Cryptocurrency mining is a big buzz topic in technology these days and many people have started mining cryptocurrencies. In 2018, Ethereum smashed its long-term $400 ceiling, and reached more than $1,000, which makes it one of the most popular cryptos for mining.
What Is Ethereum?
Ethereum is distributed among a public blockchain, much like Bitcoin, but it has a completely different blockchain protocol than Bitcoin. Bitcoin’s blockchain is based on proof of work (PoW), while Ethereum’s blockchain is soon to become based on proof of stake (PoS).
Ethereum also features decentralized apps (Dapps), which are one of key components of Ethereum’s fast growth in the past few months. Ethereum blockchain is the base on blockchain on which you build smart contract apps and programmes. Also, there are real figure heads that run Ethereum (it is owned by Vitalik Buterin) unlike Bitcoin, which is owned by no one and can’t be controlled by anybody apart from those who use it.
Ethereum is currently the second largest cryptocurrency in the world and not only is it growing quickly, it’s also becoming more widely used. Ethereum is projected to grow tremendously in 2018 and mining is a great way to generate passive income.back to menu ↑
Ethereum GPU Mining
Ethereum’s Ethash algorithm is just one of several algorithms intended for optimal mining on GPUs and is used to secure the network and empowers end users to have full control of their money. This algorithm was designed to prevent the development of dedicated ASICs to mine it. SHA-256 and Scrypt are extremely compute-hungry, consequently rendering ASICs more efficient than our graphics cards (even more so than CPUs). On the other hand, Ethash is rather dependent on memory performance (timing, frequency, and bandwidth). Generally speaking, a GPU is good for mining all GPU-mineable cryptocurrency (including Ethereum Classic (ETC), Zcash (ZEC), Monero (XMR), and Vertcoin (VTC)), which gives GPU miners enviable flexibility, in order to be able to switch between over 40 coins that are based on their current profitability.back to menu ↑
Ethereum Mining Essentials
There are 4 important things that those who are new to mining Ethereum should know:
Ethereum Switches to Proof of Stake (PoS)
Ethereum is about to switch from Proof of Work to Proof of Stake scheme called Casper. Some of the included incentives for this transition are higher scalability, improved protocol economics, environmental friendliness, and easier implementation of sharding protocols. It is currently not yet decided when Ethereum is switching to PoS, but it’s reasonable to expect that it will occur in late 2018. If Ethereum switches to proof of stake, I’m not sure what role miners will have, but it’s possible that Ethereum mining will no longer be possible after that, unless a hybrid Proof of Work/Proof of Stake model is implemented.
If so, GPUs won’t give miners much of an edge on the network as payments are then verified in a different way and as such, demand would decrease.
Mining Demand Drives up the Prices of Efficient GPUs
Many people have started mining cryptocurrencies so more and more graphic cards are going out of stock. GPU manufacturers have struggled to meet demands from miners and this has driven up the prices of particularly efficient cards.
Supply does rise to meet demand over time. However, Ethereum has experienced explosive growth with roughly a $35 billion dollar market cap currently, and this spike in Ethereum’s price has led to a fresh shortage of cards and correspondingly high prices.
Watch Out for VRAM (Video RAM)!
Currently you’ll need at least 3GB of dedicated video memory (VRAM) to mine Ethereum, and this VRAM requirement is expected to grow to 4GB in 2018. It’s important to note that if you are planning to mine with a GPU that doesn’t have at least 3GB of VRAM, you won’t be able to!
The Ethereum Directed Acyclic Graph (DAG) file is stored in the GPU’s VRAM and it increases proportionally to mining difficulty. A new DAG (Directed Acyclic Graph) is generated for each epoch around every 30,000 blocks. This DAG must be downloaded in order to continue mining. Note that older cards are still available but their performance will degrade with each new epoch.
Depending what you do, more VRAM will improve your performance. The present difference between a 4-gig and 8-gig version of the same card can be up to 5 MH/s. MH/s stands for millions of hashes per second, the speed of the hardware solving mathematical algorithms to get Ethereum.
If you’re planning to buy an Ethereum mining GPU, make sure it has plenty of VRAM in order to be future proof.
Your System’s Software and Hardware Are Also Important
There’s more to successful Ethereum mining than buying a nice GPU. On the software side, you’ll need the following:
- The latest drivers for your particular GPU
- A utility that monitors overclocking and temperatures
- The proper Ethereum mining software which will help you connect your Ethereum mining hardware to an Ethereum mining pool and the Ethereum network.
