Bitcoin mining has evolved a lot since Bitcoin came into existence in 2009. While mining started out as a simple task even home computers could participate in, today mining is done by ultra-powerful computers that are designed for that sole purpose.
Here’s what we’ll go over in this post:
- Bitcoin mining and miner evolution
- How to evaluate a Bitcoin miner
- Notable mining hardware companies
- The best Bitcoin miners around
- Comparing the different miners
- Conclusion: Who is the winner?
Bitcoin mining and the evolution of mining hardware
Before I get into the various miners on the market today, I want to make sure you’re familiar with what Bitcoin mining is. If you already know about the purpose of mining and how it integrates with the Bitcoin network, feel free to skip this part. If not, here’s our Bitcoin mining whiteboard video to get you up to speed:
As I’ve mentioned previously, mining has moved from being something you can do from the comfort of your own home to a specialized occupation that requires a lot of time and capital.
Miners evolved from using PCs to GPUs (graphics processing unit) and later on to FPGAs (field-programmable gate array) before reaching their current state of ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) mining.
Today, if you try to mine with anything other than an ASIC miner, you’re in for a disappointment. ASICs are built specifically for Bitcoin mining and are therefore the most efficient type of miner out there. For reference, a single ASIC miner has the equivalent mining power of 700 GPUs.
Thus, the massive move of miners toward ASIC hardware is easily understandable. Clear evidence of this is the Bitcoin network’s total hashrate, which has recently exceeded the incredible milestone of 50 exahash per second (that’s 50,000,000,000,000,000,000 hash calculations per second!).
Today’s focus is on creating smaller chips for ASIC mining in order to produce more powerful miners. The smaller the chip, the more chips you can put inside a miner, increasing its mining capabilities. The smallest chip introduced commercially to date is a 10 nm (nanometer) chip by Halong Mining and their DragonMint T1.
When you want to evaluate a miner, there are usually three main factors you need to check:
Power consumption: How much electricity does the miner consume? This is important since you’re going to run a huge electric bill if you mine Bitcoin. This is measured in watts, and the lower the number, the better.
Hashrate: This is how much power the miner has to solve the mining math problem. It basically measures how many guesses the miner can make per second. While a personal computer can make a few million guesses per second, today’s ASICs can make 1*10^12 guesses per second. The higher you hash rate is, the better.
Energy efficiency: This measures how effective your miner is. It is measured in joules which are units of energy. One watt of power is equal to one joule per second. Another way to look at it is that a joule is a watt multiplied by number of seconds. If this number is low, it means your miner will consume less power for the same amount of work and therefore be more efficient.
A miner can have a very high hashrate, but if it’s not efficient, you’ll just end up paying more for the bitcoins it generates. An efficient miner requires less electricity to mine Bitcoin.
All of the above factors are important to calculating efficiency, so make sure you have them all before proceeding.
Once you have this information, you can insert it into a Bitcoin mining calculator and estimate how many bitcoins you’ll be able to mine per timeframe. Keep in mind that this calculation will never be 100% accurate since you can’t know for sure the exact difficulty measurement at the moment or what will happen to Bitcoin’s price a week from today.
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Pure Earning in BTC:
Pool Fee in BTC:
Earning After Fee in BTC:
Earning in USD:
Power Cost in USD:
Earning After Power Cost in USD:
Earning After Hardware Cost in USD:
There are four major mining hardware companies that develop ASIC miners. Let’s briefly review them.
The most well-known mining hardware manufacturer around, Bitmain was founded in 2013 in China and today has offices in several countries around the world. The company developed the Antminers, a series of ASIC miners dedicated to mining cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Dash. Their flagship bitcoin miner is the Antminer S9, which was launched in late 2016. Bitmain is also in charge of two of the largest mining pools around: BTC.com and Antpool.
While Bitmain is respected for its technical excellence and reliable delivery, the company is also criticized by many Bitcoin enthusiasts for a variety of reasons:
- its monopolization of ASIC manufacturing and mining
- its role in delaying the SegWit upgrade to Bitcoin
- its support and promotion of Bitcoin Cash
- its alleged anti-competitive practices
- its questionable methods, such as the Antbleed vulnerability and the covert AsicBoost scandal
It could be said that Bitmain’s undeniable success has been achieved at the cost of creating widespread and powerful opposition across the crypto space.
Canaan was founded in 2013 in Beijing by N.G. Zhang. Canaan began as a producer of FPGAs, the mining hardware that preceded ASICs. In May 2018, Canaan filed for listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in what could be a $1 billion IPO. Canaan’s filing revealed a highly-profitable company responsible for nearly 20% of Bitcoin’s hashrate.
Canaan is the world’s second-largest ASIC producer. The company has a wealth of experience in electronic design and production. Canaan is currently working on an innovative new product, a 43-inch “Avalon Inside” TV that doubles as a 2.8 TH/s Bitcoin miner.
