What is an ASIC?
An ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) is a microchip designed for a special application, such as a particular kind of transmission protocol or a hand-held computer. Simply put, it handles just one calculation extremely well.
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.
Mining Litecoin & Dash
Note that Bitcoin ASIC chips generally can only be used for Bitcoin mining. While there are other 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. More recently, the Antminer D3 is a miner for Dash.
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.
- They are ready to work – no assembly required.
- Easy to set up – you turn it on, input your wallet number – and it works.
- Currently, it pays off faster than rigs.
- The quality of production – the device from the box might not work or may work incorrectly.
- Warranty in from China (equals “no warranty at all” – shipping is costly and takes a lot of time). No spare parts are available. Repair is possible but usually expensive.
- A lot of noise, the neighbors will hear it even three floors away. To place the equipment, you will need a particular space, which means you’ll have to pay the rent.
- A lot of heat, which you will need to take away, and that means setting up a ventilation.
- Mines use one algorithm only, and if it’s not a popular one, the ASIC can go straight to the trash bin.
Bitcoin ASIC Specs
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.
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.
ASIC machines are among the best in the industry to mine with, however costly.