AMD has been right in the middle of the previous cryptocurrency mining booms, so it's no big surprise that the company’s most recent Navi-based GPU products have caught the eye of mining operations. As one would expect, when crypto miners gobble up every GPU possible, little stock is left for gamers who are just looking for a card to play games. There’s a chance AMD may be working on a mining-specific GPU that could potentially ease some of the product shortage that has been squeezing the PC gaming market for months.
Eagle-eyed readers of the patch notes from the most recent AMDGPU Linux kernel driver have spotted changes that point to the possibility that AMD may be prepping a headless GPU for the crypto mining market. A headless GPU is a product that lacks any video output capability and cannot be connected to a display. GPUs that are used in mining do not need to output a picture and simply crunch numbers that are fed through the PCI-E interface.
The Linux kernel driver notes indicate that a Navi12-based SKU will be heading to market and that it lacks Video Core Next (VCN) support. VCN is responsible for handling video output. The Navi 12 GPUs are based on the RDNA1 architecture which was first made available for mainstream gaming use in AMD’s RX 5700-series graphics cards. The RDNA2 architecture was used for AMD’s RX 6000-series GPUs from late 2020 as well as in both the PS5 and Xbox Series X consoles.
Using the older architecture for mining GPUs appears to be an attempt to serve the crypto farm market without diluting the supply of the newer RX 6000 cards intended for PC gaming use. AMD has made no formal announcements or statements in regards to releasing crypto mining-focused cards, but if they have plans to capitalize on the current spike in crypto value, these products need to arrive sooner than later.