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An application-specific integrated circuit (abbreviated as ASIC) is an integrated circuit (IC) customized for a particular use, rather than intended for general-purpose use. In Bitcoin mining hardware, ASICs were the next step of development after CPUs, GPUs and FPGAs. Capable of easily outperforming the aforementioned platforms for Bitcoin mining in both speed and efficiency, all Bitcoin mining hardware that is practical in use will make use of one or more Bitcoin (SHA256d) ASICs.
Note that Bitcoin ASIC chips generally can only be used for Bitcoin mining. While there are rare exceptions - for example chips that mine both Bitcoin and Litecoin - this is often because the chip package effectively has two ASICs: one for Bitcoin and one for Litecoin.
The ASIC chip of choice determines, in large part, the cost and efficiency of a given miner, as ASIC development and manufacture are very expensive processes, and the ASIC chips themselves are often the components that require the most power on a Bitcoin miner.
While there are many Bitcoin mining hardware manufacturers, some of these should be seen as systems integrators - using the ASIC chips manufactured by other parties, and combining them with other electronic components on a board to form the Bitcoin mining hardware.
ASIC mining is the extraction amount of cryptocoins with the help of specially created for this purpose devices — ASIC-miner. This mining is the same as the usual mining, that is, the decoding of the blockchain, the extraction of blocks and so on. The difference is that the calculations are not made using video cards or other devices, and with the help of special chips. Before the advent of ASIC mining coins mainelis mainly on graphics cards. There were other types of mining, for example, on processors, but they quickly became unprofitable.
Bitcoin ASIC development pace
The pace at which Bitcoin ASICs have been developed, for a previously non-existent market, has seen some academic interest. One paper titled "Bitcoin and The Age of Bespoke Silicon" notes:
We examined the Bitcoin hardware movement, which led to the development of customized silicon ASICs without the support of any major company. The users self-organized and self-financed the hardware and software development, bore the risks and fiduciary issues, evaluated business plans, and braved the task of developing expensive chips on extremely low budgets. This is unheard of in modern times, where last-generation chip efforts are said to cost $100 million or more—Michael Bedford Taylor, University of California, http://cseweb.ucsd.edu/~mbtaylor/papers/bitcoin_taylor_cases_2013.pdf
The Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies online course by Princeton University notes:
The amazing thing about Bitcoin ASICs is that, as hard as they were to design, analysts who have looked at this have said this may be the fastest turnaround time - essentially in the history of integrated circuits - for specifying a problem, which is mining Bitcoins, and turning it around to have a working chip in people's hands.—Joseph Bonneau, Postdoctoral research associate, Princeton University
A timeline overview for CoinTerra's Goldstrike 1 chip also shows this as 8 months between founding the company and shipping a product.
Bitcoin ASIC specifications
A Bitcoin ASIC's specification could be seen as having a certain hash rate (e.g. Gh/s) at a certain efficiency (e.g. J/Gh). While cost is another factor, this is often a relatively fixed factor as the minimum cost of a chip will be determined by the fabrication process, while the maximum cost will be determined by market forces, which are outside of post-fabrication technological control.
When reading the specifications for ASICs on this page is that they should be interpreted as being indicative, rather than authoritative. Many of the figures will have come from the manufacturers, who will present their technology in the best light - be that high hash rates that in practice may not be very efficient and require additional cooling, or very high efficiency at a cost of hash rate and risking being slow in the race against difficulty adjustments.
Complicating the matter further is that Bitcoin ASICs can often be made to cater to both ends of the spectrum by varying the clock frequency and/or the power provided to the chip (often via a regulated voltage supply). As such, chips can not be directly compared.
These mining devices can be of different shapes, sizes and purposes. The most "small" and low – productivity-compact miners, which are connected via USB-connectors and through them receive power. This kind practically does not bring profit, is no longer relevant and was more a Souvenirs.
There are also homemade asik and professional. The difference between them lies in the size, housing and consumption of electricity.
Home options are smaller, they are lighter, their body is made of cheaper material, and the fans are much weaker. Power supplies of such devices is not particularly powerful, there's enough 600W.
Professional models have built-in power supplies greater than a kilowatt, very efficient and thoughtful, although very noisy, cooling system. They are placed in data centers and mounted in racks. When it comes to comparing this equipment, it takes into account performance indicators, energy consumption, hashrate prices, chip operation temperature and its technological process.
Comparing Bitcoin ASICs
Two proposals have been made in the past for attempts at comparing ASICs - Gh/mm² and η-factor.
Gh/mm² is a simple measure of the number of Gigahashes per second of the chip, divided by its die area (area of the the actual silicon). This measure however does not take into account the node size which affects how many logical cells can fit in a given area.
