Whether you’re building a single cryptocurrency mining rig or an entire farm of them, the graphics card is the most important component for determining performance. Though mining is not a 3D workload, GPUs do most of the heavy lifting. A fast graphics card can help you mine more currency, more quickly but if it drinks juice through a firehose, you’ll be sending all your earnings to the electric company.
In order to turn a tidy profit from your mining business, you need to buy a graphics card that is both powerful and power efficient. To help you choose, we tested over a dozen different cards, running them through a bevy of performance tests while measuring how much electricity they use and heat they generate. These are our five favorites.
AMD’s Radeon RX 580 is a popular choice with cryptocurrency miners for its excellent stock performance and (relatively) affordable price. Maximize the card’s efficiency by overclocking its GDDR5 memory, dialing down its core voltage, and pulling back on the Power Limit setting in a tuning utility like MSI Afterburner.
The Radeon RX 570 launched at a $170 price point, about $60 less expensive than the Radeon RX 580. Out of the box, however, it offers about 90% of the 580’s Ethereum hash rate. In fact, an optimized Radeon RX 570 is even faster than a stock 580 (with lower power consumption, too). Although it sells at a massive premium compared to AMD’s original MSRP, the Radeon RX 570 is still a top choice for cryptocurrency miners.
Nvidia’s Pascal architecture shines in comparisons of efficiency, and its mainstream GeForce GTX 1060 6GB stands out in particular. Although it isn’t as fast as AMD’s mid-range Radeons in stock form, our data shows the GeForce using a fraction of the competition’s power, leading to a big advantage in performance per watt measurements right out of the box. Just be sure to buy the 6GB version. Lower-end 3GB cards won’t be useful for mining Ethereum much longer.
Short of the uber-expensive GeForce GTX 1080 Ti and Titan Xp, Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1070 is the fastest mining card in its desktop portfolio (the 1070 Ti is comparable, but more expensive). A 150-watt board power rating sounds high, particularly since it requires a power supply with an extra eight-pin PCIe connector. However, exceptional performance and efficiency offset this, yielding the best performance per watt available from an Nvidia card.
The absolute best mining performance from a desktop graphics card comes from AMD’s Radeon RX Vega 56 and 64, due in part to their 8GB of HBM2 memory on a 2048-bit bus. But those two cards are also the most egregious consumers of power (though optimizing their voltages, clock rates, and temperature limits help immensely). While it’s tempting to favor the flagship for its brute force, an optimized Radeon RX Vega 56 actually serves up superior performance per watt, and at a lower price.