The second GPU mining craze is over. Ethereum has successfully merged to become proof-of-stake. With these events, the initial deluge of used mining graphics cards finally lowered GPU prices to the point of reasonability. There’s quite a variety of model choices, too, with most of them already finding their place on used marketplaces like Facebook, Craiglist, and eBay.
But is it safe to buy a GPU that has been tirelessly mining for various cryptocurrencies? Wouldn’t these graphics cards, supposedly “enslaved to work 24/7”, whirring fans day and night, tweaked for optimized performance, be in a worse condition than the standard used GPUs? We talked with some of miner friends over at Coinslotty and found out the answers, find them below:
Disadvantages of Used Mining GPUs
- The exact operational lifetime is unknown. Even with regular PC components, knowing exactly how long they were used is critical in determining whether they are still worth buying. The assessment becomes even more challenging for mining GPUs because you can most likely assume that these were used for as long as possible, generally 24/7, so accelerated natural deterioration becomes the default expectation.
- The previous standard GPU configuration is unknown. Was the system environment cool enough? Did any of the board chips reach alarming temperatures during extended periods? What were the longest-running overclocking/underclocking settings? With no clear knowledge, the confidence that its previous users knew what they were doing with the hardware became less and less.
- Overworked VRAM chips. Cryptocurrency mining is a very graphics memory-intensive process. As such, even though the primary GPU die doesn’t get stressed out (especially if kept cool and underclocked properly), the memory chips might be subject to much harder workloads. The worst part? This isn’t immediately apparent without extensively benchmarking the GPU first and finding errors such as image artifacts.
- Worn-out fans. Possibly the most common issue for ex-mining graphics cards. Since the GPU is set to operate at high usage levels continuously, they are often configured with faster fan curves set to work 24/7. This potentially shortens the life span of the fans. Not exactly a problem if replacement fans are available online, but it could be a headache shortly if they’re not.
- Possible voided warranty. Standard treatment for used mining GPUs, especially for those who are not too tech-savvy, is often bad enough that it can effectively void the product’s warranty. Even if the item is still officially covered by its warranty period, the manufacturer may not accept the GPU if found to be used for mining.
Advantages of Used Mining GPUs
- Significantly lower price for the performance provided. Because used mining GPUs are often sold in large quantities, the amount you can save can be huge. Often, you are looking at about half or less than half of that specific GPU’s MSRP. The cost reduction is more likely enough to drop down an entire price tier without sacrificing performance.
- Availability for the specific card and model you want. Unlike during the GPU shortage, the flood of used mining GPUs in the market means you have a wide selection for any particular product you need and want. With the right time investment and negotiation, you might even snag an exclusive model for a deal that would have been impossible a few years back.
- Negligible risks for the right seller. If the seller is a very reputable, tech-savvy user that knows how to configure the mining GPUs properly for optimized performance with the lowest rate of wear and tear, then all of the disadvantages above can be safely ignored.
- Negligible risks for the right model. High-end models often have very robust cooling solutions. Huge heatsinks, double-sided memory thermal protection, well-integrated backplates, and vapor chamber tubes. These models are most likely designed for overclocking enthusiasts, thus, are far more than capable of sustained GPU mining.
The Best-Used Mining GPUs to Buy
- Refurbished RX 580 and RX 570 – New GPUs such as this one are ex-mining GPUs, transplanted with components such as memory chips from older functional graphics cards. They should last for some time, though the GPU’s performance level and feature set may already be in its last few years with newer triple-A games.
- RX 5700 XT –despite being the second-best and the most popular mining GPU during the second crypto-mining craze, this GPU is still highly recommended to be bought second-hand. The price-to-performance is absolutely top-notch, blowing away its competitors, the RX 6600 XT, RX 6650 XT, and especially the RTX 3060 in value.
- RTX 3070 – the next step up the value ladder after the RX 5700 XT. This GPU also happens to be very abundant, at least during the first wave of used mining GPU in the second-hand market. What you get is the performance of an RTX 2080 Super with power requirements less than that of a GTX 1080 Ti.
- RTX 3090 Ti – the most recent GPU to be released just before the end of the GPU mining craze. Therefore, its operational lifetime is still fresh and most likely covered under a few years of warranty. This GPU also has the best memory chips of the RTX 30-series and top-notch cooling solutions, so VRAM issues are almost nonexistent.
So, Is It Safe to Buy Mining GPUs?
Yes. Absolutely. Even though mining GPUs operate 24/7, the intensity of the workload is significantly below that of a gaming GPU. Power loads and temperatures also do not fluctuate, unlike the irregular spikes that occur when playing games. Fans may be worn out, but you’re still golden as long as replacement fans are available online (double-check first!).
You need to watch out for bad sellers, though, such as those that caused the notorious Radeon cracked die incident. But all in all, you still get a very good performance value at a reasonable cost.