Current ASIC Hardware

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This is part 3 in a 4 part series discussing the current state of bitcoin mining.

  1. What is bitcoin mining?
  2. The evolution of mining
  3. Current ASIC Hardware
  4. Bitcoin mining – public companies

This post discusses the current ASIC bitcoin mining hardware options – Avalon, BFL, and ASIC Miner – and evaluates the benefits and risks of each.  ASIC development is not easy, and bitcoin has been riddled with companies that have inspired little confidence from their customers.  It was pretty clear that the first ASICs to market would be printing their weight in gold every day.  It’s estimated when Jeff Garzik got his miner, he was earning over 10 btc per day (which if he held would be well over $1000 per day at the current exchange rate) We’ll ignore the companies that turned out to be complete frauds – taking customer’s pre-orders and disappearing with their money – and focus on the companies that that have created products.

Simpsons Monorail

The inspiration for many early ASIC companies


Commercially Available ASICs


Avalon

avalon-asic

The 60 GHash/s beast.

Originally entering the market to avoid allowing Butterfly Labs to have a monopoly, Avalon has become the only company to sell ASIC hardware at a consumer level. Avalon has taken pre-orders for three batches of “first generation” ASIC miners so far, all estimated to run at about 60 GHash/s – sold at $1,299, $1,499 and ฿75. Avalon was the first company to ship the first working products in late January 2013 to Jeff Garzik – a lead bitcoin developer – as well as the Bitcoin Foundation [forum source].  Their first batch of ASICs were completed in late March, and they will be taking a break before shipping their second batch starting mid April.

Status:

Sold out, batch 4 has not been announced yet.

Benefits:

  • Avalon has proven their ability to ship a viable product, with performance as described
  • They are relatively reliable when committing to shipping dates

Risks:

  • They have taken payments on 3 batches of pre-orders and only shipped 1.  Taking orders 2 batches ahead of shipment is a little unusual and raises questions on their financial abilities.
  • The 3rd batch of pre-orders did not give a definite shipping start date.  The continuous increase in network difficulty makes time essential when receiving an ASIC miner.
  • Batch 4 is still unannounced - with batch 3 costing over $7,500 at an exchange rate of $100, round 4 will definitely not be cheap

Butterfly Labs

single1-no-bg_2

Will this ASIC be a vaporware? TBD

Butterfly Labs first broke into the bitcoin mining market with a set of FPGA miners.  After their initial success they decided to delve into the ASIC market place.  They began taking pre-orders at the end of June [source] with an initial promised ship date at the end of September.  They decided to skip the “first generation” of ASIC miners running at 650 Watts (i.e. Avalon) and attempt a 50 Watt model with the promise of >1 GHash/Watt.

Status:

  • Still taking pre-orders.  It’s impossible to tell when they ship, but would be very shocking if it current orders shipped before the Fall.
  • On April 4th BFL increased the price from $1,299 to $2,499, and decreased the hashing speed from 60 to 50 GHash/s

Benefits:

  • Only ASIC company currently taking orders
  • Clean looking product that is expected to have good customer support (Avalon provides no customer support with their product)
  • BFL has successfully sold FPGA miners in the past, so they seem reliable even if they have not actually shipped yet

Risks

  • BFL has continuously pushed back their ship date for the last 6 months, and seems perpetually “2 weeks away from shipping”
  • There is a massive backlog of orders.  The exact number is known only by butterfly labs, however there is reason to believe that it’s over 300, and most likely in the 1000′s.
  • See: the drama surrounding the April 1st bet [article coming soon]

ASIC Miner

The opposite of Vaporware – ASICMiner’s 6 THash/s awesomeness

ASIC Miner is a publicly traded mining company that plans on eventually selling their ASIC technology to other miners.  ASICM had originally planned to start selling ASIC cards later in the year, however they anticipate producing their second generation cards faster than they are able to be installed so it seems likely that they will make a shipping announcement soon (see the CEO Friedcat’s latest statements here)   See also: Bitcoin mining companies [article coming soon] for more information on ASIC Miner as a company.

Status:

Not yet available – shipping test cards is imminent, with an announcement of pre-sales likely soon after.

Benefits:

  • Friedcat has been the most transparent CEO of any bitcoin company, and one would expect the ordering, production, and shipping process of consumer ASICs to be as well.
  • They have proven to be the highest-quality bitcoin ASIC manufacturer in the market

Risks:

  • Most likely by the time they ship the difficulty will be significantly higher – assuming Avalon continues with their next batches, and BFL actually has a real product.

UPDATE: ASICMiner has announced they will be auction off 10 GH/s boards.  More information available in the article here

 

Disclaimer: The author of this article has publicly traded shares of ASICMiner at the time of writing this article.