Wednesday, January 1st 2014

Why the Litecoin Craze Hurts More Than Helps Brand AMD Radeon

Price wars between GPU makers are something to look forward to each year, as that's typically when you get the best bang for your buck. Such an optimal time to buy new graphics cards usually comes when both AMD and NVIDIA have launched a new graphics card lineup, each. AMD tends to launch its lineup first, followed by NVIDIA, which then begins a cycle of proactive and reactive price-cuts between the two, which churns up the $300 price-performance sweet-spot so well, that a purchase from that segment usually sets your PC up for the following three years. 2013-14 saw a major disruption to this cycle, Litecoin mining. Litecoin miners will hurt more than help brand AMD Radeon, here's why.
Litecoin miners are buying up AMD Radeon GPUs. The reason being, that GPUs based on the Graphics CoreNext architecture are exceptionally good at processing P2P currency hash workloads, the only way just about anyone with a computer can create real money by putting their CPU or GPU to work. CPUs simply won't cut it with such processing loads anymore, despite being multi-core and equipped with AES-NI instruction sets.

GPUs can inherently handle parallelized workloads better, and it just so happens that investing in AMD Radeon GPUs is profitable for Litecoin miners, because they pay for themselves, and go on to generate revenue, when deployed in a good enough scale. Graphics CoreNext is the only GPU architecture that restores competitiveness of GPUs against ASICs, chips purpose-built to handle peer-to-peer currency validation hash processing.

Litecoin, like Bitcoin, is a peer-to-peer currency. It's decentralized, in that there's no central bank or monetary authority. The U.S. Federal Reserve governs the U.S. Dollar, for example. A triad of HSBC, Standard Chartered, and Bank of China issues the Hong Kong Dollar; Euro by the European Central Bank, and most countries have constitutional bodies set up to handle their currencies. Every transaction using a currency, including buying soda from a vending machine using loose change, is vouched for by its central bank. Litecoin doesn't have that, and so it relies on a distributed computing network to validate each transaction, and the integrity of each unit of the currency, with the wallet it's part of.

Unlike older distributed computing ventures like Folding@Home and WCG, which continue to draw people to donate some of their CPU/GPU time for charitable causes like processing scientific problems; the Bitcoin and Litecoin networks pay people who participate in their computing networks. They're paid in, well, Bitcoins and Litecoins, respectively. The beauty of it all? Not only can you pay for some goods and services with these currencies, but also exchange them for your everyday currency. They convert to U.S. Dollar, and you probably can convert a U.S. Dollar to any other currency on the planet.

The faster you process P2P currency validation loads, the more load is directed toward you, and the more you earn. Performance per Dollar immediately becomes the king here. Litecoin.info compiled an exhaustive list of AMD and NVIDIA GPUs, sorted by their Litecoin Hash processing performance. You'll note how at reference clock-speeds, NVIDIA's GeForce GTX Titan crunches just 320 kH/s (kilo-hash per second), while a Radeon R9 290X, at reference base-clock speeds, yields over three times that, at 980 kH/s. The GeForce GTX 780 Ti in the comparison yields 430 kH/s, but its clock speeds are not mentioned, and so you can't take its numbers at face-value. Even for a moment if we assume that the $650 GTX 780 Ti is running at reference speeds, you can still work out a huge price-performance gap between it and the $550 R9 290X. This, we believe, has led to some North American retailers getting opportunistic, who inflated the retail price of the R9 290X to prices close to $700, and the R9 290 (non-X), close to $500, from the $399 MSRP it launched with.

These hikes in prices of AMD Radeon R9 series products needn't be in reaction to a hike in demand, and retailers have the luxury of assuming that anyone who is buying a Graphics CoreNext-based GPU is doing so for Litecoin/Bitcoin. And so we find the argument that Litecoin mining has caused a shortage in AMD Radeon inventories, which is responsible for the price hike, absolute horse poo. More so, because AMD's chips not just destroy NVIDIA's, but also go up against some purpose-built ASIC boards, on the cost-performance metric.

Yet another reason we believe that the hike in AMD Radeon prices is not a result of inventory shortage, is because of pricing in other markets. Retailers in the EU apparently have healthy inventories of AMD Radeon, or at least the unaffected prices of graphics cards there seem to suggest that, if we were to believe the short-supply argument. We don't think Europeans aren't enamored by P2P currency, or the art of making money, but that European retailers aren't getting cocky about pricing their AMD Radeon inventory to end users, at least not yet. Eventually, bad pricing of AMD Radeon may catch up in Europe.

