Which GPU Is Best for Mining Ethereum? AMD and Nvidia Cards, Tested

The Graphics Cards We Tested

Not all graphics cards are even capable of mining Ethereum. Your AMD or Nvidia GPU should be a fairly recent model, and it's going to be limited by the amount of memory on-board.

The DAG Size Problem

Ethereum mining relies on the creation of a sizable file called a DAG (Directed Acyclic Graph). As time goes on and transactions take place, the number of ETH blocks grows, and the file grows as well. In practice, it gets a little bigger each time it crosses a threshold called a DAG Epoch, meaning every 30,000 blocks representing a window of ~100 hours. Since the DAG relies uniquely on this block hierarchy, it can be pre-generated, allowing miners to catch up. But the DAG must be stored in graphics memory. And that's where some cards run into problems.

Beginning with a certain Epoch, the DAG increased beyond 2GB. At that point, it no longer fit in the on-board memory of most entry-level graphics cards, rendering them ineffective for mining. With a DAG Epoch of 140, cards equipped with 3GB of memory are still usable, but with the size of the DAG continuing to grow, they're the next ones to be eliminated.

So, a graphics card with 3GB will work for now, but if you wish to continue mining Ethereum, you'll want a card with at least 4GB of memory. Boards with only 3GB can still be used with one of the other cryptocurrencies also based on Ethash, but with a smaller DAG size.

Our Contenders

We chose the following cards to test:







How About Mining-Edition Cards?

Certain board partners sell graphics cards specifically for mining. While they're often based on traditional gaming products, they do differ somewhat. For instance, the Sapphire model we're testing is based on an RX 470 Nitro, but with a few alterations. You only get one DVI-D output (certain other mining-specific cards have no display outputs at all), plus there's a second BIOS optimized for cryptocurrency mining. It lowers GPU frequency and voltage, while pushing higher GDDR5 clocks and tuned memory timings.

In practice, the stock BIOS on Sapphire's RX 470 Mining sports a 1288 MHz GPU frequency with Samsung RAM operating at 1850 MHz (and 1V). The purpose-built mining BIOS lowers the GPU to 1206 MHz and pushes the memory to 2150 MHz (with a 0.95V setting).

Test Configuration

Operating System
Windows 10 x64 Pro 1703 (15063.786)
Mining Software
Claymore's Dual Ethereum AMD+Nvidia GPU Miner v9.8*
Claymore's Dual Ethereum AMD+Nvidia GPU Miner v10.3
Drivers
Nvidia GeForce Game Ready 388.13
Nvidia GeForce Game Ready 384.94**
AMD Radeon Crimson ReLive Edition Beta for Blockchain Compute

*We were not able to re-test Asus' RX 580 OC 4GB with the latest Claymore software version. We still included our previous results for your information, since there are minimal differences in performance between the two builds (almost nonexistent, according to the tests we carried out on other cards).

**We were not able to re-test Asus' GTX 1060 Strix OC 6GB with GeForce 388.13 drivers. However, our other tests performed with GeForce cards show no difference in performance between the 384.94 and 388.13 builds.

MORE: The Ethereum Effect: Graphics Card Price Watch

MORE: How To Mine Ethereum Now

MORE: Experiment: Build a (Profitable) Ethereum Mining Rig From Spare Parts

MORE: Top 25 Cryptocurrencies By Market Cap

MORE: Best Graphics Cards

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  • kubex.00714
    Do you know why my gtx970 is stuck at 10 Mh/s?
  • Integr8d
    I like hot Toms laments the prices of GPUs, due to the mining craze, and then publishes articles like this...
  • derekullo
    507472 said:
    I like hot Toms laments the prices of GPUs, due to the mining craze, and then publishes articles like this...

    If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.
    If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.
    If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
  • WyomingKnott
    Add some workstation cards to the review. If they turn out to be hashmasters, it would relieve the strain on the graphics card market.

    fat chance.
  • derekullo
    51219 said:
    Add some workstation cards to the review. If they turn out to be hashmasters, it would relieve the strain on the graphics card market. fat chance.


