- 1 Bitcoin Mining: A Basic Definition
- 2 How to Find the Best Bitcoin Miner
- 3 Bitcoin Mining Hardware Profitability
- 4 Bitcoin Mining Hardware Companies
- 5 Most Efficient Bitcoin ASIC Miners
- 6 Conclusion
With the price of Bitcoin soaring in 2017, thousands if not millions of people have been scrambling to figure out ways to make money off of it.
One method that has gained a lot of attention is the act of “mining” Bitcoin.
Bitcoin Mining: A Basic Definition
If you already know what mining is, feel free to skip ahead to the next section.
If not, here’s what Bitcoin mining is in a nutshell:
Since Bitcoin is virtual and doesn’t physically exist, no one is going into an underground mine to look for it. Instead, miners use their computers or specialized mining hardware to run mining software, which figures out difficult mathematical problems. By doing so, miners validate Bitcoin transactions and add them to the blockchain, or record of all Bitcoin transactions.
Every “block” of the blockchain, each of which contains multiple transactions, requires a certain “nonce”, or string of random numbers, in order to be confirmed or validated and added to the blockchain (which consists of multiple blocks).
Bitcoin miners try to be the first to find the correct nonce using their mining hardware. The miner that finds the right nonce for any given block is awarded some Bitcoin.
The name mining, then, comes from the fact that miners have to perform this computationally difficult “Proof-of-Work” in order to have a chance at being rewarded with Bitcoin, which at its current price of $10,941.10 (as of February 28, 2018 – Coinmarketcap), can be valuable like minerals, such as gold.
However, though this may sound easy on paper, Bitcoin mining is largely out of reach for the average user and cannot be done with a typical personal computer since the mathematical problems that need to be solved have become very difficult and require tons of computing power.
As a result, it is now necessary to invest in specialized mining devices called application specific integrated circuits (ASICs) for Bitcoin mining to be practical and profitable.
How to Find the Best Bitcoin Miner
Now that you know mining on a personal computer these days is nigh impossible and you need a specialized Bitcoin miner (ASIC), how does one go about choosing the right Bitcoin miner?
In the years since Bitcoin was created, many mining companies and their respective miners have flooded the market. However, regardless of which company or miner you choose, it’s important to look at three key factors:
Hash rate is the number of times per second a Bitcoin mining device can attempt to guess the correct nonce for a new block in the Bitcoin blockchain. As mentioned, guessing the right nonce means that one is awarded with Bitcoin.
Thus, it’s in a miner’s best interest to have mining hardware with high hash rates so that the chance of finding the right nonce (and earning Bitcoin) is higher.
For example, a Bitcoin miner might have a hash rate of 1 TH/s, which is equivalent to 1 trillion hashes per second.
Next up after hash rate is the efficiency of the mining hardware. By efficiency, we mean mining hardware that uses the least amount of electricity possible while it attempts to earn Bitcoin for you.
This is important because for most people, electricity isn’t free. As such, you want to buy the most energy-efficient Bitcoin mining hardware possible, or else electricity costs will eat into your profit.
Of course this is dependent on how much one wants to spend for Bitcoin mining hardware, but be aware that quality doesn’t come cheap. The best (high hash rate, energy-efficient) Bitcoin ASICs tend to be on the pricier side.
Bitcoin Mining Hardware Profitability
Now that you know what Bitcoin miners are and what factors you should be looking at if considering a purchase (hash rate, efficiency, and price), how do you determine the device’s profitability? After all, for most, buying a Bitcoin mining ASIC is a big investment.
While we don’t recommend Bitcoin mining to people who aren’t willing to invest a significant amount of money in a relatively large-scale mining operation (just buying Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies and holding would be a better use of money for most considering it would take months to years for Bitcoin mining to be profitable – if at all), one can use a Bitcoin mining profit calculator to estimate mining profitability.
In the above calculator, you want to enter the hash rate of the mining device(s) you want to buy, the power consumption of the mining device(s), electricity cost of where you live in $ per KW/h, and expected average Bitcoin price over the next year.
While this calculator will give you an estimate of how profitable Bitcoin mining would be, it can be inaccurate since the Bitcoin network’s hash rate and Bitcoin’s price both change continuously.
As mentioned, hash rate is the total number of times per second a Bitcoin mining hardware device can guess the correct nonce for a new block in the Bitcoin blockchain using its computing power. The network hash rate, then, is how many times per second the entire Bitcoin network is guessing the correct nonce for a new block in the Bitcoin blockchain.
When the Bitcoin network’s hash rate changes, it is usually increasing, which means that your share of the network hash rate, or how many times your miner(s) guess at a nonce, is going down in proportion to the network’s total hash rate.
Thus, over time, you are generally guessing at the correct nonce less and less in relation to the entire mining network, and subsequently lowering your chances at earning Bitcoin through mining.
However, if the price of Bitcoin continues to surge, this can offset increases in the network’s hash rate (the 2017 surge in Bitcoin price, for example, was a huge boon for Bitcoin miners). Of course, the Bitcoin price is largely out of most people’s control, which makes depending on the continual increase in Bitcoin’s price risky.
