Hey guys! What a crazy few months in the crypto world! We’ve seen Bitcoin at over $20k when we first published about the power of FPGA mining and then the slow plummet to several new floors, first $11k, then 8k, dropping to 6k, where it hovered for several months. Coins were forking like mad and developers rushed to publish bitstreams, ours included (keccak algorithm running on the TUL KU-115 PCIe FPGA). Now over the past few months we’ve seen a further decline towards a “new floor of $3k”. This decrease has people wondering if cryptomining is dead; well my friends, it is still alive if you have the right hardware… and it isn’t a GPU or ASIC.
Over this year we built our algorithm and had plans to write more algorithms with some success. We have worked in the Discord community and with Cryptofarms from around the world to help them optimize their GPU and FPGA rigs and provide information on the new world of FPGAs. A very cool side project came about with some FPGA manufacturers reaching out to us to test their boards and get some streams running for all of you!
One thing that came out of a year worth of work is that FPGAs are difficult to get running and are very niche, but very powerful. Take mining today, we are seeing miners closing up shops everyday because they are making about $0.13/day for a 1080ti or $0.57/day for entire 8 GPU rig, while a midgrade highend FPGA such as the TUL’s BTU9P, Xilix/SQRL’s BCU1525 or the Bittware’s CVP13 can make $5-15/day per card. This may sounds like a shock, but just a few months ago these cards were mining at $20-50/day!
These cards come in two main options; air and water cooled. Water cooling adds to the complexity but allows for a significant boost to hashing speed and longevity to the card. These cards run about $2,000-6,000 and hold a place in any farmers tool shop. They also take specific instructions to be programmed (bitstreams) to allow them to mine, unlike an GPU that mines based off the config files and .c/.h files in the miner. GPU’s are also the “supported and preferred” way to mine and get the code given to them. FPGAs need hardware developers to write the bitstream per algorithm and can mine significantly faster for less power than their GPU counterparts.
We have taken the the hard work out and tested each one of these cards on which algorithms the cards are designed for, hashrate at different configuration options, power while hashing, and temperature reading of the card.
In this FPGA guide we will give you a detailed breakdown of each cards hardware as well as a comprehensive review/guide on mining with the FPGA. I also will be giving you a tool and guide to our Rigmanager mining monitoring software that is fully compatible with these FPGA’s and any other hardware. Additionally, if time permits I will provide a “live” calculator for each of the algorithms similar to whattomine calculators that aren’t available due to their low popularity.
FPGA Getting Started Guide:
If air cooled:
- Install your FPGA into your PCIe slot like a GPU, and yes you can use those mining boards/rigs!
- Skip to Computer Setup on how to mine.
If water cooled:
- If you have a small case, take all your components out of your case and mount it to a piece of plywood. Larger cases can work, but it is going to get crowded.
- Mount your GPU heat exchanger (radiator), make sure that you use a GPU radiator as it is a nickel plated copper radiator. Cheaper radiators such as a car heater core are made of aluminum which will cause galvanic corrosion as the water is acting as an ion transfer. It is more costly, but worth it so you don’t oxidize your several thousand dollar FPGAs.
- Hook your pump up to your FPGA’s, you should use about 1 GPM per FPGA. Make sure to change this GPM based off your FPGA’s manufactures recommendation.
- Make sure to use GPU compatible fittings as they are designed to lock tight for years. Do not use hose clamps as they have a tendency to smash the tubing causing leaks over time.
- The flow should go pump –> radiator –> FPGA and back to the pump. If you have multiple FPGA/GPUs you will need to tie these in parallel to each other, so the flow will go pump –> radiator –> input parallel manifold –> FPGA -> output parallel manifold and back to the pump. The pump should be 1 GPM per card. I.e. an 8 FPGA water cooled rig will be 8 GPM + 2% for each 90 degree fitting. The reason for putting the radiator first is so you can pre-cool your fluid before it enters the card, you could even add two radiators before and after the pump to extract the heat out of the water to keep your pump healthy.
- Install Windows or Linux (Ubuntu 16.04 LTS or equiv.) as some miners run on Windows while others on Linux.
