WTF?! On Thursday the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) reported that they had shut down a cryptomining operation in the city of Vinnytsia, seizing over 500 GPUs and 50 processors — and a bunch of Playstation 4s. Consoles built on 2013-era technology might not be great at mining, but they don’t need to be when you have 3,800 of them.
Although the market for GPUs is starting to improve, and dedicated ASICs might be on the way to relieve demand, it seems that one group of enterprising cryptocurrency miners have turned to last-gen console hardware to get things done.
From the photos provided by the SSU, it looks like these consoles are of the PS4 Slim variety, the 2016 refresh of the original console from three years prior. Mostly obsolete for newer games, it’s not at all surprising that so many could be sourced en masse so easily.
Still, while the PS4 Slim ran more efficiently than the baseline PS4 thanks to a node shrink on the APU, it wasn’t any faster. It’s hard to estimate what kind of performance you could get on a console jury-rigged to mine cryptocurrency, but the GPU in the PS4 Pro is a lower-powered derivative of the silicon in AMD’s RX 480 — and that card’s higher-clocking refresh, the RX 580, was found by Tom’s Hardware to be a pretty inefficient card for Ethereum mining these days, even when tuned.
On the other hand, Ethereum mining is often more dependent on memory bandwidth than compute performance, and there the base PS4 and Slim manage 176 GB/s with their 8 GB of shared GDDR5. That’s less than the 217.6 GB/s of the Pro model, and the 256 GB/s of their desktop counterparts, but not as far behind as it is in other metrics such as TFLOPS often cited in console-related debates.
Either way, it’s almost certain that the miners were using the PS4 for its pricing and availability rather than speed nor efficiency, especially given the vast number of consoles in use. Plus, like some previously busted mining operations, they were stealing electricity from the Vinnytsia power grid, so power usage was unlikely to be a concern.