Archive for the ‘Tests and Reviews’ Category

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There are a lot of people that use various GPUs for mining with the stock fans that the video card comes with and normally many of these fans start to have issues in just a couple of months or after a year or so. The time frame usually depends on how clean is the environment that the mining rigs are at and how well maintained are the rigs themselves. Sooner or later it is inevitable for the fans to start behaving worse than they were initially, because of the dirt they accumulate that slowly eats away the brass or bronze bushings of the non-serviceable cheap fans that most video cards use. By non-serviceable fans we mean these where you have no access to the mechanical parts of the fan when you remove the sticker of the fan. One of the most famous and widely used such fans are the ones used on Sapphire Dual-X cards, but there are others such as Gigabyte’s Windforce and so on.

The good thing is that these cheaper fans can actually be kept in good shape as well if you know how properly disassemble them to clean them on a more regular basis. Even if you have missed the point where the fans could be kept in top shape by cleaning them regularly and have instead started breaking down, there is still a chance that you can bring them back to life as long as they have not stopped completely rotating. We have prepared a guide on how you can completely disassemble a non-serviceable fan from a Sapphire 280X, clean it up and assemble it or repair it with the help of some new bearings that you are going to be using to repair the fan making it like new. Although this guide is specifically for Sapphire’s Dual-X fans, it should be pretty much the same for many other similar fans. For comparison the turbine type coolers used on most cards, although noisier, are much higher grade and more expensive fans that can last much much longer without any attention from the user.

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Depending on if you just want to clean the fans or to repair them and make them more durable you may need a different set of tools. For the first you can go with just a spray can with cleaning fluid, but for proper repair and upgrade a few more tools will be required. You will need a spray with cleaning fluid to make cleaning easier, we are using TRW brake cleaner, but anything else that is not too aggressive to plastics should be fine. You can also use alcohol-based cleaner that is not under pressure to clean the parts of the fan as well, so pretty much anything will do here. You will also need a philips and a flat screwdriver, some cyanoacrylate adhesive, a small wood screw (or a larger one for plastics) and a pair of bearings with size 2x5x2.5mm in size (this is the correct size for Dual-X fans, some other fans may require different size of bearings). This is all you will need to prepare along with some patience and a few spare fans that you may initially break until you get the hang of things if you are not careful enough.

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You need to detach the fans from the faceplate holding them, usually they are held by three screws each and then comes the first step in disassembling the non-serviceable fans. You need to carefully remove the top rotating part of the fan with the blades. The top part of the fan contains not only the blades, but it is also essentially the rotor part of the brushless motor while the lower part contains the stator of the brushless motor that rotates the fan. You need to separate the two parts carefully by using three or four of your fingers to push in between the two parts (some fans come of easily than others). The important thing here is not to pull the blades of the fan and they can easily break, you just need to apply enough force with your fingers in between the two parts of the fan and you will get the desired result of the two parts separating. Gigabyte’s Windforce fans for example do require more force to come off as apparently they have a stronger plastic locking ring.

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Here are the two parts of the fan disassembled, this is essentially half of the hard part already done. At this point you can just use some cleaning spray to clean up the two parts of the fan, apply some grease on the steel shaft and reassemble the fans. This would be enough to extend the lifetime of the fan significantly if you do this maintenance once every few months of operation. You just need to make sure you use a pressurized cleaning fluid that will take out all of the dirt away from the lower part of the fan as it is harder to clean than the upper part. If you are doing only the cleaning part you can just push the two parts back together and everything should be fine for a couple of more months when it would be a good idea to repeat the cleaning process again.

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For the people that want to repair and upgrade their fans with dual ball bearings thus extending their lifecycle significantly you will need to continue with the disassembling part. You need to use the flat screwdriver or a flat tool that you need to insert between two of the poles of the stator and gently apply pressure. Do not push too hard, if you do not feel the stator with the PCB below moving a bit, then just move to the next pole and apply some more pressure. This is needed, because the PCB with the electronics and the stator of the motor that is on top is glued to the plastic bottom part of the fan and you need to break the glue. Be very careful not to press on the thing copper wire sued for the windings as this may damage the motor, also too much pressure may break the stator away from the PCB, so you need to be extra careful here. There is just a drop of glue, so once you feel the part rotate a bit you should be able to separate the PCB with the electronics from the plastics pretty easy.

