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ASIC Miner & Mining Cryptocurrency: Is It The New Era?

Cryptocurrency mining was considered to be something that you could do pretty easily a long time back. But now, those days are gone. In the current scenario, whether you are mining Bitcoin (BTC), DASH, Litecoin (LTC), or a host of the other cryptocurrencies or digital coins, the most effective method to do is with the help of a dedicated hardware, commonly known as the ASIC miner. Even after this, it can be well stated that it is really solely for the professionals who can invest masses of capital upfront.

In the very early stages of Bitcoin (BTC), at the beginning of 2010s, any cypherpunk possessing a half-decent computer CPU bore ample processing power for mining and earning thousands of Bitcoin as block rewards is a very short span. However, as more players joined the trend, they could see a rise in the BTC mining. The calculations were simple. Wherever acquired the most hash power, would be the luckiest one to receive Bitcoin.

Eventually, this had led to the powerful mining rigs creation needing the more robust mining devices termed as ASIC or Application Specific Integrated Circuit. For the actual class of the Bitcoin miners, ASIC miner machines have no time become a curse word owing to the fact that these miner machines offered the companies and the individuals with immense advantages when it comes to cryptocurrency mining. As time has progressed, soon it became clear that even the best gaming rig cannot compete with a dedicated ASIC device that has been geared for a single purpose which is mining the most amount of cryptocurrency as possible.

What Is An ASIC?

ASIC is the acronym for Application Specific Integrated Circuits. As the name suggests, it is a non-standard integrated circuit that has been designed for a certain use or application. Usually, an ASIC design is undertaken for a product that is supposed to have a large product run, and the ASIC might contain a very large part of the electronics required on a single integrated circuit. Thus, it can be imagined that the price of an ASIC design is pretty high. As a result, they tend to be reserved for the very high volume products.

Irrespective of this cost, ASICs might be very cost-efficient for several applications where the volumes are literally high. It is possible to curate the ASIC design for meeting the exact requirement for the product. Utilizing an ASIC can imply that much of the overall design can be contained in just a single integrated circuit thereby significantly reducing the number of additional components. Owing to this, they are widely used in those high volume products such as cell phones and other similar applications mostly for the consumer products where the volumes are relatively higher. They are also widely used for business products.

Evolution Of ASIC

ASIC was first spotted back in the early 1980s. The Integrated Chips during this time were in their initial phase for making a major impact on the electronics industry. Considering the advantages these have offered and that they were available in limited numbers, some attempts however had been made for creating the logic chips that were easily focussed towards a certain application.

One of the early initiatives had been undertaken by a UK based company called Ferranti. The company had used what had been termed as the uncommitted logic array or ULA. This scheme had offered customization through varying the metal interconnected mask. The first ULAs contained just a few thousand gates. However, the later versions possessed greater levels of flexibility and utilized various base dies customized by both the polysilicon layers and metals. In some of the cases, the RAM elements had been incorporated into the basic ULA.

From these initial developments, a huge number of different types of ASIC had been developed. The very first ASICs usually addressed only the logic functions. However, as of now, mixed signal ASIC designs can integrate both the logic and analogue (including RF) functions.

The Basics Of ASIC

In ASIC computer, the development and manufacture of an ASIC design with the ASIC layout is quite an expensive process. In the bid to reduce the costs, there exists various levels of customization that can be used. These might enable the costs to be reduced for the designs where huge levels of ASIC customizations are not required. Essentially, three levels of ASIC can be used – 

Gate Array

This type of ASIC needs least customization. In this case, the silicon layers used are standard. But the metallization permitting the interconnections between the various areas on the chip can be customized. This kind of ASIC is perfect where a large number of the standard functions are needed that can be connected in a particular manner for meeting the given requirement. 

Standard Cell

For this kind of ASIC, the mask serves as a custom design. However, the silicon is made up from the library components. This offers a high degree of flexibility and that the standard functions are able to meet the requirements. 

