After a botched attempt to limit the appeal of its GeForce RTX 3060 graphics cards with cryptocurrency miners, Nvidia may be back with a new strategy to keep the GPUs in the hands of gamers. The company is rumored to be working on an update to its existing line of GeForce RTX 3000 series GPUs based on the Ampere architecture.
The new solution? A feature called Lite Hash Rate (LHR) that limits the card's hash rate capabilities, making it unattractive for mining currencies like Ethereum. Contrary to previous efforts, it is said to be nearly impossible to bypass LHR. Essentially, Nvidia's second software-based attempt at limiting the crypto-mining appeal of its GPUs is designed to keep more graphics cards out there for gamers. However, such a strategy may not result in a more meaningful delivery of GPUs for purchase.
According to a report by Videocardz, the new GeForce GPUs with the new GA ** 2 branding will receive customizable BAR support from mid-May. These new cards are just updates to existing cards like the RTX 3080, so they don't add any extra performance for gaming. The main differences are that players don't need to upgrade vBIOS to get support for the mutable BAR and that the new LHR feature has been added to limit the map's appeal to miners. In the absence of any noteworthy hardware improvements, these features appear to be software defined, and Nvidia is tacitly making the updated cards available to partners and retailers. The cards are expected to go on sale in June.
It's unclear if Nvidia has software defined keys to remove the LHR restriction on these new cards. It has been reported that flashing an old BIOS version does not work on the LHR cards as some mechanisms are in place to prevent the firmware downgrade from being installed on the newer cards. Although the RTX 3060 shipped with similar software limitations to make the cards less attractive to miners, the company had in the past inadvertently released a driver update that lifted the restrictions on cryptocurrency mining.
But will it really fix the problem? It's nearly impossible to buy an RTX 3000 GPU anywhere near retail price, even many, many months after it's first launched. While cryptocurrency miners are a big cause of the major global GPU shortage in 2020 and 2021, they are not the only culprits. Like other semiconductor manufacturers such as competitor AMD, Nvidia has been hampered by supply-side restrictions, which means that there is a lack of components in the manufacture of the graphics cards.
Without addressing this fundamental problem, Nvidia would not be able to significantly increase supply to meet the overwhelming demand for more powerful PCs, especially those that can play games, during the pandemic.
The second problem is that scalpers are hoarding the rare supply of GPUs and the rising prices for graphics cards in secondary markets like eBay continue to limit supply while fueling increasing demand. Observers have noticed that some Nvidia GPUs double or triple their recommended retail price in the secondary market, making it lucrative for scalpers to snap up the GPUs once inventory is replenished from authorized retailers. Additionally, as retailers implement the system, they are driving up prices through tactics such as bundling. The company had previously warned that GPU bottlenecks could last until July.
Do not get me wrong. Nvidia's strategy is commendable and can help resolve part of the problem. But will it fix the overall supply problem? Unlikely. It doesn't seem to go far enough to produce meaningful results and players may still be disappointed. However, if you are able to purchase one of the supposedly new GPUs, it will be installed instantly with some new features so you don't have to do any BIOS upgrades.