Cryptocurrency Mining Hardware: Full 2018 Guide
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With Bitcoin’s prices skyrocketing, cryptocurrency mining has become quite popular among both hobbyists and professional miners. Furthermore, since a lot of new coins with greater ease of mining are hitting the market, an increasing number of people are showing their inclination towards the hardware that is required to mine cryptocurrencies.
Almost a decade ago when the concept of cryptocurrencies was relatively new, most coins could be mined simply by the use of a CPU. Today, however, the tables have turned, and there is a need for higher processing power which only specialized hardware can provide. In fact, to mine Bitcoin, one will need as much processing power as which only a single entire data center can utilize. Nevertheless, with small-scale hardware, it is very much possible to mine other potentially profitable coins such as Ethereum.
Most cryptocurrencies today other than Bitcoin can be mined using a GPU. Do note, however, that mining using the CPU is neither possible nor profitable anymore. This is because GPUs can hash the data about 100 times faster as compared to CPUs all while using lesser electricity per work unit.
In general, complete mining hardware would comprise three of the following units:
- A graphics card (GPU)
- A high power supply
- A motherboard
What is crypto mining hardware?
Cryptocurrency mining hardware is merely the set of equipment that you need to mine cryptocurrencies. This statement, however, is quite general. Do keep in mind that you will probably have to upgrade your equipment every 4-5 years or so due to the increasing difficulty of mining popular coins such as Ethereum.
There are three types of mining hardware that are commonly used to provide the processing power for PoW (Proof of work) mining. All the three tend to have their advantages along with the limitations of the type of cryptocurrencies that they can mine.
CPU stands for ‘Central Processing Unit’ and is the part where the processing power of your computer originates. AMD and Intel produce the majority of CPUs in the market out there. In other words, they can be considered as the brain of the computer. Whereas the CPU performs most of the computational tasks of the computer, the other components inherently support the computations that a CPU performs.
CPUs are designed to switch between a wide variety of tasks quickly. For the handful of coins that can be mined using a CPU today, the industrial grade mining farms have lesser control. This is because the vast majority of people do own at least a single computer.
Nevertheless, since POW (proof of work) mining requires a large number of back to back calculations, CPU mining tends to be extremely slow. This is because CPUs tend to have a lesser number of logic units for arithmetic calculations.
ASIC stands for ‘Application-Specific-Integrated-Circuit’. Regarding cryptocurrencies, one can define it as a microchip that is primarily dedicated for the execution of a hash algorithm at fast speeds. For instance, an ASIC for Bitcoin would be able to compute the hashes about 100000 faster than the fastest CPU.
Each ASIC however, would only be able to compute a single type of hash algorithm. Hence, you will have to purchase different ASICs for each coin in case you want to mine more than one. Canaan and Bitmain are among the companies that design the best ASICs. Due to the unique capabilities of ASICs, they are quite expensive. You may get a single ASIC with a decent hash power for as much as $3000.
While they can perform a couple of trillion hashes in a single second, they do have some disadvantages. They tend to heat up a lot quite often. Hence, a proper cooling environment is required. A cooling environment would be necessary, which would include a number of fans. Along with that, in case you hope to get an ASIC, you must also expect your electricity bills to rise significantly. Since electricity bills from mining are huge, mining is most common in countries that have cheap electricity.
While GPUs are indeed not as powerful as ASICs are, they have higher usability and flexibility. GPU stands for ‘Graphics Processing Unit’. Also known as graphics cards, these pieces of hardware include a chip that essentially does all the repetitive computations.
GPUs just like ASICs, are designed to perform a vast number of calculations in a small period. For instance, they do a considerable amount of computations to display millions of pixels in one frame for high graphics.
They are great for gaming, rendering videos, and in processing pictures. Apart from that, they are also used for mining and making calculations in scientific applications.
The Best Crypto Mining Hardware
Before Nvidia cards turned into popular mining hardware, they were very well-known for their gaming performance. However, due to a decrease in the profitability of AMD cards, Nvidia cards have gone very high in demand. While Nvidia cards are significantly more expensive as compared to AMD cards, they are more efficient for mining in the long run. However, do note that for mining via Nvidia GPUs, you will have to attach a number of Nvidia cards in a rig to make mining more profitable.
