Archive for the ‘Tests and Reviews’ Category

For people that have been into mining for a couple of years already when it comes to mining rig frames there are not much secrets, they have already figured out what works best for their needs and have tweaked their designs a lot since the start. For people that are new or are just getting started with mining it is much easier to go for a readily available mining rig frame and add the hardware to it than to start figuring out the whole thing from the scratch. That is why we always love to check out some of these professional mining rig frames that have been improved and refined over time and are available for miners to help them get started faster and with better results by just adding the mining hardware. What we are going to be looking at now is one such product called BITMINE RIG-V6 (rev04) made by and available for sale.

The BITMINE RIG-V6 (rev04) is a compact and easy to assemble and use mining rig frame for a single power supply and a up to 6x GPUs. It is a clever modular design that can easily be extended to 8x GPUs with an additional module and a second power supply, or up to 12x GPUs with a second frame. The price of the mining frame is 179 EURO for the standard version and there are discounts available for purchase of multiple units as well as for payment with crypto currencies (multiple supported). The frame comes mostly pre-assembled, so you will just need a few minutes until you are ready to start adding the mining hardware in it. The package contains all that you need probably besides a Philips screwdriver, though you probably won’t have trouble finding one of these at home anyway.

The mining frame has a lot of clever ideas implemented, so that you can quickly and easily add or remove hardware to it without the need of tools or at least without many tools for the most part. There is a handle on top to make thing easy to move the whole thing around, even with its pretty compact size it is still much easier with a handle. The GPUs are mounted with reusable plastic holders where the screws usually go and their backplane locks in place on the other side in the frame, and at the back is a plastic holder to keep the GPU stable in place. The design is planned for a 2.5-inch SSD drive that attaches to a plate that you clip on the main frame on top of the PSU, though you can still use an M.2 SSD or a hard drive and place it somewhere in the build. There is a metal holder available for the PCI-E risers to make sure they do not move too much and cause stability issues or GPUs disappearing on a random base due to bad contact.

Originally the stand can work fine with GPUs at up to 150W TDP each, for more you would need to add extra cooling fans and the frame has space for three 140mm fans. The compact design means that the GPUs are pretty close to each other, but they are fine if they do not use too much power and the extra fans can help move the hot air better. GPUs with single turbine fan will probably work better as they direct the airflow better and help prevent the formation of hot air pockets, though video cards with two or three regular fans will work fine if their cooling solutions are not larger than two slots. More powerful in terms of performance and consuming more power GPUs with 2.5 slots or even lager coolers are pretty much not recommended for this mining frame as you would have a hard time properly cooling them.

When you assemble all of the hardware, before you add all the cables things are looking pretty good and clean. The assembly time is quite short as there is nothing hard attaching the motherboard, the PSU, the SSD and the video cards. The design of the frame makes sure that everything is easily accessible, so adding the cables should not be a problem at all, making sure things look clean and pretty after that, well that is an entirely different story. Then again cabling has always been the major problem when building not only mining rigs, but even when assembling a regular computer where you normally just have a single video card and much less power and other cables.

When you get to the part where you connect the cables you will quickly see why the design of the frame is compact and why everything is made the way it is. You should not be using PCI-E risers with USB cables shorter than 60 centimeters, otherwise you might have trouble connecting everything. As for the power cables, the design with the PSU at the bottom should be just fine for pretty much all power supplies as far as the length goes, though if you add an extension module for 8 GPUs without a second power supply you might actually have issues with cable length. Cables are messy at first and you will probably need to spend some time figuring out what to go where for the best results, the good thing is that you get some Velcro and cable ties bundled with the frame to help you organize things a bit.

Now for some potential issues and things that might use some improvement or at least you should be aware of to avoid them and get a workaround solution ready. The bracket holding the PCI-E risers to the motherboard works pretty well with both types of risers (straight up and angled USB connectors), though it may not work that great on all motherboards for various reasons. For example if you use a motherboard designed for more than 6 GPUs like the AsRock H110 Pro BTC+ you need to use specific slots and still the sixth PCI-E riser will not be held by the bracket. The same goes for other mining motherboards from Gigabyte or Asus and others that are designed for use with more than 6x GPUs, though with standard six GPU mining boards everything should be fine. If you are using a 2.5-inch SSD and place it on the supplied bracket that holds it on top of the power supply you may notice that the screws holding it might be angling the drive a bit as they touch the PSU, but the bigger problem is that the whole bracket that slides into the frame is pretty loose and that can cause possible issues if/when it detaches from the frame. The feet of the whole frame may not be that great as well, there are four plastic holders used for the GPU attachment as well, but the problem is that they are very small and they take up all of the weight. If you place the frame on not so even surface it may be shaky and unstable as the contact surface is very small. Using rubber feet with larger surface area would to the job of insulating the frame from the ground and providing a more stable support, including even vibration dampening. The extra fans that you can mount on the back of the frame to improve cooling are nice and all, but since they come at the back of the cards you could have potential issue with a HDMI dummy that needs to be connected to a GPU on some motherboards in order for them to boot up or to switch display resolutions when remote controlling them (depends on OS, hardware configurations and so on). Not serious issues at all, just some areas that may use extra work and improvement and these can be done by the user assembling the mining frame with some clever ideas as well.

