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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.

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.

GeForce GTX 1070 8GB Mining Performance

One of the best graphics cards around right now, in terms of gaming performance as well as mining performance, is Nvidia's GTX 1070 8GB. There are many reasons why this is a great card, the most important factors being:

  1. Availability -- you can find GTX 1070 cards all over the place
  2. Price -- the latest price cuts bring the 1070 down to less than $350
  3. Power -- the 1070 needs a single 8-pin power connector at most
  4. Temperatures -- the 1070 runs relatively cool and quiet
If you're in the market for a bunch of GPUs to use for mining, right now I'd give serious consideration to the 1070, specifically EVGA's GTX 170 SC, which is one of the least expensive models right now and still comes with a decent factory overclock. I've got several of these cards, and while they're not the fastest option, they're some of the best overall rate of return. Here are the stats for one of the factory overclocked cards:

Currently, the GTX 1070 is averaging $3.00-$3.50 per day, with a power draw of 150W -- yes, about the same power requirements as an RX 470/480 or RX 570/580. It costs more, but it also earns more, with a power cost of around $0.35 per day.

With a current price of $344 on the EVGA SC model, that works out to 109-130 days to hit ROI on each card. Even better, due to power requirements you could actually hook up six of these to a single system, provided the motherboard supports such a setup. Which of course you can certainly find. As I did with the GTX 1080 Ti recently, let's look at the complete PC ROI numbers.

Here's the quick 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)
1200W Titanium PSU: $280 (efficiency is really important!)
PCIe riser adapters: $50 (don't use the SATA to Molex power adapter, though!)
Six GTX 1070 cards: starting at $344 each = $2,064
Total = $2,934, income of $18 per day = 163 days to ROI

If you want to cut costs, you could probably go with 8GB RAM and a cheaper CPU, but I wouldn't go too low -- at some point, you might want to do something else with the PC, and having a better processor is really nice. But if you want to go with a Pentium G4560 and a Z270 motherboard, that will save about $170. If you do that, you could hit ROI potentially in 155 days.

Either way, that's a bit faster than building a GTX 1080 Ti mining rig. Another thing I like about going the Nvidia route instead of AMD is that there tends to be more flexibility on algorithms when you're mining via NiceHash. Most of my AMD rigs don't seem to like certain algorithms, and outside of DaggerHashimoto, they're outperformed by Nvidia equivalents. If Ethereum weren't so big, AMD mining would be far less useful.

Radeon R9 Fury X, R9 Fury, and R9 Nano Mining Performance

 A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, AMD launched their ginormous Fiji architecture, the final gasp from their power hungry GCN v3 days. And if you got one of the cards for free, I suppose they were worth using for mining purposes, but for everyone else the cards are a bit of a joke. Except, nowadays you can sometimes find a Fury or Fury X floating around for $300-$350. Could the Fury possibly be worth the price of admission at that point?
I happen to have a trio of Fury cards, and by that I mean I have the usual trifecta of Fiji products: R9 Fury X with a CLC, R9 Fury in gargantuan Asus Strix format, and the diminutive R9 Nano. They're all happily mining away, though as you'll see in a moment, the earnings are only mediocre given the price. And don't go thinking that it's only now that the Fury cards are a poor choice -- when they were new, they cost almost twice as much as the R9 390, which actually performs pretty similarly for mining purposes.

You see, the problem with the Fiji chips is that they were never popular for mining, so the mining software was never fully optimized for the chips, which means they underperform. Also, in many hashing algorithms having tons of memory bandwidth isn't all that important (it varies, naturally), so HBM doesn't always show much benefit.

Anyway, for better or worse, here are the numbers -- for historical context if nothing else.

Both the Fury and Fury X end up showing the same R9 Fury label, but the faster card (listed first) is the Fury X. Really, there wasn't a huge difference in specs -- Fury X had a few more cores and slightly higher clocks, but memory bandwidth was the same. So here we are, a year and a half after the Fury launched, and the cards are only slightly faster than an RX 470 that costs half as much.

As for the R9 Nano, it's running in a different rig, and as you can see the profitability is pretty pathetic -- worse than an R9 390 by a decent margin. And that's the benefit of sticking with the 'popular' mining cards, because in practice the R9 Nano should actually be faster than the R9 390.