On the hardware side, you’ll need at least the following system specs:
- To operate effectively, you’ll need a minimum of 4 GB of system RAM
- A riser cable for each card
- A solid-state drive, which will speed up the read/write operations of your mining software and operating system
- A steady and fast internet connection, which guarantees a stable and fast connection, even during peak hours
- A case that has extremely good airflow (you can use an equally well-ventilated rack solution if you want to use multiple GPUs)
- A reliable power supply with some spare capacity to perform the required actions at power fail time.
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AMD vs. Nvidia – Ethereum Mining Hardware Manufacturers
AMD and Nvidia are the two biggest manufacturers of graphics card unit (GPU). In the early days of GPU mining, AMD cards were much more efficient for cryptocurrency mining than Nvidia cards and they were the go-to option for dedicated miners. More recent Nvidia cards are designed to work in optimized fashion and they match or even exceed the performance of AMD cards.
If you want a low cost of entry into the world of mining, then the AMD is perfect for you because their cards tend to be cheaper and offer more support and potential for modification. On the other hand, Nvidia Cards have better thermal management and overclocking support within Windows.
AMD and Nvidia are looking to release bare bones GPUs specifically designed for the task of cryptocurrency mining.back to menu ↑
Comparing the Best Ethereum Mining Hardware
We’ve compiled stats on the best available cards currently available on the market, and here’s a brief explanation of these terms:
The initial price you pay for a card will determine how long it takes for your card to pay for itself, based on your mining profits (Some people think if it takes longer than 4 months for the card to pay itself it’s a waste of time. However, I would disagree and I think that Getting ROI=1 after one year is still incredible). Return on investment (ROI) measures the gain or loss generated on an investment relative to the amount of money invested – Coins earned minus electrical costs and other costs. Prices are based on the current Amazon prices at the time of writing, so they should be considered rough indications.
It’s important to note that purchasing used cards from crypto miners is not recommended, because these cards run 24/7 well below their base spec. Many people are selling their cards that have been damaged due to mining (bad over-clocks for extended period of time damages both the processor and ram on the GPU itself).
The name of the chipset manufactured by AMD or Nvidia for each card remains the same (for example RX 480). You’ll notice that various models are available from different Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), which is a company that produces parts and equipment that may be marketed by another manufacturer. AMD Radeon graphics and AMD Wonder products are commonly licensed by OEMs and utilize AMD’s brand to market the product, so you might encounter the MSI Gaming Radeon RX 480.
Although often similar to a retail packaged version of an AMD product, price and performance may significantly vary between OEMs. Their various versions (MSI, Sapphire, and XFX) feature a variety of:
- VRAM speeds or amounts
- Additional cooling features that will facilitate overclocking
- Factory-overclocked memory or clock rates
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This power draw is actually the amount of electricity a single GPU card consumes during the mining process. This amount is measured at the outlet.
This indicator actually shows how many puzzles a GPU can solve within a second under perfect mining conditions with Claymore 9.6, but without any overclocking. The most ‘real’ hashrate is the rate calculated over a very long period, i.e. 24 hours.
There are currently about 2.5 million GPUs mining Ethereum. The rating for efficiency can be determined by dividing the hashrate by the power draw. This is a primary indicator, which shows how profitable your mining operations will be in the future (after the payback period), given that electricity is a fixed, ongoing cost. The more efficient your card (newer cards are usually more efficient), the more profitable it will be once you’ve received the ROI.
We recommend checking out an Ethereum mining calculator before starting with mining process. An Ethereum mining calculator is an essential tool that will help you work this out, and by entering the above details into the calculator, you’ll be presented with a rough guide of your expected profits. The calculator will automatically enter the current figure for difficulty. However, Ethereum’s high price lures in more miners so that difficulty is very likely to rise in the future.
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Best Nvidia Etherum Mining Cards
Below are the best Nvidia’s mining cards currently available on the market. It’s important to note that we excluded Older Nvidia cards with 4 GBs (or less) of VRAM because their performance was usually bad, and it will only worsen more as epochs advance.
