On the heels of its Vega launch last week, AMD has released a new driver for its GPUs that focuses on cryptocurrency mining. The new driver is supposed to make Vega faster when mining, though AMD also notes that the driver “is provided as a beta level support driver which should be considered ‘as is’ and will not be supported with further updates, upgrades or bug fixes.”
AMD and Nvidia have taken different approaches to cryptocurrency during this latest cycle. Earlier this year, AMD reported that cryptocurrency might have driven a short-term spike in sales, but that the company did not include it in their future forecasts. AMD has said that it continues to monitor the cryptocurrency business, but that it has no plans for a major pivot. The driver being labeled as a beta “as-is” product certainly supports this analysis.
Nvidia, on the other hand, has a different take. Jen-Hsun Huang has told investors that “Cryptocurrency and blockchain are here to stay. Over time, it will become quite large. It is very clear that new currencies will come to market. It’s clear the GPU is fantastic at cryptography. The GPU is really quite well positioned.”
This disparate take on mining may reflect certain realities both companies have faced. Back in 2011 – 2014, when Bitcoin and Litecoin mining were still being done on GPUs, AMD was the only company that really benefited–and at the same time, it didn’t benefit much at all. GPU sales to gamers fell like a rock. By the time the cryptocurrency mining craze had pased, Nvidia had the GTX 980 and 970 ready to go. The window of opportunity for Hawaii had passed. Some of you may also recall that AMD’s GPU prices simply blew through the roof, with an R9 280X, which should have been a $ 300 card based on AMD’s MSRPs, actually selling for $ 489.
Nvidia, on the other hand, was locked out of this market altogether. During the same time frame, Kepler and even Maxwell were not a match for AMD’s cryptocurrency performance. Now, with Ethereum and Pascal, Nvidia’s performance is much stronger. That’s likely part of the reason why the two companies see things differently. AMD got burned by this market once already, and Nvidia may feel that its stronger relationships with board partners or greater manufacturing capacity via contracts with TSMC will keep them in a leadership position in graphics.
ExtremeTech recommends that anyone interested in cryptocurrency mining approach the topic the same way you should approach gambling. If you want to take a shot and try to make some profit, feel free–but don’t risk any funds you can’t afford to lose. Cryptocurrency prices are famously volatile and you may not be able to count on sustained, long-term profits.
There’s a report from Overclock3D that we haven’t been able to confirm or debunk, claiming that AMD’s GPU pricing of £449.99 in the UK ($ 499 in the US) was only for the launch. Overclockers UK’s Gibbo writes:
Now the good and bad news, the good news is AMD are rebating early launch sales to allow us to hit £449.99 on the stand alone black card which has no games. This is a launch only price which AMD at present are saying will be withdrawn in the near future, when if it happens is unknown, but remember do not be shocked if the price jumps nearly £100 in a few days.
We have requested confirmation or explanation of this from AMD, but the company was not able to provide us with a response by the time this story went to press. We will update it when we have more information on the future of Vega’s price. It also isn’t clear that these price increases, if true, are a global shift or merely reflect UK pricing. And finally, there’s the chance the the information given was simply incorrect. A $ 128.76 price increase on Vega would make it far too expensive to recommend, given its power consumption and performance–unless, of course, the GTX 1080 is kicked up into the stratosphere long-term as well.