The bottom line is that the AMD Fiji-based GPUs were never great picks for mining from a price and power perspective, which in turn makes them worse from a software optimization perspective. You can mine with them, yes, but the Fury X at least will use 275W, or about $0.66 per day in power, and while the liquid cooling works great for temperatures, it's cumbersome if you want to put a bunch of cards into a mining rig. The R9 Fury is a bit better in some ways, but still not a great pick, and the prices on R9 Nano still put it out of consideration.

Even today, if you could find one of these cards for $300-$350, you'd be looking at ROI in around 135-160 days at best, and potentially as long as 200 days. Sadly, there are simply too many better alternatives -- including the old Radeon R9 390, which to this day typically matches the Fury X on income potential. With used 390 cards selling for $240 or less, at least there the ROI is closer to the RX 470: about 100-120 days. It's still more power hungry, though, which means you might end up limited by your circuit breaker if you want to build multiple rigs.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

How to get the fastest GPU in the world and have it pay for itself in less than six months

I wrote last month about the GTX 1080 Ti Founders Edition, and showed initial mining performance. Things are constantly in flux in the world of cryptocurrency, so what was once a great idea may suddenly become a terrible plan. Or, as is the case here, a decent idea can suddenly turn into an awesome idea.

I've got a pair of GTX 1080 Ti cards, chugging happily away. I conservatively estimated income for each card at about $3 per day (minimum), but that's proving far too pessimistic. Right now, I'm seeing income of anywhere between $4.50 at a minimum to as much as $7.50 maximum. Now, the maximum isn't likely to last for days at a time, but on average you can probably count on $4.50-$5.00 per day of net profit.

I'm partial to the non-reference designs for a variety of reasons, and my second card is the MSI GTX 1080 Ti Gaming X 11G. This is a large, heavily factory overclocked 1080 Ti. Check this out:

These are two examples taken during the past day of how the 1080 Ti is doing. $5.25 to $5.90 per day would mean that you can buy for a $740 and have it pay for itself in 140 days at a moderate return, or it might do even better and earn that back in just 125 days. That's four months to earn back the cost, after which the card is purely profit. Power costs are a factor, though, which means subtract about $0.60 per day from the earnings. You're still looking at breaking even in less than six months, easy!

But why not go the other way, and buy four cards for a single system, a 1350W PSU, and you're still looking at ROI in six months or less. The difference is that with four cards cranking away, once you hit ROI you're looking at around $21 extra in income each day, every day. Could you use $600 a month in spending money? I know I could! How about $2,400 extra a month? Build four such mining rigs!

And it really is that easy. I'm not saying the 1080 Ti is the best mining card on the planet, but it's super fast and you can do four cards per PC instead of trying for six cards. That's a bit less management headache.

Just a final caveat: don't plan on running 20 or more of these systems in your home. Each one would use over 1000W of power, and on a typical 200A circuit you're limited to 24,000W on the entire circuit -- total! You still need to account for lights, appliances, etc. And if you're on a 150A or 100A circuit breaker, you'll have to get by with half of that. Also: fire hazard. Still, doing 5-10 systems is certainly possible.

Here's the quick 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 (boot faster, install updates faster)
1200W Titanium PSU: $280 (efficiency is really important!)
PCIe riser adapters: $50 (don't use the SATA to Molex power adapter, though!)

Four GTX 1080 Ti cards: starting at $680 each = $2,720
Total = $3,590, income of $20 per day = 180 days to ROI
Five PCs = $17,950, income of $100 per day. Still 180 days to ROI
Ten PCs = $35,900, income of $200 per day. Still 180 days to payoff!

More importantly, once the initial hardware has paid for itself, you're not earning $6,300 per month. Okay, maybe more, maybe less. It doesn't matter too much, as bottom line is you have a very nice salary that will continue to pay you with little to no additional effort.

If you're the enterprising type, maybe rent a warehouse with a couple of 200A circuits and plunk down $150K on forty crazy powerful PCs. Then earn $800 per day, 365 days per year, and you'd have the equivalent of a $292K salary. Ha. But I'd suggest starting smaller and working your way up to that level, rather than jumping in whole hog. And don't be surprised if the market shifts and you see profits drop by half!

Radeon RX 570 4GB Mining Performance

Going along with my testing of RX 580 8GB mining performance, I also have a shiny new Asus RX 570 4GB card. It's running in the same Core i5-7500 system as the 580, so as you might expect the numbers are similar overall -- just lower. Here's how the card performs, at the stock OC, on the various current algorithms:
Again, DaggerHashimoto numbers are pretty low. I could try VBIOS flashing or various other tweaks, but this is running NiceHashMiner, and of course the RX 570 requires AMD's latest drivers -- which tend to not be as optimal for mining as some of the older drivers.

