ZaReason's Valta X79
We've Secretly Replaced Our Benchmarking Tools with Cryptocurrency!
It's easy to look up benchmarks on specific CPUs and GPUs. Because ZaReason sent me this unit after reading my article on cryptocurrency, it seems only fair to benchmark it using that method. Before I delve into hashrates and profits/losses, however, let me define a few terms for those not familiar with cryptocurrencies:
Mining: cryptocurrency is something I've written about in past months, but basically, it's a form of virtual currency. That currency is created and secured by a large network of folks donating processing power to cryptographically verify transactions. In return for that donated processing power (aka "mining"), virtual coinage is produced and distributed to the miners. This both introduces the currency fairly into the economy and gives people an incentive for donating their processing power.
Hashrate: this is the speed at which miners can verify transactions, or more precisely, the speed at which they can solve the math problems that verify transactions. The faster the processor, the higher the hashrate.
Bitcoin: the most widely accepted and traded cryptocurrency. The algorithm used to verify transactions is SHA256 and is most efficiently mined with GPUs, specifically AMD/ATI-brand GPUs.
Litecoin: created to be the silver to Bitcoin's gold, Litecoin uses the Scrypt algorithm with the intent of being more efficient to mine with a CPU. Scrypt is more memory-intensive than SHA256, so CPUs have an easier time verifying the transactions.
Another important thing to understand about cryptocurrency is that the speculation market for individual currencies is extremely volatile. Bitcoins have traded for as little as fractions of a penny each, all the way to more than $30 each. Litecoins peaked at about a nickel, and at the time of this writing, they are selling for about a half-cent each. Cryptocurrencies are fun to play with, but I certainly don't recommend investing more than you can afford to lose.
Torture Testing, for Profit!
Let me start with the graphics card. First, the AMD 6970 is an incredibly fast gaming card. I know that's not what I'm reviewing, but it's worth noting I couldn't get this thing to drop a frame no matter how hard I tried.
When it comes to Bitcoin mining, the 6970 is no slouch either. Running at stock clockrates and voltages, I was able to mine Bitcoins at around 375 million hashes per second, or MH/s. Using my Kill-A-Watt meter, I measured the difference in wattage at about 225 watts versus the idle GPU. Using the profitability calculator at http://allchains.info, given the current Bitcoin difficulty and trading price, it turns out I can mine about $1.10 worth of Bitcoins every day. Keep in mind, however, that my electricity costs about $0.11 per kilowatt hour, so while I might make $1.10 in Bitcoins, it costs me $0.59 in electricity. At current rates (end of March 2012), that means this computer will make about $0.51 per day in profits, along with quite a bit of noise and heat.
The second-generation i7 processor, with its new AVX instruction set, is the fastest Litecoin miner I've ever seen. Running all six cores (12 with hyperthreading), the Core i7-3930K uses right around 200 watts according to my Kill-A-Watt. That's actually a little lower than some benchmarks I've seen, but nonetheless, it's what I recorded. The impressive part is that the CPU was able to sustain about 72 thousand hashes per second (KH/s), which is more than twice as fast as my AMD 6-core CPU can muster. Using the same profitability calculator from allchains.info, this CPU can mine around 42 Litecoins a day. Since the price of Litecoins is so low, that equates to only around $0.23. Unfortunately, at 200 watts, it costs around $0.53 per day to mine, so if I were to mine Litecoins today, I'd lose around $0.30 a day.
That is where the speculation comes in. Just a few short weeks ago, Litecoins were selling for 3–4 cents each, which means it was profitable to mine. Depending on your cost for electricity, perhaps it never will be profitable to mine Bitcoins or Litecoins. Again, I stress not to spend more money than you can afford to lose. Still, if you're into cryptocurrencies, it's a neat way to stress-test a computer!
The Valta X79 is a screaming-fast computer. To be honest, if I were going to build a powerhouse computer from scratch, it's the exact type of system I would build. I think that's what I like best about it. ZaReason has taken the essence of building your own computer, using standard parts, and done the testing to make sure everything works well together. Then ZaReason assembles it, configures it and, most important, supports it. If you've ever wanted to build a custom system, but wished you didn't have to give up a warranty and tech support, you'll love this Linux beast from ZaReason. The price for the unit as reviewed is $2,396. To configure and price your own custom Valta X79, head over to http://www.zareason.com.
Market Price and Profit Calculator: http://www.allchains.info
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