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Here are the parts separated. As you can see the bottom plastic part contains the metal bushing (sleeve bearing fans) and on top of it is the plastic holder ring that locks into place the top part of the fan. The PCB and the stator of the motor show traces of some grease and dust accumulated on it. You need to remove the plastic holder ring and be careful not to loose it and under it is the metal bushing that you need to pull out and replace with the two bearings turning your cheaper sleeve bearing fan into the usually more expensive dual ball bearing fan that provides longer lifespan and reliability. As you can see when you remove the plastic holder ring there is a lot of dirt inside, this is the thing that essentially kills the fan because it eats away the bushing unevenly and destabilizes the rotating part of the fan.

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You need to turn the screw inside the metal bushing with the help of a screwdriver, again be careful here, because as soon as you feel that the screw is not rotating, but instead the whole bushing is you will need to pull out the screw with the bushing attached to it. Be careful after removing the metal bushing, because under it should be a small black disc that is easy to get lost and you will need to put it back in when you clean everything up.

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Clean everything well from the dust and dirt and make sure not to loose any of the small parts and then you will be ready to start assembling back things. The difference is that instead of returning the metal bushing back you will be inserting the ball bearings inside the plastic bottom of the fan.

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Start by placing the small black disc inside the bottom plastic part, make sure it is seated well on the bottom before you start inserting the ball bearings. The two 2x5x2.5mm ball bearings should fit tight inside where the original metal bushing was, just push them carefully to get inside and place the plastic ring holder on top.

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Apply a small drop of cyanoacrylate adhesive on the spot where the original glue was placed and quickly place the PCB with the electronics and the stator of the motor back on top of the plastic lower part. You can use the fan cables as a guiding point in order to properly orient the two parts, so that there will be no issues gluing them together properly. What you should be extra careful about while gluing the two parts is not to rotate the bottom too much as the white plastic ring can move around and while pressing the two parts together. Make sure it stays on its original position centered above the bearings as otherwise you may have to remove the two parts and try to glue them again after reseating the plastic ring.

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Wait a couple of minutes for the glue to cure and you are ready to assemble back the two parts of the fan together. Just hold them parallel to each other and gently press them until you hear a click sound. This would mean that the plastic holder ring has moved to its place and has locked onto the steel shaft of the rotor (the top part of the fan). After that you can reassemble the fan on the video card and connect it to the power in order to test that everything is working properly and it should. As a result of replacing the stock metal bushing with two ball bearings you should have the fans rotating just like brand new with a little less effort and with an extended lifespan that the bearings should offer. What you have essentially done is to upgrade your cheap sleeve bearing (single metal bushing) to a higher grade dual ball bearing fan.

As a result you should have less problems with fans on your GPU mining rigs, but as we’ve already explained even if you do the simpler procedure of cleaning the stock fans every few months you should still experience much less problems on the long run. We have already cleaned, repaired and upgraded quite a few of these Dual-X, Windforce and some other similar fans with great success and are really happy with the results. You can even upgrade the cheaper sleeve bearing fans of a brand new card to dual ball bearings, and that should be possible on many video cards even without causing potential problems with the warranty of the card. The reason for this is that if properly done one would have to actually completely disassemble the fan using the procedure above or a similar one in order to find out that the stock bushing was replaced with ball bearings and that normally does not happen in service centers, maybe unless of course you send in the card with fan problems.

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We have already covered the performance of the new AMD Radeon RX 480 GPUs for mining Ethereum, so it is time to see how the GPU performs with other popular algorithms. We have already mentioned that the RX 480 apparently has some issues running sgminer (at least under Windows), so we were not able to run tests with many of the currently popular algorithms, but it seems that many people missed that part. The good news is that there is now an updated version of the NiceHash Miner that apparently adds support for GTX 1070/1080 and RX 480. So we have downloaded it and ran the built in benchmark and you can see the results above as well as the fact that some algorithms still have issues apparently hence the 0 MHS results, but it is much better than before. We have noticed that the sgminer that is being packaged and used for RX 480 now has some pre-built binaries for Ellesmere (RX 480) included. So even if you are not planning on using the NiceHash Miner on Windows, you still might get the sgminer-5-4-0-general from the bin folder and use it on Radeon RX 480.