Based on the current numbers, looking at WhatToMine, you'll gross about $2.00-$2.25 per day, with a power draw of around 125W per card. With a power cost of $0.10 per kWh that puts net earnings at about $1.80-$2.00 per day. The Asus card sells for $190, so you'll hit ROI in about 100 days. This is a really great result, and it's why the 470 and now 570 are some of the best GPUs for cryptocurrency mining. Power draw is a bit less than the 580, prices are a bit lower, and performance is a bit lower.

You'll want to shop around a bit, and potentially other systems could run this same GPU 5-10 percent faster. It's just sort of 'luck of the draw' combined with CPU and platform factors. As with the 580, you could run up to six RX 570 cards in a single rig without too much difficulty. Getting a good 1200W or higher Platinum or Titanium rated PSU is recommended -- Rosewill's 1200W Tokamak is another decent alternative, with a few quirks (like no power switch).

Radeon RX 580 8GB Mining Performance

I like to test out new graphics cards with Bitcoin mining, and on the hotseat today is AMD's new Radeon RX 580 8GB. I'm not Bitcoin directly, obviously, but using the cards for mining altcoins via NiceHash. The recent upward trend in Bitcoin prices -- 25 percent during the month of April 2017! -- has definitely helped my bottom line, but over the long term, what will really matter is the performance and power use.

I've also found it's difficult to get a clear view of mining performance from the various GPUs. People will show results from heavily overclocked cards, results that are not long-term stable in my experience. This is stupid. If you modify your VBIOS to use tighter latencies on the GDDR5, it can improve performance by 5-10 percent ... and a few weeks later your cards will all start failing. I've been there with the RX 480, and all that downtime just isn't worth the hassle!

My advice is simple: buy a factory overclocked card with a massive cooler, use PCIe risers to separate the cards from each other, and then just run at the default clocks. The cards will run stable, at reasonable temperatures, and you're on your way to profitability. In fact, rather than overclocking, sometimes it's better to underclock and undervolt your card, to reduce power and temperatures. You're far less likely to burn out a fan, or overheat, or any number of other potential problems.

Okay, let's get on to the RX 580 8GB. I'm using the Asus ROS RX 480 Gaming OC, and absolutely massive card that's bigger than many GTX 1080 models. The benefit is it has three large fans, the cooler keeps things frosty, and it comes with a healthy factory overclock. It uses a single 8-pin power connector, and in practice if you install it in a case, you'll use three slots -- you really can't put anything into the two adjacent slots due to the size of the cooler.

And here's how the card performs, at the stock OC, on the various current algorithms:
You'll notice perhaps that the DaggerHashimoto numbers are pretty low, which is basically variance between GDDR5 types, memory subtimings, and the test system. In this case, I'm running the RX 580 on a Core i5-7500 with a B250 motherboard. That might be a factor, or it might just be a combination of relatively early hardware and the lack of specific tuning for the RX 580. You might think the 580 and 480 are the same hardware and should perform the same, but in practice there are all sorts of contributing factors. As an example, I have an RX 470 card that does 29 MH/s -- at stock factory settings! -- for DaggerHashimoto. (The card is no longer in stock anywhere and tended to sell for $240+ if you're wondering.)

Anyway, based on the current numbers, you'll earn about $2.25-$2.75 per day, with a power draw of around 150W per card. With a power cost of $0.10 per kWh that puts net earnings at about $2.00-$2.40 per day. In the case of the Asus card, which sells for $280, you'll hit ROI in about 140 days, which is a really great result.

This is with one of the most expensive RX 580 cards, of course, and you could drop to a 4GB model without really losing any performance. As an alternative to the Asus, the MSI RX 580 Gaming X 4G costs just $215, and it has similar clockspeeds in the default 'Gaming' mode. ROI on a card like this is only 100-110 days, conservatively -- and if Bitcoin prices improve, you might hit ROI in as few as 60 days. Or things could go the other way and it might take 200 days.

Overall, the RX 580 is one of the best options for cryptocurrency mining right now. With a single 8-pin connector, it makes it relatively easy to put four or even six GPUs into a single mining rig. I recommend getting a great power supply for such a configuration, with the Enermax Platimax 1350W sitting at the top of my list.

