Lately it has been quite hard to get access to and even buy higher-end GPUs used for mining, even at unreasonably high prices it isn't all the time easy, but we finally managed to get our hands on a Nvidia P104-100 based GPU from ASUS to play a bit with it. The brand new P104-100 is certainly a bit different approach from Nvidia for a mining GPU when in comparison with the previous version P106-100 that wasn’t much different than a consumer GTX 1060. The brand new P106-100 is actually the GPU found inside a GTX 1070, but with a different memory configuration, so it isn't essentially a GTX 1070 rebrand with limited warranty and no video outputs. You get 4GB GDDR5X video memory that's apparently optimized for mining with a 256-bit memory bus, finally something done properly on a mining GPU, so you will get better performance in memory dependent algorithms. In fact Nvidia partners like ASUS get to play a bit with the boards and a few times they make the remainder of the things right, some times they don’t.
We are still left with the impressions that with regards to mining GPUs manufacturers still need to cut on costs they usually often do it the incorrect way around by messing the things they need to not. Typical for ASUS we see a warranty sticker on one of many main screws holding the GPU cooler, but be calm, the board is with just 3 months warranty, so after that you're free to remove it and clean the cooling solution, change the thermal grease or do whatever you want with it.
The ASUS Mining P104 4G uses a single 8-pin PCI-E power connector that must be more than enough for the default TDP of 180 Watts for the P104-100. The cooler seems pretty good at first sight and with the twin fans that appear just like what ASUS uses on their STRIX series the operating temperatures ought to be fine for mining. Looking a bit closely however things begin to get a bit disappointing as plainly ASUS has decided to not properly cool the memory chips (there isn't any direct contact with the cooler). Not cooling the video memory properly is certainly a minus here because the chips get pretty hot at stock frequencies and they are often overclocked pretty good, but then get even hotter. In consequence from this you won't have the ability to squeeze the utmost performance you can find a way from the actual version of P104-100.
Looking on the backplane of the GPU we see that there are not any video outputs available, but a closer inspection of the PCB actually shows two connectors present. Surprise, surprise… once you remove the backplane you see that the board actually has a single HDMI and a single DP video outputs onboard, they're just covered by the backplane. Well done ASUS, you can have just opened two holes on the backplane and have these usable anyway, but probably because the idea of the mining GPUs is for them for use just for mining they decided to cover them.
Keep in mind that we’ve mentioned that the cooling fans of the Mining P104 4G GPU look very very similar to those found on the ASUS STRIX series of GPUs for gamers, well they're the identical inside as well. Meaning that the fans use bushings as an alternative of ball bearings and that may be a no go for a dedicated mining GPU in our opinion! Metal bushings are cheaper, but they don't handle dust and warmth nearly as good as ball bearings and in most mining scenarios their usable life is far shorter that what a good ball bearing fan is able to providing. Guess manufacturers just don’t care what happens with the fans after the three months warranty you get is over and more than likely the fans won't fail in just 3, but we’ve seen issues beginning to appear with these ASUS fans in 4-6 months of use for mining.
The newest GPU-Z unfortunately doesn't properly recognize all the specs of the P104-100 GPU, it confuses the specifications with those for a GTX 1080 Ti. The ASUS Mining P104 4G comes with a GPU that has 1920 CUDA Cores running at 1607 MHz base clock, it uses 4GB GDDR5X video memory running at 10010 MHz and has a default TDP of 180 W. One essential thing to notice here is that the P104-100 is running at x4 PCI-E 1.1, so usability for things aside from mining could also be limited when it comes to performance. The important thing here is the video memory that's apparently optimized for mining and it has surprisingly good results on the subject of memory intensive algorithms such as Ethereum’s Ethash for example, but more on that in a bit.
Here's a quick take a look at what performance when it comes to hashrate you possibly can expect form the ASUS Mining P104 4G GPU at stock frequencies, the benchmark results are with the newest NiceHash Legacy miner covering a lot of the more popular algorithms in the meanwhile. For GPU-intensive algorithms you'll be able to expect to get performance that's just like that of a GTX 1070, the primary advantage that the P104-100 has is within the Ethash algorithm. The default performance you possibly can expect to get mining Ethereum or other Ethash-based coins is around 33 MHs at stock settings, but should you start playing with the clocks you'll be able to rise up to about 40 MHs.
Going right for +800 on the video memory and voila – you get just a little over 40 MHS on Ethereum using the Claymore ETH dual miner, but here comes the issue with the video memory getting hot. As already mentioned the memory chips should not have direct contact with the cooler, in order that they depend on cooling only from the air coming from the fans they usually get pretty hot. So running at +800 MHz is an issue for longer time (they could go even higher stable with good cooling), so you must dial back to about +650 MHz to have stability and you'll get right down to slightly over 39 MHS which continues to be excellent. Especially for mining Ethereum or anything using Ethash you possibly can lower the facility limiter and even the GPU clock, so you will get right down to about 135 W of power usage without loss in performance.
In the long run we get mixed feelings from the ASUS Mining P104 4G GPU, it's performing well, but with some small improvements it might be a way more interesting product. We want to see dual ball-bearing fans and a cooler that cools the memory chips as well to be able to make the cardboard more durable and reliable on the long run as mining just isn't for just 3 months. Performance wise the P104-100 does great only in Ethereum or other Ethash coins, especially if you overclock the video memory. The leads to other more GPU intensive algorithms aren't that interesting particularly because the GPU itself is identical as on GTX 1070 and the performance could be very much the identical. The opposite not so good thing right now's that there's limited availability even for the P104-100 mining GPUs and for those who manage to seek out them somewhere their prices are also higher than usual, identical to is the case with the regular GeForce gaming GPUs form Nvidia in the meanwhile.