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Find The Best Solana Validator

How to choose a platform to stake your Solana: the 3 key factors to consider

1. The size of the validator's total stake (big isn't beautiful!)

The vast majority of people staking on Solana choose the 'top' validators to delegate their stake to. It's a natural choice!

By default we assume that the wisdom of crowds has chosen for us: this place is popular, it must be the best. Whether it's the way people want to eat at a busy restaurant rather than a deserted one (who knows what their kitchen looks like?!) or simply seeking security for their hard earned coins, choosing the well travelled path is a natural, human reaction.

The feeling is compounded by the fact that most lists of validators sort by stake, so the biggest in terms of scale almost always appear at the top of validator lists - including in some of the most popular Solana wallets

But while natural, these feelings are deceptive for two reasons:

  1. Your coins are safe, wherever they are staked: Solana's staking system has been designed with safety in mind. Your staked funds are protected at all times, regardless of which validator you pick to generate your rewards. It doesn't matter if a validator has 10 million coins in delegated stake or just 100 - your assets are equally safe with either
  2. Solana's network relies on decentralization for Proof Of Stake to work The way Solana processes and approves transactions relies on stakes being spread across a wide range of validators. The more diverse and decentralized stakes are, the better for the health of the network overall. There is a risk inherent in everyone choosing the most popular validator to stake their coins with: if the majority of coins end up staked with a small number of validators it can lead to a network halt, where inbuilt protections on the integrity of transactions stop working. Instead, for the sake of the network, it makes sense to spread stakes out across a far greater number of validators to prevent the likelyhood of a halt or intentional attack.

If you're aiming to invest in Solana staking it is in your best interests to support the network by avoiding further concentration of stake among the biggest validators.

So our recommendation is as follows:

Don't choose the biggest operators for the sake of their size alone. If anything, you should actively avoid them, and either:

  • Support some of the smaller operators to grow their stake and further decentralize the network
  • Or spread your stake out across multiple small operators to decentralize even more

2. The amount of commission the validator charges in fees

Every validator earns rewards from Solana based on the size of stake they hold. These rewards are then passed to the stake owners, minus a fee that is set by the validator itself.

Fees typically range from 0% (typically for 'startup' validators aiming to attract new stakes) to 10+% for larger validators, or those with big brand names (we're looking at you, exchanges and certain wallets!)

Working out the commission is straightforward: every validator's commission is exposed publically, and it is simply deducted as a proportion of your rewards (not your stake!)

For example:

You stake 100 sol at a validator with 10% commission for one year. The APY for Solana during this period is 8%.

  • Your 100 SOL generates 8 SOL in rewards
  • 0.8 SOL (10% of those 8 SOL )is kept as a fee by the validator
  • You receive a total of 7.2 SOL over the course of the year
  • At the end of the year you own 107.2 SOL

Naturally it's clear to see that the lower a commission, the greater your personal rewards. But commission is important to ensure a validator can afford to keep validating, giving them an incentive to keep their clusters performing well and generating rewards for you.

And as we'll see next, it's actually not always the biggest impact on your overall return:

Quick tip: When choosing a validator ensure you know which metrics you are looking at. For example. in Phantom Wallet (one of Solana's most popular) not only are validators listed by the biggest stake first (boo!) but they also show the commission rate next to each validator.. unlabelled. To many first timers this can look like the APY reward you will see, not the actual commission paid! In reality the lower the number is in Phantom Wallet, the better for you.

3. The overall performance of the validator pool

Finally the last factor is crucial to the amount of rewards you receive is the performance, reliability and stability of the validator.

As a staker, this isn't always obvious.

But the simple fact is, if your validator's server gets disconnected from the internet, turned off or otherwise breaks then it stops competing for rewards.

If it stops participating in the Solana network, there are no rewards to pay out to stakeholders. So your APY can be affected far more dramatically by slow or broken validators than by their commission.

Similarly, rewards are also based on the amount of work done by a validator. This is not quite proof of work in the sense of Bitcoin, GPU farms and environmental destruction. But the fact is a validator earns rewards for every vote it participates in. If it doesn't show up - or is late - then no rewards are paid.

Solana has been built for speed, and so if the hardware a validator is using is too slow to keep up, it will simply be ignored or 'skipped'.

This can be seen by the 'Skipped Vote %' shown on . The less votes skipped, the higher the rewards earned each epoch. The higher the rewards, the greater your own share.

Putting all these factors together can be complex, which is why a kind soul created , which ranks validators not by overall size, but by expected APY, taking into account validator speed as well as commission.

