Hopefully, you haven’t needed a GPU in the last year because prices have been out of control. The combination of semiconductor shortages and pandemic-boosted gaming pushed prices up, but it was cryptocurrency that made graphics cards worth their weight in gold. Prices are finally starting to drop a bit, and you can buy used cards on the cheap in Asia. But should you get these former mining cards? GPU manufacturer Palit Microsystems says you’re taking a real risk with former mining hardware.
The price of GPUs started trending upward in early 2020 as the value of cryptocurrencies exploded. Mining cryptos like Etherium is too slow on a CPU, but GPUs can mine efficiently enough to turn a profit. So, mining operations use rack after rack of video cards, all wired in and running at full speed 24/7.
China started cracking down on crypto mining earlier this year, forcing many of these operations to close down. So, they’re selling the only resource they have left: GPUs. These used cards can get much cheaper than new ones, and it can be hard to tell which is which. A used card might come with original packaging and look physically pristine, but it’s been cranking away at full speed for months on end.
According to Palit, a GPU will lose about 10 percent of its total processing power for every year it’s used in a mining operation. Even if you get lucky and your second-hand GPU works, it might not be running at peak performance, and it could be closer to failing. Still, this might be a tempting option for people who are in desperate need of a GPU, as the prices for new cards are still much more expensive than they should be.
It is, of course, in Palit’s interest to have people buying new hardware, but it’s not like Palit or any other manufacturer is having trouble unloading GPUs. The company notes that if you are going to buy a former mining card, you should take a look at the cooler. Any card that has been disassembled and equipped with an aftermarket cooler is a big risk. That suggests it was kept in an especially hot environment and might have suffered a hardware failure in the past. That said, there are some miners who carefully monitor their rigs and undervolt GPUs for the best performance and longevity. There’s no guarantee you’ll get one of those, though. It’s all luck of the draw.