Monday, December 4, 2017

The most profitable graphics card for mining - December 2017

Last month was a historic month for Bitcoin, with the cryptocurrency breaking $10,000 for the first time -- and it didn't stop there, coming very close to $12,000 before settling back down to around $11,000. That means profitability, if you had started mining in early November, was about 50 percent higher than initial estimates, because difficulty adjustments lag slightly behind price adjustments.

But what does that mean going forward? If I could tell you that with 100 percent certainty, I wouldn't have to write this blog. LOL. But seriously, when you look at the way investment groups and others are getting behind Bitcoin and other blockchain technologies, the current low 5-digit valuation could be woefully inadequate. 21 million total Bitcoin -- EVER! -- means in 10-20 years it's not inconceivable for a valuation of more than a million dollars per BTC.

There are those that suggest treating Bitcoin like a piece of art. If you buy a masterpiece today, and sit on it for 20 years, it could be worth ten times as much in the future. So get ahold of a few BTC, sock it away in long-term storage, and check back in 20 years. I suspect despite the naysayers, it will have much better returns than any stock you could buy. Imagine having bought into Microsoft or Apple back in the 80s. $1,000 worth of MSFT stock at the $21 IPO, it would be worth about $4.4 million today, and $1,000 of AAPL from 1980 would be worth about $430K. Bitcoin could blow both of those away, even from the current price of $11K... but how should you go about acquiring some BTC?

You could just buy some BTC, naturally, but I'm a proponent of mining. Even if a cryptocurrency tanks, you at least have the hardware to sell/use, defraying the risk somewhat. And at $11K, I suspect we're due for a correction at some point in the next year -- after which we might see the price soar to $50K or more. Again, think long-term.

If you're looking to get into cryptocurrency mining using GPUs, here are the numbers for current graphic cards. Historically, AMD GPUs were the go-to choice, but much has changed and there are algorithms that run better on Nvidia hardware, with others that favor AMD hardware. Depending on availability and pricing, buying only AMD (or Nvidia) cards may not be the best idea -- spread out your investment over the top GPUs for each vendor, to minimize risk.

I've been GPU (and sometimes CPU) mining since the early days of Bitcoin, back in 2011. I didn't have the foresight to hold everything (which would be well over 2,000 BTC now), but I've made money, slowly and steadily over time, and I've paid off all of my investments and then some. While people getting into mining now are sort of late to the party, it's still possible to earn money -- just not quite as fast as before.

Chasing the alt-coin-of-the-day can be a full-time job, so if you're not interested in constantly monitoring the cryptocurrency market, save yourself the headache and lease your hashing power on NiceHash. Doing it that way means you may miss out on short-term bubbles (I was mining about 50 ETH per day in mid-2016, which I sold at mostly <$10 prices), but long-term it's a lot less work.

Mining requires a lot of power, typically 1000-1500W per mining rig. Power means heat, so in the summer things can become problematic. In the winter, however, all the mining can be used to heat your home. I also set my GPUs to run at lower than maximum power, for longevity purposes, with custom fan curves to balance income, efficiency, noise, and power use. That's a topic for another day, but 80-90% of maximum power (and not overclocking) is the safe approach to long-term mining.

So what do you need to get mining? First you need a PC, which consists of a CPU, motherboard, memory, storage, and power supply. I'm going to target the best returns, which means going low on the CPU while using high-end power supplies, and then using as many GPUs as you can reasonably run off of the power supply (or power supplies). With mining motherboards from Asus, ASRock, and Biostar supporting over 12 GPUs, that can be the fastest way to break even. Here's what you'll need, along with approximate monthly income and ROI figures:

Pentium G4600: $87
Asus B250 Mining Expert: $150
16GB DDR4 memory: $165
240GB SSD: $75
1000W 80 Plus Platinum PSU: $185
6x PCIe Risers: $60
TOTAL: $712

Because of the change in motherboard, plus supporting up to 12 GPUs, the base build varies on what you want to run. You can technically do up to 19 GPUs, with caveats, but I'm going to run the nubmers for 6 and 12 GPUs. If you run 12 250-300W GPUs you'll need two or even three PSUs, and potentially even go with a 1200W PSU. But for the following calculations, I'm going to use 6 or 12 GPUs, with one, two, or three PSUs as appropriate.