    A titan V would have handily crushed any of the cards here with its 70+ MH/s Eth rate.

    https://hothardware.com/reviews/nvidia-titan-v-volta-gv100-gpu-review?page=5

    But when it comes to making your money back you use:
    Cost of graphics card / Megahashes per second (Easy to understand formula, real formula at the bottom)

    For the Geforce 1060 that comes out to roughly

    $400 / 25MH/s or 16 dollars per megahash (I was able to buy 4 1060s for about $300 each a few months ago. Score!!!)

    For the Geforce Titan V that comes out to roughly

    $5000 / 82MH/s or 61 dollars per megahash.

    As you can see it would take at least 3.8 times as long for a Titan V to pay itself off, not including the power cost.

    This isn't the most true comparison due to not taking power into account, but still gives an easily understandable way of seeing why a $5000 GPU isn't worth mining with.

    You could have simply bought 3 Geforce 1060s and had a similar hash rate for cheaper.

    The goal here being to make back the price of the graphics cards, then everything else is gravy.


    Ideally I would have used the formula of

    Cost of graphics card / Spreadsheet calculated monthly income taking power and other fluctuations into account.

    to calculate on average how long a graphics card would take to pay itself off.

    You can also use the calculator on https://whattomine.com/ to quickly calculate the "Spreadsheet calculated monthly income"
  • aquielisunari
    Sun Tzu
    Quote:
    If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
  • aquielisunari
    Bad job Tom's. Just add fuel to the GFX card debacle. Irresponsible and just wrong. First the user must go out and OVERSPEND on a GFX card and then follow this article and start mining and increase the shortages even further. Hm, good job Tom, good job.
  • derekullo
    481389 said:
    Bad job Tom's. Just add fuel to the GFX card debacle. Irresponsible and just wrong. First the user must go out and OVERSPEND on a GFX card and then follow this article and start mining and increase the shortages even further. Hm, good job Tom, good job.


    Tom's gave you all the information needed for you to decide whether to mine or not.

    Let me paint it a bit simpler.

    Lets assume you believe the price of Ethereum is going to stay at what it is today, currently $709, forever.

    Plugging in all that information into whattomine.com gives us:

    https://whattomine.com/coins/151-eth-ethash?utf8=%E2%9C%93&hr=22.5&p=90.0&fee=1.0&cost=0.06&hcost=400&commit=Calculate

    (0.06$/kWh is my power cost in my area)

    Or $38.78 monthly profit or a 309 day repayment.

    If you are confident that Ethereum's price will stay the same or maybe even rise then you could expect to recoup your $400 purchase in at max 309 days.

    If 309 days is too long to wait or you are unsure about cryptocurrencies then stay out of the water.
  • WyomingKnott
    @aquielisunari
    I don't think that Tom's is going to advance mining much; our longtime enthusiast members mostly won't get into it and it's widely enough known already. A little extra knowledge for those of us on the sidelines and, who knows, maybe miners will concentrate on the most efficient cards and the price of the rest will go down. Not an issue for me, I'm running a fanless GT430, so what do I care about current prices?
  • aquielisunari
    51219 said:
    @aquielisunari I don't think that Tom's is going to advance mining much; our longtime enthusiast members mostly won't get into it and it's widely enough known already. A little extra knowledge for those of us on the sidelines and, who knows, maybe miners will concentrate on the most efficient cards and the price of the rest will go down. Not an issue for me, I'm running a fanless GT430, so what do I care about current prices?


    Just seemed inappropriate is all. But it is trendy as all get out. i know Tom has to be unbiased so even if the miners have single-handedly ruined pricing, put most GFX cards out of reach of many users and basically just bleeped things up Tom's can't get personal. They are earning money. Putting food in their kid's tummies and all that. Who wouldn't like a little extra on the side. My 1080 Ti was purchased at($10 less) than MSRP back in January.

    Talk about big, bad and beautiful, not to mention cool. I considered mining for a short period of time, but I didn't go to the darkside. Gaming with my GPU in the 30's and 40's took some time to get used to.
  • caamsa
    So now Tom's is having a if you can't beat them join them moment.
  • AnimeMania
    If NVidia and AMD released their high-end cards 1080Ti, Vega 65, etc. with 3.5GB of RAM and a lower price to reflect less gRAM. These wouldn't be of interest to miners while still being of use to gamers. Do you think gamers would buy them?
  • aquielisunari
    1839266 said:
    If NVidia and AMD released their high-end cards 1080Ti, Vega 65, etc. with 3.5GB of RAM and a lower price to reflect less gRAM. These wouldn't be of interest to miners while still being of use to gamers. Do you think gamers would buy them?


