Ethereum’s Ethash algorithm quickly set itself as one of the go-to GPU mining algorithms on the cryptocurrency market. It’s currently the driving algorithm behind many coins like Ethereum, Ethereum classic, Musicoin, Pirl, Ubiq, Expanse, Ella and growing, most of them are forks of the original Ethereum code with different specifications.
The Basics of Ethereum Mining
If you’re new to mining Ethereum, there are 4 important things you should know:
Proof of Stake is Planned
Ethereum has been planning to switch to Proof Of Stake using an algorithm called Casper. This switch will either make Ethereum mining not possible or severely decrease the rewards, but this applies to only Ethereum. The other coins using Ethash will not be affected and so your cards will still be able to function properly on another coin.
Sufficient VRAM is Required
When looking at an Ethash coin to mine you need to check on something called the DAG, the Ethereum Directed Acyclic Graph. This gets stored in the VRAM of the GPU and so to be able to mine this coin, your GPU must have enough storage to load the DAG in.
Currently you can only mine Ethereum with cards that have at least 3 gigabytes of VRAM, the DAG increases with every epoch, which is approximately every 30,000 Ethereum blocks. While Ethereum mining is currently not possible with 2 gigabyte cards, you can mine other coins like Ubiq with 2 gigabyte cards until 2027. So if you’re new to mining and want to try it out with your old card, you are always welcome to do that on other coins.
You can check the current and future status of Ethash coins in here.
Mining Demand Drives Up the Cost of GPUs
GPU-based cryptocurrency mining in the past few months has reached a popularity level in which the two companies producing GPUs (AMD and Nvidia) are no longer able to supply the demand. This made retailers and secondary market sellers increase their prices.
One of the skills of being a good miner is being able to hunt for deals where GPUs are moderately priced by checking out online stores, offline stores and other secondary market outlets.
There’s more to it than GPUs
While the graphics processor is arguably the most important part in Ethereum mining, your system’s hardware must match a following specification. Here’s what we recommend:
- For rigs of less than 6 GPUs, a 4GB ram is required. For more than that I recommend getting an 8GB ram stick.
- A motherboard with enough PCIe inputs, this is a crucial thing to look for in your motherboard. If you are building a multiple GPU rig your motherboard needs to have enough PCIe inputs to hold them.
- A Powered riser cable for each card.
- An open-air rig for multiple GPUs.
- A reliable power supply. The capacity needs to be calculated based on the GPUs you choose, we’ll follow up on this one later.
- A reliable internet connection.
There’s also the software side and the programs and drivers you’ll need. Some of these are GPU specific so we will list only the general ones here and expand later:
- Temperature monitoring and overclocking software – this software is intended to be used to tweak your GPUs performance. It will make your GPU mine better (more hashes per second), mine cooler (lower temperature is always good for the cards), and mine more efficiently (use less power). Most miners use MSI afterburner overclocking software and GPU-Z for temprature and power monitoring.
- Mining software – for mining Ethash coins most people use the Claymore software, it is one of the oldest and most supported Ethash miners. Some other programs have been surfacing in the past year like Ethminer and Phoenix miner.
Ethereum Mining Hardware Manufacturers: AMD vs Nvidia
AMD cards are almost always more suitable to the starting miner in terms of price, as the base mining cards of AMD cost almost 2/3 the price of its Nvidia counter part. However, this comes at a price. Nvidia cards are almost always easier to use, configure and overclock. So Nvidia cards do not require more time learning how to configure cards, flash a bios or undervolt.
AMD cards also are not as powerful as Nvidia cards. One of the most important advantages of Nvidia cards is that they are better on a lot of other algorithms. While AMD cards are more efficient on the Ethash and Cryptonight algorithms, Nvidia cards beat them on most others.
Comparing the Best Hardware for Ethereum Mining
We’ve compiled stats on the best available cards, which should help you decide which one to pick. Here’s a brief explanation of these terms:
The name of the chipset produced by Nvidia or AMD for each card remains the same (such as RX 480). But there will always be variations of the same model produced by different companies, each of them will be known for their pros and cons. For example, the MSI Gaming X variation is known to consistently have one of the best cooling systems of all, but one of the highest price tags as well.
Some variations can also have out of the box better performances as they can come factory overclocked, but this can be compensated by using an overclocking software.
The initial price you pay will determine how long it takes for your card to pay for itself, based on your mining profits. The current earnings can be calculated by an Ethereum mining calculator. The calculator takes into account only on the current earnings and does not take into account difficulty increases or price increases.
The rate the card achieves under ideal mining conditions. This will be given as a range, which can be reached by overclocking, underclocking, flashing a BIOS or undervolting.
This power draw is the amount of electricity a card consumes while mining, which is measured at the outlet.
You can determine the rating for efficiency by dividing the hashrate by the power consumption. Newer cards are usually more efficient. This rating is of prime importance—given that electricity is a fixed, ongoing cost. In other words, the more efficient your card, the more profitable it will be once you’ve received the ROI.
To get the most efficient mining from AMD cards, you will need to download the AMD blockchain driver. Without this driver you will see massive degraded performance from the new and old generations with the increase in DAG.