The following is only an estimate, and actually income will vary on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Also note that some of the GPU pricing comes via used cards on eBay, which I don't generally recommend buying -- someone has probably already mined the cards to near-death.

GPU Price (GPU) Price (6x) Price (12x) 1x Income 6x Income 12x Income ROI
GTX 1080 Ti $770 $5,102 $10,284 $4.06 $24.38 $48.77 189-226 days
GTX 1080 $540 $3,722 $7,524 $3.55 $21.30 $42.60 152-194 days
GTX 1070 Ti $450 $3,182 $6,444 $3.38 $20.28 $40.56 133-177 days
GTX 1070 $410 $2,730 $5,752 $3.09 $18.56 $37.13 133-171 days
GTX 1060 6GB $260 $1,830 $3,952 $2.01 $12.07 $24.13 129-188 days
GTX 1060 3GB $212 $1,542 $3,376 $1.73 $10.37 $20.74 123-191 days
*GTX 980 Ti $350 $2,582 $5,244 $2.57 $15.41 $30.82 136-195 days
*GTX 980 $270 $2,102 $4,284 $1.85 $11.11 $22.22 146-227 days
*GTX 970 $200 $1,470 $3,232 $1.69 $10.12 $20.23 119-189 days
RX Vega 64 $700 $4,894 $9,656 $4.04 $24.26 $48.52 173-218 days
RX Vega 56 $625 $4,444 $8,756 $3.49 $20.92 $41.83 179-231 days
RX 580 8GB $280 $2,162 $4,404 $2.06 $12.38 $24.76 136-208 days
RX 570 4GB $250 $1,982 $4,044 $1.96 $11.75 $23.51 128-204 days
*R9 Fury $400 $2,882 $5,844 $2.78 $16.70 $33.40 144-197 days
*R9 390 $300 $2,282 $4,644 $2.33 $13.99 $27.98 129-193 days
*R9 380 $175 $1,320 $2,932 $1.33 $7.97 $15.94 132-221 days
* - These are used cards, so these are here mostly for reference.

As you can see, the increase in Bitcoin prices has had a direct impact on profitability for mining, but it has also caused GPU prices to trend upward. Nearly all of the cards cost 10-20 percent more this month than last month, which is unfortunate. And just in time for the holidays, which means little Johnny isn't as likely to get a shiny new GPU under the Christmas tree.

Overall, given other factors like initial setup costs, power use, and card availability, Nvidia's GTX 1070 Ti is potentially the best option right now, or the existing GTX 1070. On a pure ROI basis, if you're only looking at buying a graphics card, the GTX 1060 3GB is the best option. The card prices are current as of the above date, but inventory may cause wild fluctuations over the next few weeks.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Black Friday Graphics Card Deals

Black Friday is upon us, as well as Cyber Monday and all the other days in between. Happy Thanksgiving be damned, let's have some good old capitalistic greed! But if you're interested in buying a graphics card, here are a bunch of quick links to the various GPUs, sorted by price (except where Amazon's search algorithm sucks, which it often does).

Here's the shocking reality: graphics card prices on several models are higher this holiday season than the same cards were one year ago. In 2016 you could find the GTX 1070 for as little as $360 during Black Friday, and often well under $400. I'll be surprised if we see better prices this year, simply because all of the cards are selling almost as fast as AMD and Nvidia can make them.

And a big part of that is thanks to all of my miner friends. Which is sort of fun to see, as the gamers of the world still haven't quite figured out what the hell cryptocurrencies are and why they're so valuable. Ha.

In the meantime, I'm keeping my eyes on Neuromation, which is nearing launch and claiming that the demand for machine learning could deliver 'mining' payouts that are three to five times higher than what we're making off traditional mining. Wouldn't that be nice -- and it would go toward solving real-world problems rather than just securing the blockchain. I'll believe it when I see it, as the tokens they talk about using to buy compute power are generated by ... you guessed it: traditional GPU mining and blockchain technologies.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

History in the making: Bitcoin passes the $2000 mark

When the $1,500 barrier went down earlier this month, I figured $2,000 was only a matter of time. And like a stock going crazy on the exchange, Bitcoin rocketed up and hit its new all-time high just two weeks later.

