[News] Chinese Companies Reportedly Disassembling NVIDIA Gaming Cards for AI Development

2024-01-12 Semiconductors editor

After the U.S. authorities strengthens export restrictions on high-end processors, reports have emerged that Chinese companies are actively changing the purpose of PC gaming chips and utilizing them for the development of AI tools.

According to a report from the Financial Times on January 10, factory managers and chip buyers familiar with the details disclosed that every month, thousands of NVIDIA gaming cards are being disassembled in factories and workstations. The core components are then installed onto new circuit boards.

A factory manager further indicated that in December 2023 alone, their workers disassembled over 4,000 NVIDIA gaming cards, more than four times the quantity of November.

These modified components are primarily supplied to listed companies and small AI laboratories. They are rushing to accumulate a sufficient supply of NVIDIA server chips before the export controls take effect in the United States.

Industry sources have reportedly warned that modifying NVIDIA products would violate the company’s intellectual property rights, and certain gaming cards could be subject to bans at any time.

NVIDIA’s most powerful gaming card, the “GeForce RTX 4090,” is a popular choice for modification, but it is now prohibited from being sold in China. In December 2023, NVIDIA released a throttled-down version for China, the “GeForce RTX 4090 D,” which is 5% slower than versions available in other regions.

A factory manager has indicated a “significant” performance difference between the 4090 D and the regular 4090, suggesting that the downgraded version may not be suitable for training large language models (LLMs).

Although NVIDIA has developed three versions of AI chips specifically designed for China (expected to be launched in March), they face reluctance from Chinese customers due to weaker performance compared to the previously available versions in China, coupled with pricing that is almost similar to the more powerful but banned versions.

The recent report from The Wall Street Journal also addressed the lack of interest in NVIDIA’s downgraded models by Chinese customers. According to the data from TrendForce, currently, around 80% of the high-end AI chips used by Chinese cloud computing companies are sourced from NVIDIA. However, in the next five years, this proportion may decrease to 50% to 60%.

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(Photo credit: NVIDIA)

Please note that this article cites information from Finacial Times and MoneyDJ