Here are some key takeaways of what we learned after switching our focus from GPU mining to FPGA mining in 2018.
The Transition from GPU to FPGA
In our previous article, we mentioned the reason why we switched to FPGAs and our first experience trying to mine with them. We spent a lot of time learning how to use the FPGAs as they are not as simple as GPUs.
Mining with GPU was effortless. You only need to hook your GPU to the motherboard, install a driver, and then run the mining software. The best part is that you can easily find these software/miners almost anywhere.
Needless to say, we ran into several problems and unforeseen errors when trying to mine with FPGA. Hopefully, this article will come in handy when for you guys who are new to FPGA Mining 🛠
Learning Points of FPGA Mining
These learning points are based on our experience and specific to VU9P boards (BTU9P, BCU1525, and VCU1525).
💻 How to connect the FPGA to the PC
Similar to GPU, you’ll need a PCI power cable and PCI-E Riser for your FPGA as well as an additional micro USB cable for communication with PC.
🌐 What programs to install and how to program the FPGA
To mine with FPGA, you are required to install a few drivers and components. For example, windows setup requires the FTDI driver installed for FPGA communication with PC through FTDI. Read more.
Afterward, to program the bitstream to the FPGA board, you can use Vivado/Vivado Lab or NextJTAG.
❄️ The importance of cooling the FPGA chip and power regulator LTC3884
FPGAs need a proper cooling to run at its maximum potential. It’s essential to avoid overheating for both the FPGA chip and LTC3884. There are three cooling solutions available: air-cooling, water-cooling, or immersion-cooling.
The best solution depends on several factors, such as the number of boards, ambient temperature, etc.
📊 The relation between clock frequency, voltage, power consumption, temperature, and hashrate
This is the key to get the best performance from our FPGA boards. We are able to control our boards’ clock frequency and core voltage. The clock frequency determines how fast the clock speed is, and this affects the number of hashes produced. The faster the clock frequency, the more hashes are generated. FPGA voltage determines the signal strength, and higher voltage means a stronger signal, which leads to fewer errors.
However, increasing the clock frequency and the core voltage also mean that you are increasing the power consumption and temperature. FPGA’s hashrate is dynamic as it depends on the frequency and the voltage you set.
FPGA’s hashrate is dynamic, depends on the frequency and the voltage you set; and also depends on how good you cool your FPGA boards.
How to Get Started?
The number one reason why people are reluctant to switch to FPGA is due to its complexity. However, we are fortunate today that there is a beginner-friendly FPGA miner, and it’s called The Blackminer F1 Mini.
Blackminer F1 Mini
Why is this FPGA recommended for beginners?
- 🤑 Affordable and Low Risk. Priced at $179/unit (buy 5 or more and get $169 each). It’s one of the most affordable FPGA in the market. Low entrance price to FPGA mining.
- 🖥 Access to Blackminer Bitstreams. F1 Mini can mine more than 20 algorithms, the most options available. Also, Hashaltcoin is continually looking for coins worth mining.
- ✅ Easy to Use. You only need PSU, heatsink+fan, and ethernet cable to get this running. Just access your F1 Mini IP address and set it all up from there.
- ⚡️ Low Power Consumption. Only draws around 50 Watts.
- 👂🏻 Meant for Silent Operation. Use a silent CPU cooler to cool the F1 Mini.
Here is our guide on how to use the F1 Mini: 📘 How to mine with Blackminer.
Or… you want to learn how to use the VU9P FPGAs?
The most commonly used VU9P FPGAs are BTU9P and BCU1525. The difference between BTU9P and BCU1525 is the e-fuse key inside the BCU1525. With this e-fuse key, BCU1525 can mine exclusive bitstreams using Allmine’s Minerator, while BTU9P can’t. You can learn more about which coins to mine as well as how to mine them by reading the links above.
Even though the VU9P boards are more expensive ($3,599 each) compared to Blackminer products, they have several winning points. The FPGA mining community highly supports these boards, meaning that a lot of developers are constantly working to provide more bitstreams and helping miners to mine with FPGA easily (shout out to NDS for their NextJTAG!).
There’s also a highly profitable algorithm coming soon for these boards, and it’s called the X16 algorithm! X16 can only be mined with VU9P and VU13P FPGA boards because it’s such a huge algorithm; hence, there are fewer competitors among other FPGA miners.
The refurbished boards all undergo several functionality tests to verify their mining capabilities.
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