The question on everyone's mind right now is: What happens next?

I could pull out a bunch of fancy charts and draw lines on them, but the truth is no one really knows. I suspect the instability of the US president isn't helping confidence in the US dollar, and plenty of other countries have reasons to look for some alternative investment.

Stick a bunch of money into Bitcoin, and yes, you might lose value. But suppose you had put $100,000 into Bitcoin back at the last surge in late 2013. 3.5 years later your investment is worth over $200,000. Of course that's after falling to a value of less than $30,000 for over a year, but Bitcoin has a habit of rebounding, and then some.

If you've ever looked at Microsoft, Apple, or Intel stock and thought, "Man, I wish I had the foresight to invest in those companies back in the mid-80s when they were still small..." just know this: Bitcoin has the potential to eclipse all of those stocks over the coming decades. Remember that above all, Bitcoin is the VERY FIRST CRYPTOCURRENCY. Lots of other coins have tried to do better than Bitcoin, most of them have failed catastrophically.

If you're looking for other options, Ethereum is doing amazingly well over the past year. It has features Bitcoin lacks, and maybe one day it will become the top coin. There's also Ripple, which has the distinction of being backed/supported by some banks, or Nem, Litecoin, or Dash. But if I were a betting man, I'd stick with Bitcoin and Ethereum.

See you in four more years, when we can all look back at today and think, "If only I had invested when Bitcoin was still only $2000...."

Saturday, May 13, 2017

GeForce GTX 970 4GB Mining Performance

It's not quite as old of technology as the R9 380, but the GeForce GTX 970 has been around for a while. It originally launched in late 2014, and at the time the gaming performance was pretty awesome but the mining potential was somewhat lackluster. Time improved the situation, but even now the GTX 970 is only about the equal of an R9 380 for cryptocurrency mining -- though there are algorithms where it does better.

If you're willing to go the eBay route, you can pick up the GTX 970 for about $150. Gaming performance is definitely better than R9 380, and often better than the RX 470 as well, but again I'm here for mining talk. Here's how things look, running a bog standard (not overclocked) Zotac card:

Here's how things look on WhatToMine, though there's a chance some of the algorithms are just running poorly on my 970. Anyway, NiceHashMiner shows profitability of $1.50-$2.00, and a power cost of around $0.26 per day. If you're willing to mine other coins, Hush (Equihash) is currently netting around $2 per day.

Using the eBay price of $150, that means ROI is only 100 days, possibly as few as 75 depending on what you mine. The cool thing about buying a used GTX 970 is that they aren't actually popular mining cards, which means you're far more likely to get a card that was only used for gaming purposes. That means it's more likely to run without problems -- at least until you run the fans into the ground with mining. Poor GPU.

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Radeon R9 380 4GB Mining Performance

Some people think the only way to get into mining is with brand new graphics cards, but the reality is that even GPUs from several years ago are still doing fine. Take the R9 380 4GB, which is a minor update to the R9 285, which in turn is quite similar in overall mining performance to the R9 280, and the R9 280 is just a renamed HD 7950. Was that all too confusing? Then let me help you out with some specific dates.

AMD launched the HD 7950 clear back in early 2012 -- over five years ago! At its height, the HD 7950 could earn about $3 per day and cost $330. The R9 280 was the same card, rebranded in March 2014. Cryptocurrency prices had changed so most of the time it earned closer to $$1.50-$2.00 per day, but the card was now available for $250.

The R9 285 was technically a new GPU architecture, released in September 2014, but performance was still essentially the same, and so was the price -- the R9 285 was a lateral move. R9 380 is yet another rebrand, this time of the Tonga architecture used in the R9 285, with a minor bump in GPU clockspeeds. The price also dropped to $200, but mining potential didn't really change.

So what exactly is the earning potential for the R9 380 these days? Here's how my card is doing:

I know WhatToMine already offers suggestions on what an R9 380 will do, but my numbers ended up being slightly different in a few cases -- probably because I only bother with NiceHashMiner these days.

Bottom line is that the R9 380 is still good for about $1.50 to $2.00 per day in gross mining profits via NiceHash, or if you're willing to mine other coins directly (Expanse is good right now) you can earn a bit more, perhaps $2.50. Power for the R9 380 is actually one of the few areas where the card is substantially improved from the old HD 7950 Boost, because the 390 uses between 125W and 150W for mining, or about 75W less than the 7950. That means where the old 7950 might cost $0.50-$0.60 per day, the R9 380 costs more like $0.30 per day.

