific tasks. This demand will also boost GPU sales in the third quarter, which is usually a rather shy season.
ASUS already released such a GPU, the model beign called MINING-P106-6G that uses an Nvidia chip. According to the item specs page on the producer’s website, the “ASUS Mining P106 enhances the megahash rate by up to 36% compared cards in the same segment that are not tailored for mining. The new card is also engineered to be seriously durable, enabling 24/7 operation for uninterrupted coin production”.
AMD is also considering modifying its entry-level graphics cards of the 400 series to optimize them for cryptomining. These GPUs will not have ports for image output. They will be reduced to essentials and optimized for cryptomining, in order to guarantee lower prices than the equivalent products. These cards will only receive a 90-day warranty, as miner’s graphics cards run extensively 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and therefore have a shorter lifespan than graphics cards with normal uses.
Besides GPU providers, motherboard providers also want to join the party. At the latest Computex, ASRock presented a cryptomining-dedicated motherboard called Its H110 Pro BTC+. Its motherboard with 13 PCI Express slots and Intel’s H110 chipset should allow users to install standard graphics cards. ASRock even made a demonstration of its motherboard H110 Pro BTC+ dedicated to miners and showed how cryptomine and earn bitcoins efficiently.
Personally, I hope this competition will provoke a price drop on GPUs and render them more affordable, if we want more miners out there for contribuing to cryptocurrencies.