Why do ASIC mining hardware manufacturers give their products names like Klondike and GoldStrike? It’s because bitcoin mining is like a gold rush. People are rushing to stake a claim to a limited resource, and they need the best equipment that they can to mine it.
After GPUs and FPGAs, the rush is on to produce ASIC-based miners that are faster and more power efficient than their predecessors. The market is flooded with vendors promising the next, greatest ASIC hardware. But all that glitters is not gold. Here is a roundup of what’s on offer (and what’s actually shipping, which isn’t much).
Phase 1: Avalon, ASICMiner, and clones
Let’s start with one of the first companies to ship an ASIC miner: Avalon. This firm, which began shipping in January, designed its own ASIC chip, based on a 110 nm process. First-generation units operated at around 68 GH/sec, and batch three of these units, selling for around BTC72, guarantees at least 63 GH/sec, says the company.
Avalon’s strength was also its biggest drawback: it was able to get to market early because of the relative inefficiency of its chip. Its 110 nm process node is the second largest on the market today (after ASICMiner’s), and smaller process nodes lead to better performance and power consumption. However, the company has been working on a 55 nm chip, which it says will go on sale for immediate delivery in mid-October, and is already working on third and fourth generation chip designs in parallel.
The company has also said that batch three of the version 1 ASIC miner will be its last. It is working on a two-module unit for increased performance, and a 2U 17-inch deep server blade which it is calling version 2.
Avalon has also been offering its chips to OEMs, who had been making their own equipment. “For the most part, they will give the same output,” says Jaime Gladish, a bitcoin enthusiast who keeps a constant update of FPGA and ASIC products at his site, Decentralized Hashing.
“There are a…