About six months ago, we published a commentary on the exploding cryptocurrency craze and a follow-up on the pitfalls of cryptocurrency mining. We figured that would be the end of the story, but thanks to massive spikes in cryptocurrency prices, coin mining has gained renewed popularity. In fact, by our estimation, three times as many sorry souls are mining today as they were in mid-2017. After hitting nearly $20,000 per coin, Bitcoin currently stands at $15,000, compared to around $2,500 back in mid-2017, so it's still up 6x in six months. Had you invested in Bitcoin then and sold today, you'd have reaped a handsome profit.
But people don't mine Bitcoin today, they mine Ethereum. And Ethereum mining is again all the rage, which in turn managed to sweep store shelves clean of GPUs and drive prices up, just as Christmas shopping was hitting its peak. So we end 2017 with nearly every RX 570, RX 580, GTX 1060, 1070, 1070 Ti, and 1080 Ti sold out. Stock that comes in is bought up instantly, despite prices that are often well above MSRP. In May of 2017, a Radeon RX 580 4GB sold for $200, a GeForce GTX 1060 6GB sold for $230, a GeForce GTX 1070 sold for $390, a GeForce GTX 1080 sold for $500, and a GeForce GTX 1080 Ti sold for $700. As of December 27, 2017, the RX 580 goes for $310, even the most basic single-fan GTX 1060 6GB will set you back about $270, the GTX 1070 is $440, its replacement the GTX 1070 Ti is around $470, the GTX 1080 is going for around $580, and the cheapest GTX 1080 Ti cards are going for $750.
Now let's talk Etherum prices and mining costs. Ethereum is currently going for $730/coin, up an impressive 100% since mid-2017. That makes it seem like a sure bet in terms of making money, but it's much harder to mine a coin today than it was in mid-2017 (8x harder in fact), making it nearly impossible to buy a GPU exclusively for mining and actually turn a profit. Energy costs vary widely, but we're going to use $0.16/kWh as an average rate. There are also several fees involved - first, the mining software, like Claymore Miner, has a hidden, "small print" fee of 1%, which most people have probably never realized, because they're pulled out before you even see your hashrate. The Nanopool fees (you basically must be part of some pool or another) are also 1%. The "banks" like Coinbase that convert Ethereum to dollars for you are collecting a currency conversion fee, which can vary from 1.5% to 4%.
In mid-2017, a high-end video card running at 30Mh/s could bring in $200 a month running 24/7, before accounting for electricity and fees. Today, that's down to $88, despite the much higher coin price. Assuming a 300W total system load (which is pretty reasonable for a high-end video card running on a modern platform), and you're at about $35 in electricity costs per month, plus another $2 or so in fees. So your $88 in "profit" just dropped to $51, on a $500 video card. Another issue is that you can only cash out when you have .05 Ethereum, which will take about two weeks to earn, and as we've seen with cryptocurrency, a lot can happen in two weeks, both good and bad. Today .05 Ethereum is worth about $40, tomorrow, who knows. So this is a gambler's game, not an investor's game.
Now, we don't exist as idle bystanders (or indeed neutral observers) in this whole process. The problem for The Tech Buyer's Guru is that it relies almost exclusively on product sales to support its existence. By design, advertisements have been kept to an absolute minimum, and the ads we do run are very unobtrusive, at least in our opinion. This site couldn't possibly be supported on advertising alone (and it doesn't help that about 30% of our readers are blocking our ad scripts). So it's affiliate sales that we depend on for our existence, and with the disappearance of most GTX 1060, GTX 1070 Ti, and GTX 1080 Ti video cards from the market, our readers are simply not buying PCs. That makes perfect sense, but unfortunately, it also means that a process that took hold in mid-2017 and never truly let up has pulled the noose tighter still.
In truth, TBG is very close to a breaking point, and will soon be scaling back operations to account for significantly reduced revenue. We'll do our best to continue publishing our monthly and quarterly buyer's guides, but the future is grim for additional in-depth how-to and benchmarking articles, each of which takes us about 24 man-hours to complete. The reality is that everyone in online publishing is getting squeezed, from Tom's Hardware (which is running ever-more intrusive ads, plus ramping up affiliate sales), to ArsTechnica (which has announced a "pivot to video"), and The Tech Report and HardOCP (which are now asking for donations via Patreon or directly through PayPal). In short, quality journalism costs money, and there's not a lot of it to go around when so many readers run ad blockers, affiliate commissions are being cut across the board, and affiliate sales shrink in the face of cryptocurrency mining and an awful RAM market (with prices increasing weekly).
We wish we could end the year with a rosier outlook, but we're not into fake news. The truth is the truth, and it's not pretty right now. As always, you can do your part by sharing our website with others, and buying gear through the links in our DIY PC Buyer's Guides when you can.