What exactly is going on with the prices of used graphics cards going bonkers over Amazon and Newegg? And what does that have to do with cryptocurrency mining? Remember when every other enthusiast was raking bills because they had a scandalously high-powered cryto-mining rig? That insane boom of the crypto market seems to have settled now. And just like we predicted, it has pushed a large number of crypto miners towards selling off all or parts of their GPU mine.
As a result, there was an influx of used GPUs in the market. The prices were hit, fluctuations occurred. Just like they did when people were jumping the bandwagon to make their own mining rig and there was a major increase in demand for graphics cards.
Now, the crypto bubble seems to be settling down. The miners are coming home to sell off cryptocurrency mines and it’s much cheaper to get your hands on a graphics card that was previously mining Ethereum or Bitcoin. The real question is, should you?
Crytocurrency Mining and Used Graphics Cards
Before you figure out whether you should get one of those used cards from a cryptocurrency mining rig, let’s see how exactly does the life cycle performance of graphics cards work. Then we will see if after taking a typical beating from a notorious Ethereum mining rig, even an Nvidia GPU, say, GeForce GTX 1080 Ti will remain the beast it is or not.
Bathtub Curve of the GPU Life
The science with hardware is simple. The life cycle of a used GPU would have an increased chance of going bust in its nascence i.e. the early days when you have bought a GPU. This rate of failure is also higher close to the end of a product’s life cycle. Obviously due to the wear and tear. All the time in the middle, your graphics card has a constant, comparatively lower chance of failing. The graphical representation of how prone a GPU is to failure gives us an iconic bathtub curve.
So what does it mean for us? Clearly, this gives us a headstart on how to calculate whether it is worth it for you to buy a used GPU. The general understanding is that a card that has weathered the period covered by its warranty without trouble, should be able to sustain performance for an extended period of time that can span multiple years. That is until you have reached the end of the useful life of its hardware components.
Needless to say, the gaming community has very aptly highlighted that graphics cards tend to have higher infant mortality rate than the rate of failure due to wearing out.
What’s The Catch?
We will discuss the details after this, but buying used graphics cards isn’t a red zone right away. Undoubtedly there would be cards that have already used up their hardware life. Additionally, there could be items that have been ruthlessly overclocked and overheated, not to mention physically damaged.
A mining rig is supposed to keep turning the wheel 24×7. Since the formula is that higher processing gets you more crypto coins, increasing their earning potential would also mean increasing the risk of wearing out and end of life troubles coming a bit too soon. But things aren’t as bad among Bitcoin miners as we expect. Profit expectations are different now, so dynamics have changed.
Crypto miners now have to balance their expenses, primarily the cost of electricity bills, against hashes being solved in order to stay profitable. One way to keep a check on the bills is keeping a tap on the voltage being used by their main processing units in the rig: the graphics cards – it is possible to reduce the power consumption and heat by 10 to 20 percent by undervolting GPUs.
Therefore, this might come as a surprise to you but sometimes a Bitcoin miner should avoid overclocking graphics cards. Because not only can that result in greater heat production that requires an even better cooling mechanism, it also adds to the power in-take, adversely affecting the rig’s electricity bills.
So yes, you can venture out into the hordes of used graphics cards from crypto mining rigs. But in order to avoid making a mistake, there are a few things you will need to consider. For instance, the effective cost you are saving, warranties, fan replacements, and overall performance, just to name a few.
Master These And You’re Good To Go!
Warranties: It goes without saying there will be a number of used GPUs on eBay that don’t have valid warranties. This could be because the models are old, or because the company has rendered the warranty void because of circumstantial objections like physical damage. Do keep in mind that overclocking and other continually strenuous tasks can lead to the manufacturers removing warranty support from the said item.
If it is a high-end AMD or Nvidia GPU we are talking about, it must have come out quite recently, which is why there are chances you will be able to get your hands on one with a warranty intact. We wouldn’t be so confident about older models not only because of expired warranties but also because they would have used up their electronic life.
Performance: While we know that products like NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti or the AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 are made to toil and take on arduous tasks, even the latest NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti has not been manufactured with the intent of continuous and rigorous use that could span over months and even years (the longer payback period for a mining rig is expecting between 9 and 12 months). Overclocked graphics cards lead to higher hash rates, which means higher profit. While not everyone has electricity that is cheap enough for overclocking, you will find a large number of miners who do.
Keep in mind that an idle graphics card will not tell you how unstable it can get under load. You will have to test it beyond the normal level of load it will bear in your gaming rig. Only then will you figure out whether any real damage is hidden inside the card. While you should extensively test every used product you buy, it would be criminally negligent not to do so on a used graphics card from a crypto miner.
Price: This is largely a subjective matter, but the bottomline is you would buy a used cryptocurrency mining GPU for one reason. And that is, you want to save some money. Therefore, it is cardinal that you get enough financial benefit for taking on the higher risk of a used AMD or Nvidia GPU.
When we say enough financial benefit, in our minds it means about 20 to 25 percent reduction in the MS,RP. Yes, the MSRP. Graphics cards prices fluctuate all over the place, as a result it looks like a mess when you don’t know the actual benefit of any deal. So what you should do is check the official price from an AMD or Nvidia GPU resource and then compare the offer you have seen for the mining rig GPU. If it doesn’t get you around 20 percent discount, the risk isn’t worth it.
Fans: Regardless of the make and model you buy, if it is a used graphics card, specially one that has come out of a Bitcoin mining rig, fans are the first thing you will need to replace. In fact, we’d go as far as saying that you should consider it a bonus if you figure the card can make do with the existing fans.
You will need to replace the fans because they aren’t as much heat-accustomed as the rest of the graphics card is. Fans are also the only moving part on the card, making them more susceptible to failure. The motors and the bearings also are a weaker hardware which can easily get affected by the constant rumbling they would have been through as part of the mining rig.
There are tons of affordable cooling solutions available on Amazon. Even the replacement isn’t very tricky. Anyone who has some experience setting up their gaming rig’s cooling solutions should be able to manage. Then there is also the possibility that you’ve already planned upgrading to a better cooling system for the gaming PC.
Where To Buy?
The choice is obvious. We also have less formal platforms like the infamous subreddit r/hardwareswap and Craigslist, but as a rule of thumb you should rely on platforms that are more dependable. For example eBay, the company has a Money Back Guarantee and even a buyer-oriented middle-man policy.
As you might have picked up by now, you can buy used graphics cards. And you can even buy them off of cryptocurrency mining rigs if you are making an informed choice. We are not recommending you to prefer crypto mining GPUs because they will be cheap. But if you are someone who is not a layman when it comes to PC hardware components, you can venture out.
Remember, while PC hardware doesn’t work the same as a moving mechanical product, which means their usage doesn’t impact them the same. But higher has rates require overclocking. Therefore, you will have to be cautious. Happy shopping!