That brings us to the operational portion of this OP-ED. How the P2P currency craze hurts AMD more than helps it. AMD isn't manufacturing "Hawaii" silicon on a war footing. There are no indications that the company is scaling up supply to the "demand." The inflation in AMD Radeon prices appears to be backed more by the chips' huge price-performance advantage over NVIDIA at P2P currency processing, rather than short-supply. Whoever is into Litecoin processing, is apparently willing to cough up $700 for an R9 290X.

What this does, is it makes AMD Radeon prohibitively expensive for the target market of AMD Radeon, gamers and PC enthusiasts. Price-performance gaps between AMD and NVIDIA are tight and mangled; when it comes to the stuff Radeon and GeForce are actually designed for, to render 3D graphics for games. Fewer gamers and enthusiasts will buy AMD Radeon from here on out, as a result of the Litecoin craze. In the worst case scenario, this could give NVIDIA the opportunity to arbitrarily raise prices of GeForce GTX products slightly, while still maintaining higher price-performance at gaming, if not P2P currency processing.

Here's what AMD could try, to wriggle itself out of this mess - fight fire with fire, and build low-cost, limited edition AMD Stream GPGPU boards based on the Graphics CoreNext architecture, which offer higher price-performance ratios (at P2P currency processing) than even its own Radeon R9 series graphics cards. Those AMD Stream boards could be based on chips that are purpose-built for P2P currency processing loads, don't come with too much memory, and lack unnecessary components, so they could be sold at relatively low prices, and beat Radeon R9 series at price-performance. Again, there are two price-performance ratios at play here, one at P2P currency processing, and one at gaming, and the former is holding the latter hostage, in the current scenario. If AMD succeeds in making Radeon R9 series unappealing to the P2P currency community, it will restore the brand to its original target audience, the gamers.

AMD spent the better part of the past five years in building some impressive game developer relations, who developed and optimized their games for AMD Radeon. The company risks harming those efforts, if it gives in to the Litecoin craze. It may cut some profit by catering to the craze with Radeon R9 in the short term, but those profits will inevitably be at the expense of brand-Radeon in the long term. Time for some hard thinking.
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131 Comments on Why the Litecoin Craze Hurts More Than Helps Brand AMD Radeon

#26
rvalencia
Relayer
I agree John

Remember when it was AMD's fault that Titan was $1K because they didn't offer nVidia any competition? Well, by the same logic isn't this all nVidia's fault because they can't compete in the mining market?

When nVidia was overcharging for the 780, where were the articles saying how they were hurting their brand? Instead we got reviews who did their best to justify the 780 being more than 2x the price of a 7970 (which could be had for ~$300 at the time). "Oh look, you can get ~Titan performance so much cheaper now" was the comparison we kept reading about.

When the 290X came out and beat Titan for $550 dollars, nobody wanted to make that comparison. Instead the 780 (finally) dropped to a reasonable $500 and that's where the comparisons were drawn to. That couldn't have been played better if nVidia marketing themselves devised it (Things that make you go hmmm?).
It depends on manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP).

From http://www.techspot.com/review/644-nvidia-geforce-titan/

MSRP for Titan was $1000.


MSRP for R9-290X was $549.
Posted on Reply
#27
vega22
one way of looking at it.

sound more like sour grapes to me than anything else mind.
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#28
john_
rvalencia
It depends on manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP).

From http://www.techspot.com/review/644-nvidia-geforce-titan/

MSRP for Titan was $1000.


MSRP for R9-290X was $549.
If MSRP for 290X was $900 and because of the craziness about coins the price was coming down to $800 (for no logic reason) would everyone was happy or at least OK? I don't think so. I think everyone would be buying 780Ti because 290X's price would have been unreasonable.

Now a lot of people are criticizing the price of 290/290X ignoring the fact that even at these price levels the cards are better or equal value than the Nvidia cards.
This is a good reason to criticize the US retailers and give then some negative votes/feedback, not AMD.


Titan's price was just Nvidia trying to create new price categories for it's products. Continuing losing the low end market because of AMD's APUs and Intel's improved graphics from a joke to good enough, they tried to create new higher prices for the hi end market. $1000 for the absolute top, $700 for the second card. If Nvidia's ways tomorrow become the standard, then the prices would be something like that
880 $1000
870 $700
860 $500
and latter a dual card maybe for $1200.
Let's hope that AMD will not move that way in the future. 4K can give them a good excuse to pump up the prices for the hi end products in the near future.
Posted on Reply
#29
Nordic
If anything I would say Amd's name is more well known by association of crypto currencies. Bitcoin is everywhere in the news. Economists are starting to debate about bitcoin just as bitcoiners want them too. Anyone who wants to know more about bitcoin either for scholarly reasons or for profitability reasons now knows of amd. Most of those mainstream people are not the target audience, gamers as you have mentioned, and will not be buying amd en mass anytime soon.
Who's tongues does amd's name need to be on? The people who will use and recommend AMD or those who don't know the difference between a cpu, gpu, or gosh a confusing one the apu.