As an example, if we use the Antminer S9, one of the better Bitcoin miners on the market which has a hash rate of about 14 TH/s and power consumption of 1,350 watts, in the above calculator, and assume an average Bitcoin price of $20,000 over the next year (optimistic) and electricity cost per KW/h of $0.21 (cost of electricity in the US in 2017), we get the following:
- $4.81 profit per day (after accounting for electricity costs)
- $148.19 profit per month
- $1,778.23 profit per year
These figures do not account for the actual cost of the S9, which is about $3,000. Moreover, these figures do not account for mining pool fees, if you choose to join a mining pool, which is a group of miners that pool hash rate power in order to find more correct block nonces and shares any subsequent Bitcoin profits.
Bitcoin Mining Hardware Companies
Now that we know what mining is, the key factors in finding a suitable Bitcoin mining device, and how to estimate Bitcoin miner profitability, let’s take a look at some of the main Bitcoin mining hardware companies.
While Bitmain is the largest player in the Bitcoin mining hardware manufacturing industry by far, several competitors continue to claw at its feet and emerge as Bitcoin’s popularity (and price) continues to grow.
Bitmain is by the far biggest manufacturer of Bitcoin ASIC mining hardware. Based out of China, which also happens to control much of Bitcoin’s hash rate (upwards of 80% by some estimates), Bitmain is said to have sold about 60% of Bitcoin’s hash rate in mining equipment (as of November 2017).
Bitmain is the manufacturer of the aforementioned Antminer S9, which is (as of February 28, 2018) considered the world’s most efficient Bitcoin miner available to consumers.
Along with manufacturing the Antminer series of Bitcoin mining devices, Bitmain is also the operator of the large Bitcoin mining pool, Antpool, which as of February 28, 2018, controls about 12% of the Bitcoin network’s hash rate.
Bitfury is another large Bitcoin mining device manufacturer and is based out of Amsterdam, Netherlands. However, their products are not available for purchase by everyday consumers.
In 2017, the company posted $93.7 million in revenue thanks to mining and other Bitcoin-related ventures like software services.
Canaan is another Chinese-based manufacturer that sells the Avalon series of Bitcoin mining hardware.
While Bitmain currently leads amongst Bitcoin ASIC miner manufacturers, Canaan actually was the one to invent Bitcoin ASIC mining devices.
Yet another Chinese company, Ebang is the only mining hardware company that has sold mining devices to consumers with 14nm chips (the smaller the better) as of mid-2017. However, the race is on with companies like Samsung investing billions of dollars into the research and development of chips as small as 7nm.
Ebang has announced that it will release the E10 miner line, which will feature 10nm ASIC chips; however, beyond that, details are scarce on the E10 as of February 28, 2018.
GMO Group is the largest Internet service provider in Japan as well as the owner of GMO Coin, Japan’s biggest Bitcoin exchange and Forex market exchange.
Japan, along with countries like China, is often considered one of the leaders in the larger blockchain and cryptocurrency spaces and GMO Group wants to get in mining, too, with GMO Group President Masatoshi Kumagai stating that GMO Group will invest $8.9 million into researching and developing mining hardware over the next few years.
GMO Group plans to invest into developing ASIC chips as small as 7nm, 5nm, and even 3.5nm. However, it is unclear as to whether the company will sell its products to consumers or use them for itself, as it has a large mining operation in the Scandinavia region of Europe.
A lot of hype has emerged following the announcement of Chinese manufacturer Halong Mining’s DragonMint 16T miner. Set to ship in March 2018, the DragonMint 16T mining device, if delivered as promised, will be the world’s most efficient Bitcoin miner thanks to a 16 TH/s hash rate and the fact that it will run 30% cooler than the Antminer S9.
According to Halong Mining, the DragonMint 16T miner took $30 million and over 100 developers and technicians to research and develop.
The company has even released a video showing test results for the 16T, and the 16T is also supported by Blockstream CEO Adam Back, who invented the process that is used in Bitcoin mining said, “I can confirm I have seen DragonMint’s operating in person, they are very real, specs as advertised. This is huge, biggest Bitcoin news this year.”
Russian Mining Company (RMC One)
Co-founded by Dmitry Marinichev, who is known as the Russian government’s public Internet-related issues representative and as a technology advisor to Russian President Vladimir Putin, RMC One raised $37 million in Bitcoin during an initial coin offering (ICO) during the summer of 2017 to enter the Bitcoin miner manufacturing space.
Though its product, the Sunrise S11i is yet to be released, RMC One says that the miner will have a hash rate of 22.6 TH/s using 2.3 kW of energy, which, if delivered as promised, would be very impressive.
RMC One will sell the Sunrise S11i for $1,600 in RMC tokens, which could prove inconvenient for those who don’t have RMC tokens or want to purchase them just to secure a Sunrise S11i mining rig.
Furthermore, purchasing a Sunrise S11i means that miners will have to give 4.6 TH of their hashing power to RMC One’s mining pool, which leaves miners with 18 TH/s of hash rate to themselves, largely eliminating the Sunrise S11i’s value proposition of high hash rate for a relatively low energy consumption.
