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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.