NVIDIA RTX 2080 – Great Performance, Just Not for Mining


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NVIDIA RTX 2080 graphics card with mining helmet and tear on it

NVIDIA has recently shown their new GPU architecture named after one of the greatest scientists of all time – Alan Turing. After Maxwell and Pascal architecture, the journey between generations took a bit more time. Shrinking the manufacturing process from 16nm to 12nm enabled more transistors on the GPU die. This should mean more computing power, higher frequencies, and less power demand. This intro makes NVIDIA RTX 2080 ideal for crypto mining, doesn’t it?

Before we dig into the performance of new graphics cards, let’s recap the last 10 months and the current market state.

The Year 2018 – Crypto Rollercoaster

Last year was a very turbulent period for both crypto and IT markets. On one hand, you’ve got a bull market encouraging every John Doe to join the mining train and start making serious money. This behavior created a demand for a certain kind of mining equipment, which hasn’t been seen in recent history. With the mining rig priced around $1500-2500, you could easily return your investment in a few months. As you probably know, Ethereum was a popular choice among newly hooked miners.

When it comes to hardware, homemade mining rigs became very popular. All of a sudden, you couldn’t buy a decent graphics card, especially NVIDIA GTX 1060 and up, or Radeon RX470/570 and up. The same thing happened on the PSU market, with strong demand for 1 kW power supplies needed for stable systems running 5+ graphics cards.

When the dust settled, and the crypto coins price returned to “normal”, all mining business newcomers received a cold shower. At the same time, they realized that investments in mining equipment might not pay themselves off that quickly.

In March 2018, you could smell the downfall of the crypto market and the burst of the mining bubble. With its ups and downs, most of the altcoins followed the Bitcoin price oscillations. This eventually led to the point that crypto mining wasn’t so cost-effective. With the optimal setup consisting of NVIDIA GTX 1070/1060 or Radeon RX 570/580 GPUs, which became the popular choice because of their power/performance ratio, there was the big question: What now?

Ethereum price chart (USD) from November 2017 until today
Ethereum price chart (USD) from November 2017 until today

Choose Carefully

Should you continue mining Ethereum, like you did last 6 months? Maybe switch to some other coin (Ethereum Classic seems to be the logical choice)? Or sell your rig(s) altogether? Most of the mining population chose the latter. Now we have a change of tide in the IT and crypto market. The crypto market remains in its bearish state, with an unpredictable future. On the other hand, you have the IT market that started producing graphics cards that are labeled as “not for mining”.

The demand for GPUs in Q1 created disbalance in the supply-demand chain. The GPU industry is slow-moving, and every additional demand requires time for the supply chain to create enough volume for delivery consistency. By the time the volumes went up, the crypto market went from bull to bear. At the same time, the IT market was flooded with graphics cards and no demand for them. The similar thing happened with power supplies and other hardware, but nowhere near the VGA market.

NVIDIA RTX 20 Series

With this chaotic market behavior, no one ever wondered about the reason why NVIDIA explicitly said that Turing GPUs are not meant for mining. Compared to the GTX 10 generation (Pascal), there is a big difference, reflected in its naming – RTX instead of GTX. With RTX branding, NVIDIA is telling us that this GPU is designed with real-time ray tracing in mind (improved graphics realism), reimagining the future of video games. There is no doubt that Turing GPUs are here to tackle 4K G-Sync HDR displays with the 144 Hz+ refresh rate and VR environment. How does mining fit into this picture?

World of Miners

Even the GTX 1080 and GTX 1080Ti were not popular among miners because of the cost/performance ratio. As you can imagine, the Geforce RTX 20 Series continued down the same path. The things that we know on paper needed to be confirmed in the real world. So we got ourselves an ASUS Dual GeForce RTX 2080 OC Edition with 8GB of GDDR6 memory ($830), and the most popular competition choice – Radeon RX580, embodied in ASUS ROG Strix Radeon RX 580 8GB GDDR5 Gaming Edition ($357). Since RTX 2080 was OC Edition, it didn’t seem fair to use regular RX 580, so we went for OC Edition as well.