You can still buy R9 380 cards, though in most cases it's not worth doing -- the RX 570 costs less and performs better. But if you're willing to buy off eBay, you can get the R9 380 for $120 or so. At that price, earning $1.50 per day, you could break even in just 80 days. That's actually pretty awesome, and it's because the mining software is well optimized since it has been around and popular for so long. As an alternative, the R9 380X is a little bit faster and generally costs the same, so it could break even in as little as 70-75 days.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Bitcoin breaks the $1500 mark for the first time in its history

I've been around Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies for a long time. I missed the initial wave by a year or so, starting in June 2011, but I've been doing it ever since. Bitcoin first hit $30 back then, before quickly falling to around $20. A single HD 5870 card was able to generate about 2BTC per day, which might seem crazy in today's market, but at the time it was 'only' worth about $40.

There were naysayers and 'to the moon' people way then as well. You know what? I thought the naysayers were right. $20 per BTC when a single GPU could generate a couple per day was nuts! And the price crashed over the next six months until it hit $2 again. "Bitcoin is dead!"

But like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, Bitcoin came back, and it came back with a vengeance. I was there when Bitcoin broke $200 for the first time, and I sold every BTC I owned at the time. I don't feel too bad about it either, as it paid some bills and bought me some new mining PCs. I just didn't have the confidence to say Bitcoin was going to stay at $200, let alone get up four digits!

But this time I was smart enough to keep mining. I started holding onto my coins, other than selling some to pay for power bills and new hardware. When Bitcoin broke $1000 the first time in 2013, I again sold all my holding, but it was for a good cause: I put a down payment on a house. We've been living there quite happily every since.

For the next couple of years, Bitcoin stagnated in the sub-$500 range. All the people that got excited and bought in at $750 or even $1200 probably lost faith. Others managed to play the market, buying low and selling high, and making a lot of money in the process. But today, as Bitcoin continues to creep upward toward the $2000 mark, I'm not even remotely surprised. Happy? You bet! But not surprised.

At the current rate, my modest mining farm will help me pay off all of my debts -- student loans, a car, and a few other tidbits -- within the next year. And after that, I expect to finish paying for my house within the next 5-10 years. At that point, I'll be truly debt free. Do you know how awesome that will be, to only have expenses like utilities and taxes to worry about? And it's all thanks to Bitcoins and cryptocurrencies.

Basic 3-way budget miner:
Pentium G4560: $78
MSI Z270 SLI Plus motherboard: $136
8GB DDR4-2400 memory: $60
240GB SSD: $70 (don't get a hard drive, please!)
750W 80 Plus Platinum PSU: $130  (don't skimp here!)
PCIe Risers: $50 (for six -- you'll have extras!)
3x Radeon RX 570 4GB: $570 (the heart of your mining operation)

If you've been afraid to get into the mining scene for whatever reason, now is a good time to put those fears behind you. Start small, with a single 3-way miner, and watch it pay for itself in the next year. Then kick yourself for not investing more heavily into multiple 6-way miners. But it's still 'early' relatively speaking. Most people still have no idea what Bitcoin is, but within the next decade, it's going to end up as ubiquitous as the Internet.

The above budget mining PC will generate about $6.90 per day in cryptocurrency, with a power cost of around $0.75. Let's be conservative and call it $6.00 per day in net income. That means in six months, it will pay for itself, but you'll see the pattern long before then. Get hopping, get mining, and get saving for the future of Bitcoin. If you're smart, you'll sell no more than half of the Bitcoins you mine, so that when Bitcoin eventually hits $10,000+ per BTC (AND IT WILL!), you'll be ready.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

GeForce GTX 1060 3GB Mining Performance

You might think the GeForce GTX 1060 3GB is a generally poor recommendation for mining purposes. It's not the best card on the planet, perhaps, but it actually does better than the more expensive 1060 6GB -- mostly because it's not *that* much slower, but it is quite a bit cheaper. If you're serious about mining, it's more cost effective in the long run to buy a faster GPU, like the GTX 1070, but with the 1060 3GB cards going for as little as $184 (sometimes less if you get a sale), they can be a good gateway drug.

