Nvidia's Volta gaming cards won't arrive unless the crypto-dip continues | PCGamesN

Nvidia's Volta gaming cards won't arrive unless the crypto-dip continues

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Want to know the real reasons you can't buy a new graphics card right now? Sadly the only hope for gamers on the bleak cryptocurrency horizon is that the decline of the market continues to the point where the green team have  to release the gaming variants of the Nvidia Volta GPU architecture. 

If you’re happy with your current GPU (lucky you) grab one of the best gaming monitors to make it really shine. 

January has always been an incredibly depressing month. You get paid early in December, due to the Christmas break, but that just goes towards paying off the crippling credit card debt you racked up guilt-spending on presents for family members you never see. And then you empty your wallet on New Year’s Eve partying like it’s 2099. 

You might then join the plastic alcoholics testing their will - and the patience of others - engaging in the folly of ‘Dry January’. As if it wasn’t already dry enough. Still, with our cash reserves depleted we’re all living the hermit life until that end of the month paycheck when we can finally indulge again. 

Yeah, January’s a bitch.

But this January was even worse, because none of us PC gamers have been able to exorcise those retail demons. Mostly because of miners, all our favourite GPU toys are now three times more expensive than they were in the Black Friday sales we scoffed at pre-holidays for their rampant commercialism, and that’s if we can even find stock of that perfect unicorn of a graphics card we’ve been saving for.

Genesis Mining

A pox on your house, cryptocurrency!

But January’s been just as bad a month for the cryptocurrency folk too, with untold billions wiped off the value of Bitcoin with widespread news of investigations, scams, and thefts tarnishing the once just utterly dreadful name of cryptocurrency. It seems to happen at the start of each year, but considering the meteoric rise of virtual currencies last year, the consistent rate of decline is still pretty drastic.

It’s still not really a crash, such is the continued volatility of this adolescent market, and this dip needs to continue driving the prices down to early-2017 levels if we want it to catalyse Nvidia’s release of their next-generation graphics cards.

Cryptocurrency dip

But it’s not just the miners responsible for stealing away all of our graphics cards, and driving the prices of the meagre stock that’s left beyond our means, or the realms of sanity - there are other nefarious forces at play.

Obviously, the rise of cryptocurrencies, and the profit to be made from mining with consumer-class GPUs, has meant large-scale mining outfits have been rocking up to graphics card manufacturers and buying pallet-loads of stock direct from the back doors of the factories that produce them. But you’ve also got mining groups throwing money straight at the distributors and retailers too.

We’ve spoken to industry veterans who say that some outfits are going around to all the big European distributors and retailers and giving them each a chunk of cash, £50K for example, to act as credit against their accounts. Then the first of those to fulfil a big GPU order, as and when stock rolls around, gets to keep the money.

The companies buying up as much stock as they can is one of the main reasons there is a lack of graphics cards available to us non-mining normies, but it’s not the only one. The sad truth is that graphics card manufacturing took a massive hit towards the end of last year as memory supply dried up.

Dr Lisa Su with chip

AMD’s Dr. Lisa Su alluded to this in their recent earnings call about the 2017 financials:

“At this point we are not limited by silicon, per se, so our foundry partners are supplying us. There are shortages in memory, and I think that is true across the board, whether you are talking about GDDR5, or you’re talking about high bandwidth memory. We continue to work through that with our memory partners, and that will be certainly one of the key factors as we go through 2018.”

So, while there are potentially enough actual GPUs to go around, there aren’t enough memory chips to drop onto the boards in order to make into fully functional graphics cards. It’s a nightmare situation where demand is going through the roof, but supply is dropping.

And this is all playing into the hands of another group who are responsible for driving up prices and dragging stock away from us gamers - the people speculating on the high price of graphics cards. There’s a special place in hell for this bunch. They’re not miners looking to generate an income by using the cards, and they’re not gamers hoping to boost their frame rates, they’re just tools with lots of money seeing an opportunity to profiteer on a dire situation.

They’re buying up all the graphics card stock they can find and selling it on again with a gross margin added on top for acting as the middle men. Our industry sources are saying they’re contacted every other day by individuals offering thousands of cards for sale, with a hefty mark-up, as they tout their wares around to the highest bidders.

