Curious where all of those AMD R9 graphics cards are going?

Subject: Graphics Cards | January 29, 2014 - 03:00 PM |
Tagged: R9 290X, r9 290, r9 270, mining, litecoin, dogecoin, amd

I know we have posted about this a few times on PC Perspective and have discussed it on the PC Perspective Podcast as well, but if you are curious as to why the prices of AMD's latest generation of R9 graphics cards have skyrocketed, look no further than this enterprising consumer and his/her Dogecoin mining rig.  

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What you are looking at are six MSI Gaming series R9 270 cards running through the aid of PCI Express to USB 3.0 riser cards.  

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You can see the rest of the photos here and if you want to see more of this kind of abuse of graphics cards and you can also check out the Litecoin Mining subreddit where this was sourced.


Source: Imgur

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January 29, 2014 | 03:30 PM - Posted by mAxius

Asic's are quickly becoming available for scrypt-based mining just like for sha 256 mining people will not be able to make their initial investment back. Also the Alt coins movement is mostly a waste of time and energy and money as anyone can make a new coin fork of btc/ltc. thus the possibility of making infinite coins that are still hindered due to the limited btc/ltc supply.

January 29, 2014 | 04:12 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

This person largely has no idea what they are talking about.

January 29, 2014 | 04:14 PM - Posted by Raven6


January 30, 2014 | 01:12 PM - Posted by mAxius

are you legally paying taxes on your crypto coins when you convert them to usd or purchase something with them? prob not :D since It would be trivial for interested government agents to link your identity with Bitcoin related activity and last i checked not paying the govt their share places you into an AL Capone like situation (jail time)

January 29, 2014 | 05:12 PM - Posted by pdjblum

Ryan or any one of you geniuses out there, can you say if the interface on the cards themselves is pci express to usb 3.0 and then the risers on the board are the other way around? I do not understand why they could not just use some sort of pci express extension risers, if they exist, instead of introducing pci express to usb 3.0 on one end and the opposite on the other. Thanks in advance.

January 29, 2014 | 07:08 PM - Posted by e (not verified)

You're right, these are pci-e to usb to pci-e. They're a much smaller profile than typical risers and make it easier to build a rig with many cards. I use them to get my cards as far apart as possible so they stay cool.

January 29, 2014 | 09:26 PM - Posted by pdjblum

As I understand it, usb 3.0 has a max bw of 500MB/s while pci express 3.0 has a max bw per lane of 2GB/s. Wouldn't the usb interface present a significant bottleneck?

January 30, 2014 | 12:21 AM - Posted by RGSPro (not verified)

That is exactly what I was thinking. There is no way this isn't limiting their performance, but does it matter if they are just solving mathematical equations?

January 30, 2014 | 02:54 AM - Posted by Kwaz

I'm wondering this as well. I'm not sure how mining works precisely, but it could be that the bandwidth limitation isn't as much of an issue in this implementation?

January 30, 2014 | 03:16 AM - Posted by FrankdaTank (not verified)

No, all of the calculation is done on the card, the only thing that is sent through is the completed hash function which takes up little to no bandwidth. This is also why a more stable internet connection is preferred for mining.

January 30, 2014 | 07:13 PM - Posted by ButtonPuncher (not verified)

Nothing is being converted to USB 3.0. The USB 3.0 cable is just being used to transport the PCIe x1 signals. It's a cheap way of extending the signal longer than a regular ribbon cable will allow. A USB 3.0 cable is a convenient, cheap, shielded, high-bandwidth cable. You could probably use a shielded Cat6 cable to do the same thing but they are more expensive and not as common.

Just my $0.02

February 1, 2014 | 05:54 PM - Posted by serjio (not verified)

I was kind of curious about this and looked up some info. First thing I thought was strange was that you could fit all of the pci-e x1 pins onto the 9 pins of usb3.0. But if you lookup the pinout for pci-e x1, most of them appear to be power and ground pins, so i guess most of the pins you can just bypass the PCI port and get power and ground straight from the PSU. CAT6 has only 8 pins, so im not sure if it would work (not sure if they're using all 9pins of the usb3.0 or less).

The other intersting thing is that pci-e interface runs at 2.5ghz. I'm not sure if CAT6a would be ok with that frequency or if thats just pushing it too much. USB3.0, on the other hand, reguarly runs at 2.5ghz (there's actually a PDF you can find from intel that warns that there can be interferance issues with usb3.0 cables and 802.11 wifi 2.4ghz equipment)

Cool stuff.

January 29, 2014 | 05:37 PM - Posted by Humanitarian

"Kill me, please"

January 29, 2014 | 05:54 PM - Posted by Daniel Nielsen (not verified)

Maybe we can do it together, cause this is sickening.

January 29, 2014 | 09:55 PM - Posted by taguchi1 (not verified)

holy cow!! This is awesome!! What kind of power supply are you using to push all them cards?? (watts?) I am guessing it would need to be pretty powerful.

January 30, 2014 | 03:02 AM - Posted by Kwaz

I'm annoyed that R9 prices are through the roof due to mining, but it's not the fault of the miners. It's AMD who's not providing enough chips. Technically, more cards sold could reduce the price of cards if they were able to keep up with demand. It could also be that they didn't initially expect to sell so many and that a steady flow of chips are on the way? I don't know what the fab to market lag time is or if capacity at fabs is even available to make these chips.

One good thing about this is whenever mining dries up there should be tons of used R9 cards on the market up for grabs. The funny thing is there might be so many used cards later on that AMD might not be able to sell many new ones down the line. I do wonder if that may hurt AMD in the long run?

February 1, 2014 | 09:59 PM - Posted by BikeHelmet (not verified)

It's probably all a play to popularize Radeons before Mantle takes hold. Tons of R9 cards available cheap means tons of gamers will have them, thus Mantle will be worth supporting for game developers. And since game developers will support it, Radeon sales will go up while taking a bite out of GeForce sales. Logical, yes?

Mantle primarily provides gains by reducing CPU overhead, so it also means gamers will be able to pick weaker CPUs, stronger GPUs, and still manage stable smooth (and likely superior) framerates.

In effect, the coin miners are going to be subsidizing gamers.

January 30, 2014 | 06:18 AM - Posted by Prodeous

Mining or not, the PCIe to USB to PCIe is .. simply cool. Where can I get that?

Mining wise, though it has some effect on the hole, but honestly, is that the only driving force for lack of availability? Or is also the fact that they can not produce enough of them.

January 30, 2014 | 10:18 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

You can use multiple PSU's for mining, most people do because its way cheaper to buy three 400W PSUs than just one 1200W PSU.

January 30, 2014 | 07:38 PM - Posted by MrRez

What a waste of R9 cards, makes me sad :(

January 30, 2014 | 11:20 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

At current prices this rig will make $1080 / month and still be worth something if the mining dries up, so it's certainly not a waste.

February 5, 2014 | 01:22 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Somehow I can't really believe that you can generate "money" like this ...

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