Bitcoin mining requires a lot of computing power. So it should come as no surprise that Best Buy has a lot of tech used by that growing industry—especially components like video cards. Learn more about bitcoin mining, and how Best Buy has been helping to keep some of these Bitcoin entrepreneurs in business.
What is Bitcoin?
If you follow tech news—or any news for that matter—you have no doubt heard of Bitcoin.
The digital currency has experienced phenomenal growth in value over the past year, making headlines worldwide. In 2011, a bitcoin was worth less than a dollar. At the start of 2017, one Bitcoin was worth about $960 U.S. (that’s around $1,161.00 in Canadian dollars, at current exchange rates). That sounds pretty good, but at the height of the frenzy as 2017 began to wind down, Bitcoin was topping $19,000 U.S., or over $23,000 Canadian. It’s since dropped off again and is now valued in the $16,000 Canadian range.
Its rapid rise in value has resulted in a huge demand for … video cards. More on that once we get through the basics.
Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency. It’s not physical, so it isn’t minted or printed. It’s also decentralized and not tied to a government or bank, so it’s not subject to a specific country’s monetary policies. Instead Bitcoin is generated by networks of computers that “mine” Bitcoin by solving complex mathematical problems, with a maximum of 21 million Bitcoins in circulation. As that maximum ceiling gets closer, the computing power needed to mine one Bitcoin gets progressively more difficult. However, the average person doesn’t need to mine Bitcoin; they can buy it from that pool of mined currency.
Besides being free of regulation, Bitcoin’s other big appeal is that transactions are private.
The first person on record for having spent Bitcoin on an actual physical product was in May 2010, when 10,000 Bitcoins were used to buy two pizzas. Based on the current value of Bitcoin, those were very, very expensive pizzas … A growing number of businesses and companies now accept payment in this digital currency, including Microsoft, Steam and PayPal.
What Is a Blockchain?
Another term that’s come up frequently in headlines is Blockchain. This is essentially a database that records each and every Bitcoin transaction. This tracks the Bitcoins in existence and prevents them from being spent simultaneously in multiple locations. In keeping to the Bitcoin theme, the Blockchain is decentralized, private and encrypted.
To throw a wrinkle in the works, Bitcoin Cash was launched in 2017. It’s essentially a “fork” in the Bitcoin code that was designed to make processing transactions faster (the growing popularity of Bitcoin was starting to result in transaction delays). Bitcoin Cash uses the same blockchain as Bitcoin, but isn’t as valuable as Bitcoin itself—it’s currently trading for about $2,500 Canadian.
Bitcoin mining is where we circle back to the topic of video cards. What on earth does computer video processing have to do with cryptocurrency? A lot, as it turns out.
As I mentioned earlier, Bitcoin mining involves computers solving an incredibly complex mathematical problem. They “hash” data. The difficulty of the problem to be solved is adjusted by the network to reflect supply. The current goal is to have one block added to the Blockchain every 10 minutes or so, with one block representing 12.5 Bitcoins. That’s 12.5 worldwide, with computers worldwide competing to be the ones that successfully earn it. Keep in mind that the total number of Bitcoins available is limited to 21 million, so that enters into the equation as well.
The net result of all this is that a PC has to chew through absurd amounts of data as quickly as possible on a continual basis to generate Bitcoins, with the difficulty of the problem it’s working on (or hashing) to solve constantly adjusted—but always extremely complex. What people soon found out is that this hashing quickly bogged down the CPU of a computer. But a video card is designed to power through computations in parallel instead of being a “do everything” component like the CPU. This proved to be a great fit for mining. A Bitcoin mining rig outfitted with a powerful video card can outperform a powerful CPU by 100 times when it comes to Bitcoin mining.
People have set up clusters or farms of video card-equipped computers to mine Bitcoins, something that’s becoming more popular as the value of the currency shoots through the roof. That’s made certain graphics cards very popular, because of their combination of price, performance, durability and efficiency. The first two factors are obvious, but why durability and efficiency? All this number crunching has the video cards running at peak capacity for hour after hour. That means an extreme load put on the card with high heat generation, something that not all can take for an extended period (video cards burning out after a month of use in a mining rig is not unheard of). And graphics cards use electricity, some more than others. With the cost of buying a video card versus the potential payoff in Bitcoins, you also have to account for the cost in electricity. If your electrical bill at the end of the month is higher than your earnings, then your Bitcoin mining career will not last for long …
Popular Video Cards for Bitcoin Mining
Best Buy carries two of the most popular video cards for Bitcoin mining.
The ZOTAC GeForce GTX 1070 8GB DDR5 Mini-Video Card was designed to make short work of graphics-intensive tasks like virtual reality, 4K video and multi-monitor setups. Nvidia’s GTX 1070 has also been called one of the best GPUs on the market for Bitcoin mining, prized for its high hash rate and relatively low power draw.
The ZOTAC GeForce GTX1060 6GB DDR5 Video Card is a less expensive option as it’s equipped with an Nvidia GeForce GTX1060 GPU instead of a 1070, and 6GB of DDR5 RAM instead of 8GB. But it’s still capable of the performance needed for VR, 4K gaming and driving multiple monitors. And it has the combination of price, performance, durability and efficiency that makes it popular among Bitcoin miners.
Best Buy is an ideal destination for Bitcoin miners needing components to keep their mining operation functioning. Best Buy has a large selection of in-stock merchandise in most stores, and stores are located near most people in the country. In addition, Best Buy has one of the most robust and trustworthy online stores, with very fast, dependable delivery anywhere in Canada. If you need a video card (or almost any PC component) you will find it at Best Buy and have at your home very quickly.
Is Bitcoin a bubble? Who knows? It certainly seems to be showing all the classic signs of a bubble. Then again, it’s been up and down in value since the cryptocurrency first arrived on the scene. But if you decide that it’s time to invest in your own Bitcoin mining rig, Best Buy has you covered with the most sought after video cards. Power supplies, cases, cooling systems and other PC components are also available.
I’m no Bitcoin expert, but maybe someone in the Plug-in community is. If so, please feel free to share your knowledge in the Comments.