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Chia vs. Mad Max: Choosing the best Chia plotter for Linux

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This guide was written before plot compression was introduced to Chia. Plot compression allows farmers to use the computing power of GPUs to reduce the size of plots and increase rewards. The Chia network shortly (6 months to a year) plans to introduce a new plot format to combat plot compression. We recommend small farmers (below a Petabyte of uncompressed storage) wait it out till then, as rewards will be insignificant, and additional farmers provide little benefit to the network. You can still follow this guide to install the full Chia node.

Mastering the art of Chia plotting is crucial if you want to make the best use of the hardware you have at hand. Plotting in Linux and selecting the proper drive format can improve your daily plotting output.

A big problem with the traditional plotter was its inability to use parallelization to reduce plot times. Even if you dedicated many cores, the best plot times were more than three hours. This forced users to plot many plots in parallel, which meant investing in several NVMe SSDs, raising the cost and environmental impact of Chia farming.

With the release of Mad Max’s Chia plotter, the ability to plot a single plot in under an hour for most systems means that one can now use the RAM disk or a low-capacity enterprise NVMe drive for Chia plotting.

However, the Mad Max plotter doesn’t always provide the best results, as we’ll see soon, since a well-scheduled parallel plotter can easily beat it. The place where it shines is reliance on NVMe SSDs, which it needs little use of.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at both and decide the best Chia plotter for Linux based on your use case. We’ll make recommendations based on the plotting data from the official Chia plotting performance list.

Key Differences between the Chia and Mad Max plotter

Daily Output

A well-optimized traditional Chia plotter with several high-speed SSDs is almost guaranteed to give a higher number of plots per day than the Mad Max plotter. However, it becomes costly to run considering the price associated with the SSDs and their eventual wearing out due to the write intensity of plotting.

RAM requirements

Memory consumption while using the traditional Chia plotter highly depends on the number of plots run in parallel. For a single plot, the range of peak memory usage is usually 3-4 GiB. Staggering plots can significantly reduce memory consumption because some phases utilize lower amounts of memory.

The minimum RAM disk capacity required for the Mad Max plotter is 110 GiB, meaning you need at least 128GB of memory. Your only option for systems with lower capabilities would be an NVMe SSD. In such a case, 16GB of RAM should be enough since you would run a single plot.

SSD Usage

Mad Max plotting on a ramdisk reduces the SSD writes by about 75% for a single plot, solving Chia’s problem of burning out consumer SSDs. However, if you plan on using only SSDs with Mad Max, the SSD writes will be comparable to the official plotter.

If you happen to come across a good deal on an enterprise SSD, it would be good to try that out instead of the consumer options on the market. For Mad max plotting, the minimum size of the temp drive should be at least 256 GiB. You can get an enterprise drive of this capacity for cheap, either used or refurbished.

For achieving a high plot output, parallel plotting is the only option with the traditional plotter, whirn will need a large amount of temp storage, somewhere near 7-8TB for a decent processor.

Ease of Use

The official plotter needs many optimizations before producing a decent number of daily plots per day. Plotting managers like Plotman or Swar help make scheduling easier over the barebone one available but still require you to learn the art of staggering to make the best use of resources.

Mad Max’s plotter is more straightforward as you do not have to stagger or schedule any plots by dealing with only one plot at a time. Thus, it effectively utilizes your resources without needing much effort to set up.

Another advantage of the Mad max plotter is the low impact of power losses or system crashes while plotting. Plotting in parallel means that several plots will be in the making at any given instance, and with the loss of power or a crash, all of them will be lost.

When do I use the Mad Max plotter?

  • Cannot afford multiple NVMe SSDs for parallel plotting.
  • Plotting in a region that faces multiple power cuts. For high core count systems, running on reserve battery power can get pretty expensive.
  • Want to overclock your plotting system to get extra performance at the cost of uptime? An occasional crash or two should not be a problem here.
  • Need a plug-and-play solution that does not need continuous optimizing and testing to get the best results.
  • Have a system that supports at least 128GB of memory. Otherwise, a high-endurance SSD is recommended.

When do I use the Chia plotter?

  • Want to maximize your processor’s plot output per day and willing to allocate the necessary time and resources in achieving it.
  • Have a relable soruce of power and proper redundances in case of an outage.
  • Planning to run the plotting system at stock clocks to minimize the risk of downtime.
  • Have a high core count processor (24 and above). The traditional Chia plotter will always offer better results as the Mad Max plotter’s plotting time does not scale well with core count.

Ultimately, the best plotter for you depends on the hardware you have at hand and how far you’re willing to upgrade to get a higher plot output. We recommend trying out both the plotters and identifying the one that suits you best.

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About Paul Jacob

As an avid hardware enthusiast, Paul always takes the opportunity to explore the underlying technology through teardowns of the laptops, smartphones, and graphics cards he owns. He is also pretty passionate about stuff like sideloading the latest Android ROM to his smartphone or tweaking the processor clocks on his laptop to improve performance and lower temps.


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