Welcome back to the CryptoCurrency Starter Series. Here in Part 2b, we'll explore Graphics Card choices, the pro's and cons, and compare prices and use cases.
Graphics Cards / GPUs:
In this section, we'll discuss:
Which hardware work best for which coin types
Look at the overall ROI on choosing AMD or nVidia
Make our recommendation
There are a number of different types of cryptocurrency coins. The best-known coin is Bitcoin.
Other coins and currencies include:
A ranked list of coins with their market capitalisations can be found at Coin Market Cap.
Each coin has its own generation process. Each coin has its own value, and some coins have linked values. Some coins are easy to mine / create / build, and other coins are harder to mine. Some coins can only be mined by certain types of mining equipment.
The complexity of the mathematical algorithm behind the coins has escalated to the point where some coins may not achieve a return on investment if mined with a GPU-based mining PC.
Coins that are now more profitable to mine with an ASIC miner are:
Bitcoin - all versions
Some other coins based on the Scrypt algorithm (similar to Litecoin).
Most other coins can be mined with a GPU-based miner.
Mining cryptocurrency with a GPU boils down in to choosing between two types of GPUs: AMD or nVidia.
AMD-based cards are generally branded as AMD Radeon RX. (Example here).
nVidia-based cards are generally branded as GeForce GTX. (Example here).
How to Mine CryptoCurrency:
If you want to build your ownmining PC at home, you'll need:
a mining PC or mining platform
an internet connection
an operating system (Windows, Linux, etc)
"Mining" as a term for the creation of CyrptoCurrency
The word "mining" is commonly used to describe the process of generating cryptocurrency coins. It's easy to see why: in coal mining, you have to dig, dig dig, and extract the coal from the mine.
With cryptocurrency, your computer needs to "hash" its way through a cryptographic algorithm, and verify that each step has been completed successfully. So, in essence, you're digging your way through the math until you're eventually rewarded with a piece of code called a coin.
Let's use Bitcoin as an example:
As an example, let's use Bitcoin.
The original algorithm (math) for the creation of a Bitcoin was fairly simple. It could be completed by a standard computer, without a GPU, fairly quickly and easily.
However, built in to the algorithm was an escalating level of complexity. This level of complexity increased over time, and becomes more complex as the total output of coins increases. This means that for Bitcoin, the mining process will continually get more and more complex, over time, as more and more coins are produced.
So, at the beginning, the math was fairly simple and the time taken was almost none.
As more coins are produced, the math gets more complicated, takes longer to compute, and therefore it takes more time to produce a coin.
A few years ago, it was possible to use a CPU (not a GPU) to run the calculations and produce a number of coins over time.
By 2017, the complexity of the math meant that using the CPU took far too long to produce a coin. So, in response, people began using graphics cards (GPUs) to run the calculations.
A CPU typically has one, two, or four cores.
A GPU typically has thousands of cores.
Each core can calculate part of the result. Therefore, the more cores you have access to, the faster you can generate a result - until the complexity of the math escalates, and the time per calculation increases to the point where 3000 cores no longer produces one coin per day - then you either need more cores, or more time, or both, to produce a result.
In 2017 and 2018, the complexity of the math escalated again, to the point where people who had been using mining PCs with one or two GPUs were no longer producing their desired return in math calculations, rewarded in coins. So it became necessary to add more cores. How do you add more cores? You add more GPUs. So some people started buying a second or third mining PC with two or more GPUs.
Then, someone realised that the GPUs were doing the work, and the rest of the PC was basically life suport for the GPU. So, someone created a way to add more GPUs to the same motherboard - using PCE Express cables, PCI sockets, and eventually, dedicated mining-motherboards, with up to 13 PCI Express slots.
This enabled people to connect up to 13 GPUs to one motherboard. If we consider that the average nVidia GPU (a GeForce GTX 1080 Ti) in 2017 had 3584 cores, then a mining PC with 13 GPUs was capable of hosing 13 x 3584 = 46,592 cores total.
That's a lot of cores.
When 46,592 cores are not enough
In late 2018, the complexity of the math escalated again, and even people with mining PCs with 13 GPUs started seeing their return on investment drop significantly.
The amount of time and resources it took for a 13 GPU rig to produce one Bitcoin,
outweighed the cost.
The cost of the average mining PC in 2018 stands at around AU $800, plus GPUs.
The cost of an nVidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti GPU in 2018 was around AU $1000.
It stands to reason that 13 GPUs would then cost $13,000 or more.
So, after you've spent $13,800 on your mining PC, you've still got to feed it.
It needs electricity. It needs an internet connection, software, other services, and subscriptions.
It also produces heat and makes noise.
