The Best GPUs For Ethereum Mining, Tested and Compared

Compared to previous-generation graphics cards, modern cards serve up significantly more performance per watt. But this doesn't change the fact that, in a high-end gaming PC, most of the time your graphics subsystem uses more power than any other component.

In the past, enthusiasts really worried about what their GPUs were doing in that vein only in games. Now, however, power also plays a primary role in determining the profitability of cryptocurrency mining. No matter where you're located geographically, power consumption factors into your calculation of whether (or what) to mine.

According to research from Digiconimist, Bitcoin's power consumption relative to total global electricity use is as high as 0.25%, and according to this IEA report, overall mining power usage could be ranked 48th among the power consumption of all countries worldwide! Like it or not (and we don't), a not-ignorable part of this planet's energy resources is being consumed by cryptocurrency mining. So, we have to take a more detailed look at GPU power consumption not only in games, but also other intensive workloads, notably mining.

Of course, nowadays, the big dog among cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin, is mined mostly using ASICs, hardware dedicated for that purpose. It's consequently of no interest to anyone mining on GPUs. So, for the purposes of our power-consumption analysis, we're starting with current-gen Nvidia cards (AMD's latest will follow soon) and comparing power consumption to performance while mining Ethereum (ETH), the No. 2 cryptocurrency behind Bitcoin in market capitalization. The main advantage of ETH is that its algorithm, called Ethash, is ASIC-resistant. (It's memory-bandwidth-intensive, making it difficult to accelerate using purpose-built chips.)

At this point in time, the Directed Acyclic Graph file stored in graphics memory is larger than 2GB, rendering older cards useless for mining Ether. In the not-too-distant future, 3GB cards won't work, either. So, to account for the future, we're running our benchmarks at a DAG epoch of 190, which is fine for 4GB cards and up. If you want to take a look at the current DAG size, visit this page. Note: There are still other Ethash-based coins with DAG sizes smaller than 2GB. So if you do own an older graphics card, you can find opportunities to mine currencies such as Musicoin, Expanse, Ubiq, and Soilcoin, among others.

We're starting with performance results at stock settings, plan to add AMD's cards next, and then roll in data from configurations optimized for mining.

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