WTF?! Laptop mining farms and various workarounds for Nvidia's hash rate limiters helped miners navigate the GPU shortage with ease last year at the expense of many angry gamers. This year, a Chinese company has started transplanting mobile Ampere GPUs onto desktop graphics cards, which is every bit as worrying as it sounds.
Nvidia may have a new problem on its hands that comes just as the company is dealing with a massive ransomware attack. According to a post on Weibo spotted by cnBeta, a Chinese company is currently selling modified GeForce RTX 3060 graphics cards on one of the country's most popular online second-hand marketplaces.
The modded graphics cards reportedly use recycled RTX 3060 laptop GPU dies as a way to circumvent Nvidia's Ethereum hash rate limiter, known as Lite Hash Rate, or LHR for short. Nvidia applied this solution with the RTX 3000 series GPUs in an attempt to make them less appealing to cryptocurrency miners. However, the company didn't do this with all Ampere GPUs, and one such exception is the RTX 3060 laptop GPU.
Most miners believe Nvidia's effort was pointless, and for a while they've continued to buy LHR RTX 3000 graphics cards without worrying too much about the hash rate limitations. Back in August 2021, mining software NBMiner was updated to improve the hash rate to around 70 percent of what it would be without the limiter in place. A few months later, another solution popped up online that went even further than that. The trend even inspired a malware campaign designed for people who were desperately looking for the ideal solution.
What's interesting about the modified RTX 3060 graphics cards is that a company was somehow able to secure GA106 dies destined for laptops and turn them into desktop graphics cards. While companies like Nvidia and AMD also do this to bring entry-level desktop graphics cards to market with minimal R&D and production costs (the infamous RX 6500 XT comes to mind), this is a rather unexpected development.
It's worth noting the GA106 die used in the Chinese RTX 3060 contraption has 3,840 CUDA cores, slightly more than the 3,584 CUDA cores found in a regular desktop RTX 3060 GPU. However, the company that makes it only paired the mobile GPU with six gigabytes of GDDR6 memory, which is enough for mining purposes.
Miners can apparently grab these cards for as low as $540, and one seller demonstrated nine of them in a single rig mining at almost 250 MH per second using 910 watts from a wall socket. It's not quite as crazy as the mining farms based on Ampere laptops we saw last year, but it does beg the question if a similar treatment will be applied to other RTX 3000 laptop GPUs in the future.