Don’t blame the miners as they’re just using the same hardware as us for a different cause. If you want to get pissed at someone for the current situation save your ire for these scumbags.

The great wall of Sapphire

But none of this is really helping AMD or Nvidia. While they are selling all they make, and the crypto gold rush has potentially saved AMD's Radeon Technologies Group, the super-high margins being added on to the card prices doesn’t make for extra cash going into their coffers. In fact, it could be creating a bit of a timebomb if the current crypto-dip carries on apace. If we do end up hitting early-2017 levels in the cryptocurrency exchanges then we may end up seeing a glut of second-hand graphics cards flooding the market. 

To begin with the prices will remain stupidly high for these seriously burned-in, post-mining cards, but as more and more appear the prices will have to drop. And those prices will drop faster than the new GPUs, which will now start to become available at retail, so a good many gamers, burnt by the price gouging, will pick up second-hand cards instead.

AMD and Nvidia get nothing from a growing second-hand market, which is what may spark the green team into action and a consumer variant of Nvidia’s Volta technology might just appear out of the gloom. Or maybe it’s this Ampere architecture we’ve heard next to nothing about. At this point it’s mostly speculation, guesswork, and hope.

Genesis Mining AMD GPUs

But there is no hope when it comes to pricing. Are we ever going to get graphics cards back down to the pre-crisis levels? That’s looking increasingly unlikely as the whole crypto-mess has been disguising another layer of hardware depression that’s been settling on my bones during this fresh, doom-laden year. 

Component pricing is screwed.

At the most basic level, the silicon wafers from which all our GPUs, CPUs, and memory are built from are constantly increasing in price. The companies supplying the silicon wafers got burned in the global economic collapse of a few years ago and have been holding back increasing supply in case it happens again. As demand edges skyward they can start charging whatever they like. Wafer prices rose 20% in 2017 and the wafer makers are actively planning to increase  prices another 20% in 2018, and more again in 2019.

Memory will continue to be in huge demand as smartphone ownership is likely to become seen as a global, inalienable human right, and potentially mandatory, over the next year or so. And all those mobile selfie machines need memory. Lots of memory. And Apple and Samsung have a lot more call on those manufacturing facilities than the likes of AMD or Nvidia.

Everything else that gets jammed onto your graphics card’s circuit board is getting more and more expensive too, from VRMs to capacitors. So the likelihood of us ever seeing a graphics card a normal human being can afford is pretty frickin’ minimal.

Nvidia Tesla Volta V100 GPU

It’s looking like a dire situation, with little to no respite in sight. Maybe we’ll get new graphics cards this year. Maybe they’ll even be priced at a level that means you don’t need to secure a personal loan against your internal organs for the privilege. But there’s no guarantee. Even if Nvidia do decide to get their next-gen GPUs out it’s possible memory shortages will still mean manufacturing remains tight.

And what if the new cards are really good at mining?

Good Lord, I’m spiralling into a pit of hardware depression now. The Lord? My cat. I call him the Lord. I am kind to him. Anyways, that’s it. I can’t type anymore, I feel the need to chow down fistfuls of Prozac and go fetal, such is the prospective state of the PC hardware market right now. 

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SkankwOn avatarDave James avatarYouth Counselor avatarGamer_1087 avatarGigafish avatarWhiteCrow avatar+2
SkankwOn Avatar
134
1 Week ago

I'm never buying a second-hand GPU, you just don't know how it's been used for sure...

3
Youth Counselor Avatar
10
1 Week ago

As long as it's been mining at a reasonable temperature (60-70c) it's fine. It's probably less "wore out" then one used by an avid gamer. The gamers GPU is going to idle at ambient temps most of the time and then spike into the 80s during gaming (if he leaves his fans at default curves). The mining GPU on the other hand won't see hard reboots or random power cycles, it will stay a steady temp instead of having constant thermal cycles, and will likely be nice and clean without being full of animal hair and dust since it's in an open air rack where it gets cleaned.

These things are not used cars with lots of mechanical parts. About the only thing I'd be prepared to have to replace is the fan(s) since those are the first to go. I saw a poll about this exact thing and some miners had cards that had been going for 4+ years, and the same miners reported a very very low failure rate.