Monday, March 13, 2017

GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Founders Edition Mining Performance

Last week, Nvidia launched their hot and sexy new graphics card, the GTX 1080 Ti. This is a beast of a GPU, with 3,584 CUDA cores clocked at 1480-1582MHz stock -- and really, that's a conservative estimate on the clockspeed, as the card will routinely boost above that level. But how does the card work as a mining GPU? I decided to do a quick check.
There you have it, the numbers from the latest version ( of the NiceHashMiner. This is running fully stock, but I've found you can get at least 10 percent more performance by increasing the power limit on the card. At higher power draw, obviously, so it might not be worth doing for a lot of people.

Given this is a 250W TDP card, it's not realistic to try and slap six of them into a mining rig -- even the highest wattage PSUs would be a questionable choice. You could do two PSUs I suppose, but it's probably a better idea to limit your rigs to four of these if you're serious about mining.

In terms of performance, the GTX 1080 Ti is almost twice as fast as a single GTX 1070, or easily more than twice the performance of a GTX 1060 6GB card. It also costs twice as much as a GTX 1070, and nearly three times as much as a GTX 1060 6GB. Twice the power, twice the performance, twice the cost... but you could potentially double the hashrate per PCIe slot.

ROI at earnings of around $3 per day is around 233 days, so not awesome for a single card but not really that bad either. You can also underclock/undervolt a bit to improve ROI.

UPDATE: Currently, income from mining with the 1080 TI is way better than $3 per day, so RIO is now closer to about 150 days. Fluctuations will change that over time, but I expect a realistic ROI to be under 180 days.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Six GPU mining rig for Ethereum, ZCash, ROI, and more


I've been dabbling in cryptocurrency for nearly six years now. Recently, I had a discussion with someone regarding an old article where I declared GPU mining dead. It's definitely not dead, though you have to know what you're getting into before you start. But here's an updated look at the subject of making money with cryptocurrencies.

The biggest issue is time -- things don't stand still, prices fluctuate, and you're going to need to stick with mining for a good long time before you're in the black. I'm not talking decades or anything like that, but volatility and your approach to selling/hoarding will play a role, along with some luck.

On the luck side, compare purchasing $10,000 worth of mining hardware with buying $10,000 worth of Bitcoin or Ethereum. If you did this a bit more than a year ago, Ethereum was sitting at around $1-$2, and today it's at about $20. $10,000 of Ethereum in 14 months would have become $50K-$100K! Bitcoin didn't do quite so spectacularly. It went from $375-$400 to about $1,200, so it would still be a massive increase in net worth.

Mining on the other hand won't pay out hugely, particularly if you're not mining and hoarding (and eating the power costs). I know from personal experience that roughly $10,000 worth of optimal mining hardware purchased around the same time would have generated somewhere between $12,000 and $16,000 during the past 14 months... but it would also cost about $4,000 in electricity, never mind the noise and potential upkeep.

Here's the thing. That $10,000 investment in mining hardware could be sold today for about $7,000. So where the risk with buying straight into cryptocurrency is 100 percent -- you could potentially lose everything -- with mining you've always got the hardware. But the risk if you buy BTC is arguably a lot lower, because BTC isn't going away. Worst-case, it might drop in value by half. But mining can be a lot more fun that just buying Bitcoin, and some people already have a fair amount of extra hardware available.

With that preamble out of the way, here's the current pricing and equipment needed to build a mining rig with support for up to six GPUs.

Parts List

6x Radeon RX 480 4GB (choose your favorite brand) OR
6x Radeon RX 470 4GB (choose your favorite brand) OR
6x GeForce GTX 1060 6GB (choose your favorite brand) OR
6x GeForce GTX 1060 3GB (choose your own adventure)

1x motherboard with six PCIe slots (any brand could work, but finding six PCIe slots requires a bit of searching)

6x Powered 1x PCIe to x16 risers (USB cable version)

1x Pentium G4500 CPU (dual-core, Hyper-Threading, and cheap!)

2x4GB DDR4 memory (no need to get higher performance RAM)

1200W 80 Plus Platinum PSU (get a good one with a long warranty!)

120GB SATA SSD (because I hate waiting for HDD to reboot)

Use a wire shelf for your case (much cheaper and easier, and cools well)

Don't forget: Zip ties, power meter, and a surge protector. These should be self-explanatory, but you'll want to know your real power draw (from the wall), and surge protection is a great idea.

