Published 3 weeks ago • 10 minute read

Crypto Mining versus Gaming Consoles: Can it Be Done?

Crypto mining was the craze for the last few years in computing hardware. The discussion was all about hash rates, which basically refer to the measure of the efficiency of any rig or setup when generating what is considered decentralized digital money.

In our conversation with the team behind Coin Slotty, the online casino with bitcoin, we agreed that any hardware designed to compute can be configured for crypto mining. So this should also include gaming consoles, which are capable of doing multiple complex mathematical computations at the same time. So long as the machine is relatively modern, it can have a decent hash rate, which will contribute to its overall crypto mining potential.

PS3 & PS4 – The Original Hustlers

Even as early as the budding years of the crypto mining industry, enthusiasts have been tinkering with any decent computing machine of that era to experiment with potential alternative mining machines. Specifically, in 2011, the question simply was:

“Can one really mine Bitcoins using a PS3?”

The answer was, of course, yes. The straightforward conclusion is that, even if the PS3 is designed to play games, it has a GPU and CPU. Therefore, the PS3 is a proper and potential candidate for crypto mining hardware. The trick is to configure the hardware to do so, and that requires rewriting the software on the platform. First on the list, of course, is using a different operating system, generally Linux/Debian. Then, a mining program is installed. 

Initial calculations have proposed very modest results, with one particular user suggesting that the particular hardware configuration of the PS3 should only produce about 12.1 MH/sec (Bitcoin). Other enthusiasts, of course, were quick to point out inconsistencies in this calculation. At least one other user even claimed that they were able to exceed those numbers to more than 20+ MH/sec (BTC). Still a very insignificant number even at that time, though it proves beyond doubt that the PS3 can indeed mine crypto.

The PS4, in theory, should have been the real first attempt at console crypto mining, as the original PS4 is generally considered to be nine times more powerful than the PS3. However, even at the start of 2014, mining difficulty has already spiked with the increased number of users, with Bitcoin permanently transferring to ASIC miners altogether. There wasn’t much in the way of the PS4 being a viable crypto mining machine, even as Ethereum started to replace Bitcoin’s former position. It didn’t even matter that the upgraded PS4 Pro would eventually have the same number crunching power as the popular mining GPU, the Radeon RX 580.

Indeed, there was news of a PS4 Pro mining farm being raided in Ukraine last 2021. However, it was eventually revealed a few days later that it was never mining cryptocurrency. Rather, it was “mining” for FIFA in-game currencies, which the consoles are rigged to automatically farm using bot accounts.

The only serious discussion about PS4 crypto mining was when it was suggested to be able to mine certain altcoins like Monero. However, this idea was eventually shot down as well. Even if the PS4 can be jailbroken to install Linux, the integrated hardware just can’t be configured for optimized crypto mining.

If nothing else, certain floating stories, fake news, and unconfirmed images of rows of PS4 hooked like a mining rig kept circulating around the internet. However, there was never any concrete data on their performance (8 MH/s was the best estimate), with the general consensus being that it was simply not worth the effort.

Playstation 5 – Waiting for the Right One

This brings us to the very peculiar year of 2020. Right after the first crypto mining boom subsided around 2018, another wave of crypto mining frenzy started two years later with the release of the Geforce RTX 30-series (Ampere) and Radeon RX 5000/6000 (RDNA 2.0) graphics cards. This also happens to be the release of next-gen consoles, the PS5 and Xbox Series X. Even more peculiarly, both consoles have the same RDNA 2.0 GPU architecture, which immediately brought to question their viability as crypto mining machines.

For the PS5 console itself, as in the commercial product, there is no direct way of using it to mine cryptocurrency yet. Some fake news circulated online claiming that it can do so at the height of the global pandemic, but any information from it was eventually dismissed as satire. 

In theory, the PS5’s GPU (36 CU, 2304 cores, 10.29 FP32 TFLOPS) should be equivalent to the Radeon RX 5700 XT, a GPU that proved to be insanely efficient at crypto mining, edging out at 55 MH/sec (Ethereum) at the beginning of the 2020/2021 global chip shortage. In fact, ASRock had the great idea of recycling defective PS5 APUs to build a dedicated Ethereum mining rig. Without the hardware and software restraints of a standard PS5, several chips can be stacked together efficiently to output 610 MH/sec (Ethereum).

Sadly, outside this custom build, tinkering with more with the PS5’s crypto mining potential simply yielded unfavorable results, due to a number of developing factors:

  • Combined hardware and software restrictions prevent the installation of third-party programs on the PS5.
  • The eventual crash of Classic Ethereum value meant that profitability simply wasn’t there anymore.
  • Ethereum’s switch to proof-of-stake for system validation means you can no longer mine the cryptocurrency for rewards at all.
  • The next best altcoins after Ethereum, such as Ravencoin, are still way, way too far from being profitable. At best its ROI would take decades. At worst, energy usage just exceeds the value gained.

Should the first obstacle of software installation be cleared, we may then see crypto mining enthusiasts playing with PS5 crypto mining programs for fun again as with the PS3. Though, that still doesn’t change the profitability issue.