Most AMD miners also edit and flash their card’s BIOS to achieve much better mining power with much less energy costs. This is an advanced operation so you should do this only once you are mining and comfortable with it but this process can increase performance by up to 50% at times so its rewarding to know how to do it. There is a guide on the Ethereum forum that thoroughly explains the process.
AMD RX 470/570
Increased Price: $250-$550
Regular Price: $200-$270
Power Draw: 80W-200W
Hashrate: 20-30 Mh/s
VRAM: 4 and 8GB GDDR5
Pros: This series is by far the most energy efficient series out there. Using proper memory overclocking and core underclocking and undervolting techniques, you can get this card to run on only 70-80w and still have it push out upwards of 30 Mh/s.
Cons: Due to it being a very good series for mining, its frequent to find them overpriced by sellers at almost twice their price, making them have weaker ROI periods. They are also not very good at most other algorithms, so if you want the freedom to mine other altcoins then this series may not be for you. If something was to happen to Ethereum mining (e.g. move to Proof of Stake), expect this series to flood the market with undervalued prices.
AMD RX 480/580
Increased Price: $250-$550
Regular Price: $250-$300
Power Draw: 100W-250W
Hashrate: 20-30 Mh/s
VRAM: 4 and 8GB GDDR5
Pros: This series is the bigger brother of the RX 470/570 series. It has an almost exact hashrate but with more power usage. It’s also better on a few other algorithms leaving you with the freedom to choose more altcoins to mine.
Cons: It has basically the same cons of the RX 470/570 series, but it has a slight advantage of mining more algorithms. So if something were to happen to Ethereum mining, you could still mine other coins like Zcash and Monero with them.
AMD Radeon RX Vega series
Increased Price: $800-$1200
Regular Price: $450-$700
Power Draw: 150W – 250W
Hashrate: 30 – 45 Mh/s
VRAM: 8 GB HBM2
Pros: This is the newest series from AMD. It includes the RX vega 56 and the RX vega 64, both of which are 8gb RAM and are very close in mining performance. They have great performance for the power they consume and they can be resold for more as they are the newest generation. They are also really good at other algorithms like mining Monero and Zcash.
Cons: They are pretty expensive and so the ROI period can be much more than the older RX series. They run a little bit hotter than the older series and they are very rare to find at a good price.
Nvidia cards are more expensive than their AMD counterparts. They are easier to use and don’t require any tech-savvy skills. Just get the card, download the drivers and you’re good to go. Even when you want to overclock them (for Ethash), you’re mostly going to just be increasing the memory clock and decreasing the power limit.
Increased Price: $260-$400
Regular Price: $170-$270
Power Draw: 60W – 150W
Hashrate: 18 – 25 Mh/s
VRAM: 3/6 GB GDDR5
Pros: If you’re aiming for Nvidia cards then this is the base card you’re going to be looking at. It’s relatively cheap and it is very good at Ethash mining. It also doesn’t face any degradation of performance as the DAG increases.
The card can be found in 3GB and 6GB configurations, while they won’t have a lot of differences in the mining hash power, the 3GB card is not going to be able to mine Ethereum in mid 2019. So if you want to mine Ethereum you should probably get the 6GB version. The card is also good at mining Zcash and has extremely low power usage.
Cons: Their prices have been bumped up quite a lot in the past few months so they may not be as money efficient as buying their AMD counterparts. Also their mining density, the Mh/s per motherboard, will be the lowest of all the other cards.
Increased Price: $550 – $700
Regular Price: $370 -$450
Power Draw: 150W – 225 W
Hashrate: 25 – 32 Mh/s
VRAM: 8 GB GDDR5
Pros: A very good all around card. It’s not only great at Ethereum mining, it can also mine Zcash, VTC and many other coins. This is one card that won’t have any degraded performance if Ethereum mining stops as a whole, it has plenty of other choices.
Cons: Like almost every other good card, their price has increased dramatically in the last few months. If you can find them at a good price, don’t hesitate.
Increased Price: $900-$1200
Regular Price: $750-$850
Power Draw: 150W – 250W
Hashrate: 35-40 Mh/s
VRAM: 11 GB GDDR5
Pros: This card is the power house of mining. It is the most expensive, most powerful GPU used regularly in mining and it has the highest mining density. A full rig (6) of these would cost almost as much as 3-4 full rigs of the RX 470 series. This card is suitable for almost every GPU mineable coin out there.
Cons: Mining Ethereum with this card might not be the best decision, as its hash rate isn’t much higher than the gtx 1070 for almost double the price. But you’ll find that mining other coins with this card is much more profitable than mining Ethereum.
Whichever card you decide on, be prepared to spend a lot of time researching various retailers and resellers. Only then can you hope to find a “fair” price. Mining has really inflated GPU prices across the board, which is a good indicator that GPU mining is still profitable—if you play your cards right. You will also need to pick out a power supply that is able to fit your entire rig’s power and more, some mining rig use double power supplies as the high capacity ones are usually much more expensive, for a 6-card rig of RX 470s a 1200w power supply will probably be more than enough, while a 6-card rig of gtx 1080ti might need two of these.