Monday, November 29, 2021

Cryptocurrency miners are buying new RTX Ampere laptops to bypass the GPU shortage

In a nutshell: Nvidia’s new mobile RTX GPUs started to become available around the world last week inside a smattering of enticing new gaming laptops. But in some regions, the release was mutilated by Ethereum miners purchasing them directly from the manufacturers.

The price of Ethereum increased fourfold in 2020, and after a sudden acceleration in January it exceeded its previous all-time high from late 2017. The rise has helped the cryptocurrency mining industry experience an unfortunate renaissance that could lead to a repeat of the 2017 disaster.

Normally, it’s only possible to mine profitably with desktop GPUs sold alone. Prebuilt systems and laptops have a higher markup, and include components that aren’t helpful to miners. But those disadvantages have recently been negated, partly because of crypto rising prices, and partly because of improved performance offered by new Nvidia GPU releases.

So it’s become profitable to mine with cheap gaming laptops. Some miners, in China, have purchased shipments of new laptops and installed them in dedicated mining racks. The images below are of brand new laptops, possibly with RTX 3070s and RTX 3060s inside.

Mining has also gotten easier. A mining rig can be configured in just a few minutes with the aid of simple (evil) software and informative (evil) articles from disreputable news sites. It’s so easy that you can do it on the go, as one Chinese content creator demonstrates in this hilarious video.

If you don’t want to watch the video in Chinese, here’s a rundown: she’s just bought a new Asus laptop with an RTX 3060, and she’s taken it into a Starbucks. Plugged it in. Started mining Ethereum. Brought a coffee. Done some work. And two hours later, she’s recouped the cost of the coffee and she goes home. It’s ridiculous.

Fortunately, laptop mining is unlikely to be profitable except at scale in specific regions, so it shouldn’t affect global availability. But it does highlight the potency of cryptocurrencies.

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