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Hardware Buying Guide

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Based on kaptainblazzed Guide.

Overview

If you are planning on purchasing hardware for VRM mining there are 4 main routes you can take. The fasted ROI can be had from used server hardware; the best long term profitability comes from used laptops and SBC’s.

  1. Used Server Hardware
  2. Used Laptops
  3. Single Board Computers (SBC)
  4. Desktops

The below table outlines the basic pros and cons of each build type:

Power Usage Upfront Cost Maintenance Burden1 Hashrate
Used Server High-Low* Low-High* Low High
Used Laptop Low Low Medium Low/Medium
SBC Low High High Low
Desktop Medium Medium Low Medium
  • Servers can have high - low power usage and up-front cost depending on which CPU’s you select. AMD 62xx and 63xx Opterons and Intel socket 1366 based Xeons have a low upfront cost, but use a lot of power. Intel E5 Xeons have a high upfront cost but are very efficient with power usage. (v1/v2 cost/efficiency is medium, v3/v4 cost/efficiency is high)

1 Maintenance Burden is the amount of time expected to keep your mining rigs up and running properly. Basically the more rigs you have the higher the maintenance burden.

General Factors

Electricity Cost

Electricity plays a big role in your overall mining cost and ROI. (Don’t forget about the cost to cool “A/C” your rigs) How to calculate your electricity cost: (example is a dual AMD 6276 that pulls 300W)

  1. Watts per Day: 300 Watts x 24 Hours = 7,200 watt-hours per day
  2. Convert to Kilowatts: 7,200 / 1,000 = 7.2kWh per day
  3. Usage per Month = 7.2kWh x 30 days = 216 kWh per month
  4. Monthly Cost = 216 kWh x $.10 per kWh = $21.60 per month

Hard Drives

Hard drives are not required for Verium mining. You do need some kind of media to host the Operating System though. I use 32GB USB thumb drives. (SBC’s can use a 4GB SDCard, however 8GB is more popular)

RAM

VRM mining is very RAM intensive, because of this RAM plays a significant role in your overall hashrate. You need to use the maximum number of RAM channels (not slots) your CPU supports, usually 3 or 4 per CPU. You will need 128mb of RAM per “#-Way” that you are mining. Default is 3-Way or 6-Way depending on your hardware. Older AMD and older Intel CPU’s need 384mb per thread “3-Way”. E5 Xeons and newer Intel desktop CPUs and AMD ryzen CPUs need 768mb per thread “6-Way”. You can reduce the #-Way at compile for SBC’s that don’t have enough RAM. SBC instructions here: http://indiweb.de/doku.php

Used Server Hardware

AMD

Opteron 62xx or 63xx are popular. They require 384mb per thread and can support quad channel RAM. 2P and 4P used servers are readily available from Ebay, popular models include Dell R815, HP DL385 G7 & G8, HP sl165Z, Supermicro H8DGU-F motherboards. These systems require ECC RAM(PC3-10600R, PC3-10600R, PC3-12800r, PC3-12800E). Please check OEM specification for RAM compatibility. (i.e Dell R815 cannot support PC3-12800 RAM)

Older AMD hardware is not recommended due to low/bad performance and new EPYC AMD systems have not been tested yet. (Chances are the new hardware is really good, but expensive)

Intel

Socket 1366 Xeons require 384mb per thread and can support triple channel RAM. 2P servers are readily available on ebay, 4P can be found but less availability. These systems require ECC RAM (PC3-8500R, PC3-8500E, PC3-10600R, PC3-10600R). Please check OEM specification for RAM compatibility.

