Archive for the ‘Mining Hardware’ Category

As promised last week after the official announcement we are starting a series of reviews of the new AMD Radeon RX 5×0 series of GPUs and the first card to go through is the Sapphire NITRO+ Radeon RX 580 Limited Edition. This is one of the top models of RX 580 from Sapphire that comes with higher factory clocks compared to most other RX 580 GPUs and some nice additional extras such as spare fans. Compared to the last year’s Sapphire RX 480 NITRO+ the new RX 580 counterparts do come with higher clocks and improved cooling solution… and a bit higher price as well. The new RX 580 cards that are more like the last year’s RX 480 from Sapphire are now called PULSE and not NITRO and hopefully we are going to soon have a PULSE card to check out, but for now let us see what the NITRO+ Radeon RX 580 Limited Edition has to offer…

SAPPHIRE NITRO+ Radeon RX 580 8 GB Limited Edition:
– 2304 stream Processors
– 14 nm FinFET, 4th generation Graphics Core Next (GCN)
– 1450 MHz GPU Boost Clock
– 8192 MB GDDR5 Memory, 256 bit Memory Bus, 2000 MHz Memory Clock
– Display Outputs: 1x DL-DVI-D, 2x HDMI 2.0b, 2x DisplayPort 1.4
– All-new Dual-X 95 mm fans, two ball bearing
– Power connectors: 1x 6-pin PCI-E, 1x 8-pin PCI-E
– Power consumption: 225W
– Dual UEFI BIOS

The new larger cooler is a welcome improvement as are the the additional spare fans included in the package of the RX 580 NITRO+ LE GPUs, though the non Limited Edition RX 580 and the RX 570 NITRO+ also come with the same new cooler. Other notable difference however is the additional power connector found on the NITRO+ RX 5×0 series, they all feature a single 6-pin and a single 8-pin PCI-E power connectors. The extra power connector is needed due to the higher clocks and increased power consumption, however it can be a problem for miners willing to connect 6 of these cards with a single power supply. So do have that in mind as well as the fact that the PULSE series are with a single and not dual PCI-E power connectors.

Here is how things look according to GPU-Z for the GPU specs. The GPU clock is running perfectly fine at 1450 MHz and allows for some extra overclock to about 1500 MHz, though not much higher than that. The higher GPU clock comes with increased operating voltage of about 1.1750V and that also results in increased power usage, up to over 140W GPU only Power Draw according to GPU-Z. The video memory is running at 2000 MHz and we kind of expected to see Samsung GDDR5 memory used here, after all this is a more expensive top model from Sapphire of the new RX 580 and is also a Limited Edition one. Unfortunately Sapphire has opted to go for Hynix memory for this series and as a result you can expect not the best performance in memory intensive mining algorithms such as Ethash used by Ethereum or Equihash used by Zcash.

Now off to the benchmarks with some popular algorithms used by the most profitable to mine crypto currencies at the moment. Starting with Ethereum (ETH) mining using the latest Claymore Dual ETH miner version 9.2 and we are getting just about 22.5 MHS from the Sapphire NITRO+ Radeon RX 580 Limited Edition. This is with the stock settings, no memory modifications and is definitely a disappointing result, though considering that the memory used was Hynix at 2000 MHz it seems that the default memory timings are pretty relaxed in order to keep the hgiher operating frequency. Again going for Samsung memory on this Limited Edition model is a must do thing in our opinion, so we are wondering why Sapphire didn’t do just that…

We can see similar not so great result for mining ZEC using the latest Claymore ZCash AMD GPU Miner 12.4, but this is to be expected since the Equihash algorithm is also more memory intensive. The average hashrate we are getting for ZCash (ZEC) mining with this video card is about 296 H/s. The reason for the lower hashrate than what we have seen from some lower clocked RX 480 GPUs is again most likely the Hynix memory, but also the new driver that AMD has released with support for the RX 500 series might be responsible for the not so good mining hashrates and the official AMD Radeon Crimson ReLive Edition 17.4.3 driver for the RX 500 series is a WHQL one and may not be the best performing one for crypto currency mining.