As a result, η-factor was suggested at the BitcoinTalk Forums which attempts to take the node size into account, by multiplying the Gh/mm² value by the half the node size, three times.
Although the merit of these approaches can be debated, ultimately these figures are not as important as the ones that detail what is required to make an ASIC bitcoin mining hardware work. If an ASIC requires highly stable power supply, then the power supply circuitry on a board may be more expensive than for another ASIC. If the ASIC has a complex communications protocol, additional relatively expensive components may be required. If an ASIC's die is large, fewer (rectangular slices) can be obtained from a (circular) wafer, defects affect its design dispropotionately, and cooling solutions are generally more complex compared to smaller die chips which in turn have other overhead. Chips with a BGA design are less simple to integrate than a QFN, requiring more expensive (inspection and testing) equipment.
Nevertheless, for historic purposes they are included in listings here where sufficient information is available.
Number of cores
One other oft-mentioned number statistic for an ASIC chip is the number of cores or hashing engines that are on the chip. While this number is directly related to performance, it is not necessarily a comparitive relation.
Bitmain Technologies' BM1382 calculates 63 hashes per clock cycle (Hz), while their more efficient BM1384 calculates 55 hashes per clock cycle. Similarly, while these hashes per clock cycle are spot-on for the claims regarding the number of cores, BitFury's BF756C55 is claimed to have 756 cores, but yields around 11.6 hashes per clock cycle. This is because the reference to cores sometimes mean different things, and certain designs result in less straightforward calculation
Nevertheless, when a designer makes claims regarding hash rates at certain clock frequencies, one can determine if A. there is a straightforward calculation and B. if the designer is being imprecise (rounding values) or even intentionally dishonest, as the ratio between clock cycles and hash rate should remain the same.
How not to make a mistake with the choice of ASIC?
No matter what we purchased is always orientirueshsya on some certain criteria which must be satisfied in our purchase. When buying the device described today, there are also a number of factors that are worth paying attention to. First, you need to take into account the power of asik or his hashrate. The effectiveness of your work will depend on it. However, it is worth considering that the price of a more efficient device will be higher. The second important point is the power consumption of the equipment. Mining is a very energy-intensive process, and nothing can be done about it. But before you invest, you need to consider the power of your network - whether it is enough for a particular model. Finally, an important factor is the price of your purchase. It should be noted that with the growth of interest in mining and the increase in the value of BTC, the prices for the equipment are also beginning to rise rapidly. In the fall of hype, the process is reversed. Well, a new, more powerful models, of course, also initially unpleasant affect numbers on the price tags.
The largest manufacturers of miners
- Coin Terra is an American company, one of the most famous. At the moment the most popular product – the Terra Miner IV (2 Thash). The cost of the device is relatively low, about 6 thousand dollars, electricity consumption - around 3 kW/h. In General, worthy of the characteristics and the ratio of price/quality device, but there is one "but" – very quickly sold out and buy it is not so easy.
- KnC Miner is also a cool manufacturer, not American, but European (Sweden). His line stands the Neptune device (3 These), as it incorporates the latest technology. We can't say anything specific about power consumption. According to the manufacturer, it is half that of the previous model. The price of the miner is quite high, $ 13,000, but there is every reason to believe that such an investment will pay off and bring the owner a significant profit.
- Butterfly Labs is a large and well-known company, but with a somewhat questionable image. The matter is that the release of miners announced in 2012 was carried out only one and a half years later, and the users who made preliminary orders received as a result not very actual equipment. After all, competitors have not been sitting idly by, and managed to market their more advanced models. Butterfly releases are not ready the device, and what kind of cards to build with a cost of $ 2,200 (600 Ghash). It is easy to calculate that 3 These will cost 11 thousand.
- BTC Olympus also has its own line of miners. I would like to draw your attention to the model Poseidon (3 Thash). The device consumes little electricity and costs relatively little – $ 8,000.
This is one of the many cryptosphere questions that no one will ever give you a specific answer to. You should understand that these devices are sold at a certain price precisely because their sale is more profitable than the use for the production of crypts. Well, think about it, who will sell the equipment for 2-3 thousand dollars, if it is able to bring, for example, a thousand dollars a month?
You can (and even need) use the calculator, enter all the necessary data and get an approximate result. As a rule, it is equal to several months. But if we consider the volatility of the crypt, as well as the release of new, more efficient devices and make it all a discount, then we can safely assume that the payback will take at least 1 year. If the device will ever pay for themselves.
With such a little optimistic scenario, the question arises – why spend at all, if everything is so sad? It's simple. In the not yet established digital money market, there are cases of completely unexpected developments that reward miners for their risky investments with very significant profits. We don't mean to say that people are wasted relying solely on chance. Of course not. Any adequate "earner" without a preliminary in-depth analysis of the market will not make any risky movements.