For testing, I'm using the Zotac GTX 1060 3GB Mini -- and yes, after fiddling withe some of the bigger cards, it's positively tiny! If you're thinking of building a someone more compact miner, maybe this is a good choice. But with a single fan, cooling isn't as good, and mining performance is decidedly mediocre.
The current estimated income for the Zotac 1060 3GB Mini is around $1.50-$2.00, with power using about $0.20 per day, so net profits of $1.30-$1.80 per day. For a single card the ROI time is around 102-141 days. So that's quite a bit better than some of the more expensive Nvidia GPUs, but you don't get as much density out of each mining rig. The problem is you need the rest of the mining rig, which costs money, and now you're using up a mining slot with a slower GPU.

As noted before, you could safely run the 1060 cards with a 1000W PSU, which is a bit easier to find than the 1200W and higher models I recommend from some of the other builds. EVGA's 1000W T2 is a great Titanium rated power supply with a 10-year warranty -- sure to outlast your GPUs for mining purposes! -- but it's also more expensive than my standard 1350W Platimax recommendation.

I like math!
Basic PC setup: $870 (no case -- use a wire shelf)
Ryzen 5 1600: $230
Asus Prime-X370 Pro motherboard: $150
16GB DDR4-2667: $97
240GB SSD: $63
1350W PSU: $240
PCIe riser adapters: $50
Six GTX 1060 3GB cards: $184 each = $1,104
Total = $1,974, income of $10 per day ~= 197 days to ROI

Obviously, this isn't quite as much of a budget build as I could do with the 1060 3GB. If you go with a Pentium G4560 CPU, 8GB RAM, and a Z270 motherboard, you could shave off about $200 from the total. But even then, you're still looking at 177 days to ROI for the system. Buying RX 570 4GB cards is clearly a better way to go right now.

GeForce GTX 1060 6GB Mining Performance

Continuing through the current crop of graphics cards, the GeForce GTX 1060 6GB is an interesting 'value proposition' card for Nvidia miners. It's relatively low power, though the EVGA model I have still includes an 8-pin power connector. That can actually be a good thing for people using PCIe risers, since it means the card will draw nearly all of its power from the PEG connector and not from the x16 PCIe slot. Trust me, you don't want to try pulling 75W over the PCIe slot when you're using Molex or SATA power connectors!

In practice, I find the 1060 6GB is reasonably fast, but there are better cards for the money -- the RX 570 and RX 580 being the main competition. Still, there are algorithms where the 1060 does better, and it does use a bit less power (and thus runs quieter/cooler). Here's a snapshot of performance, using a Ryzen 5 1600X testbed with the EVGA GTX 1060 SSC.
The current estimated income for the EVGA 1060 6GB SSC is around $1.75-$2.25, with power using about $0.25 per day. That means net profits of $1.50-$2.00 per day, which means for a single card the ROI time is around 125-167 days. So that's worse than several of the competing cards, but again, I'd like to stress that I haven't burned out any of my Nvidia GPUs during mining. I can't say the same for AMD's GPUs....

Something else that's nice about Nvidia cards is that you usually don't have to fiddle as much to get them up and running at good performance values, and you can easily tweak clocks and performance with utilities like MSI Afterburner. (I like to set the cards to 90 percent power target to keep them running cooler.)

If you're looking to put together 6-GPU mining rigs, you could safely run the 1060 cards with a 1000W PSU, which is a bit easier to find than the 1200W and higher models I recommend from some of the other builds. EVGA's 1000W T2 is a great Titanium rated power supply with a 10-year warranty -- sure to outlast your GPUs for mining purposes!

The quick and dirty math:
Basic PC setup: $870 (no case -- use a wire shelf)
Ryzen 5 1600: $230
Asus Prime-X370 Pro motherboard: $150
16GB DDR4-2667: $97
240GB SSD: $63
1350W PSU: $240
PCIe riser adapters: $50
Six GTX 1060 6GB cards: $240 each = $1,440
Total = $2,310, income of $12 per day ~= 192 days to ROI

And that's why building a 'budget' mining rigs isn't as effective as building rigs with the fastest GPUs.