Most Efficient Bitcoin ASIC Miners
With so many Bitcoin mining hardware manufacturers and devices, it can be hard to choose a Bitcoin miner that will yield the best results.
Here are some of the most efficient Bitcoin ASIC miners as of February 2018:
As mentioned, Bitmain manufactures the Antminer series of Bitcoin miners.
The S5 can be thought of as their entry-level miner with used S5s available for less than $200 on sites like eBay.
The S5 has a relatively low power consumption of 590 watts. However, downsides include a noisy fan (mods can quiet it) and a lower hash rate of 1.15 TH/s.
Released in late 2014, the S5 was actually one of the fastest and most energy-efficient ASIC miners at the time of its release. However, things move fast in the Bitcoin world and technology (as well as mining difficulty) has advanced at a rapid pace, making the S5 largely irrelevant in 2018 with its 28nm chip design.
The S5 can be good for getting one’s feet wet in Bitcoin mining and is efficient in the sense that one can learn about mining at a low price without immediately putting up a large amount of capital. For example, one can test things like overclocking (increasing the miner’s hash rate) and advanced cooling methods (which help with overclocking and increasing the lifetime of the device).
If you’re a Bitcoin fan, you can also run an Antminer S5 to help secure the Bitcoin network by increasing its hash rate and preventing the network’s hijacking by malicious actors with lots of hashing power. However, the S5 is not good for any sort of real profit.
The S7 is the next step up from the S5 in the Antminer series.
At a 4.73 TH/s hash rate, the S7 is more than 4 times stronger than the S5. Moreover, it is also quite energy-efficient at 0.25 Joule per GH/s. However, it has a high energy demand at 1,350 watts and like the S5, can be noisy.
As with the S5, the S7 was popular for quite some time after its release in mid-2015 due to its high hash rate relative to energy consumption.
Today, the S7 is available on Amazon for about $1,300.
Given that the S7 is outdone by competitors like the Antminer S9 and that Bitcoin mining continues to become more and more difficult, the S7 would likely only be considered an efficient miner if you live in a country where energy is very cheap and are able to tweak the S7 to be more energy-efficient with advanced methods like cooling and overclocking.
Perhaps the best consumer Bitcoin miner as of February 2018, the Antminer S9 boasts a strong hash rate of 14 TH/s and is even more energy-efficient than miners like the S5 and S7 at 0.1 Joule per GH/s.
However, quality comes at a price – the S9 is available on Amazon for $3,099.99, which might put it out of reach for many. Moreover, the power supply, which is an additional $200 or so, is sold separately.
Unlike the S5 and S7, the likelihood of making a profit with the S9 is much higher. However, you won’t necessarily be swimming in Bitcoins as a lot depends on the Bitcoin network’s mining difficulty as well as the Bitcoin price (whether or not it continues to go up).
Furthermore, as mentioned, companies like Samsung, Halong Mining, and more are continually pushing the envelope in terms of ASIC technology, and it remains to be seen how long the S9 can keep up its leading position in the ASIC miner market.
The Canaan Avalon 6 is a competitor to the S7.
However, compared to the S7, the Avalon 6 has a lower hash rate and is also less energy-efficient. The upside of the Avalon 6 is that some claim that the miner is quieter than other mining devices, which can often be very loud.
Given that the Avalon 6 retails for about $500, or almost a third of the price of an S7, the Avalon 6 might be a better purchase if you aren’t looking to spend that much money on a Bitcoin ASIC miner.
The SP20 Jackson is a competitor to the Antminer S5.
Like the S5, the SP20 Jackson is largely impractical in terms of mining for profit but could be good to tinker with if you want to get your feet wet in mining with a less expensive ASIC device.
Compared to the S5, the SP20 Jackson has a higher hash rate than the S5 (1.7 TH/s vs. 1.15 TH/s) and is quieter at low speeds. However, it is less energy-efficient.
While the SP20 Jackson, like the S5, might be good to pick up for learning purposes, the caveat is that it is hard to find these days because parent company Spondoolies closed in May 2016.
Antminer’s R4 model is a bit different from its S line.
While its hash rate is pretty high at 8.6 TH/s, which puts it behind the S9 but ahead of the decently powerful S7, the R4 was built for home use because it has quiet fans. Moreover, aside from the S9, it is one of the most energy-efficient miners out there.
Nevertheless, while it is intended for the home mining market, it is quite pricey, with R4 devices on Ebay going for upwards of $3,000.
Bitcoin mining in 2018 is sadly not what it used to be, with mining no longer being possible with everyday computers.
Nevertheless, for those who are able to put up a decent amount of money and/or have access to cheap electricity, mining could still be a profitable venture.
Otherwise, one can buy mining hardware just to tinker around for fun or help increase the hash rate of the overall Bitcoin network and thus help protect it from any malicious actors or groups who may want to hijack the Bitcoin network with a large amount of hashing power.
Last update on 2019-03-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API