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Saturday, January 13, 2018

Best Graphics Cards for Mining - January 2018

Experiment over -- I want to be able to look back at historical data, so I'm going to just make a new post each month and see how it goes. Basically, SEO isn't really benefiting, probably due to my writing style not containing the proper phrases enough, so let's just do things the old fashion way, eh?

If you're not mining right now, you may have missed out on one of the biggest bubbles in mining profitability in a long time. The good news is that the 'bubble' is ongoing. Profitability of mining with GPUs has reached nearly the highest point ever, so that a lot of high-end GPUs would pay for themselves in only 2-3 months. Late 2013 was a bit better (1-2 months to pay for an R9 290/290X), but regardless there are some great options for mining right now.

Bitcoin's price has stayed in the $13,500-$16,000 range for weeks now, and short of a massive collapse we may not see it drop below $10,000 again. We could also see $100,000 this year, maybe, so I'd suggest holding onto at least half of all BTC that you mine. Ethereum is also kicking butt and taking names, having breached the $1,000 mark and currently sitting at more than $1,300. "The Flippening" draws closer once more -- the point at which the market capitalization of Ethereum (or some other cryptocurrency) surpasses that of Bitcoin.

If you're wondering where things stand, right now BTC has a market cap of $241 billion USD, and Ethereum sits at nearly $135 billion. Ripple comes in third at $77 billion, followed by Bitcoin Cash at $46 billion.

One thing I will say is that the average block times for Bitcoin (and Bitcoin Cash) are becoming increasingly burdensome, and Bitcoin's limited block size is really bad. We've seen transaction fees for small amounts of BTC skyrocket to as much as $20 at times, which has led to Steam dropping support for the cryptocurrency. I hope Steam adds in Ethereum at some point instead, since it's way faster and seems to have better long-term potential. I also wonder how many BTC Valve/Steam ended up squirrelling away over the past couple of years -- hopefully they were smart and didn't cash out of every BTC they received!

Anyway, let's hit the graphics cards and see what sort of ROI (Return On Investment) we're looking at now. Be warned that prices on all GPUs have shot up due to increased demand, so existing miners are making a killing while newcomers will have to decide whether they want to participate in the price gouging that's going on. Also note that Nicehash is back online, and doing better than ever in my book. I used WinMiner and Kryptex during the downtime, which were okay, but after comparing the payouts once Nicehash was back it became clear that Nicehash is paying far more on average -- like 50 percent more I'd estimate.

Something else to note is that CPU mining is still a thing, with CryptoNight-based coins generally paying fairly well right now. The Ryzen 7 1700 and Ryzen 5 1600 are the top two options for overall bang-for-the-buck, doing over $2.50 per day on the R7 and about $1.75 per day with the R5. That means buying a Ryzen platform could be a great option as an added source of revenue. Core i5-8400 by comparison is only doing about $1.50 per day -- which is also reasonable, considering the price of $200-ish.

One thing I have to say, unfortunately, is that my Ryzen mining rigs are nowhere near as stable as my Intel options. I have three Ryzen boards where some of the PCIe slots simply won't work for mining, which sucks. It's a BIOS / firmware / chipset problem almost certainly, but it could severely limit the number of GPUs you run per rig. I've also noticed that my Ryzen systems are far more likely to hang during POST if they reboot, which does happen on a regular basis. So keep that in mind.

Still, bang-for-the-buck is great, and Intel boards are currently overpriced, particularly the ones that are built for mining. You can look back at the December 2017 post for additional thoughts on the components, but I'm dropping back to a 6-GPU build this round, using an X370 chipset, simply because it works well and it's more affordable than the $300-$400 'mining' boards. Also note that you'll want to set all the PCIe slots to "Gen2" speeds in the BIOS for maximum compatibility.

Ryzen 5 1600: $205
ASUS Prime X370-Pro: $145
16GB DDR4 memory: $170
240GB SSD: $75
1000W 80 Plus Platinum PSU: $199
6x PCIe Risers: $50
TOTAL: $844

That's $130 more than last month, thanks in part to the CPU swap, but you should be able to make up the difference in cost in less than two months thanks to the more potent CPU. Maximum profitability will use six GPUs, and depending on your GPU choice you may need more than one PSU, which I'll factor into the table below.

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) Sys Price (1x) Sys Price (6x) 1x Income 6x Income ROI
GTX 1080 Ti $1,100 $1,944 $7,643 $10.67 $54.12 141-182 days
GTX 1080 $700 $1,544 $5,243 $8.87 $43.31 121-174 days
GTX 1070 Ti $761 $1,605 $5,609 $8.54 $41.33 136-188 days
GTX 1070 $683 $1,527 $4,942 $8.30 $39.90 124-184 days
GTX 1060 6GB $380 $1,224 $3,124 $6.27 $27.68 113-195 days
GTX 1060 3GB $295 $1,139 $2,614 $5.78 $24.77 106-197 days
*GTX 980 Ti $500 $1,344 $4,043 $7.43 $34.68 117-181 days
*GTX 980 $325 $1,169 $2,993 $6.10 $26.70 112-192 days
*GTX 970 $270 $1,114 $2,464 $5.75 $24.60 100-194 days
RX Vega 64 $1,030 $1,874 $7,223 $8.34 $40.14 180-225 days
RX Vega 56 $850 $1,694 $6,143 $8.00 $38.10 161-212 days
RX 580 8GB $582 $1,426 $4,535 $5.91 $25.53 178-241 days
RX 570 4GB $420 $1,264 $3,563 $5.54 $23.32 153-228 days
*R9 Fury $500 $1,344 $4,043 $7.30 $33.90 119-184 days
*R9 390 $450 $1,294 $3,743 $6.02 $26.22 143-215 days
*R9 380 $325 $1,169 $2,794 $4.41 $16.55 169-265 days
* - These are used cards, so these are here mostly for reference.

Obviously, this isn't news to anyone already involved in mining, as indicated by the massive price increases on all the GPUs. The Nvidia cards are all priced about 50 percent above standard MSRP, while the AMD cards are often 100 percent more than the original MSRP. Used cards on eBay are also priced extremely high -- in some cases higher than the original selling price of the cards! But even with all of the price hikes, you could still break even in under four months on many rigs -- and if you bought hardware last month instead of waiting, you're looking at closer to 2-3 months. Damn.

Overall, given other factors like initial setup costs, power use, and card availability, Nvidia's GTX 1060 is currently the best option for new mining rigs. It's still relatively available, and it's easy to run six cards off a single 1000W PSU. The GTX 1070 is also potentially interesting, but the 1070 Ti isn't since the close proximity in price to the GTX 1080 makes that the better buy. The card prices are current as of the above date, but inventory may cause wild fluctuations over the next few weeks.

So hang onto your hats, because mining fever is alive and well!