It’s clear that this veteran industry player has big plans for its future.
The newest company on the block is Halong Mining. There’s not much information about this relatively anonymous company, but in early 2018, it delivered the most powerful Bitcoin miner seen yet: the DragonMint T1. Even though the Bitcoin community was fairly skeptical about this new company, the miners were delivered as promised and have performed as described.
Halong is most notable for being involved with two well-known parties:
- South Korean electronics giant Samsung, which is producing the mining chips used in Halong’s ASICs
- Prolific pseudonymous Bitcoin Core developer BtcDrak
Halong Mining has also been tacitly endorsed by cypherpunk legend Adam Back. Cited by Satoshi in the original Bitcoin white paper, Back developed the “Hashcash” proof-of-work system, a modification of which forms the basis of Bitcoin mining.
A veteran Bitcoin hardware and software company formed back in 2011. The company conducts large-scale mining operations on its own and currently accounts for 2.3% of the Bitcoin network hashrate.
Bitfury sells the BlockBox AC, which is a large 500-square-foot device that includes 176 miners supplying a whopping 8 PH/s mining rate. Naturally, this type of device is more suited for large operations and not for home mining.
The blockbox ac by Bitfury
While you can find a wide variety of miners on the market, it’s highly recommended to use the latest models out there since they will give you the best return on investment. Here’s a short overview of the top miners around.
Deployed in late 2016, this was the flagship miner until not long ago. The miner is sold by Bitmain, and it usually ships in batches. If you can’t find available inventory, you can always look on eBay and get a new or used one (you’re protected by eBay’s money-back guarantee policy). The miner can reach 14 Th/s, but isn’t as efficient as the latest competition.
Most ASICs look pretty much the same: like a rectangle box with a fan attached
It’s likely that the bulk of mining equipment today consists of Bitmain Antminer S9s, based on analysis placing Bitmain’s share of the ASIC market at 70%–80%. Unlike previous Bitmain models, the S9 still mines profitably at the current Bitcoin price and network difficulty, given low electrical costs. We can therefore consider the venerable S9 as the industry standard.
The latest Bitcoin miner to be deployed, the DragonMint T1, can reach up to 16 Th/s, which is the most I’ve seen on the market yet. The miner is also relatively efficient, which makes it a highly sought-after product. The only downside is that at the moment of writing this article, demand is higher than supply. However, you can still find people selling it on eBay.
Released in December 2017 by Canaan, the Avalon 841 gives the Antminer S9 a decent fight. It can reach up to 13.6 Th/s on average with power efficiency that’s almost identical to the S9’s. Pricewise, these miners are almost identical.
The Avalon 841
All 3 miners are similar in size and appearance, although the Avalon is distinct with its single fan design.
Both the Antminer S9 and AvalonMiner 841 rely on a 16 nm manufacturing process, whereas the T1 is based on a 10 nm circuitry. Despite its superior miniaturization, the DragonMint T1 is only slightly more efficient than the S9. Both ASICs are considerably more efficient than the 841, however.
The T1 does achieve a higher hashrate than either the S9 or the 841, so if space is the major constraint in a mining operation, given that all three miners have nearly equal dimensions, then the T1 will certainly deliver more performance for its size.
At 65 decibels, the 841 is far quieter than either the S9 or the T1, which both come in at around 75 decibels. For a home or office miner, the 841 will prove the most discreet option by far.
Price, Shipping, and Weight
At the moment the S9 is the cheapest option, although not by much. The 841 is only slightly more expensive.
The initial batch of DragonMint T1s was comparatively expensive at $1,595, which was the initial price for a minimum batch order of five. Halong Mining is currently out of stock, and it’s unknown when their next batch will be ready for order—and at what price. The DragonMint T1 is also heavier than either the Antminer or the AvalonMiner, which adds to its shipping cost.
When we pit these miners against one another in our Bitcoin mining calculator, we get the following results (all variable, but electricity costs are constant and are true as of August 2018):
The DragonMint T1 is clearly the winner in terms of profitability “on paper” by about 10%. Keep in mind that the example above doesn’t include hardware costs. For example, at the time of writing this article, the S9 is the cheapest miner on the market. This means that the 10% added profitability you get with the T1 might be canceled out by how much it costs you.
The reason I don’t include prices in this article is because these miners tend to sell out pretty quickly, and most of the time people buy them on secondhand markets such as eBay or Amazon, so their prices can vary a lot.
The Antminer S9 emerges as the best-priced option that displays a good performance. Due to its greater efficiency and higher hashrate, the DragonMint T1 could prove to be the best option for industrial miners, should the next run of this model be offered at a greatly diminished price. The AvalonMiner 841 is probably the best option for the home miner due to its low noise level.
Have you tried mining with any of these miners? Want to share your experience? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below.