Computer hardware and electronics company ASUS has launched a new partnership that allows gamers to mine cryptocurrency with their idle graphics cards, as reported last week by CoinDesk, Cointelegraph, CCN, and all of the usual suspects.
To bring in these sweet crypto returns, gamers install an application which runs in the background of their PC, where it uses the GPU to perform crypto mining calculations when it is not being otherwise occupied.
It seems like a great example of using spare capacity—you bought the graphics card anyway, so why not make money with it?—but none of these articles mention that these gamers would probably make less money through mining than they’d spend on electricity.
In effect, it only makes financial sense in a situation where the owner of the computer isn’t paying for power: like someone who lives with their parents, or in a college dorm.
Though there are other cloud mining applications, ASUS is specifically touting the benefits of the product made by Singapore-based Quantumcloud. In the only concrete figures quoted on the Quantumcloud site, the company states:
“An example of a typical scenario would be a gaming PC with a GTX 1070. This system could generate more than 20000 Quantum dots every day, which would result in approximately USD$10 deposited in your account over the course of a month. You won’t get rich quick, but you can earn some easy money with your idle GPUs. So, what are you waiting for?”
Hey, if mom and dad are picking up the bill, why not do it anyway?
We can use this figure as a benchmark for financial returns with a specific piece of hardware. GeForce, makers of the GTX 1070, list its max power consumption at 150W. Let’s assume that mining using Quantumcloud will keep it at two-thirds capacity on average, or 100W, over a 24-hour period. Electricity is priced by the kilowatt hour, so 100W per hour is 0.1 kWh, multiplied by 24 hours x 31 days = 74.4 kWh of energy usage per month.
If our gamer pays the average US price of 13.3 cents per kWh, they spend $9.90 for the above power usage, profiting a cool 10 cents on the $10 return. If the GPU’s power consumption is above 100W on average, or the payout is any lower than Quantumcloud suggests (and with markets down, that’s a strong possibility) then that tiny profit disappears. And if the gamer lives somewhere with more expensive electricity, like New York where the average cost is 20.8 cents per kWh, they spend $15.47 per month at 100W power consumption, making a loss of more than $5.
A qualification worth making here is that there are non-financial motives for mining cryptocurrency. More widespread distribution of mining power is a worthwhile goal in itself, and a gamer who believed in decentralization might find it acceptable to mine at a small loss as a contribution to the health of the network as a whole.
Overall though, mining with your idle GPU is not going to make you rich, and might even lose you money. But, hey, if mom and dad are picking up the bill, why not do it anyway?