Complete Custom Design

This type of ASIC is considered to be most flexible as it involves the design of the ASIC down to the transistor level. The ASIC layout can be custom made to the exact requirements of the circuit. While it provides the highest degree of flexibility, it takes much longer to develop and the pricing goes much higher. It possesses higher risks as the whole design remains untested and not made up from the library elements used before.

ASIC designs provide a very attractive solution for many of the high volume applications. They enable significant amounts of circuitry that needs to be incorporated onto a single chip. Board area would be required owing to the fact that the circuits had been assembled utilizing proprietary chips and additional components. Thus, the manufacturing costs would be more. The ASICs offer a very attractive proposition with custom chips and sufficient volume.

In addition to the cost aspects, the ASICs might also be sometimes used owing to the enable circuits to be made that might not technically be viable utilizing other technologies. They might offer performance and speed that would be impossible if the discrete components were used. When developing an ASIC, often it is necessary to employ another specialist company for providing the ASIC design service. By using the expertise of the company, one can undertake the design more effectively in terms of cost, timescale and correct functionality.

What Is ASIC Mining?

ASIC mining can be termed as the process of mining cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin using the ASIC rigs. An ASIC miner can be described as a piece of equipment purposely built only for mining. Unlike most of the other types of the mining devices, ASICs can only be used for mining cryptocurrencies and nothing else.

Mining is an activity that a Proof-of-Work (PoW) blockchain requires for carrying out its operations. It involves creating the complex calculations for solving a mathematical puzzle that the miners complete for earning a block reward.

Satoshi Nakamoto, the anonymous creator of Bitcoin had envisioned a scenario of increased Bitcoin Mining difficulty when more mining devices are joined into the network. With the number of powerful mining devices, the miners are incentivized for investing in ASIC hardware to offer them the highest chance of successfully mining a block.

This needs to be noted that every ASIC device has been designed to mine a specific coin or a particular algorithm. For instance, a Bitcoin ASIC miner can solely mine BTC, while a Litecoin ASIC miner can only mine Litecoin as it interfaces with the LTC blockchain. This is owing to the fact that every digital currency possesses its own cryptographic hash algorithm, The ASIC devices are intended to match that hash algorithm. For example, Bitcoin utilizes the SHA-256 and Litecoin uses Scrypt.

What Is An Antminer?

Antminers can be termed as ASIC mining hardware and launched by Bitmain. In 2013, the series was launched especially for mining cryptocurrencies. It has since become a pretty common name in the blockchain mining industry and Bitcoin. The antminer has grown immensely and evolved at par with the blockchain mining industry with the initial S1 series. It also provided enhanced hash rates as well as power efficiency. However, other series have also been included slowly such as – S19, S19 pro and T19.

The price of an antminer is determined by its hash rate and model that is a measure of its computing power. It is a fact that the higher the better but this will also be more expensive.

What Are The Advantages Of ASIC Mining?

In terms of hardware, the ASIC mining might be more pricier than all other mining schemes. But it has some prime benefits as well.

  • It is easy to set up. The specialized nature of mining a single coin, plug and mine capabilities have all contributed to it.
  • They possess high mining efficiency. The ASICs bear high computation powers and efficiency as compared to the CPUs and GPUs.
  • They yield relatively high profits. With the power of an ASIC, you mostly can be assured of receiving a bull’s eye and hence earning rewards much faster in respect to any other type of hardware.
  • They consume low energy. The mining innovations in recent years have provided a scope to the devices to be designed in such a way that it consumes less energy in relation to their computing power and also in comparison to the other mining models.
  • The size is something obvious to consider. It is much smaller than the multiple interconnected standard products on a PC board. Possessing a variability in size permits the chip to be as large or as small as required. This is the only reason why most of the electronics are shrinking in size in recent years.
  • The ASIC chips offer you IP protection unlike the standard product.

How Much Will An ASIC Miner Cost You?

The Antminer portfolio of Bitmain comprises one of the best performing ASIC miners on the market. The S19 Pro has a capability to deliver 110 trillion hashes per second with a power consumption of 3,250W. The miner is priced at $2,400 which might make it much more expensive for the beginners.