NVIDIA RTX 2080 and Radeon RX 580 graphics cards
ASUS Dual GeForce RTX 2080 8GB GDDR6 OC Edition and ASUS ROG Strix Radeon RX 580 8GB GDDR5 Gaming Edition

The test rig consisted of usual homemade mining equipment: Gigabyte H110-D3A Motherboard, Intel Pentium G4560 CPU, LCPower LC1200 v2.4 Platinum PSU, 4 GB Kingston DDR4 @ 2400 GHz RAM, and 120 GB Adata SSD. We tried both cards on default and OC frequencies. No BIOS modification on any card means that there is still headroom when it comes to performance. Needless to say, we’ve seen GPUs perform 50% better and consume less power after a couple of memory tweaks in BIOS.

When it comes to performance measurement, we chose Ethereum, Litecoin, and Monero/Safex Cash. The reason we did this is simple. Ethereum is the most popular choice among miners. Litecoin uses the Bitcoin blockchain. Monero’s blockchain shows great scalability and has great adoption on both AMD and NVIDIA graphics cards. Ultimately, Safex Cash belongs to new players in the market and shows a lot of potential among altcoins that seem like a good alternative to Ethereum mining.

For Ethereum, we used Claymore v11.9, EasyMiner v0.087 for Litecoin and xmr-stak for Monero/Safex Cash.

Ethereum Mining on NVIDIA RTX 2080

NVIDIA RTX 2080 performance in Ethereum mining

Out of the box, 35.6 MH/s is a really good score, compared to around 22 MH/s that we can expect with regular RX580 on default clocks. Once we overclocked GPU from 1515 MHz to 1631 MHz and memory from 1750 MHz to 1955 MHz, RTX 2080 jumped to 40.148 MH/s (12.8% increase), which is really good, although this performance does not justify the very steep price tag.

NVIDIA RTX 2080 Overclock Screenshot

Compared to Strix Radeon RX580, which is one of the best RX580s in the market, and still 60% cheaper than RTX 2080, there is a notable increase in performance – 28.85% on default, and 31.4% when overclocked (1400 MHz GPU, 2201 MHz memory). Still, when you include the prices in the equation, even the Strix RX 580 Gaming, which is one of the more expensive choices for RX 580, is around 30% better.

Litecoin Mining on NVIDIA RTX 2080

NVIDIA RTX 2080 performance in Litecoin mining

As expected, the Bitcoin blockchain still favors NVIDIA over AMD, which is evident, and no overclock can help with that. No false expectations here. Radeon GPUs are not welcome here.

Monero/Safex Cash Mining on NVIDIA RTX 2080

NVIDIA RTX 2080 performance in Monero/Safex Cash mining

Scalability of the Monero blockchain allowed both graphics cards to show their full potential, within default and OC scenarios. Still, a smaller performance increase does not justify the price difference. That is the overall impression with new GeForce RTX 2080.

As Clear as Day

The GeForce RTX 20 Series is not a good choice for mining. It is a great graphics card, though, and you can see it as an investment in the future. This is mostly because game studios need to implement the ray tracing API in order to uncover the full potential of this GPU. We all know this is not going to happen any time soon. If you have the GeForce 10 Series and are looking for an upgrade, you should probably wait a bit until the prices go down. No doubt the 20 Series will give you the performance boost that you expect.

If you are mining, look for an alternative: NVIDIA RTX 2080 is made for gamers, not miners. On the other hand, AMD Vega GPUs are performing very well and the upcoming Navi architecture looks promising. Basically, you have a nice choice in the AMD backyard.

NVIDIA RTX 2080 laying and Radeon RX 580 graphics card on top of it

If you want to seize the moment, this is a great time to be a miner/gamer. Namely, used hardware has never been so cheap. For a couple hundred dollars, you can buy yourself a descent Crossfire or SLI pair of graphics cards. That basically means you get the performance of 1080, even 1080Ti, for half the price. On the other hand, a lot of miners are leaving the business and looking to sell their hardware. If you want to invest in mining rigs, look for used ones in ads, and save yourself some money.

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