If you want to get started with mining your own Bitcoin (BTC), these days you need ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) devices, which are specifically built for the purpose.
In this guide, we’re trying to help you become a profitable Bitcoin miner by highlighting five of the top ASIC mining devices on the market today.
Since everyone is jumping on the mining bandwagon, these devices can be expensive and difficult to buy. In most cases you'll also need to purchase a good quality PSU (power supply) to ensure maximum efficiency.
Your main consideration when purchasing a device should be how soon you're likely to see a return on your original investment. This is determined by the hash power of the device – i.e. the number of BTC it can generate daily – minus your electricity costs, mining pool fees and current mining difficulty.
To help you make your decision, we've listed the current price, hash rate and power usage of each device.
While these numbers are helpful, we encourage you to use a profitability calculator such as the one available from Coinwarz before ordering to estimate your return in BTC. Remember that you'll also need to pay electricity costs and mining pool fees, as mentioned. The profitability calculator allows you to enter these to calculate your ROI (return on investment) more precisely.
The exchange rate between Bitcoin and fiat currencies is very volatile, so if you want to cash out quickly, register with a BTC exchange such as Bitstamp (see our guide on registering with Bitstamp).
- We also show you how to mine Bitcoins
The Antminer S9 is manufactured by Bitmain, the largest and most well-known mining equipment manufacturer in the world which has been going since 2013.
The Antminer S9 (or S9i) is one of the most popular ASIC mining devices out there, and other mining hardware is often benchmarked against it. The S9 is also generally considered to be the most energy-efficient miner on the market today, although this will vary depending on electricity costs where you live and the type of PSU used with it (the latter must be purchased separately, although you can buy the S9i with PSU on Bitmain's site for an extra 90$). Bitmain's APW3++ power supply currently retails for around $100 (about £75).
This extra efficiency comes at a price, and this isn’t the cheapest ASIC miner on the market (although it is much more affordable now than it was several months ago). That hasn’t stopped the S9 being in very high demand, though, due to its commendable efficiency. Indeed, at the time of writing, the unit is sold out on Bitmain's website, but the S9i version is available which is basically the same unit. You can buy units from Amazon and auction sites like eBay, although prices are much higher and units may not be covered by Bitmain's warranty (buyer beware, as ever).
Bitmain regularly improves the specs of S9 units, so if you buy second-hand, make sure to check the exact hash power offered. The most recent units were shipped out in May 2018 with an optimal hash rate of 13.5TH/s.
The Antminer S7 was manufactured by Bitmain and is the predecessor to the S9. Since the S9 arrived, many miners have upgraded, flooding the market with relatively cheap used S7 devices.
Although the S7's hash power is only around a third that of the S9, due to the lower cost and the fact that many second-hand units come with a PSU pre-bundled, you may see a faster return on your investment than with the S9. The S7 may also generate less heat and noise than the S9.
If you do decide to purchase an S7, be sure to check how long it's been in operational use to decide how reliable it might be, and furthermore, check the seller's refund policy in case it develops a fault after you buy. If the unit does come with a PSU, make sure it's a good quality effort for maximum energy efficiency, such as Bitmain's own AWP3++ power supply which also works with the S9.
Even with a high-end PSU, the S7 is still not as energy-efficient as the S9 – on average it consumes 0.25 Joules of power per Gigahash. The S9 is over twice as efficient, requiring less than 0.1. You may still be able to generate a reasonable profit with the S7 if you buy more than one unit and/or use renewable energy such as solar power.
Avalon, an offshoot of China-based firm Canaan Creative, was amongst the first firms to manufacture Bitcoin-specific ASIC chips, so it's safe to say that the company knows what it’s doing when it comes to Bitcoin mining hardware.
Like its predecessor the AvalonMiner 6, the 7 series has had generally good reviews with miners praising Avalon's innovation in pioneering the A3212 16nm chips employed in the units, as well as how quiet these devices are when running.
The AvalonMiner 761 supports cluster mining via a specialist AUC3 'AvalonMiner Controller', based on the Raspberry Pi, which can support up to six devices. The AUC3 controller costs around $80 (£60) and can be connected to others to form larger clusters. For instance, four AUC3 devices could each connect to five AvalonMiners allowing you to manage 20 AvalonMiner 761 units with a staggering combined hash power of 176TH/s.
You will also need to purchase a PSU separately for around $150 (£110). In total, this may still cost less than purchasing a used S7 unit. The Avalon 761's greater hash power and energy efficiency means you'll likely see a slightly faster return on investment.
Canaan offers bulk orders (60 units or more) directly on its website. If you only want to buy a few units, the firm also has a list of official distributors. However, currently the device isn't available on their website, so you'll have to look for it somewhere else. Despite glowing reviews, the devices aren't as well known as Antminers, so if you're new to mining, you may not find much help online.
The M3, which was released in late 2017, is manufactured by Chinese firm Pangolin Miner. The manufacturer's website not only provides detailed information on the miner, but an excellent tutorial video on getting set up. This includes connecting the device via Ethernet and configuring your mining pool settings via the M3's web interface.
While the hash rate is slightly less than the Antminer S9, this unit is far cheaper, meaning you could see a return on your investment in around the same time. While the device draws a lot of power, according to a detailed review on the Bitcointalk Forum, the M3's built-in fans dissipate the heat quickly and it's no noisier than comparable miners like the S9. The bundled PSU is also extremely efficient (over 90%).
At the time of writing the M3 is currently sold out (although there is a M3X unit available which is almost the same as M3, and it currently on sale for $289) of batches shipping in February and March 2018, although the manufacturer hopes to make more available later in the year. Once your unit arrives you'll enjoy a 180-day warranty against defects, the longest of all the devices we've highlighted here.
The AvalonMiner 821 is a huge improvement on its predecessor, containing 104 A3210 16nm chips, giving it a reliable hash rate of over 20% better than that of the AvalonMiner 761.
The 821 also has a power efficiency of 0.109 Joules per Gigahash, which is about 10% less than the Antminer S9 (at just under 0.098). As the hash rate is also lower than that of the S9, your decision on whether to choose the AvalonMiner 821 will probably revolve around price considerations.
At the time of writing, the device is currently out of stock. When the device was announced, Avalon offered the device for sale in bulk quantities, and since it's currently out of stock, the listed price above might be different. Avalon's official redistributor BlokForge has also listed the AvalonMiner 821 for sale in individual units, but the price there is currently $649.
Just as with its predecessor, you need to purchase a PSU separately which should cost around $200 (£150). Buyers will also be able to cluster-mine by connecting up to five 821's to Avalon's AUC3 controller, increasing hash power considerably.
Top image credit: Wikimedia Commons
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