Dave, I know your a level headed guy but you comments like yours sound butt hurt. You wanted 290's but since they were unavailable you went with the next best option. Does that change that you wanted amd cards, and if you will or will not next upgrade?

What about the budget grabbers like me, who want one of those 290x's when they are used and cheap? There will be an incredible flood of amd gpu's flooding the market sometime in the next year as lower speced gpu's get out paced, and or gpu mining becomes obsolete. I await this with a gamers zeal.

What about all those who would of went nvidea but chose amd cards so they could mine and game such as myself. I was going to buy nvidea but got a 7970 because it would pay for itself, and it did with interest.

All these sold out cards = profit=RND=Better amd gpu's in the future.
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#30
cadaveca
My name is Dave
james888
Dave, I know your a level headed guy but your comments like yours sound butt hurt. You wanted 290's but since they were unavailable you went with the next best option. Does that change that you wanted amd cards, and if you will or will not next upgrade?
It's not that they were completely unavailable.. I'm waiting for my 780's to ship still because of holiday modness... it's that the price that the R9 290 is available for that makes the R9 290 uninteresting, because frankly, NVidia's got their software in far better condition than AMD does, and the lack of a price difference to realize the problems that AMD has for users like me makes AMD card unappealing. Simply put, the R9 290, just isn't an option due to price increases...over $500 for what was supposed to be a $400 card. Why pay $500 and have driver problems (Crossfire and Multi-monitor) when you can pay $500 and not have those problems?
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#31
JDG1980
Nihilus
Is there nothing the board partners can do? "MSI 290x Bios Modified Sucky Mining Edition" Half the cost of regular 290x cards.
To make the cards unsuitable for mining while still maintaining performance in games, they would need to deliberately cripple GPGPU (OpenCL) performance. That would need to be done at the chip level by AMD, not by board partners.

More to the point, why would an AIB want to do this, even if they could? They're selling every high-end AMD card they can make. Why deliberately cut their profits?
Posted on Reply
#32
happita
Excellent article.

People should post this thread as many places they can, making more websites aware of Litecoin's destructive monopoly on the reputation of the AMD Radeon brand. Hopefully someone (anyone) from AMD will see this somewhere in the interwebz and make some necessary adjustments in their product line-up or at the very least make a suggestion to their managers and higher-ups.

p.s. Maybe this is part of the reason why non-reference designs have been delayed for so long? I've been waiting for other alternatives other than Gigabyte's Windforce, but haven't seen one shred of evidence from the other bigtime players.
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#33
rav
Your analysis and solution is outrageously flawed to the point of bordering on the insanely ludicrous.

nVidia takes great pains to protect is CUDA HPC and GPGPU market to the point of not even engaging in any competitive bechmarking.

Well now the entire world knows just how bad nVidia GPU floating point performance really is. What AMD needs to do now is ramp up production and actively market to the Academic gpu crowd.

As Charles Darwin once observed "nothing succeeds like success". And prices are now starting to stabilise back to suggested retail.

AMD scored this holiday season. They ate nVidia's lunch with the R9 entry price point. The brilliance of that move is nVidia had so much already in the pipe at the old price that they either did not sell or they had to execute a rebate program, all the while loosing market share to AMD. Then the whole Litecoin mining storey broke nVidia's rice bowl. Expect to see a market share gain by AMD Radeon GPU's!
Posted on Reply
#34
hero1
I always find Pre-order prices to be high here in Canada in comparison to when the product is available in stock. So I am not worries about some stores raising prices to $699 because they always price match with other store and AIB prices.
Posted on Reply
#35
JDG1980
rav
Well now the entire world knows just how bad nVidia GPU floating point performance really is.
Scrypt (Litecoin mining) relies on integer operations, not floating-point. Specifically, AMD GPUs can do integer bit rotations in one operation, while Nvidia cards require three.
Posted on Reply
#36
Steevo
Its all OK by me.

