Crypto Throttling Returns To NVIDIA GeForce RTX 30-Series

👤by Tim Harmer Comments 📅30.04.2021 22:59:37

In an effort to reduce demand for GeForce RTX 30-series GPUs from cryptocurrency mining organisations, NVIDIA are once again attempting to introduce a secure software solution to throttle mining performance. First introduced during the launch of the RTX 3060, then undermined with the unintentional release of a driver without the limiter enabled, the initiative many continue to need regular updates to both GPU silicon and driver stack to be at all effective in the long run.

In February NVIDIA announced that, in a bid to stifle crippling demand generated by cryptocurrencies, the then-imminent GeForce RTX 3060 would be the first of its type to implement a mining limiter. An algorithmic detection system was paired with a driver package that deliberately kneecapped Ethereum mining, reducing performance in that specific workload significantly. At first the tactic was effective, but pundits were quick to suggest that workarounds would almost certainly be quickly developed if it proved to be cost-effective.

The move didn't come in isolation however as NVIDIA simultaneously announced a new GPU lineup catering specifically to miners: the CMP HX series. Initially based on Turing GPU silicon, these cards would be optimised for GPU mining but be entirely without display outputs, making them non-viable for gaming.

Sadly initial efforts proved flawed as an RTX 3060-compatible driver was leaked via the Windows Insider program that did not have the limiter enabled. It's not known why such a driver was ever available in the first place but it immediately provided miners with an avenue trivially easy to proceed down. Other workarounds would also see un-throttled Ethereum mining unlocked in multi-RTX 3060 GPU configurations, making it appear that NVIDIA's attempts had come to nought.

Buried in this week's GeForce 466.27 driver however are clues that suggest Santa Clara's finest aren't done just yet. As part of the New Features and Other Changes section it's stated that:

This driver updates the hash limited for the GeForce RTX 3060 12GB and is required for product shipped starting mid-May.

It's understood that the new products referred to are GeForce RTX 3060 12GB cards equipped with a GA106-302, rather than the GA106-300 GPU at the heart of the first release. Device ID validation will then mean that these new RTX 3060 GPUs will only work with these and newer drivers going forward.

Breakdown of NVIDIA CMP HX Series AICs

The renewed effort is likely to have two immediate effects. In the short term demand for the original RTX 3060-series cards (with a inhibitor that can be trivially bypassed if present) is likely to spike, and these cards will have a higher long-term value on the second-hand market. Secondly, more interest might be generated in the CMP HX-series mining cards.

NVIDIA may also choose to implement similar mechanisms in other members of the RTX 30-series, although that isn't clear from this driver release alone. It remains to be seen if this latest attempt to stifle demand and get graphics cards in the hands of pure gamers will be effective, in the short or long term.

SOURCE: NVIDIA GeForce 466.27 Release Notes

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