Xbox Series X – Brother from Another Mother

While the PS5 was eventually doomed to fail as a crypto mining machine with its restrictions, the Xbox Series X followed a completely different path. For one thing, it can be configured more easily with custom software, making its RDNA 2.0 build much more relevant. In fact, a Redditor by the name of ninja-kurtle introduced ETH Box, an open-source mining program for Xbox consoles that utilized the Xbox Dev Mode via a Microsoft dev account.

While most of the testing was done on the Xbox Series S (more on that later), the developer has posited that, since the architecture is the same, the Xbox Series X should be able to use the same program with better results. Calculations run at a basic rate of 30 MH/sec (Ethereum), which is somewhat lower than 61 MH/s, the hashrate value of the console’s GPU equivalent, the Geforce RTX 3070. Even the most optimistic estimate still rate it only slightly higher at 70 MH/sec (Ethereum).

At the very least, the Xbox Series X does potentially show stable temperatures when mining. At lower ambient temperatures (below 30 degrees Celsius), it can still stabilize at around 70 degrees Celsius, which is the average temperature when the console is at peak gaming loads.

Strangely, there was a single article that referenced the use of GUIminer for the Xbox Series X. This is crypto mining program originally designed for the PC. However, there is no independent confirmation that it can actually be installed on the Xbox Series X. The Xbox Series X does not have drivers for running Linux. Even then, GUIminer is mainly used to mine Bitcoins, which at this point in time, can only be efficiently mined using dedicated ASIC machines.

Xbox Series S – The Lightweight Option

As mentioned earlier, ETH Box was originally tested for the Xbox Series S, and therefore had the most tangible data available. According to the program’s developer, initial results showed that the console can output at least 5 MH/sec (Ethereum), which is far too inefficient. However, he did note that this can be improved further to 15 MH/sec. This could probably even be a bit higher if we reference the same software optimizations that suggested the 70 MH/sec rating for the Xbox Series X.

While the architecture of the Xbox Series S is the same as the Xbox Series X, especially with its CPU and memory, it has a significantly lower GPU configuration. It has only 20 CU, 1280 cores, and 4 FP32 TFLOPS, as opposed to the latter’s 52 CU, 3328 cores, and 12.15 FP32 TFLOPS. It is more comparable to the classic Radeon RX 580, which ironically, was the much better (and much more popular) mining GPU.

Still, the power consumption is much lower, 150 watts for the Xbox Series X, and only 75 watts for the Series S, theoretically making it a passive miner when not used for gaming during the height of the 2020/2021 global chip shortage.

Nintendo Switch & Steam Deck – The Handheld Runner-ups

On May 2021, French YouTuber Sblerky attempted to install a custom mining program on a hacked Nintendo Switch, which proved that the handheld console can indeed mine cryptocurrency like his previous Gameboy miner. 

Bitcoin was the target currency, though, and his idea was more of a proof-of-concept, rather than anything remotely profitable. Nvidia’s Tegra X1 chip, after all, was already considered half-obsolete even as the Nintendo Switch was first released in 2017. To give you an idea of just how weak the processor is now today, it had a whopping 0.5 FP32 TFLOPS. Not even a fourth of what the Xbox Series S can do.

On a more ridiculous note, last 2020, news circulated that the Switch game Cooking Mama: Cookstar was actually a secret Bitcoin miner. This was eventually proven false, although the storm of intrigue and controversy hit social media for quite a while.

As for its supposed “official” competitor, the Steam Deck can actually be a promising mining candidate, at least in theory. The console is basically already a homebrew-friendly machine, with no software restrictions, and can be treated as a handheld PC. Its custom Zen 2 Ryzen APU’s RDNA 2.0 integrated GPU also had decent specs of 8 CU, 512 cores, and 1.6 FP32 TFLOPS. Simply install any compatible Linux distribution platform of your choice, and set up a miner directly.

This is exactly what YouTuber Son Of a Tech did when he showcased a Steam Deck that was mining crypto at a 1.2 MH/sec (Monero) hashrate. Similar to the proof-of-concept Switch miner, it showed that it is indeed easy to set up the crypto mining program. The issue, of course, is feasibility, as the mobile Monero miner was eating up 100 watts and had to be actively cooled externally just to keep itself in continuous operation.

The Bottom Line – Walking the Fine Profitability Line

Crypto mining, in the end, is all about the value or amount that goes in and out. While there will always be enthusiasts who enjoy setting up rigs just for fun, the core idea is always to earn more than its energy cost. If your electric bills pile up more than the machine’s crypto transaction validation rewards, then it is essentially useless.

As for which console would have theoretically won the crypto profitability wars, the clear winner is the Xbox Series X. Not only does it have the most powerful GPU, but it also has a somewhat lenient implementation platform. Plus, we already have a working miner program in concept. If developed earlier and further, then it may have been scalped much harder during the 2020/2021 global chip shortage than it originally had.

In terms of value, current-gen consoles are at least still on the economical edge. If just for pure gaming (and theoretical mining), an equivalent PC would have cost at least half more, if not double the MSRP of the PS5 and Xbox Series X/Series S. 

So, even without cryptomining as a consideration, they are still considerably better bang-for-the-buck entertainment machines. 


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