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Here is a chart comparing the performance of a reference design AMD Radeon RX 480 from ASUS in the other algorithms apart from Ethereum to an Nvidia GeForce GTX 970, namely a Gigabyte WindForce OC model and a reference design Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 from ASUS. The benchmark did not produce results for NeoScrypt, WhirlpoolX and Blake256r14 as you can see, so it seems that some algorithms may still have issues running on RX 480. Also do note that the RX 480 has been around for just a few days, so there have not been any specific optimizations for the new Polaris architecture that it uses and further performance increases might be possible. The X11 Evo algorithm is not yet supported by the sgminer for of NiceHash, so there are no results as the dedicated miner is having trouble runnign on the RX 480 on Windows (we have not yet tried Linux).

The pleasant surprises are in Blakecoin and the X-based algorithms where the result of the RX 480 beats with a bit what the GTX 970 manages to provide in terms of hashrate. Unfortunately in the others the GTX 970 turns out faster than the RX 480 for the moment and the AMD card can definitely use some improvements in algorithms such as Lyra2REv2 and Quark for example. The GTX 1070 however manages to provide a significantly higher hashrate compared to the RX 480 and with a lower power usage than the AMD card. Again the RX 480 could get some tweaks and fixes and it definitely needs some and will most likely manage to catch up to the GTX 970, but reaching the GTX 1070 is probably too much to expect.

We should not forget that the GTX 1070 is a significantly more expensive GPU than what the AMD Radeon RX 480 sells for, but still we did not expect doubled or almost doubled hashrate provided by the GTX 1070 in most algorithms. It seems that the benchmark results we get for crypto mining and the ones when using the RX 480 for gaming are pretty much the same (apart from memory intensive mining algos such as Ethereum) where the new AMD card manages to be on par or a bit faster than a GTX 970 in some of the cases.

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Time for some overclocking of the GeForce GTX 1070 Founders Edition and running the tests again to see what hashrate increase can we expect from the GPU with the increased operating frequencies. The Founders Edition cards are somewhat limited in the max power you can get, but the good news is that the GTX 1070 FE still has the same 8-pin PCI-E power like the 1080, even though its default TDP limit has been lowered to 151W and the Power Limiter allows for just 12% increase over the default TDP (169W max TDP). There is already a tool for flashing modified video BIOS files available, so now the only thing we need figured out is how to modify the TDP limits in BIOS and other settings such as frequencies and voltages in order to be able to squeeze some additional extra performance over the stock clock capabilities of the Founders Edition cards and even more from the non-reference designs that are already starting to become available on the market.

We already know that the GTX 1080 and GTX 1070 GPUs are handling quite well overclocking and you can squeeze quite a bit extra performance from them if you are not limited and don’t care than much about the power usage. We are trying the GTX 1070 Founders Edition to see what it can do withing its current limits without touching the core voltage and what we got was: Power Limit + 12%, Core Clock + 210 MHs, Memory Clock + 830 MHs, the max settings that are running stable for 24/7 mining on our test card and the results are below. Do note that these can vary from card to card, so you should experiment until you find what works best for you. Regardless it seems that the GTX 1070 FE cards are doing quite well in terms of overclocking in general, so you should expect an nice extra performance boost from them and even more from the non-reference designs.

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The performance increase we get after overclocking the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 Founders Edition card with the clock settings above are pretty much consistent with what the GTX 1080 FE shows. The performance boost in terms of hashrate increase in the various algorithms is about 12-14% higher than at the stock settings and better results could be achieved with increase of the voltages, however with that you will also need to be careful that you are fitting in the TDP limit. It is interesting to note that the GTX 1070 FE does perform better on NeoScrypt (668 KHS stock/771 KHS overclocked) than the 1080 FE, but it it still outperformed by the GTX 980 Ti for example. It seems that the slower GDDR5 video memory used here does perform better with the memory intensive algorithms unlike the faster GDDR5X memory used in the 1080, however the GTX 1070 still needs some fixes for NeoScrypt. As already noted the situation with Pascal GPUs including the GTX 1080 and the GTX 1070 is the same for Ethereum mining under Windows resulting in very low hashrates, so while waiting for a driver fix you might want to go for Linux for Ethereum mining on these cards. All other algorithms we have tested besides the not so great NeoScrypt performance are doing well under Windows 7 and 10, so mining for these you don’t need to rely on Linux, especially if you are no good with it.


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