Bitmain’s $800 Ethereum ASIC miner could help bring GPU prices down

ethereum asic miner gpu pricing antminere3

Bitmain has announced a new dedicated mining rig slated for release in a few months time, which has the potential to upturn the existing Ether mining market. If it turns out to be as powerful and efficient as Bitmain claims, it could well help combat the still ongoing problem of sky-high graphics card prices.

Bitmain is the world’s leading manufacturer of mining hardware for Bitcoin and a number of other altcoins. Its application specific integrated circuit (ASIC) miners typically offer much greater performance per watt than general-purpose hardware, and that could well be the case with its new E3 miner. Although it’s not slated to release until July, by the numbers, it would be as powerful and more efficient than multi-GPU rigs.

The Antminer E3 is said to deliver a hashrate of 180 mega hash per second with a power consumption of 800w. Bitmain claims that these numbers are conservative for now and expect them to be greater when the miners debut later this year. In comparison, a stock clocked RX 580 produces 25MH/s for 175w. Although multiple-GPU mining rigs tend to have various clock and power-draw tweaks to make them more efficient, they still aren’t likely to hit the same levels as the Antminer E3. At least in theory.

The price tag could be the killer part of this equation though. At $800, the E3 miner is about as expensive as just one pair of RX 580 graphics cards, or three GTX 1060s. You aren’t getting anywhere near the same sort of hash rate for that sort of money with consumer graphics cards.

The response to this new hardware announcement has been mixed. While Bitmain has restricted purchases to five per customer to ward off scalpers, there has been a wave of negative comments on the original Facebook announcement post. Many highlight that selling mining hardware months in advance of shipping is unethical because of the shifting value of cryptocurrencies.

One of the biggest criticisms of the new Ether miner is that Ethereum developers are very much against the idea of ASIC miners being used to mine it. The cryptocurrency was designed to subvert the ability for ASIC miners to dominate the workload. Although it has been acknowledged that eventually ASIC miners would be developed to mine Ether, Ethereum developers may now take action through a hard-fork or fundamental change to Ethereum itself, to prevent ASIC miners from being used. Were that to happen, newly purchased Antminer E3s would become effectively useless.

Regardless, the E3 miner is likely to be popular — purportedly the first batch is already sold out — even if the value of cryptocurrencies continues to fall across the board.