Nvidia cards such as the Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti are capable of giving a hashrate of 36 MHash/s. Here, MHash/s is a unit used to measure the hashrate, and it stands for millions of hashes in one second.
Before buying a Nvidia card, do consider the advantages and disadvantages mentioned below:
Advantages of Nvidia cards
- High power efficiency: Efficiency in terms of power is perhaps the biggest advantage that Nvidia has over other cards in the same line. The power efficiency is usually measured regarding million hashes per watt = Mhash/j.
- Silent: Nvidia cards tend to make lesser noise as compared to the AMD cards. In fact, they are less noisy even when their fans are rotating at considerably high speeds.
- Less heating up: Due to a high level of power efficiency and good thermal insulation, Nvidia cards tend to heat up less as compared to AMD cards. Hence, they are far more manageable and user-friendly as one does not have to worry about the heat.
- Good user support: Nvidia cards tend to have frequent updates which keep glitches and all software/hardware problems at bay.Since they are more popular, you can easily find solutions to common issues via the community forums.
- High flexibility for mining: Nvidia offers a lot of flexibility when it comes to mining. It can mine a range of different coins except the ones based on Ethash and cryptonight This is because both of these coins tend to fall under AMD’s control. In general, Nvidia cards are popular for mining the lower end coins.
- High resale value: Nvidia cards tend to have a higher resale value, as they tend to be more popular among the gaming community. So at some point, if mining your favorite coins are not profitable anymore, you could easily sell it away to gamers.
Disadvantages of Nvidia cards
- Not profitable for Cryptonight and Ethash: A couple of major coins in the cryptocurrency market such as Monero and Ethereumare based on the algorithms of Cryptonight and Ethash. Nvidia’s performance in mining these coins is significantly lower as compared to AMD’s performance.
- High cost: Nvidia cards tend to be far more expensive as compared to the other graphics cards in the same line. In comparison, AMD cards tend to be less expensive.
A mining rig that consists of AMD cards is usually used to mine Cryptonight based coins or those that are based on the Ethash algorithm. However, do note that mining Ethereum with AMD cards is not profitable anymore primarily due to the increasing interest of big corporations with bigger mining setups. Nevertheless, cryptonight based coins are still possible to profitably mine via AMD cards.
Just like Nvidia cards, AMD cards will also have to be installed in the form of a mining rig to make mining profitable. Mining coins with a single piece of GPU won’t do enough!
AMD cards such as the popular AMD HD 7990 is capable of providing a minimum hashrate of 32 MHash/s.
Advantages of AMD mining
- Less risk in mining: AMD cards are less risky when it comes to mining the coins that are based on cryptonight and Ethash algorithms, unlike Nvidia cards that simply cannot take the lead. This is because coins that are based on the Ethash and cryptonight algorithm are more profitable as compared to coins based on the Equihash algorithm which Nvidia cards can mine.
- Cheap: AMD cards tend to be far cheaper as compared to Nvidia cards. Hence, the ROI periods are shorter which results in fast profits.
- Easy to tweak: AMD cards are known for being very friendly for miners as they are easily tweakable. This simply increases their flexibility both for overclocking and for saving power.
Disadvantages of AMD mining
- Less power efficiency: As compared to their Nvidia counterparts, AMD cards tend to be less power efficient. Hence, they could result in higher electricity bills.
- Heating issues: Since they are less power efficient, they tend to heat up more as compared to Nvidia cards. Usually, you will need extra fans or some cooling setups for optimal performance.
- Low resale: While you can get them for a cheaper price, their resale value is quite low because of a lack of interest from the gaming community.
Antminer S9 is a powerful ASIC miner that can deliver exceptional results. Having about 189 chips installed over three different circuit boards, this Antminer product could be one of the most beastly miners that are ever created for hobbyists.