Exploring this site today* brings up some interesting numbers:

  • Top is their own validator, with a large stake, high performance and 0% commission
  • Next are some tiny validators with awesome tech. Many offer 0%, but only those that can deliver the best performance are providing returns over 8% - again proving that bigger isn't necessarily bigger
  • But the most interesting part is when we get into commission rates:
    • 3 validators charging 5% commission have an estimated APY of 7.67% You can see here that the commission is eating into the returns compared to the 0% commission operators.. BUT
    • There is a '5% commission' validator that would only earn 4.1% .. and a number at 0% due to being completely offline
  • (it's a dynamic site so specifics may change but the points remain)

So as you can see, an unreliable validator could drag your rewards down to half what you expect - or worse.

Where to find the top validators with the best rewards & APY

As you can see, there is a lot to weigh up that some lists of validators such as the frequently recommended simply don't show.

We've recently launched our own list of top validators which uses data from Solana, StakeView and combined to help you find a great validator to stake with. Although we list all validators, we have filtered and sorted the list by default to show you:

  1. The highest performing validators based on the last 3 epochs
  2. That have less than 250,000 SOL in active stake

This way we help you find well run, smaller validators that have great returns, but also ensure the sustainability and security of the Solana network over time by emphasizing decentralization.

As a bonus, we've a bunch of stats on the breakdown of each validator's stakers, showing facts like the average stake amount, the number of stakers and the stake growth over time. There's also a simple scorecard for each listed validator that helps you understand key factors such as:

  • How is my validator's APY performance and commission rate?
  • Am I supporting a lower-stake validator and thus reducing the risk of a network halt?
  • Am I staking with a validator based in a highly centralized datacentre, or are they hosted in an area with a low concentration of active stake?

You may also consider staking with Solana Compass's own validator, which we have set up to score highly on all three points. As a small validator, staking with us not only earns you great rewards and secures the Solana network through decentralization, but also helps support us to keep writing new guides and building new tools to support the Solana ecosystem.

For an alternative perspective we've really enjoyed looking at both and for both a qualitative and quantitative look at the better validators to stake with.

They take a different approach: StakeView focuses on raw returns, factoring in performance and commission rates, while Validators takes a more holistic view, looking at factors such as :

  • Does it have a website?
  • Do they publish a security policy?
  • How well are they keeping up with other validators in terms of performance?
  • Are they based in an 'over populated' datacentre where many validators are found (too much centralization!) or out on their own in another part of the world, helping overall network reliability?
  • Do they already hold too much stake?

Both tools are great resources for weighing up the pros and cons of each validator, and we recommend exploring both as you make your choice.

Are there any fees for depositing or withdrawing your stake from a validator?

No, there are no 'withdrawl' or 'deposit' fees. In fact you never 'deposit' your stake - unlike a bank deposit your stake remains in your position, and cannot be touched by the validator.

Your stake is effectively a 'vote' that you trust the validator to confirm transactions on the network, rather than a deposit. By spreading the vote across a wide number of validators it ensures there is no risk of foul play in the system.

Do note that while there are no transaction fees on staking directly with a validator, it is possible that some independent 'stake pools' might have a different set of rules and fee schedules.

How long is my stake 'locked up' for at a validator?

As you are paid rewards based on the funds you have staked during an epoch, during that epoch (a period of roughly 2.5 days) you cannot withdraw your stake.

In practice, the timescale from staking, to earning rewards, to unstaking can vary depending on when in an epoch you instruct a validator.

For example:

  1. When you first delegate a stake to a validator you must wait for it to become active. This happens at the end of the current epoch. Given an epoch is ~2.5 days long, depending on when you stake it may take 2 days, 2 hours or just 20 minutes for your stake to become active.

  2. Once your stake is active it will begin earning rewards each epoch.

  3. Should you wish to withdraw your stake, you must first undelegate it. Just as when you delegate it, the instruction is handled at the end of the epoch. If the epoch is about to end this may be minutes or hours away, however if you 'undelegate' at the very start of an epoch it may take almost 3 days to undelegate.

  4. Once you have undelegated your stake and the epoch has ended, you can then withdraw it back to your wallet, or re delegate it with another validator or stake pool.

How many validators are there on the Solana netowrk?

At the time of writing there are over 1,000 active validators on the Solana network, which helps keep the network decentralized and censorship-free.

Less ideal though, is the fact that more than 33% of the total stake delegated to validators goes to the top 19 operators. To help keep the Solana ecosystem healthy, please endeavor to place your stake with any of the excellent smaller operators and not the first one your wallet or exchange lists (👀 Phantom Wallet, Binance, Coinbase + Kraken)