This will be a first for this site, as I review the XFX – AMD Radeon R7 370 2GB video graphics card. This will be a different type of review than most other sites, as instead of evaluating the card against how well it performs in benchmarks or playing video games, we will (you guessed it) be seeing how well it performs mining cryptocurrencies. In a companion article, I will be setting up a dedicated computer (rig) whose sole purpose is to mine Ethereum using these cards.
While the Radeon R7 370 is not the first choice most would choose when contemplating mining, as some of the older AMD cards are more efficient, it does have the advantage of being readily available at a low price and surprisingly offers a decent hash-rate versus power consumption. The card I chose for this review is the Best Buy exclusive version, but any similar cards in the series will be comparable. I would not normally recommend Best Buy as a source for computer components, especially if you are looking to get the fastest ROI as possible in your mining equipment, but in this case there were a few compelling reasons to do so versus ordering online.
The first is that I can return the card fairly hassle-free if it does not work out the way I hoped. The second was the XFX lifetime warranty for cards purchased through Best Buy along with the more robust build of these exclusive cards. The third, but more variable factor was there was a sale going on at the time for these cards, which I was able to pick them up for $140 each.
Researching online I had seen reports of the R9 270 able to produce 14-16 Mhash while mining Ethereum. Using the Ethereum Mining Calculator, and entering in 15 MHash, 120 watts power, and a rate of $0.12 KWh for power, I estimated at current difficulties I would generate 0.366 Eth per day per card. This figure gives me an estimated ROI of 40 days (at current Eth price of $11) after subtracting for power and pool fee costs. Again, while not the best card out there in terms of Hash/Power, it was still compelling enough to pick up four of them and do some experimentation.
I have several older AMD 7970, 7950, R9 280X, and even a Nvidia GTX 970 that I have already been mining with and while I would love to purchase more, they would be used quality with no guarantee on how long they would last. I was initially looking at the R9 380 series, but they are in high demand right now as they are the closest replacement of the R9 280 series, which itself was a replacement for the 7970 series. The 7970 is considered by many to be the sweet-spot in performance versus power consumption. With today’s high Eth prices, many people do not consider power consumption a factor, but depending upon your cost and the eventual downturn of mining profitability it should not be dismissed completely.
With that bit of background out of the way, let’s get back to looking at the R7 370 at hand. Some of the features that stood out to me from a mining perspective, besides the lifetime warranty, was the removable fan shroud design. While you cannot completely lift off the fan due to the power wires, you can lift the fan assembly up out of the way enough in order to more effectively clean any build-up of dust that inevitably forms on the heat-sinks. You can easily get a small nozzle vacuum cleaner attachment in there to vacuum away dust and dirt.
Since a dedicated mining rig will be running 24/7 for the most part, over time this dust and dirt buildup will accumulate and start causing the temperatures of the card to rise. While the lifetime warranty will protect you from an outright failure, you are still not making your ROI or income afterwards if your cards are tied up for a month plus during the RMA process.
This model is also what XFX calls their dual dissipation design, which is fancy marketing speak for simply having two cooling fans. Since this is planned for a mining rig, more fans, thus more cooling is a desirable characteristic. The card is also factory overclocked with the core clock running about 75 MHz over the reference specification. As such, this design utilizes two 6-pin power connectors to help provide more power to the card to ensure stable operation.
While using more power is not necessarily a good thing, especially with mining, in this case I think the extra connector helps offers more stability for the power overall and will lead to less trouble over the life of the card. I know from experience that power issues can be the root of many problems, especially with achieving stability in mining rigs.
This particular card only has 2GB of GDDR5 on-board memory with a default clock speed of 5600MHz. There are variations of the R7 370 series that offer 4 GB of memory. Some concern has been raised over the usability of cards with only 2 GB of memory for mining Ethereum as in the future the DAG file could grow beyond this point rendering it useless for mining. However, current indications are that by next year Ethereum will be moving to a PoS model and the current PoW model would no longer be viable well before the 2 GB threshold is crossed. It is something to keep in mind though, as ultimately you may want to switch to other memory hard algorithms which use more than 2 GB of GPU memory.
For my purposes, I am figuring on a 60-day ROI (the math shows 40 days but I am budgeting for some fudge factor) and some months of profit after that point with Ethereum before deciding to either switch to another algorithm (Expanse for example) or sell the cards for about half of what I paid for them. The resale value is another reason the lifetime Best Buy warranty is attractive, as it can help lend some piece of mind to potential buyers.
I installed the cards in one of my mining rigs, which are of open air design to maximize airflow and to be easy to get to for routine maintenance and cleaning. I will go over the design of this rig in the companion article, but for our purposes here this setup allows me to easily perform some initial bench-marking with one or more cards installed to see if my initial calculations are going to work out.