- GeForce GTX 1080 Ti
The 1080 Ti represents the pinnacle of Nvidia’s graphics card line-up. The price of this card is a way high, but it has a great deal of fast VRAM, so it will ensure that it’ll be able to mine Ethereum for years to come. From the spec sheet, things look very good indeed and if you try to work on it a bit, however, you can raise the hashrate up to 32 Mh/s. This hashrate is great for mining Ethereum. However, the card is even better at mining Zcash.
It’s the most expensive Ti product ever, and it generally retails in the $800 range. However, mining demand has driven its price to over $1,000 in some locations. But for those who can stump up the cash, it’s a card that really looks to the future.
Pros: Fastest consumer card you can buy, and very overclockable.
Cons: Power hog and relatively expensive.
- Price: $800 – $930
- Power Draw: 330 W
- Hashrate: 31.2 Mh/s
- 11GB GDDR5 X memory at 11GHz
- GeForce GTX 1070 (Founder’s Edition)
GeForce GTX 1070 (Founder’s Edition) is the “Pascal”-architecture GPU that people with limited (though still substantial) budgets have been waiting for. This card is based on the same chip as the big-gun flagship GeForce GTX 1080, but it was cut down a bit to make it more affordable.
Your hashrate may increase from 10% to over 31 MH/s by boosting the stock speed via an overclocking utility, such as Afterburner, which is the world’s most recognized and widely used graphics card overclocking utility which gives you full control of your graphics cards.
This card is an all-round excellent performer, so that mining demand has driven its price from the regular $400 range to over $700, and for me, this is the only real drawback to this card. We like Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1070 for its performance/dollar. However, this implementation costs more and artificially limits the platform’s potential. On the other hand, if you’re able to find the card at a lower price, don’t hesitate to snap it up because it won’t disappoint!
Pros: Power consumption is reasonable, it is very efficient, it has great potential for tweaking and features plenty of VRAM
Cons: A bit pricey, especially when in high demand, it isn’t as overclockable as the GTX 1080.
- Price: $450 – $750
- Memory Size and Type: 8GB GDDR5
- Hashrate: 27.3 MH/s
- Power Draw: 225 W
- Titan V
GeForce Titan V from Nvidia is perfect for those who are looking for the Ethereum mining hardware with an unmatched hashrate. Titan V uses a new type of graphics processor named Volta, which is a brand-new architecture that’s quite different from Pascal and Maxwell, with 64 CUDA cores per SM (instead of the usual 128), HBM2 memory, and other changes that Nvidia hasn’t fully disclosed at this time. The same processor is also found in Tesla accelerators. The Nvidia Titan V targets a very specific audience and is intended for serious number- crunching (such as machine learning, AI, and high-performance computing (HPC) applications).
The card also excels at mining. The hashrate of this card tends to be 70 Mh/s, but it increases up to 82 MH/s when it’s pushed to its limits. One more thing worth noting is that the power consumption doesn’t exceed 215 W. In the raw hash power stakes, Titan V puts Nvidia far ahead in the raw hash-power stakes, and beats out the closest rival from AMD – RX Vega 64, which consumes more power consumption if overclocked. Titan V is super efficient and can be overclocked up to 82 Mh/s, while the Radeon RX Vega 64 only reaches about 45 MH/s and consumes more power.
The Titan V’s massive price tag ($3000) both ensures that it’ll take a very long time to pay for itself and puts it out of reach for the average home miner. On the other hand, if the price is okay for you, we highly recommend you to buy Titan V.
As you can see, Nvidia’s latest flagship card, the Titan V, is a real beast, and there is barely any card that can match this.
Pros: It’s supremely power-efficient and has amazing hashing power.
Cons: Too expensive!
- Price: $3,000
- VRAM: 12 GB HBM2
- Hashrate: 70 MH/s
- Power Draw: 215 W
- GeForce Titan Xp
If you are looking for a solid Ethereum mining hardware, then the Titan cards are something you should look into. GeForce Titan Xp impressed many miners. The large amounts of VRAM are supplemented by an excellent hash rate without too much expenditure of power. Same as RX Vega 64, its top-end AMD rival, this card can be overclocked up to 42 Mh/s, but it will consume 300 W when pushed that hard. On the other hand, the RX Vega 64 achieves a very similar performance but for about half the price.
Pros: High amount of VRAM, and an amazing hashrate with a low power draw
Cons: Too expensive
- Price: $1,200 – $1,450
- VRAM: 12 GB (GDDRX5)
- Power Draw: 200 W
- Hashrate: 35 Mh/s
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Best AMD Cards
Below, we’ve ranked our favorite AMD cards that will be suitable for mining Ethereum in the foreseeable future.