Since the BITMINE RIG-V6 (rev04) is great for lower power GPUs such as AMD Radeon RX 470/570 or RX 570/580 as well as Nvidia GPUs such as GTX 1060, GTX 1070, GTX 1070 Ti, GTX 1080 and/or their respective mining editions we were more interested in what happens if you go for more powerful video cards. Our goal was to test especially with GTX 1080 Ti (250W+ TDP unoptimized) as well as RX VEGA 56/64 GPUs (210-300W unoptimized) and as one would expect things did not go that well with cooling these beasts properly. The main problem is the tight space between the cards that does not allow for high enough airflow, even with 3 extra powerful 140mm fans added to improve air circulation. If you optimize the power usage of the GPUs to about 200W or less you should be able to properly cool them down using extra fans, but at the cost of a noisier mining setup. With no power optimizations things are not going to be good, so essentially forget about using these powerful GPUs for mining with this rig unoptimized. Even with Optimized GTX 1080 Ti at 200W and three extra powerful 113+ CFM fans helping we still observed that the topmost video card is about 10 degrees cooler than the others, just because it has access to more cooler air and there are no hot air pockets forming like in the cards below.

Our conclusion is that the BITMINE RIG-V6 (rev04) is a great design for a mining rig frame that you can use at home or in a small crypto mining location. It has clever design and is easy to assemble and use, has some really great features and is extensible to some point via additional modules. It works really well with mid to high-end GPUs, but we are not going to recommend it for the top models used for mining like AMD Radeon RX VEGA or Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti as they cannot really be properly cooled the way we like them to (though you can still try on your own risk). The BITMINE RIG-V6 (rev04) is priced decently, though if you buy more than one and pay with crypto you can get extra discount and a nicer price. So we do recommend that you check the BITMINE RIG-V6 (rev04) mining frames, they are produced and shipped from within EU (Italy), so there should be no extra taxes for delivery to any country inside the European Union. The only possible issue at the moment is the fact that the official website is only in Italian, so you can get into a bit of trouble ordering if you do not know the language, but with an online translator you should be fine in going through the order process.

Update: We got a confirmation that the PCI-E riser holder and the SSD plate have been redesigned to resolve the potential issues we’ve mentioned, so you can count these as solved already if you order the mining frame now.

Visit the official Bitmine website for more information about the BITMINE RIG-V6 (rev04) mining frames…

Lately it has been quite hard to get access to or even buy higher-end GPUs used for mining, even at unreasonably high prices it is not always easy, but we finally managed to get our hands on a Nvidia P104-100 based GPU from ASUS to play a bit with it. The new P104-100 is certainly a bit different approach from Nvidia for a mining GPU when compared to the previous version P106-100 that wasn’t much different than a consumer GTX 1060. The new P106-100 is essentially the GPU found inside a GTX 1070, but with a different memory configuration, so it is not essentially a GTX 1070 rebrand with limited warranty and no video outputs. You get 4GB GDDR5X video memory that is apparently optimized for mining with a 256-bit memory bus, finally something done properly on a mining GPU, so you can get better performance in memory dependent algorithms. Of course Nvidia partners like ASUS get to play a bit with the boards and some times they make the rest of the things right, some times they don’t.

We are still left with the impressions that when it comes to mining GPUs manufacturers still want to cut on costs and they often do it the wrong way around by messing the things they should not. Typical for ASUS we see a warranty sticker on one of the main screws holding the GPU cooler, but be calm, the board is with just 3 months warranty, so after that you are free to remove it and clean the cooling solution, change the thermal grease or do whatever you want with it.

The ASUS Mining P104 4G uses a single 8-pin PCI-E power connector that should be more than enough for the default TDP of 180 Watts for the P104-100. The cooler seems pretty good at first sight and with the dual fans that seem similar to what ASUS uses on their STRIX series the operating temperatures should be fine for mining. Looking a bit closely however things start to get a bit disappointing as it seems that ASUS has decided not to properly cool the memory chips (there is no direct contact with the cooler). Not cooling the video memory properly is definitely a minus here as the chips get pretty hot at stock frequencies and they can be overclocked pretty good, but then get even hotter. As a result from this you might not be able to squeeze the maximum performance you could be able from the particular version of P104-100.

Looking at the backplane of the GPU we see that there are no video outputs available, but a closer inspection of the PCB actually shows two connectors present. Surprise, surprise… when you remove the backplane you see that the board actually has a single HDMI and a single DP video outputs onboard, they are just covered by the backplane. Well done ASUS, you could have just opened two holes on the backplane and have these usable anyway, but probably since the idea of the mining GPUs is for them to be used only for mining they decided to cover them.