I've bought plenty of used server cpus and networking components and had a very high success rate with them. Given a decent price used pc hardware is often a great deal (though HDDs are one item I'd actively avoid buying used or refurbished)

6
Gamer_1087 Avatar
2
1 Week ago

I agree & I don't know of anyone who had a desktop GPU failure in the recent years. As long as they are not overclocked you're fine be it they have been used for Mining or Gaming but again no way to know during the trade.

2
Dave James Avatar
510
1 Week ago

And if it's one that pops up after a crypto-crash you know it's probably been utterly thrashed.

3
SkankwOn Avatar
134
1 Week ago

Exactly!

Off topic - Is your profiles page bugged? Tried to change avatar and it won't accept a file or from Steam?

That's right I just made site maintenance YOUR dept Dave! :p

1
Dave James Avatar
510
1 Week ago

Aww, thanks! I'll have a looksee ;)

2
Youth Counselor Avatar
10
1 Week ago

@Author: I think your missing a few subtle market indicators that happened recently. Those same high prices and low availability that Andre annoying us are attracting new players. Intel just hired a gpu guy and it looks like they are planning on making a discreet GPU to compete with AMD and Nvidia. Samsung just announced they will be making bitcoin ASIC hardware (and possibly asic's for other coins) and buried in the release was the suggestion that they might start making discreet GPUs themselves.

As for the foundries and memory shortages, the free market will eventually fix that problem. Yes it's expensive to build out those facilities but the more money up for grabs the bigger players and bigger risks it attracts. Just look at oil, we were all convinced it was doomed to climb forever and then enough money was up for grabs we ended up getting a bunch of new players who forced down the prices with more supply.

The last few years were a bit of a bummer for PC hardware but now we have demand from crypto, AI, cloud computing, automotive, "smart stuff", PC gaming, and a number of other smaller markets. The demand for computing power has never been higher. Plus with spectre and meltdown we might actually see some real creative growth in the industry as they figure out architectural changes that protect against those hacks while also increasing speeds.

2
Dave James Avatar
510
1 Week ago

I need your optimism! :)

I'd love Intel to create a genuine alternative 'third-way' to the Nvidia / AMD graphics card hegemony, but I've been burned on their discrete GPU promises in the past. And even if Raja can do the impossible and bring Intel up to speed with the two main players it's going to be a good few years before we see that relationship bear fruit.

I did miss the subtle suggestion by Samsung that they'd be hitting the discrete GPU market, though I expect they're more interested in looking at another dedicated ASIC that is able to capture GPU mining rather than a chip that's capable of running game code.

However, if they offer up some slack in the gaming GPU market that would be a god-send! Again, though, it wouldn't be for years - making a competitive discrete GPU isn't easy, just ask the Larrabee engineers.

2
SkankwOn Avatar
134
1 Week ago

Raja hardly left AMD on a high though - Vega was a real damp squib!

0
Gigafish Avatar
1
1 Week ago

Ah yes, the "GPU guy" who until recently worked at AMD. It's hard to say what intel's long term plan will be. For one, the discreet GPU market is probably hard to hard to crack into. But on the other hand, if any major company out there was to do it, Intel seems the most logical, since they're already making integrated graphics chipsets. And then on the third hand If you look at products like the Hades Canyon NUC, you see that Intel really has no qualms about just purchasing discrete hardware from competing manufacturers. Interesting time to be alive.

1
Belimawr Avatar
1274
1 Week ago

Actually my money would be on Samsung, their CPU/GPU chips used in the international versions of their mobile devices that are made in house actually out perform the chips used by most other firms and their US variants.

Let's not forget they are a leader in memory chips with them being in most devices.

So I would put Samsung as the most likely contender, as they are already a chip maker and one of the most common sources of memory chips meaning they could also likely reduce bottle necks in production.

1
WhiteCrow Avatar
556
1 Week ago

Great article, for better or worse, haha. You've really captured the darkness of our times and splayed it out. I haven't bought a GPU in years, and it's killing me .. I just can't justify the cost, especially given the reasons.

2
ryry101 Avatar
1
1 Week ago

I was looking into refurbishing my card but idk

1