What's the best hardware for mining ethers?
For the highest hashrate per GPU, the answer is the AMD HD 7990 (minimum hashrate 43 MH/s), followed by the AMD R9 Fury X (minimum hashrate 28 MH/s).
The HD 7990 was released in 2013 and is harder to purchase from stores as this series has been superseded by the R9 series released in 2015. Internally, the HD 7990 with 6Gb RAM consists of two AMD HD 7970 GPUs with 3Gb RAM each packaged together.
Note that your Ethereum mining software will treat the HD 7990 as two separate GPUs with 3Gb RAM each, and miners with 2Gb GPUs have recently encountered some problems with the growing DAG file size 2Gb cards stopped working - 13/03/2016.
From AMD HD 7990 vs AMD R9 Fury X, here is a comparison of some key features of the HD 7990 (left) vs the R9 Fury X (right):
- Lowest TDP: 375 watts vs 275 watts
- Mimimum Ethereum megahashes per second: 43 vs 28
- Overclocked and configured Ethereum megahashes per second: 47 vs 33
- Memory: 3Gb (x2) vs 4Gb.
Other parts of the system
- An Intel motherboard with sufficient PCIe 3.0 x16 slots. You can use PCIe x1 slots with the appropriate x1 to x16 riser.
- An Intel CPU, does not have to be the fastest
- A power supply that is capable of handling the power draw of the GPUs and other parts of the system (each of my R9 390Xs my 275 TDP uses about 300 watts from the power supply)
- Minimum 8Gb RAM compatible with the motherboard
- Storage, does not make much difference
- Computer case with sufficient cooling or a home-made rig
- Fans. Liquid cooling requires more thought as it is the GPUs that require the cooling and you will have to purchase the correct GPU liquid cooling add-on, or purchase a GPU with the liquid cooling built in.
More Details Below
The main part of the mining hardware is the graphics processing unit (GPU). Here is a link to a site that allows you to compare the different GPUs - http://www.mininghwcomparison.com/list/index.php?brand=both . Type "Ethereum" in the filter.
In general, the best current GPUs are the AMD R9s. But the answer is more complicated.
What do you want to optimise for? Lowest upfront cost per unit hashrate? Lowest ongoing cost (upfront + electricity)? Best hashrate per unit electricity? Lowest heat (and electricity) per unit hashrate?
And all this depends on the cost of hardware (it's all relatively more expensive in Australia) and the cost of your electricity (also relatively more expensive in Australia).
For the lowest heat (and electricity) per unit hashrate I would say the R9 Nano.
For best hashrate per unit electricity I would say the R9 Fury X.
For the lowest upfront cost, possibly the R9 290.
If you are considering the superseded AMD HD range, the HD 7990 gives you the highest hashrate as this is essentially 2 x HD 7990 GPUs packaged as one. It is harder to find stocks of these units now.
I've gone for the R9 390X.
You don't need a fast motherboard and CPU. AMD CPUs use more electricity than the equivalent (by performance) Intel CPUs. But AMD CPUs are cheaper than the equivalent (by performance) Intel CPUs.
Bill Of Materials
Your bill of materials will consist of:
- x GPUs
- Power Supply Unit
- Computer case (or build your own rig)
- PCI riser cables if you want to fit more GPUs on your motherboard than "comfortable"
- Operating System - the superb Linux, or Windoze.
Build a list with expected hashrate and cost in a spreadsheet and work out the best for your situation.
Here's my meagre setup that produces 52 megahashes per second without overclocking, 63 with. Cost in Aussie dollars. It's not the best in many ways, but it works:
- GPU - 2 x Gigabyte 8GB R9 390X G1 Gaming PCI-E VGA Card. 2 x $589
- CPU - Intel BX80662I36100 Core i3-6100 3.7GHz 3MB LGA1151 Skylake Boxed CPU. $173. This is the cheapest CPU I could find at my local computering shop.
- Motherboard - ASRock H170 Pro4/D3 Intel H170 S1151/4xDDR3/2xPCIEx16/HDMI/DVI/USB3.0/ATX Motherboard. $145. This motherboard has 2x PCIe 3.0x16 and 3x PCIe 3.0x1, takes socket 1151 Intel 6th generation CPU and dual Channel DDR3/DDR3L 1866(OC) RAM. This motherboard only has 2 PCIe 3.0 x 16 slots which are too close together, so choose a better motherboard if you can.
- RAM - Kingston HyperX FURY Blue HX318C10FK2/8 8G Kit (4Gx2) DDR3 1866MHz Desktop RAM. $78. Fastest supported by the motherboard and CPU, don't need much for mining.
- Storage - Samsung 850 EVO MZ-75E250BW 250G SATAIII SSD Solid State Drive. $139. Big enough for the blockchain, 13 Gb currently and expanding.
- Power supply - Thermaltake TP-850MPCGAU Toughpower 850W 80+ Gold PSU Power Supply Unit. $215. Get a Gold or Platinum PSU as these have higher electrical conversion efficiency.
- Case - Coolermaster RC-942-KKN1 HAF X 942 USB3.0 Case. $179. Hard to get now. 14.35 kg 230 (W) x 599 (H) x 550 mm (D), 1 x 230 mm fan, 1 x 200 mm fan, 1 x 140 mm fan. The 200 mm fans move about 100 cubic feet of air per minute.
- Case Fan - Thermaltake CL-F025-PL20RE-A Luna 200mm Red LED Case Fan. $22. Just a bit more cooling.
- Power meter - Deluxe Large Screen Power Meter with 1m Extension Lead. $35. Need to measure the cost of electricity for tax purposes.
- Total $2,164 .
It may be cheaper to buy ethers on an exchange. You may have to buy bitcoins with your fiat currency and exchange your bitcoins for ethers.
Also, the number of ethers you can mine is limited by the "size" of your rig, whereas buying ethers will be limited by the size of your wallet.
Here are two Ethereum mining profitibility calculators:
The difficulty in mining ethers is going up as more people bring online their miners and the price of ethers in the future is uncertain.
The Ethereum network will be moving from the current proof-of-work to proof-of-stake where the GPU miners will all become obsolete, and the date of the switch is uncertain but may be in a few months.
It is very easy to burn out your GPUs - I've done in two, but luckily got warranty replacements. The first just stopped working after one day. And one of the fans got "sticky" in the second one after a few months.
For me, my aim was to find out more about the Ethereum network as I am a software developer and the possibility of programming smart contracts is like playing with a giant box of Lego Mindstorm, with unlimited pieces.
Here's Rasterbator, my 11.828 TFLOPS Ethereum mining supercomputer with my dog for scale. And yes, it is a long tongue.