Application-Specific Integrated Circuit miners, otherwise known as ASIC miners, are hardware devices that are specifically designed to offer maximum performance when mining cryptocurrencies. Unlike CPU and GPU mining systems that are designed to perform more than just one task, ASIC miners are designed for the sole purpose of mining crypto. This makes them extremely efficient and powerful, offering a higher hash rate and greater energy efficiency.
The rise in prominence of ASICs among miners can largely be attributed to the rising difficulty of mining crypto; this has made it nearly impossible for miners using CPUs and GPUs to compete and solve hashing problems. As more computing power has been dedicated to mining crypto, it has become increasingly harder to compete against miners with superior mining rigs.
Cryptocurrency mining is competitive in nature, miners compete to validate transactions by solving cryptographic puzzles otherwise known as hashing problems. The first miner to solve the problem receives a reward in the form of new bitcoin and a portion of the transaction cost. The current reward for validating a block on the bitcoin network is 6.25 bitcoins. It is therefore of utmost importance for a miner to ensure that they are equipped with the latest and most efficient ASIC in order to remain competitive.
1. Hashing algorithm
All proof-of-work cryptocurrencies are not built the same, they typically support different hashing algorithms. Therefore, in order to mine a particular crypto, your ASIC must be designed to mine using that crypto’s hashing algorithm. Some common hashing algorithms that are mineable by ASICs include bitcoin’s SHA-256, Litecoin’s Scrypt and Dashcoin’s X11.
Some cryptocurrencies have the same cryptographic hash algorithm, this makes it possible for some ASICs to mine several cryptocurrencies. For instance, both bitcoin (BTC) and bitcoin cash (BCH) can be mined by an ASIC designed to calculate the SHA-256 hash algorithm.
Therefore, when considering which ASIC to purchase, ensure that it’s designed to calculate the algorithm of the coin you wish to mine.
2. Hash power/Hash rate
Hash power is the computational power an ASIC uses to solve hashing algorithms. It refers to the number of hashes an ASIC can calculate in a second. This makes it the most critical determinant of the profitability of a mining setup since it determines how likely you are to solve a hashing problem and receive a mining reward.
For instance, Bitmain’s Antminer S19 Pro+ Hyd has a hash rate of 198 terahashes per second (TH/s) making it the most powerful ASIC out right now.
For most cryptocurrencies, the mining difficulty is adjusted after every block. Therefore, the higher your ASIC’s hashrate is, the more likely you are to remain competitive even as the mining difficulty rises.
3. Power Consumption
Power consumption is one of the key features ASIC manufacturers highlight, this is because electricity costs make up a significant portion of most miners’ operating costs. It is therefore vital to take into account an ASIC miner’s power consumption before making the decision on whether to purchase it or seek an alternative.
For instance, Bitmain’s Antminer S19j Pro ASIC consumes 3068 watts at 104TH/s at a temperature of 77 degrees fahrenheit. This is equivalent to a ratio of 29.5 watts of power per terahash of the rig’s hashing capacity. This makes it less efficient than the Antminer S19 XP which has a ratio of 21.5 watts per terahash of its hashing capacity.
4. Price / cost
Usually, the latest ASIC miners can only be bought from the manufacturer. Bulk corporate purchase orders are usually given precedence over individual miners. Alternatively, older models can be purchased at a discount from individual users whose mining operations have become unprofitable for one reason or another. This is a viable option if you have locked in a cheap power rate and can therefore profitably mine on older ASICs.
As a general rule, the more powerful an ASIC, the more likely it is to cost more. Cheap ASIC miners are likely to have low hash rates, this extends the time required to generate a return on your investment.
Some ASIC manufacturers only provide essential parts, requiring the buyer to purchase additional components for it to function. Vital components such as data cables, power cables, brackets and cases may not be included. Purchasing such an ASIC would require additional time, effort and funds to acquire these vital components.
Always ensure that you are well aware of the components that the ASIC is expected to come with in order to avoid running into unexpected expenses down the road.
6. Special features
Some ASIC miners come with special features that differentiate them from average ASICs. For instance Bitmain’s Antminer S19 Pro+ Hyd comes with liquid cooling technology. The mining rig can be immersed in a synthetic hydrocarbon compound liquid, which reduces heat dissipated, power consumption and noise.
However, to acquire such an ASIC, you are likely to spend more than what you would on an average ASIC miner.