Many miners managed heat by using fans, introducing air cooling, water cooling, or heat extraction. Some people used air conditioning. Other people took the heat and used it for warmth, piping the heat back in to their home heating system.
Managing the noise was a harder problem to solve, because limiting the noise by covering the PC enclosed the noise but also trapped the heat. This resulted in some people moving their mining PCs out of the bedroom or the garage, in to a shed, outbuilding, attic, or other place where the heat and noise wouldn't affect anyone.
There was another problem - electricity.
As the mining PCs needed electricity, and multiple GPUs necessitated lots of power supplies, people began stringing together multiple power supplies, extension cables from the power supply to the GPU, and so on, creating an electrical cabling mess. These cables also got warm or hot. As soon as you had a tangle of cables, unsupervised, getting warm, in an attic, with ferrets, wildlife, dust, dirt, spider webs, and other mess, it became an electrical hazard.
Fork in the Road
So, now we're at a crossroads. If the cost of purchase and the cost of maintenance is going to continue to escalate, then spending $20,000 on a computer to produce a coin that is worth $9000 might be worthwhile, if you can generate more than three coins a year.
When the value of the coin drops to $1000, then, buying a $20,000 computer to produce a single $1000 coin in twelve months is obviously not attractive.
So what do you do?
Well, you can either drastically up your processing power by using a compute engine with abundant, affordable and easy to maintain cores,
You can switch to mining a coin that uses math with far less complexity, but still has a good end value.
This is where most people have chosen to diversify away from Bitcoin proper, in to other forks of Bitcoin, such as Bitcoin Cash or Bitcoin SV, or in to other coins such as Ethereum, LiteCoin, and Monero.
Making Sense of the Numbers
On this list, nothing really makes sense unless you know what you're looking at.
What we really want to look at is performance.
Performance is measured in hashes per second.
When looking at speed, we'r now in the realm of thousands of hashes per second, denoted as a gigahash.
Kilohash is shortened to Kh
Megahash is shortened to Mh
Gigahash is shortened to Gh.
The next level up is 1000 Gigahashes, known as a Terrahash, shortened to Th.
This means that a Th is faster than a Gh.
So on the list, you want to look for the best performance, the highest Gh/s or the highest Th/s.
You'll note that on this particular list, the highest performer is 14 th/s, (fourteen Terrahashes per second), and that score belongs to the AntMiner S9.
Other Hashing states
Some mining equipment use other hashing states.
For example, instead of using gigahash or terrahash, some mining equipment calculate performance in "solutions per second", abbreviated as Sol/s, and called "sols" or "souls".
If you'd like to watch a video that explains this visually, click here.
If you want to mine Bitcoin, buy an ASIC Miner
The math that underpins the cryptographic creation of Bitcoin has escalated in complexity so much that i 2019, that standard GPU mining rigs wont be able to keep up with the hash rate, to produce coins at a speed enough to make a worthwhile return on investment.
If you want to mine Bitcoin in 2018 or 2019, buy an ASIC Miner like the AntMiner S9.
Make a Decision - Choose a Coin
If Bitcoin is now far too hard to mine for a good return (at current prices), then you can continue to mine Bitcoin in the hopes that its value will return.
Alternatively, you could keep or trade in your current Bitcoin, and switch to a Bitcoin fork, such as Bitcoin Cash, Bitcoin SV, or Bitcoin Gold.
Otherwise, you could sell your Bitcoin and buy in to another currency, such as Ethereum or LiteCoin.
You could keep your Bitcoin, and start mining one of the other currencies.
However, some currencies only work well on certain hardware.
Which Coins and Hardware Options work well together:
Determining which hardware works best with which coins is hard.
Use this list to make your choice a little easier.
Bitcoin - use an ASIC miner like the AntMiner S9
BitCoin - use an ASIC miner like the AntMiner R4 with the APW7 power supply
Ethereum - use an ASIC miner like the AntMiner E3
SIA Coin - use an ASIC miner like the Obelisk SC1
SIA Coin Classic - use an ASIC miner like the Obelisk SC1
Space Cash - use an ASIC miner like the Obelisk SC1
Monero - use a CryptoNight ASIC miner like the AntMiner X3
LiteCoin - use an ASIC miner like the AntMiner L3, and a power supply like the AntMiner APW3++
Other coins based on the Scrypt algorithm - use an ASIC miner like the AntMiner L3
Many of these miners can be found here.
If you're not mining one of the above coins, and want to mine using a GPU:
1. Select the coin you want to mine for
2. Select the type of GPU that runs best for that coin (see the GPU section above)
3. Buy one more more of that GPU
4. Connect each GPU to the motherboard and power supply
Follow the installation instructions that come with your GPU.
Until next time,
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