Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The most profitable graphics card for mining

If you've been thinking about getting into cryptocurrency mining using GPUs, you're probably wondering what graphics card has the best rate of return. For a long time, AMD GPUs have been the go-to choice, but over the past year a lot has changed ... and right now, AMD GPUs are almost completely sold out! So I've run a bunch of calculations looking at the various mining options, including NiceHash, as well as directly mining alt-coins and trying to trade.

Let me just state once more that 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, just save yourself the headache and lease your hashing power on NiceHash. Of course doing it that way means you miss out on stuff like the Ethereum bubble -- who could have predicted the jump from $10 to nearly $400 during the past six months!? -- but it also means you don't get stuck with a bunch of worthless cryptocoins that aren't worth the processing power it took to generate them.

For this summary, I'm going to assume you want to build a complete mining rig, targeting the best return. That means skimping on the CPU but getting a good motherboard and power supply, and then using as many GPUs as you can reasonably run off of the power supply. For most GPUs, that means you can do six cards off a single rig, but if you have a 250W GPU like the GTX 1080 Ti, you'll need to limit yourself to four cards per rig, or use multiple (smaller) PSUs. Here then are the rate or returns (going by the past week's average payout) for the various GPUs:

BASIC MINING RIG (UPDATED 9/05/2017):
Pentium G4560: $87
MSI Z270 SLI Plus motherboard: $136
8GB DDR4-2400 memory: $84
240GB SSD: $84
2x 750W 80 Plus Platinum PSU: $280
6x PCIe Risers: $49
TOTAL: $720

If you look back at some of my recent posts from a month or so ago, you'll notice that for effectively the same basic build, prices have increased by about 10-15 percent on several of the parts. The reason is simple enough: cryptocurrency fever! (I may or may not have contributed to the phenomenon. *cough, cough*) So to hit the break-even point, you need to earn $720 in addition to the cost of the rest of your graphics cards.

Let's talk graphics cards, then. I'll just put all the usual suspects in order, here, going with the assumption of six GPUs for the mining rig. Note that the 2x750W PSU configuration is only really required if you want to run six 250W GPUs (like GTX 1080 Ti or R9 390X or similar). The following is only an estimate, and actually income will vary, but it's a good baseline for the time being. If you want to be pessimistic, double or triple the ROI time.
GPUPrice (6x)NiceHashBest Alt-CoinROI
GTX 1080 Ti$4440$19.08$20.99246-270 days
GTX 1080$3168$16.74$18.41211-232 days
GTX 1070$2694$13.32$14.65233-256 days
GTX 1060 6GB$1710$8.88$9.77249-274 days
GTX 1060 3GB$1380$7.99$8.79239-263 days
GTX 980 Ti$2280$13.86$15.25197-216 days
GTX 970$1080$8.76$9.64187-205 days
RX Vega 64$4200$17.68$19.44253-278 days
RX Vega 56$3000$17.00$18.70199-219 days
RX 580 8GB$2562$10.32$11.35289-318 days
RX 570 4GB$1968$9.30$10.23263-289 days
R9 Fury X$3000$14.78$16.26229-252 days
R9 390$2100$11.52$12.68222-245 days
R9 380$1320$6.84$7.84260-298 days

And the winner is... well, forget about the old cards that you have to buy on eBay -- they might be flaky from already mining for a couple of years, and inventory is low. So looking at the current cards, your best bet is now Nvidia's GTX 1080 card. And all those AMD miners should probably branch out a bit rather than just buying tons of RX 570/580 cards, especially at these inflated prices! (Note: if you could actually buy RX 570 for under $200, it would be an amazing card for mining -- which is why it's all out of stock.)

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.

Thanks for reading. Please share my posts on your social media if you find this stuff useful.

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)
TOTAL INVESTMENT: $1094

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.

Monday, May 1, 2017

GeForce GTX 1080 8GB Mining Performance


Looking for something of a middle ground between the GTX 1070 and the GTX 1080 Ti? That ground belongs to the GeForce GTX 1080, formerly the fastest mining GPU that was readily available. With the 1080 Ti now playing king of the hill, prices on the 1080 have dropped by about $120. The result is a GPU that falls right between the 1070 and 1080 Ti, both in price as well as performance.

The GTX 1080 is a great card, and you can still potentially do six GPUs in a single rig -- but you'll be getting pretty close to maxing out most PSUs if you go that route. I generally prefer the GTX 1070, but the 1080 isn't terrible. As usual, I'd recommend getting a custom cooler design rather than the blower-style Founders Edition, since they have larger heatsinks and don't run as hot -- or as loud! I've got Gigabyte's GTX 1080 WindForce OC, and at $500 even it's one of the least expensive models -- only the blower-style Asus 1080 Turbo is typically cheaper, but it's also less desirable and not worth the $10 saved.

Here's how the WindForce OC performs (which is similar to many other factory overclocked 1080 models):


The GTX 1070 averages between $3.50-$4.10 per day, with a power draw of about 180W. That means at $0.10 per kWh in electricity, it will cost about $0.43 per day, giving a profit of $3.10-$3.70 per day. As you might expect, ROI isn't quite as good as the 1070, requiring 135-160 days for a single card, added to an existing system. But that's not too bad either.

As usual, here's the math:
Basic PC setup: $870 (no case -- use a wire shelf)
Ryzen 5 1600: $230 (I like the 6-core/12-thread models, for when you're doing other stuff)
Asus Prime-X370 Pro motherboard: $150
16GB DDR4-2667: $97
240GB SSD: $63 (boot faster, install updates faster)
1350W PSU: $240 (Platinum isn't really much worse than Titanium in practice)
PCIe riser adapters: $50 (don't use the SATA to Molex power adapter, though!)
Six GTX 1080 cards: $500 each = $3,000
Total = $3,870, income of $21.60 per day ~= 180 days to ROI

Cutting costs on the CPU could shave off $170 from the total, bringing you down to around 171 days to ROI with a Pentium G4560 and a Z270 motherboard. Nine days isn't worth the savings IMO, but do what you feel is best. Basically, the ROI time is equal to the 1080 Ti, so I'd lean toward the faster GPUs personally. Nvidia GPUs currently do well with Lyra2REv2, Equihash, and occasionally X11Gost and Lbry when mining via NiceHash. Note that some drivers/hardware combinations will do better than what I show in the above image, but this is how one of my 1080 cards is currently running.