Some Thoughts on Crypto Mining Hardware

There is a great opportunity in the world of crypto mining, because of this there are many people jumping on board. More people are interested in mining than the suppliers of the parts can support. People who are really desperate for mining rigs throw money at the problem and have driven up prices and diminished supplies. At the same time mega corporations have discovered the power of the GPU in processing deep learning computers, and millions of video cards have disappeared into that also. It has created the perfect storm, with shortages of key parts that make video cards, and the uncertainty of the future. These shortages also have cause people with deep pockets to buy up huge amounts of stock so they can sell them at a huge profit, further limiting supply.

Currently there are two major players in this space, AMD and nVidia, and nVidia was set to release its next version called Volta in late 2017, but postponed it, and pushed massive amounts of Volta chips into the deep learning space, while nothing to the gaming space, which is the space we get consumer cards that can be used for mining. AMD has much less production capacity and makes products that are harder to use and even harder to get than the nVidia ones. The AMD GPUs come bios locked, and with memory straps and other setting that make them harder to tweak, they also use much more power per MH, it is possible to get better performance once you do but this has caused the cards to be selling for triple of MSRP, and that is only when you can find them. In the future there will be a third, even more powerful, GPU company that should increase supply and drive down cost, but they are a year from selling a card to us, but once they do it will rock the video card business. Also, there will be new generations of cards from AMD and nVidia that will give us hope of increasing MH and maybe reducing cost. No one knows when Volta comes out, but some say mid-march to mid April. While others say that Volta will be skipped and Ampere will come out instead in April. Volta is actually an older but very ambitious design and was planned to come out before pascal which is the current 10 generation but it was delayed even way back then.

So nVidia is the best way to go right now. Currently there are 4 models that you can sometimes get and mine with. 1050, 1060, 1070, and 1080. All but the 1060 come in a titanium version which is slightly better, basically a version 2. They are denoted with TI. The 1050ti is the only 1050 that can mine most coins because the other 1050 only comes with 2GB of ram which most cryptos can’t be mined with. The 1070 TI is basically a defective 1080 GPU that they wanted to do something with, it is still a step up above the 1070, and it is great for mining. The 1080 TI is an awesome card, and when you can find it is well over $1000.

Our goal is to create the cheapest way to get to 1000MH of mining power, or a GH. When you build a rig you have many things beyond the card to consider, such as which motherboard you are going to use, which will set up what CPU, and RAM you can use and more importantly how many cards you can run at once. After you figure this out you then need to figure out how much power all of these cards will use. Power supplies get much more expensive the higher you go. When you add 20% to the power you are often looking at the price of the supply doubling. So, a quality 1000W PSU sells for over 4 times the price of a quality 650W power supply. If you go with the 1070 you need 1000W to be safe, on a 6 card rig. With 1080 cards 1000W will only safely run 4 cards, maybe 5 if you push their power down. Some miners use two lower power supplies to put into one rig to solve this problem. Once you add riser boards, extra power supplies, tons of heat to get rid of, driver issues, motherboard resource issues and overclocking this quickly becomes a very difficult game. And then I see people who hardly know how to build computers trying to build such a rig, at our store we get 2-3 people per week bringing in rigs that they could not figure out how to make work. I know many people who bought stuff and gave up selling everything a week later in frustration.

Cheap and simple is the best way to get to 1GH. We found a board that we use that will support 6 cards with any riser board we tried with no issues. We found that if you put them in an open air bamboo rig they will stay cool. We use wood because it does not conduct electricity, and we can drill into it. We use bamboo because it is strong yet flexible and it is fast growing, environmentally conscious wood. For some of our clients we use a metal rack mount case, this looks great in a rack, but costs over $250 more than the bamboo and requires fans for cooling, we offer this choice but we do not prefer it, it makes the ROI longer because this added cost does not get you any additional mining performance. It is better for shipping however.

Of the cards that we have to work with, we have the 1050TI getting about 14MH, the 1060 getting about 22, the 1070TI getting about 31 and the 1080TI getting about 38MH. These are the options. The 1060 does 1.5 times better than the 1050ti for about 1.6 times the price, but it uses less of the other parts. You can get to 1GH with about 44-46 cards. So 1GH of 1060 cards ends up costing about the same as 1GH of 1050ti cards, the difference depends on how much cards cost when you get them. But currently the 1060 card is very hard to get. Not all cards perform the same some are better and some are worse, depending on things like fans, and RAM. You need almost 70 1050TI cards to get to 1GH. When it comes to the 1070ti it performs 2.2 times faster, but on average costs 3.3 times the price. So even though you only need about 32 Cards to get to a GH with 1070 cards you will be paying about $6000 more for these cards, and because of the higher end power supplies needed the rest of the parts to build the 1070 machines will cost about the same to build 6 of these as the 12 1050ti machines. So to go with 1070 will cost about $6000 more per GH. The 1080 is even worse, with performance 2.7 times that of a 1050ti, it carries a price over 5 times as much, and a 6 card rig requires a PSU that is over 8 times the price of the one the 1050ti uses. To build a 1GH setup with 1080 cards right now costs $10,000 more than the 1050ti just for the cards, and once you factor in the power supply needs, while subtracting the other parts it is closer to $11,000 more to make 1GH with 1080ti over 1050ti. The larger rigs are also hard to power, imagine you only have 20A circuits to work with, if the rig needs 11A to power it you can only plug in 1 rig per circuit, but smaller rigs that use only 3A allow you to put 6 rigs getting you up to 18A on one circuit, needing less to reach your GH. While we are talking about power, remember that all of these rigs also can run on 220V power, and when you do so they are 10% or so more efficient, and create less heat.