For better or for worse, the crypto craze changed the PC hardware landscape. Coming off of the recent crypto “crash”, any long-reaching effects have yet to be realized, but the point still stands.
While, at the time of writing, the GPU shortage and rampant scalping of cards seems to be at an end, the crypto craze itself managed to force even NVIDIA’s hands. The crypto craze hit its peak around the same time the next-gen 30xx cards were released. Unsurprisingly, on top of being fantastic gaming cards, they also proved to be fantastic mining cards.
This combination of high demand and low supply (and the potential for an entirely new market) led NVIDIA to create a new version of already existing cards: LHR, or Lite Hash Rate. As the name suggests, LHR cards have a lower hash rate than their Full Hash Rate (FHR) counterparts. It sounds simple, but it also leads to a couple of questions. What is a hash rate? How do you know your card’s hash rate? Does being LHR or FHR impact gaming performance—which is the main purpose of these cards in the first place? Keep reading to find out.
What is Hash Rate?
While cryptocurrency itself is well outside the scope of this guide, a basic understanding is necessary to explain the difference between LHR and FHR, as well as the importance of hash rate itself.
Cryptocurrency is complicated, so it’s best to keep things simple. If you’ve looked into cryptocurrency (especially Bitcoin), you’ve probably heard the following term: “Bitcoin is a decentralized, universal ledger (and currency) based on proof-of-work instead of trust.” And while it’s true, the textbook definition isn’t exactly helpful, either.
Despite its intangibility, cryptocurrency is just that—a currency. Meaning that it can be used for purchases, and that it can be sent and received. For these exchanges to happen, those transactions need to be verified. Normally a bank would handle that, but the appeal of cryptocurrency is that they cut out the banks altogether.
This is where miners step in. In (extremely) simple terms, they use processing power to verify those transactions. Once those transactions have been verified, they’re added to the blockchain as a new “block.”
There’s a lot more to it, but hash rate dictates how quickly a block can be added, meaning that hash rate is essentially a card’s mining speed. The higher the hash rate, the higher the cryptocurrency yield—and the higher the profits.
As mentioned before, there’s a few reasons, but in the midst of the crypto craze, NVIDIA decided to lower the hash rate of cards, significantly decreasing their mining efficiency.
How do you Know if a Card is LHR or FHR?
With the exception of the 3070 Ti and the 3080 Ti, NVIDIA’s own Founder Edition cards are not affected by the hash rate limiter—mainly because they were created before the limiter was implemented. The crown jewel of the lineup, the 3090 (and its subsequent TI variant) has also never been fitted with a limiter of any sort.
While at this point in time, boxes will have something identifying cards as LHR, the rule of thumb is that if you bought a GPU after July 2021, it’s probably LHR. Some models (including the 3070 Ti and 3080 Ti) only have LHR variants.
If you don’t have the box anymore (even though you should always keep it!) and aren’t quite sure when you purchased it, there’s a number of programs out there that can tell you whether your card is FHR or LHR. I won’t be recommending any here, so be sure to do your research—some may be more trustworthy than others.
Does Hash Rate Affect Gaming?
While the 30-series of cards are undoubtedly excellent at mining, they were designed to be gaming cards first and foremost. So does hash rate affect their gaming performance? No. At least, not really.
The amount of data on this particular subject is somewhat lacking. In the first place, finding a LHR and FHR card of the exact same model is a bit tricky. Luckily, Tech Critter has a great article (and video—see below) comparing a FHR and an LHR ZOTAC 3070 to one another.
As you can see on the graphs, there’s no discernible difference between the two. This is to be expected. While LHR cards are technically inferior to their FHR counterparts, hash rate is mostly irrelevant to the world of gaming.
Any difference between LHR and FHR cards can be chalked up to other factors. Airflow, build quality, or even silicon quality. In conclusion, having an LHR card shouldn’t affect its gaming performance whatsoever.
Should you be Worried?
I debated a little bit as to whether or not to write this section. Following the announcement of LHR, some people were speculating that the decision to do so would invariably lead to consumers being sold an inferior product at the same price—and that the gaming community was being punished for something that miners were doing.
I think there’s some truth to this.
However, I do think that NVIDIA handled this as best they could. The cryptomining scene is new, meaning that solutions and fixes have yet to be discovered. I also think it’s important to keep in mind that, at their core, these cards are meant for gaming. And their gaming performance hasn’t been touched.