The base model of S19 is priced at $1,785. Still it delivers a commendable 95 trillion hashes per second and at a much lower price. Another option from the house of Bitmain is the AntmonerT17+ that processes 58 trillion hashes per second. It only costs just a little over $800.

A GTX 1070 ASIC card is priced at $430 bearing a hash rate of 30 million per second only. Eight cards will cost you more than $3,000 and the hash rate will only reach 240 million per second. Additionally, you would also require to purchase a chassis, motherboard and power supply. Each GTX 1070 card pulls in more than 150 watts of energy and thus you can expect your monthly bills to go up.

Thus, ASIC miners offer you to spend less and gain better performance.

Some ASIC Miner Considerations

Before you go ahead and invest thousands of dollars in an ASIC mining rig, you need to consider the following factors. 

The Coins That Can Be Mined

The list of crypto coins that can be mined with the help of ASICs is much smaller than those that can be mined with the help of a GPU mining rig. The digital currencies that can be mined with the aid of ASICs comprise of Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin and a couple more. 

Location Of Rig

While you can locate the GPU mining rigs in one’s residence, the ASIC miners are pretty louder and produce much more heat. Thus, this means that somebody’s residence is not any ideal place for an ASIC miner. Hence, alternate locations such as a garage or a basement needs to be considered.

Power Consumption

The latest generation ASIC machines are much more energy efficient than the GPU rigs. But it consumes tremendous power whatsoever. If an ASIC miner is located at one’s home then it might require an electrical wiring system upgrade for handling the increased power load. 

Bitcoin Mining Pool Selection

Mining pools permit the miners to combine the power of their ASIC miner rigs for mining Bitcoin and sharing the rewards for the successfully minted blocks. The factors that you need to consider when choosing a pool include size, reputation and payment rules. 

Investment Returns

You need to question whether the return on investment is sufficiently high to justify the upfront cost of an ASIC miner and the ongoing operating expenses.

List Of ASIC Cryptocurrencies

The following list of ASIC cryptocurrency is something you need to note:

How Is ASIC Mining Different From GPU Mining?

The ASIC mining machines are developed for the only purpose of mining a particular cryptocurrency like Litecoin or Bitcoin. GPU or Graphics Processing Unit mining comprises the use of a GPU like those that are sold by Nvidia or AMD for mining the cryptocurrencies. The advantages of GPU mining is that the hardware is much cheaper than the equipment required for ASIC mining in addition to lower power consumption. Since GPUs have other applications in the computer display and gaming, they are considered much less efficient for mining cryptocurrencies than the ASIC miners.

What Are ASIC Resistant Coins?

The ASIC resistant coins can be termed as cryptocurrencies bearing ASIC resistant algorithms. It is virtually impossible to mine such cryptocurrencies with the ASIC mining equipment. Even if someone tries to do so, the returns would be extremely trivial. The primary rationale for the ASIC resistant coins is to preserve their blockchain’s decentralization, which was one of the guiding principles underpinning the creation of Bitcoin.

Recently, a couple of private mining farms and mining contract providers are the main source of a large proportion of Bitcoin’s total network hash rate that is contrary to the core principles of decentralization of BTC. Ethereum (ETH) and Monero (XMR) are the leading ASIC resistant coins.

Closing Thoughts 

The above discussion makes it evident that although ASIC Bitcoin mining is pretty profitable there are factors that you need to consider before delving into it as it is also competitive at the same time. For instance, joining a pool is a better option than solo mining if you have financial constraints for building a massive rig set or even a mini ASIC farm.

Choosing the best ASIC Bitcoin mining hardware depends on the size of your wallet. If you have enough funds for high performing devices like the Dragonmint T1 or the Antminer S19 Pro, then it will offer you higher profits.

You need to keep this in mind that technology and things change very fast. The ASIC miner that you buy today spending huge amounts might serve as an expensive paperweight before you can even earn the returns on your investment as each year there comes newer and more powerful models.

The price of Bitcoin is also a factor to be kept in mind. If the BTC price drops too low, you will mine at a further loss. Thus, make sure you conduct proper research before diving in.

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