Putting it together

Now, the practical experience of piecing it all together. First, put a piece of non-conductive material under the motherboard (wood will suffice, though it's flammable, so....) If you want to install some mounts for the motherboard, that's not a bad idea, but it's not required -- it just keeps the board from sliding around.

If you don't know how to install an OS and the rest of the hardware (PSU, SSD, RAM, etc.) you should probably stop right now. It's not particularly difficult, but if setting up a new PC scares you, go search out some videos on the subject and get comfortable with that before investing a bunch of money into mining hardware.

For the GPUs, hang them from the top shelf and secure them with Zip ties. Use the PCIe risers, but make sure to skip the included Molex to SATA power adapters -- just use a Molex connector direct from the PSU. You might also want to get a few extra risers, as sometimes one or two are bad/nonfunctional. Keep a moderate amount of space between the GPUs so they all get plenty of fresh air.

I'd get the system up and running with a single GPU first. Whether you use Windows or Ubuntu or some other flavor of Linux is up to you. I tend to use Windows because I'm most familiar with that OS and I know how to get all the tools for modding and flashing the VBIOS, mining, etc.

Once the system is running, install your mining software (Nicehash is easy and pretty good). If you want to be thorough, start with one GPU and test all of your riser cables and PCIe slots -- make sure they all function properly. This will require a bunch of shutting off and restarting, obviously, but it can save you some headaches in the long run. Once you've verified all six risers and slots are working, you can hook everything up so that it looks something like this:

Both of those are pictures from the web, with far nicer cabling than I usually do. If you want to do multiple miners, so two systems with six GPUs each, that's entirely possible. Note that you'll want to have sufficient power (and cooling for the room!) and that usually means not putting more than two rigs on a 15 Amp circuit.

To keep power down, and help avoid killing your GPUs, for RX 470 4GB cards I recommend doing a VBIOS flash (Google it if you don't know how) that sets the RAM clock to 1900-2000MHz, and limits the GPU core to 1100MHz. You might want to adjust the fan speeds as well. That should keep each 470 at around 125W. (Feel free to ask me for more details if you need help.)

Expected performance / ROI

With everything assembled, your actual performance and earnings will vary depending on the market, the hardware you selected, and what you plan on mining. I use Nicehash because it will switch algorithms automatically and pays out in BTC, which is 'safe'. Others prefer mining Ethereum or ZCash (or whatever the hot new coin is) directly. Your choice. Generally speaking, here's what I would expect for performance/power use, in order of increasing ROI time.

6-way RX 480 4GB: Earnings of around $5.50-$8.50 per day, depending on the market, with a power use of about 900W per mining rig. I expect the average over the next year to be close to $6.50 per day. Total cost (at present) is $1,650, and power use will be 21.5kWh. If you pay $0.10 per kWh, that's about $2.15 per day for power, netting you $4.35 per day, maybe more on good days. ROI would be about 380 days.

6-way RX 470 4GB: Earnings of around $5-$8 per day, depending on the market, with a power use of about 800W per mining rig. I expect the average over the next year to be close to $6 per day. Total cost (at present) is $1,575, and power use will be 19kWh. If you pay $0.10 per kWh, that's about $2 per day for power, netting you $4 per day, maybe more on good days. ROI would be about 400 days.

6-way GTX 1060 3GB: Earnings of around $4.50-$7 per day, depending on the market, with a power use of about 550W per mining rig. (Yes, Nvidia cards use quite a bit less power than AMD.) I expect the average over the next year to be close to $5.50 per day. Total cost (at present) is $1,750, and power use will be 13kWh. If you pay $0.10 per kWh, that's about $1.30 per day for power, netting you $4.20 per day, maybe more on good days. ROI would be about 415 days.

6-way GTX 1060 6GB: Earnings of around $5-$8 per day, depending on the market, with a power use of about 600W per mining rig. (Yes, Nvidia cards use quite a bit less power than AMD.) I expect the average over the next year to be close to $6 per day. Total cost (at present) is $2,000, and power use will be 14.5kWh. If you pay $0.10 per kWh, that's about $1.50 per day for power, netting you $4.50 per day, maybe more on good days. ROI would be about 450 days.

As with any predictions, take the above as estimates only. If the cryptocurrency market does well, you might hit ROI in six months. If it does poorly, it might take two years. Your power bill and computer parts are also tax deductible, if that helps -- and you'll have a huge power bill if you build out six of these rigs, I can promise you that!