Crypto Mining Version of RTX 2080 Ti Crippled By PCIe Lanes in Gaming Test

Nvidia’s crypto mining processor (or CMP) graphics cards were launched back in 2021 to capitalize on the interest in cryptocurrency, and were also locked down with supposedly no gaming capability. Of course, nothing in the tech world can be locked down forever, and users have found ways to get games running on CMP GPUs now. But even a CMP card with RTX 2080 Ti levels of cores can’t do well in games thanks to one more trick Nvidia had up its sleeve: removing PCIe lanes.

The tests come courtesy of Professional Review (via Videocards), which got its hands on the CMP 50HX that’s effectively a cut-down version of the 2080 Ti. You’re not supposed to be able to run games on the 50HX since Nvidia’s drivers don’t work on it and it doesn’t even have video ports. The workaround is to install modified drivers, get video output from the motherboard, and then set Windows to use the graphics card instead of the integrated graphics. It’s basically like Optimus Technology from laptops, running on a desktop.

Although Professional Review got the 50HX working in games, it had low usage and performed horrifically (though we don’t have specific numbers). This is perhaps because of Nvidia’s removal of PCIe lanes. The 2080 Ti normally comes with 16 lanes, but CMP GPUs have just four. That was fine for mining Ethereum, but not so great for gaming — especially if you’re doing rendering on the GPU and then transferring the finished frames over the PCIe bus to the Intel integrated graphics buffer.

Normally, GPUs have more PCIe bandwidth than they need, and cutting that bandwidth in half usually doesn’t reduce performance. But there are occasions where the extra lanes and bandwidth are more useful, like Optimus Technology. It seems cutting the amount of lanes by 75% is a bridge too far for a cut-down version of the 2080 Ti that sends frames over the PCIe bus. Professional Review attempted to enable the other 12 lanes on the 50HX with a solder job, but wasn’t able to bring them back online.

Between the lack of GPU drivers, video ports, and PCIe lanes, CMP GPUs aren’t just difficult to hack; they don’t even perform that well. Of course, CMP was a short-lived experiment. You can’t get an Ada Lovelace CMP card since Nvidia stopped making them after it declared crypto had failed to “bring anything useful to society.” They’re an interesting novelty today, but not a serious alternative to standard gaming GPUs.

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