AMD has no control over who does what with their cards. Thinking they do is simply ignorant. They build a piece of hardware for the targeted applications, gaming, compute, and for competitive performance per dollar of cost Vs sale cost to the actual purchaser of their GPU core. Look at F@H since it was mentioned, when the first generation of GPU's that supported it was AMD it became a decision for many to make that their next purchase, Nvidia finally came up with hardware that could do it accurately enough and then it was their turn, how many 2-4XX series cards were put in machines just to run F@H and get a higher score? No one complained then that it drove up the cost of their gaming cards, even when the retailer and or Nvidia was gouging the customer.


We have two separate issues here.

First is the blind fanboi following that Nvidia has, and of course AMD wants. Disagree with this all you want, but people bought Titans and gave all sorts of reason why they did, even though logic says you were being screwed, most used them for "benchmark game" and epeen instead of actually gaming.

Second is the idea that somehow AMD and Nvidia are responsible for what their cards are end retailed at. The aren't. They sell a GPU chip to a partner company, who marks up the board and hardware, then sells it to Newegg, who marks it up again to whatver the market will bear. MSRP is what AMD or Nvidia say the card as a whole meeting their base engineering specs should be sold at for everyone to make a standard margin. ARP is what end board makers and retailers say the card is worth to the public, and the sale of cards at that price is the only justification needed.
Posted on Reply
#37
Assimilator
My only confusion with the whole Litecoin/Radeon availability situation is: why has AMD not ramped card production up to "war-time" levels to account for the demand and hence sell more units? AMD has a great opportunity here and, as usual, they don't seem to be taking advantage of it.
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#38
Vinska
>implying they are not producing as much as they can already. Including for the consoles.
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#39
Divide Overflow
Assimilator
My only confusion with the whole Litecoin/Radeon availability situation is: why has AMD not ramped card production up to "war-time" levels to account for the demand and hence sell more units? AMD has a great opportunity here and, as usual, they don't seem to be taking advantage of it.
Two big assumptions here: that AMD's fabrication partner TSMC has the capacity to increase production on short notice and that AMD hasn't already made such a request. There's a significant lead time in placing manufacturing orders to getting boxed products on the shelves ready for sale. The unexpected surge in demand is certainly great for AMD, but it's harsh times for gaming enthusiasts looking to get the most performance for their money.
Posted on Reply
#40
theoneandonlymrk
Regenweald
I don't think this editorial makes any sense. AMD should design and release stripped down chips to deal with a short term craze so as not to undermine its already strong presence in gaming, an industry that has more longevity, and that will certainly outlast this crypto-coin craze.

With dedicated competing ASICs already being sold and in current development that would render these hypothetical 'stripped down' cards moot ?

seriously ?

Because one seasonal shortage will make gamers around the world shun the brand altogether ?
Spot on, and a good question would be.

Why is a guy in hydrabad India moaning about the inflated prices only seen in America, as Bta rightly points out in europe the litecoin markup is non existant as is the shortage.

Bta did an Rma go bad with Amd or something because some of your editorials lately have been ass shaped

hows about an editorial on nvidia or intel eh????
Posted on Reply
#41
damric
It would be funny if the next mining craze would utilize the consoles due to some HSA/energy efficiency ---> miners buy up all the PS4s and XBs ---> everyone switches to PC gaming.

One can wish.
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#42
EarthDog
LOL, this had a Qubit like tone to it... most certainly glad that changed later in the article.

I like your idea about "mining cards", but here is the thing... nobody knows if this unstable 'currency' will even be around in a couple of years or if it will be worth mining at that time. AMD can't spare a penny on something like this...especially with its inherent stability issues.

Not AMD's fault, just a simple market result is all.

Thanks for the read. This was probably the best thing TPU put out in years regardless if I may disagree with the solution!
Posted on Reply
#43
TheinsanegamerN
happita
Excellent article.

People should post this thread as many places they can, making more websites aware of Litecoin's destructive monopoly on the reputation of the AMD Radeon brand. Hopefully someone (anyone) from AMD will see this somewhere in the interwebz and make some necessary adjustments in their product line-up or at the very least make a suggestion to their managers and higher-ups.