- Install Vivado Lab Solutions – 2018.2
- Download a bitstream from below to program the FPGA card
- Load your bitstream -> Open Vivado. Click “Open Hardware Manager” and then click “Auto Connect” -> Right click your card and choose “Program bitstream”, browse to your bitstream and click OK. It will then program card. Reboot if on Linux, otherwise double click sysmon to bring up the System Monitor to show the temp.
- Browse to you mining folder and edit the .bat (win) or .sh (linux) files to open the configuration. You will only need to do this once per algo. Create a wallet for the algo, when testing I like to use an exchange wallet for exchanging into BTC. Enter your wallet where the other wallet address is should look like a big hash. Keep the pool the same for now to test it, later you can change the pool.
- Start the miner, by entering “sudo ./config.sh” for linux or doubleclick the .bat file for windows.
- It should bring up the mining window and show your hashrate, pool and accepted shares. Shares accepted means you have the pool accepting your hashes, you can now look at the pool wallet statistics to see it hashing away. Your mining!!!
Mining results and comparisons:
Here is the big question, what can these FPGA’s do compared to the GPU’s? How did my estimates in January pan out. I am curious to know too. So here we go!
In the chart above, the green indicates a positive effect of more efficiency in Megahashes per watt or profit per day compared to a GTX 1080Ti. The reason for this is, we have this card to compare against and it is a very common card in GPU rigs, and the consensus was to compare against that. The yellow indicates a projection as a bitstream is not available for that card yet.
From the chart above you should be able to see which algorithm you want to use and calculate your ROI on the card or coins/month or yr.
Ranking the Top20 minable algorithms we see that the CVP-13 has a good edge coming in at $7.61/day, but as indicated by the yellow, we do not have any bitstreams for these yet, which makes the BCU/BTU the winners coming in at $5.07/day profit (not counting pool or the 4% dev fee) for zen protocol. Followed by the BCU/BTU mining 0xtoken at $4.62/day without pool/dev fees.
CVP-13 – Currently there is an RB1, which you can contact whitefire990 about on zetheron.com. RB2 and Nexus are in development and are supposed to be released in the next week.
VCU1525/BCU1525/BTU9P – Here is a link to the github repository (thanks to MonadNetwork and Fpga.guide)
We will be creating a mirror soon.
KU-115 – Please check out our Alpha release of Keccak FPGA miner here for full documentation and mining software
As we mentioned above we have tested these cards quite a bit over the past few several months, and have a good handle on what makes these babies tick. Click one of the links below for a detailed review of each of these cards in depth.
TUL’s KU-115 – TUL originally reached out to us to try mining with the KU115, this a nice midgrade card that is equivalent to about 3 1080Ti’s for 1/9 the power.
TUL’s BTU9P – TUL came out with a card similar to that of the BCU1525 which was a group buy of the VCU 1525 with mining modifications on it, the TUL sports water cooling and many bitstreams out of the box. This is a great buy and has the group buy price for a great value.
Xilinx VCU1525 – This isn’t a mining specific card, but was the base for the BCU1525, it runs on a VU9P Virtex Ultrascale+ and sports 225W max power and 2,586k Logic Cells.
Bittware’s CVP-13 – This is monster of a card, running a Virtex UltraScale+ VU13P, designed for mining like the BCU1525 & BTU9P. Supporting up to 300Amps on the FPGA and 3800k Logic Cells, water cooling and has twice the RAM of the VU9 boards. What really makes this card stand out is it’s Board Monitoring and control software that allows you to monitor and change voltages without a special dongle.
You can download my excel spreadsheet version
We should have a live calculator ready to calculate your profit based off your card and algorithms in the next few days.
I hope that this guide helps you get started with your FPGA mining and provides a nice resource for guides, reviews, calculators and other tools that you may find helpful. I will continue to update it regularly so that it is up to date and will act as a secondary repository as most of the streams are only stored in one or two locations. As always, I hope you found this information helpful to live free each and everyday!
For the past 20 years I have been advocating and teaching about Renewable Energy and Alternative fuels. I worked in IT for 9 years and ran a few IT businesses during that time. I have worked wind turbines and in fuel cell technology and I currently teach college courses full time in Renewable’s and Alternative fuels. I am passionate about technology, building things, family and having fun outdoors. I love sharing and helping to make the world a better place in my own way.