    Not at all. Top end gaming can exceed 3.5GB of VRAM.

    The 1060 6GB is a mid-range card. Ditto with the 4/580 8GB. Then we go to look at better cards and they only have 3.5GB of VRAM. Not going to work.
  • TJ Hooker
    1839266 said:
    If NVidia and AMD released their high-end cards 1080Ti, Vega 65, etc. with 3.5GB of RAM and a lower price to reflect less gRAM. These wouldn't be of interest to miners while still being of use to gamers. Do you think gamers would buy them?

    Quite the opposite I'd think. Gamers purchasing high end cards wouldn't want them to be hamstrung by a lack of VRAM to play at higher resolutions, whereas I don't think most mining algorithms would be significantly affected. The only concern would be Eth DAG size reaching 3.5 GB, but it's entirely possible it'll go PoS and end eth mining before then anyway. And regardless, you can always mine a different coin.

    Also, this calculator shows that DAG size will only reach the point to render 3GB unusable around the end of this year (block ~6.9 million, epoch 231), not epoch 180 like shown in the article. Not sure which to trust...
    https://investoon.com/tools/dag_size
  • mac_angel
    I'm confused why you think you can't mod NVidia GPU bios's
  • Finstar
    You'll either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become a miner.
  • TJ Hooker
    169108 said:
    I'm confused why you think you can't mod NVidia GPU bios's

    From what I've heard you can't mod the BIOS on GTX 10 series cards, which are the only Nvidia cards worth using for eth mining anyway. Do you have a source showing otherwise?
  • aquielisunari
    1636679 said:
    169108 said:
    I'm confused why you think you can't mod NVidia GPU bios's
    From what I've heard you can't mod the BIOS on GTX 10 series cards, which are the only Nvidia cards worth using for eth mining anyway. Do you have a source showing otherwise?


    I'm wondering why EVGA's 1080 Ti FTW3(both air and air and water cooled) have a dual BIOS if that is the case which I am fairly positive it is. I guess we just have an extra level of protection if we update the BIOS incorrectly.
  • ammaross
    Hashes per watt is absolutely not the metric you want to judge a card's merit on. Case and point: you pick an RX 560 and the ilk as the ultimate card, even at a pittance of hashes per card. Usually, the increased coins earned from the extra hashpower outstrips the extra power usage significantly (up until you hit that steep portion of the performance exponential curve). If you're scaling anywhere past a few cards or a single rig, 75W vs 100W on a card isn't your primary concern.
  • TJ Hooker
    481389 said:
    I'm wondering why EVGA's 1080 Ti FTW3(both air and air and water cooled) have a dual BIOS if that is the case which I am fairly positive it is. I guess we just have an extra level of protection if we update the BIOS incorrectly.

    Not sure. From a bit of googling, it sounds like you can still flash your BIOS with another signed BIOS, but you are unable to flashed a modded BIOS (due to it having an invalid signature). Maybe the dual BIOS is just to protect against a botched flash, or maybe there exist signed BIOSs out there that you can download and flash. Maybe the dual BIOS is just a standard feature for FTWs that got left on despite not being applicable. All I know is that I can't find any results when I search something like "GTX 1060 BIOS mod" (other than people saying you can't), and given how popular eth mining is you really think it wouldn't be hard to find results if that was a thing.
  • InvalidError
    More 'good news' for people hoping that chip prices will come down any time soon: silicon wafer manufacturers such as SUMCO and GlobalWafers have announced ~20% hikes in 300mm wafer prices due to on-going shortages with more possible hikes coming in 2019.
  • aquielisunari
    125865 said:
    More 'good news' for people hoping that chip prices will come down any time soon: silicon wafer manufacturers such as SUMCO and GlobalWafers have announced ~20% hikes in 300mm wafer prices due to on-going shortages with more possible hikes coming in 2019.


    Salty.
  • papality
    This is part of the problem. YOU, Tom's Hardware, are part of the problem.