Some more benchmark results at stock settings:
– Decred (DCR): 1.220 GHS
– CryptoNight (XMR): 600 H/s
– LBRY (LBC): 0.165 GHS
– Pascal (PASC): 0.830 GHS
– X11Ghost (SIB): 8.2 MHS

As far as optimizations go, you can play around with the memory straps and get better results. Furthermore reducing the GPU frequency from the default high value will also allow you to lower the voltage and achieve significantly lower power usage, especially if optimizing for ETH, though ZEC should also be fine with a bit higher voltage. Some people also report that the RX 580 LE card can run just fine on a single 8-pin PCI-E power, though should you try that make sure you have optimized the frequency and voltages of the GPU first in order to avoid overloading the power line…

As a conclusion we can say that the Sapphire NITRO+ Radeon RX 580 Limited Edition video cards although seemingly attractive for miners have been clearly designed for gamers and they will do pretty good for gaming with the higher operating clocks. Miners may also like the larger cooler and the extra fans in the package, but the two power connectors and the increased power usage is not something that is so great. At stock settings the RX 580 LE is a bit disappointing in terms of performance, though with some tweaking you can probably get better performance and low power usage. Then again you should be able to achieve the same result with a cheaper RX 580 or even RX 570 after you tweak the memory straps, reduce the clock speeds and operating voltages. So out of the box this is good for gamers, with some tweaking it can still become a miner friendly video card, though you should be careful what you do but the higher price of this particular model may make it not as attractive for miners as for example the GPUs from Sapphire’s PULSE series.

More information about Sapphire NITRO+ Radeon RX 580 Limited Edition…

The crypto currency mining ASIC maker Bitmain is getting ready to launch a new Scrypt ASIC miner with shipping expected to start a bit later this month. The new device capable of mining Litecoin (LTC) and other Scrypt-based crypto currencies is called AntMiner L3+ and should be capable of delivering a hashrate of 504 MHS with a power usage of 800W. With the recent jump in interest and the price of Litecoin we are seeing a bit of a revival of the interest in Scrypt-based coins and this is apparently also the reason why Bitmain has prepared a new more powerful device.

The new Antminer L3+ is essentially double the performance and power usage of the regular AntMiner L3 model announced earlier this year. It offers essentially doubled performance by doubling the number of BM1485 ASIC chips from the 144 units in the L3 to 288 in the new L3+. The English website of Bitmain still hasn’t got the product listed, but their Chinese one has the device already listed with a price of 1.686 BTC per L3+ device that does not include a power supply. The shipping should start sometime in between April 15th and April 20th based on the data on the website. Early May deliveries (May 1st – May 10th) are also possible with a lower price of 1.261 BTC per L3+ device.

Bitmain AntMiner L3+ Scrypt ASIC Specifications:
– Scrypt mining hashrate: 504 MHS
– Power consumption: 800W ± 10% (at the wall, with Bitmain’s APW3-1600 PSU, 93% efficiency, 25°C ambient temperature))
– Power efficiency: 1.6J/MH ± 10% (at the wall, AC / DC efficiency of 93%, 25°C ambient temperature)
– Rated voltage: 11.6 ~ 13.0V
– Chip Type: BM1485
– Chip quantity per unit: 288 chips
– Number of boards in the whole machine: 4 pcs
– External dimensions: 352 mm (L) * 130 mm (W) * 187.5 mm (H)
– Machine weight (without packaging): 4.4kg
– Operating temperature: 0°C to 40°C
– Operating Humidity: 5% RH-95% RH, non-condensing
– Network connection: Ethernet
– Noise level: 75dB

pci-express-x1-x16-usb-30-extender

The defacto standard at the moment for building multi-GPU mining rigs are the x1-x16 PCI Express USB 3.0 powered extenders/risers used to connect the video cards to the motherboard and everybody is using them. Due to the high popularity and demand there are already numerous variations available and since everyone wants to save on the costs for the hardware to maximize the profits people may end up with lower quality extenders as a result. Extenders are not the thing you want to compromise with both in terms of quality or in terms of price as they are usually connected and the difference in cost is usually not that much so saving some cents or a dollar per extender may not be the wisest thing you want to do…

