Cryptocurrency miners would ruin the laptop market too

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Cryptocurrency miners aren’t just buying desktop GPUs – they’ve started sucking gaming laptops too, according to a new report. This has kept gaming laptop sales high. throughout the first quarter, when the market would normally have cooled by now.

This information is provided courtesy of DigiTimes, via THG. The original DigiTimes article is now behind a paywall. According to them, cryptocurrency miners in China, Taiwan and South Korea are buying large stocks of laptops equipped with RTX 3000 GPUs. The miners have even (again, according to DT) put pressure on them. manufacturers to create systems with low budget components and powerful GPUs, as there is no intention of using them for anything other than mining cryptocurrency.

It’s a maddening new wrinkle. For the third time in less than five years, cryptocurrency mining has pushed GPU prices beyond all reason. The first cryptocurrency boom only affected AMD cards. The second affected both AMD and Nvidia and broke the retail channel for months. We are already six months at the bottom of the current shortage.

Anytime we run into any of these shortages, the retail market warps enough that even a boutique laptop or desktop is a good deal. If cryptocurrency miners start buying laptops in bulk, it could push prices up in this space as well.

Data from Michael Driscoll. The graph shows recent GPU prices on eBay.

As before, AMD and Nvidia are not the companies that bank on these events. While both manufacturers enjoy strong demand, neither Nvidia nor AMD will increase their negotiated prices with OEMs to further reduce profits. Yes, both manufacturers sell every GPU they can make, but the unusual circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic ensure they would do it no matter what.

The latest cryptocurrency boom left Nvidia with hundreds of millions of dollars in Pascal inventory unsold last time around. Nvidia handled Turing much more carefully, cutting back on manufacturing long before Ampere launched, but current demand for cards has forced the company to restart some RTX 2000 production to meet demand.

Seasonality is not a thing this year

Consumer demand for semiconductors generally declines in Q1, increases somewhat in Q2, increases again in Q3 with the start of the school year, and then peaks in Q4 with the winter break. One of the ways that semiconductor foundries can manage supply is usually to plan their manufacturing schedules around the expectations of regular demand.

This year, seasonality will not be a thing. No one wants to predict what the market might do as vaccines roll out and areas come out of lockdowns. Some customers, like car manufacturers, are in desperate need of chips now. TSMC and Samsung may move some manufacturing capacity to meet that demand, but customers set aside in February and March will need to get capacity at another time. In short, there is no short-term solution to these problems.

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