Low-cost GPU solution (current as of late 2020)

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Low-cost GPU solution (current as of late 2020)

Post by admin »

Hi all,

With 1.7 now supporting comprehensive GPU acceleration, I've been testing and evaluating many different discrete and integrated GPUs in the process.

Many of you already have a capable discrete GPU in your system. However if you rely on your CPU's iGPU, or your GPU is quite old (e.g. released before ~2013, particularly from NVidia), or your GPU is a budget model (e.g. just a basic display adapter.), then you may wish to read on.

The crypto-mining boom saw the release of a number of cut-down GPUs, lacking display outputs. These were designed for maximum compute power at minimum power draw, in order to maximize crypto currency returns vs power bills.

With the mining craze having subsided, as well as with more capable (profitable) GPUs being released over time, these older GPUs are now effectively e-waste; they don't work as display adapters and, today, consume too much power vs crypto currency returns. However, these cards still provide very good compute performance at very low power draws.

This means that these cards are;
  1. Abdundant on sites like eBay and AliExpress (typically buying multiple will yield discounts too)
  2. Cheap
  3. Relatively powerful
  4. Fit in most systems without the need for a power supply upgrade
As said, these cards complement your current display adapter by taking over compute duties. Your current display solution will continue working as normal. These cards will not be suitable for things like gaming or stream encoding, but will only be suitable for accelerating compute workloads.

The card in question is a P106-090;
zotacp106.jpg
zotacp106.jpg (47.77 KiB) Viewed 803 times
(appearance may vary)

You will need an empty, full-size, PCie slot on your motherboard (e.g. this empty slot should look the same as the one your current display adapater - if any - resides in);
PCIe.jpg
PCIe.jpg (23.07 KiB) Viewed 803 times
The card will require a 6-pin PCIe power connector. Most power supplies provide one, but if not (or you current display adapter has them all in use), then cheap 12V molex or SATA adapter cables exist to take power from that. My P106-090 came with a molex adapter already provided.
6pinpcie.jpeg
6pinpcie.jpeg (12.5 KiB) Viewed 803 times
Prices

Pricing as of the time of this writing is ~$50 USD (e.g. roughly the price of a StarTools license :)). I would probably not pay significantly more than that, unless other options in your area/country are limited. There are other models than the P106-090 that have better specs, however their price/performance is IMHO too high to be worth it. In most cases you are better off buying a "regular" used GPU, which can do display duties as well.

Risks

These cards have been used before. If you decide on procuring such an ex-mining card, you will be doing so at your own "risk" (I would estimate it reasonably a low risk, however, and my experience buying one through AliExpress has been good).

Performance

This card is essentially a cut-down Nvidia GTX 1060 3GB, though seeing compute performance more in the range of a GTX 1050 Ti. For a rough idea of where your current GPU solution ranks, you can have a look here. Please note that this a *very* rough estimate.

I hope this tip helps anyone. Any questions, feel free to ask!
Ivo Jager
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happy-kat
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Re: Low-cost GPU solution (current as of late 2020)

Post by happy-kat »

great share thanks
I checked the card was rated pretty low but I do see a difference it is faster, system info says 5 Gbps and 6Gb allocated and 2Gb dedicated. It is enough to notice it is faster.
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Re: Low-cost GPU solution (current as of late 2020)

Post by admin »

happy-kat wrote: Wed Sep 23, 2020 5:47 pm great share thanks
I checked the card was rated pretty low but I do see a difference it is faster, system info says 5 Gbps and 6Gb allocated and 2Gb dedicated. It is enough to notice it is faster.
If system memory is being allocated to the GPU solution, it sounds like you might be using an iGPU (ST doesn't need much memory allocated - 1GB should be enough for most datasets). In that case, a discrete GPU like the P106 should yield pretty big speedups. :thumbsup:
Ivo Jager
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Re: Low-cost GPU solution (current as of late 2020)

Post by fmeireso »

Great info,

I will try out ST 1.7, because my old computer has a GPU. Yesterday i tested ST 1.6 and GPU remained pretty much in an iddle state. I will replace my current setup because it belongs to my son and allthough not that bad it is over 7 years old, but still rather powerfull. Off course systems of today outclass it.

But it is really interesting to know what the behaviour will be and especially the overall performance gain. It see reasonable priced AMD Ryzen 7 machines with a modest Nvidia 1050 GT with 4 gb dedicated ram...guess that might be more then enough. I noticed that the most imortant factor using ST 1.6 was the CPU, many times it reached 100%...for quite some time...
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