We wanted to share some tips and advice on what to choose as well as what are some of the more common issues with these PCI-E to USB 3.0 extenders based on our experience so far. These risers boards essentially move the video cards away from the motherboard and have enough space in between them to ensure good cooling. They consist of a couple of components – main board with the video card slot, smaller PCI-E board for connecting to the motherboard, USB 3.0 cable and an optional power adapter (Molex to SATA Power, SATA Power to Molex, PCI-E Power to SATA Power or some other variation). Starting up with the color of the PCB of the raiser board, it seems that black and blue boards are generally of higher build quality than the green ones, so go for either of the two colors if you have the option to avoid green boards.

Starting up with the main board where most things can go wrong, even though rarely there is an issue with these, you can still get into plenty of trouble. The number one problem we’ve experienced with problematic and non-working extenders is due to poor soldering of elements. So checking out the solder joints is always a good idea even before installing the extenders and not after that when there might be something wrong. Check the solder connections of the connectors and the few elements on the board – if everything is in place and makes a good contact with the PCB.

Especially check the soldering of the voltage regulator as if not properly soldered everything might seem to be working fine, but you may still not get image outputted to the display and the GPU not working properly. We’ve also seen bad batches of extenders with the wrong LDO voltage regulators soldered on the PCB, so you might want to check the markings on these as well and verify that they are with 3.3V output. These do convert the 5V power input to 3.3V output required by the GPU as you are not directly providing that voltage and the GPU does need it to function properly.

Also check for solder leakage that may be shorting things on the board, especially around the power connectors. We’ve had some cases of bad soldering where the ground pins of the Molex power connector were shorting out with the 12V pins of the empty space for PCI-E Power available on the board for the extender as these are pretty close to each other. Power shorts like this one usually do trigger the built-in protection of the Power Supply and it does not want to turn on at all or immediately shuts down when you try to power on the system.

The smaller board that connects to a PCI-E slot on the motherboard rarely has issues and if it does it is a result of bad soldering of the USB connector on it. So far we’ve only seen really sloppy soldering job on some riser boards with green color PCBs where they were literally saving on solder and some of the pins had bad connection. That is easily fixable by resoldering the pins of the connector that are actually being used (not all of them are actually used). Other than that there is not much else that can go wrong here. You can use a multimeter to check the connection points on both boards through the USB cable with a multimeter just to be sure if you are experiencing some issues.

We’ve seen a lot of different USB 3.0 cables being used with the PCI-E to USB 3.0 riser boards, but never had an issue with any of the cables, so he chances that something is wrong with the data cable are pretty slim. These cables are used for data transfer only, no power goes through them from the motherboard to the video card and that is why there is a power connector on the board of the extender. Although the name mentions USB 3.0 and we actually use USB 3.0 cables, there is no USB connectivity or support anywhere with these devices. They only use USB 3.0 cables as good quality shielded wires for extending a couple of data lines from the motherboard to the video card. You are not able to plug in a video card to a regular USB 3.0 slot with these extenders, it will not work, so do not try doing it.

There are a couple of different power connectors available on different PCI-E to USB 3.0 extenders and in order to improve compatibility the package usually contains some sort of a power adapter that usually converts whatever connector is on the PCB to SATA Power. Most modern power supplies have a lot of SATA Power connectors and not as many Molex or other power connectors. Still going for the extenders with the standard 4-pin Molex power connector is probably the best choice, even if you have to use the supplied Molex to SATA Power adapter. Just make sure that you do not connect more than two extenders to a single power line going to the power supply as even though this may not be a problem for the Molex or SATA power we’ve seen many cases where it becomes an issue for the modular power connector on the power supply side resulting in melted plastic of the connector, loose connection and issues with that. A while ago we’ve published some more useful information about power cables and power supplies that you might have missed, but checking it out may also save you some possible trouble in the future.


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