p.s. Maybe this is part of the reason why non-reference designs have been delayed for so long? I've been waiting for other alternatives other than Gigabyte's Windforce, but haven't seen one shred of evidence from the other bigtime players.
both MSI's r9 290 and x and Sapphire's r9 290 and x are listed on newegg, although they are sold out. just a little longer until they are in stock hopefully...
Posted on Reply
#44
fullinfusion
Vanguard Beta Tester
cadaveca
the real option for me was the R9 290, and you cannot find it anywhere.
You didn't look hard enough Dave, ncix have a handful of Asus and Gigabyte 290's ;)
Posted on Reply
#45
Octopuss
I don't really care what it does to AMD, but I've had my fucking Asus 280x ordered since 6th december and today got an email from the store saying the cards are not available and they have no idea when will they show up. There are NO other goddamn alternatives at all.
Screw you litecoin.
Posted on Reply
#46
Regenweald
james888
If anything I would say Amd's name is more well known by association of crypto currencies. Bitcoin is everywhere in the news. Economists are starting to debate about bitcoin just as bitcoiners want them too. Anyone who wants to know more about bitcoin either for scholarly reasons or for profitability reasons now knows of amd. Most of those mainstream people are not the target audience, gamers as you have mentioned, and will not be buying amd en mass anytime soon.
Who's tongues does amd's name need to be on? The people who will use and recommend AMD or those who don't know the difference between a cpu, gpu, or gosh a confusing one the apu.
This is an excellent point that I feel makes the original article look like even more nonsense. If anything, the current litecoin craze and extreme shortage is bringing marketing to the AMD brand that their own marketing department has shown incompetency in generating.

People that have no clue as to the inner workings of computers, are now aware of many things:
  • there is something called *coin that people are 'mining' with computers to make money
  • in order to 'mine' these coins you need something called a 'GPU'
  • the *only* GPU that people are talking about are from a company/brand called AMD
So basically, in complete contrast to what the 'editorial' is saying, AMD has in the last few months, expanded their potential market to something exponentially larger than just 'Gamers', namely:
' People out looking to make a quick buck in rough economical times'

That is a pretty lucrative market, and not only that, but that is a market that isn't going anywhere anytime soon. So, if you want to:
  • Mine cryptocoins fast and dirty for an extra income
  • Play videogames whether mantle optimized or at high resolutions
  • Get into content creation
  • etc etc etc...
You can buy an AMD GPU/s and do all of these things. Welcome to general purpose GPU computing.

Article should really be titled 'Why I hope the litecoin craze hurts more than helps brand AMD Radeon'
Posted on Reply
#47
EarthDog
But AMD has done nothing DIRECTLY to be able to mine more efficiently than NVIDIA... It is the mining software/structure and the architecture of the hardware that makes it more efficient. I would be willing to bet money that how AMD works with mining they had nothing to do with as in, they made their architecture more efficient specifically for mining.

I disagree also that AMD doesn't generate 'noise'. I mean, to be fair, that is all they are in marketing is hype. Look at the Rx XXX releases. The vast majority of that press conference had to do with TrueAudio. So, major hype with no content (still marketing regardless of the outcome). Perhaps a positive outcome of their marketing is what you meant?
Posted on Reply
#48
Nordic
EarthDog
But AMD has done nothing DIRECTLY to be able to mine more efficiently than NVIDIA... It is the mining software/structure and the architecture of the hardware that makes it more efficient. I would be willing to bet money that how AMD works with mining they had nothing to do with as in, they made their architecture more efficient specifically for mining.
Who said they had done anything to make their gpu's mine better? Amd just has the right gpu architecture and has been pushing their compute abilities for all gpu's. Not that nvidea is a slouch in compute ability but didn't they cut some of the compute parts off the little kepler cards?
Posted on Reply
#49
cadaveca
My name is Dave
fullinfusion
You didn't look hard enough Dave, ncix have a handful of Asus and Gigabyte 290's ;)
Yes, they do...at $500. Which also buys a GTX780, which performs equally, but has better drivers. I already have a GTX780, so I'm well aware of the differences offered, and while both are very similar, the end experience is too much apart.

james888
Who said they had done anything to make their gpu's mine better? Amd just has the right gpu architecture and has been pushing their compute abilities for all gpu's. Not that nvidea is a slouch in compute ability but didn't they cut some of the compute parts off the little kepler cards?
There are significant resources in AMD GPUs that don't benefit gaming directly, and compute only. GTX780 proves that easily enough...what it lacks and AMD has...doesn't benefit gaming in any way, really...

AMD has ALWAYS pushed compute, really, they were the first to offer GPU F@H, before NVidia started sponsoring Stanford (who now has a building in s certain somebody's name, making it undeniable), it's just not looked at that AMD has because someone else has had a far larger voice in that market. So AMD knew exactly WHAT they were doing in those designs that sit on some shelves today.
Posted on Reply
#50
Nihilus
JDG1980
They're selling every high-end AMD card they can make. Why deliberately cut their profits?
Good point, frustration leads to silly comments...
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