- AMD R9 390(X)
The mining demand has driven prices well above their normal retail price, but when it comes to a relatively cheap videocards with a solid performance currently available on the market, AMD’s R9 390(X) seems to beat other cards. Even though it tends to be a relatively old card (the R9 series was introduced back in 2015), it has aged far more gracefully than the more recent RX 400 / 500 series (which launched in 2016 and 2017, respectively).
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R9 390(X) can boast a pretty good performance and achieves a hashrate similar to the GTX 1079 Ti and 1080 models. However, the price is far lower than theirs and R9 390(X) also has lower power consumption.
Note that R9s only have 4 GBs of RAM, which means that their performance is rapidly degrading with advancement of epochs, which means that you will be able to resell it later only at a very cheap price (once it’s no longer suitable for mining).
Pros: It has a great price and a very impressive performance (for an older card)
Cons: There is a clear shortage of such cards among merchants so the prices may be somewhat too high
- Price: $310 – $550
- VRAM: 8 GB (GDDRX5)
- Power Draw: 235 W
- Hashrate: 30 Mh/s
- AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 Liquid Cooled Edition
There is no doubt regarding the efficiency of AMD cards, and the Vega represents the latest in AMD GPU architecture. While the standard air-cooled Vega series runs a little too hot for serious overclocking, this special edition, with a bit of tweaks and work on overclocking, allows you to reach 42 Mh/s hashrate, while the power consumption will be lower than 300 W! This feature represents an amazing value and makes this card a perfect Ethereum mining hardware! The Liquid Cooled Edition can match the overclocked performance of Nvidia’s Titan Xp, but only costs half the price.
The new Vega cards are extremely powerful for mining, but they require the latest, mining-optimized drivers in order to perform properly.
Note that the Liquid Cooled Vega 64 is very scarce, so if you can find one close to its recommended price, you should buy it without hesitation.
Pros: Amazing overclocking potential, and awesome mining performance for the price
Cons: It may be difficult to find this card at a fair price because it’s very scarce
- Price: $720 – $1,300
- VRAM: 8 GB (HBM2)
- Power Draw: 210 W
- Hashrate: 30 Mh/s
- AMD Radeon RX 580 (and entire RX 400 & 500 series)
These cards are quite effective when it comes to power consumption and they are long considered the workhorse of GPU mining. The cards from the RX 400 and 500 series feature a really amazing cooling and can boast a performance that ideally matches the initial price, but the time has sadly arrived when the cards from these series must be put out to pasture – at least for Ethereum mining purposes. Yet, you can use an RX 580/570/480/470 only for mining altcoins, but unless you can find them at a good price, you should shun the rip-off prices that sellers often charge for these cards.
The hashrate keeps falling quite fast and a flood of RX cards may hit the market when they’re no longer usable for Ethereum mining. Those who want to mine other altcoins may be possible to pick up some bargains.
Pros: Amazing performance for the price, and has excellent cooling
Cons: It’s very scarce so it’s often overpriced, All AMD cards base on the Polaris architecture (RX460, 470, 480 or 560, 570, 580) are increasingly poor for ETH mining
- Price: $340 – $575
- VRAM: 8 GB (GDDR5)
- Power Draw: 185 W
- Hashrate: 18.5 Mh/s
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Unlike Bitcoin, which is now mostly mined using specialized chips (ASICs), Ethereum was built from the ground up to be friendly to GPU mining. That led mining-related sales of graphics cards to soar in recent months as Ether prices took off.
AMD’s cards are more popular with miners and they are likely the best choice for those who are budget-conscious. The fact that AMD’s quarterly sales are over 30% lower than Nvidia’s means that its top line receives a greater benefit from a given amount of mining-related sales. On the other hand, the top-end Nvidia cards outperform AMD cards in terms of power efficiency, and they are quieter and more versatile than AMD cards.
Carefully weigh your options, but whichever card you decide on, be prepared to spend a lot of shopping time at the various retailers and resellers. Only if you keep in mind your budget and power costs, you can hope to find that coin at a “fair” price.
CaptainAltcoin's writers and guest post authors may or may not have a vested interest in any of the mentioned projects and businesses. None of the content on CaptainAltcoin is investment advice nor is it a replacement for advice from a certified financial planner. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of CaptainAltcoin.com