Remember that we’ve mentioned that the cooling fans of the Mining P104 4G GPU look very much like the ones found on the ASUS STRIX series of GPUs for gamers, well they are the same inside as well. Meaning that the fans use bushings instead of ball bearings and that is a no go for a dedicated mining GPU in our opinion! Metal bushings are cheaper, but they do not handle dust and heat as good as ball bearings and in most mining scenarios their usable life is much shorter that what a good ball bearing fan is capable of providing. Guess manufacturers just don’t care what happens with the fans after the 3 months warranty you get is over and most likely the fans will not fail in just 3, but we’ve seen issues starting to appear with these ASUS fans in 4-6 months of use for mining.

The latest GPU-Z unfortunately does not properly recognize all of the specs of the P104-100 GPU, it confuses the specifications with the ones for a GTX 1080 Ti. The ASUS Mining P104 4G comes with a GPU that has 1920 CUDA Cores running at 1607 MHz base clock, it uses 4GB GDDR5X video memory running at 10010 MHz and has a default TDP of 180 W. One important thing to note here is that the P104-100 is running at x4 PCI-E 1.1, so usability for things other than mining may be limited in terms of performance. The key here is the video memory that is apparently optimized for mining and it has surprisingly good results when it comes to memory intensive algorithms such as Ethereum’s Ethash for example, but more on that in a bit.

Here is a quick look at what performance in terms of hashrate you can expect form the ASUS Mining P104 4G GPU at stock frequencies, the benchmark results are with the latest NiceHash Legacy miner covering most of the more popular algorithms at the moment. For GPU-intensive algorithms you can expect to get performance that is similar to that of a GTX 1070, the main advantage that the P104-100 has is in the Ethash algorithm. The default performance you can expect to get mining Ethereum or other Ethash-based coins is around 33 MHs at stock settings, but if you start playing with the clocks you can get up to about 40 MHs.

Going right for +800 on the video memory and voila – you get a little over 40 MHS on Ethereum using the Claymore ETH dual miner, but here comes the problem with the video memory getting hot. As already mentioned the memory chips do not have direct contact with the cooler, so they rely on cooling only from the air coming from the fans and they get pretty hot. So running at +800 MHz is a problem for longer time (they might go even higher stable with good cooling), so you have to dial back to about +650 MHz to have stability and you will get down to a little over 39 MHS which is still very good. Especially for mining Ethereum or anything else using Ethash you can lower the power limiter and even the GPU clock, so you can get down to about 135 W of power usage without loss in performance.

In the end we get mixed feelings from the ASUS Mining P104 4G GPU, it is performing well, but with some small improvements it could be a much more interesting product. We would like to see dual ball-bearing fans and a cooler that cools the memory chips as well in order to make the card more durable and reliable on the long term as mining is not for just 3 months. Performance wise the P104-100 does great only in Ethereum or other Ethash coins, especially when you overclock the video memory. The results in other more GPU intensive algorithms are not that interesting in particular as the GPU itself is the same as on GTX 1070 and the performance is very much the same. The other not so good thing right now is that there is limited availability even for the P104-100 mining GPUs and if you manage to find them somewhere their prices are also higher than usual, just like is the case with the regular GeForce gaming GPUs form Nvidia at the moment.

Every time you get new PCI-E risers for a new GPU mining rig you may be surprised with build varying build quality and that can affect the stability of the system you are building. Even when the quality is fine there is another common problem that the standard PCI Express risers using USB 3.0 cable printed upwards exhibit – they have the tendency to move a bit in the slot and even at times disconnect. This can cause a bad connection or even a broken one and one or more of your GPUs suddenly disappearing from the miner and you starting to wonder what happened and diagnosing the whole system to find the culprit.

Fortunately there is a simple solution available if you have a 3D printer or a friend with one that can help you print a small and simple, yet very effective PCI-E Riser Lock. The 3D model is available for free on the Thingiverse website made by a user called totembe who is accepting Vertcoin tips from happy users of his creation. The simple plastic clips that you can 3D print hold the small PCB with the PCI-E x1 connector very tight to the PCI-E slot on the motherboard, so that there is no more play and the chances to have these getting disconnected are becoming pretty slim.

The PCI-E Riser Lock take just a few minutes to print and use just about 1 gram of filament and are really useful. You can clip them on both sides of the PCI-E slots, for example if there are some components preventing you from attaching the lock on the front of the slot, then just clip it on the back, it will work. The only slots that you cannot attach these locks are the ones that come with metal shielding/strengthening as they do not have a place to attach the lock to. Also some mining motherboards with more than the usual number of PCI-E slots such as AsRock H110 Pro BTC+ will not work as the slots there are too closely spaced to each other.

Do note that the design of the 3D printable PCI-E Riser Locks is not compatible with the newer designs of the PCI-E risers that have slightly larger x1 PCI-E PCBs and angled USB connectors, but then again these do not seem to suffer from the same issue of getting disconnected as the older design with the USB cable pointing up. It is possible to modify the design of the locking adapter to also work with these relatively easy, but as we’ve said already it might be pointless to use these anyway. We are yet to see similar problems with the angled USB connector risers as with the straight up USB ones, and as you already probably guess the USB connector and cable pointing up is what is causing the problems.

For more information and to download and 3D print the PCI-e Riser Lock 3D model…