What are ASIC miners?
How the most powerful crypto mining machines work and useful tips on how to use them
The basics of ASIC mining
An application-specific integrated circuit — ASIC for short — is an integrated circuit chip designed and built to perform a single, specific action or purpose.
That said, in the crypto ecosystem, we use the term “ASIC miners” or simply “ASICs” referring to computers and hardware devices that use these chips to mine proof-of-work cryptocurrencies.
In other words, an ASIC miner is a piece of hardware equipment specifically designed and built for cryptocurrency mining. That is, for producing as many hashes per second for the least amount of electricity as possible.
Key characteristics of ASIC miners
Being built for that sole purpose, ASIC miners are the most powerful and efficient mining device out there. They can produce more hashes per second than any other hardware for proportionally less electricity.
However, because they are optimized for efficiency and power, they lack flexibility.
Mining algorithms have different configurations and require different hardware builds and specifications to mine efficiently. In other words, you’d need a computer with different components to mine different algorithms.
As a result, ASIC miners are only capable of mining a single proof-of-work algorithm. A system built to mine SHA-256 is not able to mine Ethahsh or Equihash, for example.
Another disadvantage of ASIC miners is their obsolescence. Hardware manufacturers are constantly working on more powerful and efficient ASIC models.
Because they aren’t useful for anything other than mining, as soon as these new miners are out on the market, older models lose significant profitability, and consequently, market value.
Special considerations about ASIC mining
ASIC miners are professional crypto mining equipment. As such, it’s crucial that anyone planning to use them takes several factors into account.
Below are some important aspects of ASIC miners you should contemplate:
As we mentioned earlier, ASIC miners can only work on the proof-of-work algorithm they were built for. However, there are many types of ASICs, built for different hash functions. These functions, in turn, secure more than one crypto network.
Crypto miners can acquire different ASIC models for the following algorithms:
- SHA-256 (Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash).
- Ethash (Ethereum, Ethereum Classic).
- Eaglesong (Nervos Network).
- X11 (Dash).
- Blake256R14 (Decred).
- Scrypt (Litecoin, Dogecoin).
- Equihash (Zcash, Bitcoin Gold, Horizen).
- Kadena (Kadena).
- Several others, such as Handshake, Cuckatoo32, Blake2B-Sia, and CryptoNightR.
It’s important to bear in mind that many ASIC miner models have become unprofitable due to becoming obsolete or their coin losing considerable value.
Being energy efficient doesn’t mean that ASIC miners require little electricity. On the contrary, they need to be fed great amounts of power. A regular ASIC miner consumes the same amount of electricity as 13 refrigerators.
If you want to mine with ASICs at home, you’ll probably need to upgrade the electrical infrastructure and acquire complementary equipment — like power supply units — to handle the increased power load.
If you need help with calculating your Bitcoin mining electricity costs, check out our article below:
How to calculate your Bitcoin mining electricity costs
Everything you need to consider before you start mining
Cooling and noise-canceling
ASICs release a tremendous amount of both heat and noise.
Now, if you’re planning to host your miners in a dedicated facility, noise may not be a problem. On the other hand, if you’ll be having your ASICs at home, you may need to consider a noise-canceling solution like foam wall panels or soundproof boxes.
ASIC miners’ heat is a different situation, as if it’s not treated, it can lead to low equipment performance or even burnout. Whether you mine at home or in a special mining facility, it’s crucial to ensure a good air circulation and set up cooling systems — such as fans or AC units — to dissipate the heat for maximum performance and extended hardware lifespan.
Cleaning and maintenance
Being the delicate machines that they are, ASIC miners require exhaustive care, maintenance, and cleaning. Several external factors can easily damage their components if exposed to unfavorable conditions.
The most common causes of ASIC damage and deterioration are humidity, dust, and as we mentioned above, extreme temperatures.
Performing regular inspections on the components, ensuring the appropriate environmental conditions, and removing accumulated dust not only prolong lifespan, but also keep performance high.
Maintenance is a priority when it comes to ASIC miners. Here are some tips that can help you take good care of your equipment:
How to prolong your ASIC miner’s lifespan
ASIC preservation best practices and recommendations
Closing thoughts on ASIC miners
ASIC miners revolutionized the mining industry and landscape with their unparagoned power and energy efficiency. They quickly rendered all other mining systems obsolete, as they couldn’t compete with their hashrate output and massively lost profitability.
However, this superiority has led to concerns about hashrate concentration by mining corporations with the necessary capital to acquire these machines. As a result, many proof-of-work blockchains have tried to develop ASIC-resistant mining algorithms.
However, ASIC miners are not going anywhere. On the contrary, we will likely see more and more powerful devices come out as cryptocurrency mining becomes more popular.
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