Do Nvidia LHR GPUs perform worse than regular Nvidia GPUs?
What does Lite Hash Rate even mean, anyway?
What is an Nvidia LHR GPU?
An Nvidia LHR GPU is an Nvidia Lite Hash Rate GPU.
This refers to an Nvidia graphics card where the graphics card’s hash rate has been reduced by Nvidia before being sold to the market, ostensibly as an attempt to sell cheaper graphics cards to gamers and other consumers not impacted by GPU hash rate.
More on how that went in a bit; for now, let’s define hash rate.
What is GPU Hash Rate?
GPU hash rate basically refers to the number of raw “hash” equations used by cryptocurrencies and similar technologies that a graphics card can solve in a second.
More hash rate equals faster mining, and hash rate scales fairly well with raw GPU calculation horsepower.
If you’ve ever seen the heavy-duty thousand-dollar GPUs used for professional GPU rendering, you have an idea what’s going on here.
Hash rate is pretty much exclusive to cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology, though. In theory, that should mean its impact on tasks unrelated to these workloads should be nonexistent.
The main determining factor of whether this holds true is if an LHR GPU achieves its goal by altering software or hardware.
If hardware is altered fundamentally, things, like compute performance (which boost but are not hash rate), may be impacted.
So let’s do some research. This is the fun part!
How Does GPU Hash Rate Impact Performance For Gaming?
For the most part, GPU hash rate has no noticeable performance impact on gaming.
Where performance differences between LHR and non-LHR versions of a card exist, these are down to changes in cooling design or factory overclocks rather than hash rate changes.
As a great example, I’ve embedded a video from Testing Games on YouTube below, showcasing this across nine different modern games.
Where a (marginal) performance difference is apparent, it’s generally explained by the non-LHR version of the card having an improved cooling setup (namely, a larger heatsink and an extra fan- 3 compared to the LHR’s 2.) Otherwise, these GPUs perform identically- because they are identical.
At least for gaming performance. What about other rendering tasks?
How Does GPU Hash Rate Impact Performance For Productivity and Rendering?
Fortunately, LHR GPUs don’t really negatively impact productivity or professional rendering tasks, either!
The difference between non-LHR vs LHR performance in the GPU Rendering Benchmark in V-Ray 5 below is pretty much down to the margin of error.
Puget Systems ran thorough benchmarks for video editing, rendering, and even photogrammetry and failed to find any meaningful performance difference between LHR and non-LHR GPUs.
With this in mind, I think it’s fair to say that reports of LHR GPUs negatively impacting non-mining performance have been greatly exaggerated.
In the few circumstances where this may be the case, it’s more likely to be caused by a lower-end cooler configuration or factory clock speed than actual hash rate-related bottlenecking.
How Does GPU Hash Rate Impact Mining Performance?
It does directly impact mining performance- pretty much linearly depending on how much the rate is lowered.
However, there’s a catch that Nvidia’s marketing won’t mention…
Can These Limits Be Subverted?
Yes. In fact, in a rather embarrassing incident, Nvidia broke the limit themselves by accidentally releasing a beta driver for an LHR version of the RTX 3060 (at launch!) with the limiter removed.
While the LHR limits can be broken in other ways for other LHR cards, doing so is not officially sanctioned by Nvidia, and doing so would likely void your hardware’s warranty.
With this in mind, I won’t be directing you to subvert the hash rate limiter- but it only impacts crypto, and this is a product explicitly aimed at being a cheaper product for non-crypto miners.
Now is as good a time as any to discuss how the hash rate limit is actually implemented.
LHR is forced through software, yes, but there’s a genuine hardware aspect to it, too, including a handshake between on-board software and silicon.
Because of this, LHR unlockers are actually unable to unlock the full hash rate of the non-LHR version of the card (the absolute best-case scenarios are around 70 percent), rendering most LHR GPUs a genuine downgrade for even the most determined miners.
How else can I put my PC to work when I’m not using it?
If you aren’t interested in crypto but still have notions of putting your PC to work while you aren’t actively using it, there are solutions for you.
The first place I would consider going to is Folding @ Home.
Folding @ Home means you’re donating your processing power to help understand and find cures for existing diseases.
Should I use GPU or CPU Rendering for my workloads?
If you’re looking to use your PC hardware for professional workloads, you may be wondering whether a powerful GPU or CPU is better for the job.
When it comes to rendering workloads, you can get fairly impressive visuals with CPU and GPU alike- perhaps even better with CPU-based rendering- but GPUs have their own key advantages.
Namely, speed and modern real-time GPU power in general. Even mid-range GPUs can get fairly close-to-CPU results faster than most high-end CPUs can.
Alex has written about this in more detail than I have- peruse his CPU vs GPU rendering guide if you want a more detailed take!
Over to You
And that’s it!
I hope that this article helped teach you a little more about graphics card technology and how manufacturers and end-users can alter its use.
What about you: will you be grabbing an Nvidia LHR GPU?
Chances are they’ll still end up being a great deal on the secondhand market whenever there’s a crypto crash. Otherwise, they’re seemingly just slightly-cheaper versions of regular Nvidia GPUs.