AMD Threadripper Cryptocurrency Mining: How To Pay For A CPU In Just Months

Mining CryptoNight For Monero And Other Coins With AMD's Beastly Ryzen Threadripper

The effect cryptocurrency mining has had on the PC gaming industry, specifically the now sky-high cost of graphics cards, is profound. However, someday mining algorithms may change enough such that GPUs aren't the only non-specialized compute engines capable of processing cryptocurreny hash algorithms effectively, or at least aren't so dominant. That said, one fairly popular coin that's based on a CPU-optimized algorithm right now is called Monero. Monero or XMR utilizes the CryptoNight hashing algorithm (as do a few other altcoins). It also just so happens that AMD's Threadripper family of processors is relatively adept at mining it, or so we've learned recently.

We've shown you some of the best GPUs for mining Ethereum and Bitcoin, and so we thought it would be interesting to take a quick look at how AMD's Threadripper performs with a CPU-optimized algo versus other many-core processors, including Intel's Skylake-X Core i7-7900X, Ryzen 7, and heck let's throw a GPU in there as well... 

Ryzen Threadripper Gigabyte X399 Designare Motherboard boxes
AMD Ryzen Threadripper - A Powerful Monero Miner

As an aside, Monero has gotten a bad rap of late, as it has been often used in combination with malware to enslave unfortunate, targeted users into zombie mining botnets. Monero itself was design for ultimate anonymity and security in transactions, so perhaps that's why it's the targeted currency for what is essentially a mining hack. Regardless, as we noted, the CryptoNight algorithm that is employed for Monero, is also utilized in multiple other altcoins in the CryptoNote family, including Dashcoin, which has a larger valuation currently than Monero. But we digress. Let's look at the tools of our trade here, based on a great new motherboard from Gigabyte and a fresh-off-the-fab AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X chip.   

Ryzen Threadripper Gigabyte X399 Designare Motherboard2
Ryzen Threadripper Gigabyte X399 Designare Motherboard

Without question, Gigabyte's X399 Designare EX is a solid choice for Threadripper, with 5 full-length PCIe slots and dual heatsink-covered M.2 slots in between. You also have the resources for dual Gigabit LAN connections and "Server Class" digital power circuits for the CPU. It's a stable, cool under pressure platform for AMD's many core beasts to be sure. Our comparison Intel system was based on an ASUS X299 Prime Deluxe and a Core i7-7900X, a pricey but potent combination in its own right. However, when you do the math, AMD's Threadripper platform is a significantly more cost-effective solution, for mining as well as content creation.

Here are the rest of the common system specs for our test bed setup:
Ryzen Threadripper Gigabyte X399 Designare Motherboard in Socket
Gigabyte X399 Designare Motherboard - A Solid Platform For Threadripper

For our first quick sanity check, let's look at some stock clock speeds for AMD's Threadripper and Intel's Skylake-X in NiceHash. Before we dig in, however, we should note that NiceHash isn't always the most efficient miner for CryptoNight/Monero (more later), but it is definitely one of the easiest to work with for mining in general, no matter what coin bounty you're after. In fact, the complexity that currently exists between cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin wallets and the apps that support them, seems unnecessarily complicated for the mainstream user. If some smart developer is paying attention, making things simple and clean here would be a very welcomed contribution and likely make some smart folks rather wealthy.

We're digressing again. Onward with the numbers...

Core i7 7900X Hash
Intel Core i7-7900X CrytpoNight (Monero) Mining Hash Rate

GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Hash
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti CryptoNight (Monero) Mining Hash Rate

threadripper 1950x mining
AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X CryptoNight (Monero) Minining Hash Rate

Interestingly enough, NiceHash sees two physical Threadripper 1950X processors in our system, though there is obviously just one chip. This is likely due to the combination of dual 8-core Ryzen dies in the multi-die package, conjoined via AMD's Infinity Fabric. Regardless, what we see here, at stock clock speeds in NiceHash, is that a Ryzen Threadripper 1950X is over twice as fast as Intel's Core i7-7900X that retails for about $100 more. Also, what's surprising here is that, although CryptoNight is a CPU-optimized algorithm specifically targeted at X86 processors, NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 1080 Ti GPU is actually faster than the Core i7-7900X as well. The issue here for Intel is getting off chip to system memory (RAM). Though what seems like a healthy 13.75MB of L3 cache is on board the 7900X, it's not enough to cover an entire CrytpoNight workload. The GeForce GTX 1080 Ti has local GDDR5 memory to call upon and so, though the algorithm is more tuned for CPUs, it still can keep its hashing process more localized. However, when you have a CPU complex like Ryzen Threadripper at the ready with a fat 32MB of on-chip L3 cache, you have the best of both worlds for CryptoNight algorithm hashing.

