AMD, ATI cash in as crypto currency craze eats up video cards

Litecoin miners have cleared the shelves of high-end video cards and driven up prices for existing stock

With bitcoin mining out of reach for all but a small, self-selecting crew of those willing to throw thousands of dollars at custom ASICs, crypto currency buffs are turning their attention toward other coinages that can be mined on desktop GPUs. But that rush of attention has created a problem for gamers and video card makers: a short-term graphics card shortage.

ExtremeTech has reported that miners of litecoin, an alternative to bitcoin with far less egregious computational demands needed to produce the coins, have just about cleaned the shelves of high-end AMD-powered video cards.

Why the rush for AMD cards? AMD's Radeon GPU chip set is apparently better-suited for the number crunching used in coin mining than the GPUs of competitor Nvidia, which also work, though not as well. Since November, the litecoin hash rate -- the amount of coin-mining activity taking place in the litecoin network -- has more than doubled. (Crypto currencies, litecoin included, are generally designed to be more difficult to mine as time goes on.)

That's not all that's jumped, either. The prices of ATI's Radeon R9 290X video card, one of the highest-end video cards out there as of this writing (therefore, ideal for mining), peaked at $900 on March 4, up from its original launch price of $550. It's since fallen back to a slightly less dramatic $699, but demand remains high.

AMD aims to keep gamers happy with the new Radeon R9 280, which will sport a suggested list price of $299 when it launches this week. Here's hoping everyone's digital gold fever subsides long enough to let the Titanfall and Crysis 3 fans get their fix, too.

This story, "AMD, ATI cash in as crypto currency craze eats up video cards," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.