E5-Xeons require 768mb per thread and can support quad channel RAM. 2P servers are available on ebay , but the cheapest way to build a E5-Xeon server is by purchasing individual parts. v3/v4 ES/QS CPUs are your best bet for a reasonable price CPU. (Do not get v1/v2 ES/QS CPU’s, finding a motherboard with the correct BIOS is nearly impossible) These systems require ECC RAM v1/v2 =(PC3-10600R, PC3-12800r, PC3-12800E), v3/v4 =(PC4-2133p, PC4-2400p)

Older Intel hardware is not recommended due to low/bad performance and new Platinum/Gold Intel Xeon systems have not been tested yet. (Chances are the new hardware is really good, but expensive)

ARM64

New multi-core 64-bit ARM high-density HPC servers are hitting the market from Cray, Hewlett Packard, and others. Some of them have as many as 64 cores per CPU. This will be a market sector to keep an eye on for ARM's GFLOP::watt ratio advantage over Intel and AMD.

Sadly, these are likely to remain cost-prohibitive as hardware investments until a second-hand market develops.

Used Laptops

Laptop processors and systems, in general, are designed to be very power efficient, because of this they are pretty good a Verium mining. The downside is you need a lot of them to amass a sizeable amount of hashes and they are not designed for 24/7 use and may require additional cooling. If you have access to laptops that are free or very cheap this can be a good route to go. If you are buying used laptops for mining I would run the numbers twice before spending any money on them, you can probably do better with servers or SBC’s. They have one huge advantage over other hardware: built-in power black-out resistance! A laptop battery can keep a miner running full-tilt for an hour or more. Furthermore, it's trivial to get them to shutdown properly when mains power fails; eliminating the possibility of filesystem corruption from a sudden stop. It's less trivial to make them start back up when power is restored, though.

Keep in mind when shopping: mining is notoriously hard on hardware. Fans run constantly and laptop cooling is a problem even in servers and desktop machines. Laptop fans are not designed for continuous duty. They are for intermittent duty and are likely to burn out the motors in short order. Do you know how to repair your laptop hardware? Are you prepared to put in the time and cash to do it? If the answer to either of those questions is "No" you should look into different hardware.

On the other hand, laptop _motherboards_ with processor and RAM are cheap at places like eBay. If you like to tinker with hardware and can power them, etc., this may be for you. Replace the fans with continuous duty models or even water cooling. Build custom racks and power solutions for your MOBOs. Upgrade RAM and processors. The sky's the limit. Running headless and, essentially, treating these like SBCs can reap rewards.

Single Board Computers (SBC)

Odroid XU4’s are popular. SBC systems, in general, are designed to be very power efficient, because of this they are pretty good a Verium mining. The downside is you need a lot of them to amass a sizeable amount of hashes. The up-front cost of SBC’s can be very high, but their power usage is very low. Remember to take into account all the required extras to make SBC’s function. (SD cards, power cables/supplies, network cables, switches, cooling, mounting mechanism, etc…) SBC’s are very good entry devices. Nearly any machine (Raspberry-, Banana-, Nano-Pi, Odroid,...) can run the wallet and miner software. For SBCs the mining software usually needs to be compiled for 1way using 128 MB per thread. Many devices have been tested in terms of their hashrate and it can fairly be stated that the Odroid platform with its Octa core CPUs (Exynos5422 big.LITTLE) and 2 GB LPDDR3 RAM outperforms any other device. By now Odroid has even released a special version of the original XU4: the Odroid HC1 and MC1 which are designed for clustering. In fact, you can only buy the MC1 already stacked for clustering, four boards at a time, with cooling fan! Anyhow 4 HC1 are less expensive and have a bigger heat sink but need an extra fan. Considering the entry table it should be noted that despite the low hasrate the ration hashrate per energy is still good. Most of these are powered by ARM, not Intel or AMD processors, which are up to 30% more power efficient on a GFLOP::watt basis. Also, there is software out in the community that helps on the maintenance of large clusters.

Desktops

Nothing really special to say here, desktops can be all over the place from slow ones like Intel Celeron up to fast ones like AMD Threadripper. The main items to consider here are RAM channels/speed and CPU speed. Make sure you RAM channels are maxed out. . If you are buying desktops for mining I would run the numbers twice before spending any money on them, you can probably do better with servers or SBC’s.