Advantages of Antminer S9
- High hashrate: Antminer S9 offers a surprisingly high hashrate of ~14 TH/s which makes it ones of the most powerful miners ever
- Highly efficient: It is highly efficient when it comes to power usage, and uses only ~0.1 Joule every GH/s
Disadvantages of Antminer S9
- Low mining flexibility: Since Antminer S9 is dedicated for Bitcoin hobbyists, its mining flexibility is quite limited. Though apart from Bitcoin, you can use it to mine any coin that is based on SHA-256 hashing algorithms such as Bcash, Namecoin, and Peercoin.
- High cost: Antminer S9 is not a cheap piece of hardware and can cost you most than 2000 USD. Moreover, the power supply is separately sold which could cost you an extra $200.
Produced by Bitmain, Antminer D3 is one of the best Dash ASIC miners in the market today. It is considered as the most efficient miner for mining Dash. Currently, the Antminer D3 offers a significant advantage in terms of power as compared to other ASIC competitors.
Advantages of Antminer D3
- High hashrate: The Antminer D3 offers a 15 GH/s hashrate which is quite high, as only a few competitors ASICs are capable of providing.
- High power efficiency: It runs at a 1200 W power supply with an efficiency rate of 1.6 J/MH which is pretty good considering the high hashrate that it gives.
Disadvantages of Antminer D3
- High cost: The Antminer D3 will cost you roughly greater than $2500 minus the costs for power supplies.
- Limited flexibility: Since it is an ASIC hardware, it is dedicated to mining Dash, and hence, other coins cannot be mined profitably via Antminer D3.
What affects the efficiency of your crypto mining hardware?
- Hash rate: Primarily, hash rate (also known as hash power) is a measure of the power that a cryptocurrency’s network consumes to generate or to find blocks over a time span of 10 minutes. The power which mining hardware consumes goes into finding the blocks which are more like mathematical puzzles that cannot be guessed without the required computational power (hash rate).
- Power consumption: Power consumption of any mining hardware simply refers to the amount of electrical power it utilizes per second. High power consumption would simply result in high electricity bills, resulting in added costs. The lower the power consumption is, the more profitable the mining becomes.
- Mining difficulty: Mining difficulty affects the efficiency of any mining crypto hardware significantly. An increase in the mining difficulty would mean that more hash rate will be required to mine a block, which would in turn also increase the power consumption.
- The coin you are mining: Each coin tends to be different in terms of the algorithm that it is based on and the difficulty of mining it. For as long as the coin is profitable to mine with your mining hardware, your piece of equipment will be considered efficient enough for that particular coin. For instance, ASIC miners are usually dedicated to a single type of algorithm and are hence highly inefficient when it comes to mining other coins.
Crypto mining hardware then and now
It would be quite surprising for you to note that when the popular Bitcoin had newly hit the markets, it was possible to mine about a 100 BTC a day simply by using CPU. This today, would be not less than a dream come true for most people. Today, you cannot mine Bitcoin profitably without having an industrial grade mining setup. Even the electricity cost of these large-scale mining setups would exceed a million dollars.
The trends in cryptocurrency mining change so rapidly over a span of a few years, because of the increasing difficulty of mining the major coins. The difficulty of mining a coin significantly increases as the number of miners joining the network increases.
With an increase in mining difficulty, a greater hash rate (Mhash/s) is needed to mine a particular coin. This has led to the development of high-end GPUs (as CPUs are no longer effective in mining) such as the AMD HD 7990 that is capable of providing a hash rate up to 43 Mhash/s.
In a Nutshell
Indeed, the hardware that is required for mining the popular cryptocurrencies is not cheap. However, you can certainly mine the lower end coins with a single piece of GPU or two.
Before choosing a suitable piece of mining hardware, you must consider all the limitations and the scope of mining that it carries. These include the power efficiency, the hash rate, power consumption, and the range of coins that it can mine efficiently.
We hope to have provided you with all the information regarding crypto mining hardware which you were looking for. To find out more about cryptocurrencies and related topics, you are welcomed to check out the other sections on our website.