Let's look at all the numbers and lay them out, with a bit of overclocking tossed in for good measure...

AMD Threadripper Mining CryptoNight NiceHash and XMRig
                                        Unless otherwise noted, all hash rates were recorded in NiceHash

We have two sets of scores for some processors here. As a baseline, we used NiceHash for all configurations. NiceHash runs through a series of "trials" when running its benchmark tool. When it comes to CryptoNight processing on CPUs, essentially that means a trial for each number of logical processing threads, until the maximum are engaged and the CPU is at 100% utilization. As you can see, all Threadripper setups, including the Threadripper 1920X 12-core CPU, which also has 32MB of on-chip L3 cache, are significantly ahead of the Intel 7900X and AMD's 8-core Ryzen 7 1800X. Surprisingly, the GTX 1080 Ti puts up a strong showing here, relatively speaking, but it's not as power-efficient as you'll see shortly, and retailing at around $1100 - $1200 it's not as cost-efficient either. The other take-away here is XMRig, which our friends at TechGage turned us on to, is a decidedly more efficient miner for the CryptoNight algorithm than NiceHash. XMRig is command line driven, so it's far less convenient to use than NiceHash. Although, as we'll demonstrate shortly, you can of course mine both on your CPU and GPU simultaneously. Regardless, as you can see here, an overclocked Threadripper 1950X at 4.1GHz is far and away the fastest processor configuration of the bunch. 

Threadripper Monero And Dash Coin Mining Power Consumptioon

Of course, an overclocked Threadripper 1950X also spikes its power consumption such that it's probably not worth it for the extra less than 100 hashes per second performance boost. As an aside, in both XMRig and NiceHash, power consumption numbers didn't change much between the two apps. Regardless, in short, what you're looking at here is roughly 100 Watts additional power draw for a stock Ryzen Threadripper 1950X, when mining CryptoNote currencies. 

In terms of return on investment, at a 1K per second hash rate in CryptoNight, you're looking at a respectable earnings level, and about 6 months to pay off the cost of a Ryzen Threadripper 1950X at $899, if you mined constantly on it 24/7 on both Threadripper and a GeForce GTX 1080 Ti. 

Fine Tuning, Mining Apps And Overclocking

When it comes to mining, if you take the time to learn dedicated tools like XMRig, some additional fine-tuning can also make a significant difference. 

threadripper 1950x mining oc
Threadripper 1950X Overclocked At 4.1GHz Mining CryptoNight

In the above NiceHash score, our overclocked Threadripper 1950X delivers 1088 hashes per second. The processor does that by the way, without really breaking a sweat at about 60% CPU utilization and a 62ºC core Tdie temperature. However, if you look back at our benchmark graph above, you can see that with XMRig we're able to hit nearly the same performance level at stock clock speeds with the Threadripper 1950X. With XMRig, you're able to tune mining on a thread count basis. We found that setting a 16 thread mining configuration for Threadripper 1950X (though the chip supports 32 logical threads of processing) not only delivered the best hashing performance but the lowest power numbers as well, because each thread requires 2MB L3 cache for optimal performance, and going past 16 threads exceeds the cache capacity of the chip. Intel's Core i7-7900X seemed to like a 12 thread setup best, but tuning in XMRig on the 7900X wasn't nearly as productive, as you can see in the performance graph above. 

Mining With XMRig And NiceHash
Stock CPU Mining Monero With XMRig (Right) While GPU Mining With NiceHash (Left)

Here's probably one of the best case scenarios for most folks that don't want to dig too deep into tuning for mining. Above we have XMRig running on a stock speed Threadripper 1950X mining CryptoNight, while NiceHash cycles through whatever algorithm is paying the best for all coins, including CryptoNight, on our GPU. Here, the system is drawing about 430 Watts of power total, which tells you how much power that GTX 1080 Ti draws when mining other coins - in short, a lot. Remember, the Threadripper 1950X and motherboard draw represent 185 Watts of this 430 Watt power draw. 

Also with Threadripper, whatever you throw at it concurrently, it just seems to shrug off, as we demonstrated not too long ago in our Threadripper Megatasking demo here...

concludeAlas, you could play with cryptomining for hours on end if you wanted to, tuning and tweaking to optimize performance and power consumption for max efficiency and throughput. That said, mining for Monero, Dash or other CryptoNote coins on Threadripper is fairly innocuous in terms of its affect on general system performance, if you're not doing anything else too strenuous. You could easily be working on standard productivity tasks and some light duty content creation, while mining at the same time. And heck, in conjunction with a solid GPU hash, your could pay for itself in 6 months or so -- maybe faster if the value of Monero takes off. We're going to keep noodling on things here, but sound off in the comments below if you have ideas or feedback on the subject of Threadripper crypto-mining, or other such shenanigans.

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