In an announcement via Twitter on May 3, 2018, Chinese crypto-mining giant Bitmain launched the Antminer Z9 mini, their dedicated Equihash Miner, which targets the mining of the Equihash algorithm used by coins such as zcash, komodo, and bitcoin gold.
Bitmain’s Increased Product Range
The product launch comes exactly a month after Bitmain announced their ethereum-focussed application specific integrated circuit (ASIC). With updated specs, the Antminer Z9 mini is priced at $1999 and expects to ship after June 2018.
According to the website, the ASIC miners shall be available for purchase worldwide, except Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China, as these countries have opportunistic manufacturers who could buy bulk and resell the mining units. Purchase orders are currently capped at one purchase per user account, and this has understandably put to ensure a fair distribution.
Pleased to announce the Antminer Z9 mini, an ASIC miner to mine #Equihash-based cryptocurrencies. To prevent hoarding and to let more individuals worldwide get one, we've set a limit of one miner per user. Order here (https://t.co/LdIbpRrbgI) now while stock lasts!#AntminerZ9 pic.twitter.com/xJD58SKUfy
— BITMAIN (@BITMAINtech) May 3, 2018
The Z9 Mini, as per Bitmain, offers 10kH/s at 300W, with the mining firm terming the specs as a “conservative estimate,” hinting that the specs may be better in practice.
Currently, Equihash minings are conducted on GPUs, and the Z9 offers approximately 13x more mining power per unit compared to the popularly used GPU for mining – the GTX 1080 Ti – albeit at a higher cost.
Here’s a Quick Comparison of the Two:
GTX 1080 Ti (Price – $700):
1. 740H/s at 200-240W, $700
2. $9,500 upfront cost for 10kH/s
3. 2,970W power usage at 10kH/s
Z9 Mini (Price – $1999):
1. 10,000H/s at 300W, upfront cost of $1,999
2. $1,999 upfront cost for 10kH/s
3. 300W power usage at 10kH/s
Based on the mentioned specs, the ASIC is priced at 79 percent more than its GPU rival; however, it is ten times more powerful and efficient.
Not Everyone is Impressed
Due to the mining power of ASICs, industry observers believe that adopting the powerful miners leads to centralization of mining pools to large operations, which might misuse their power and repel individuals from setting up their private mining units.
Furthermore, as the mining difficulty increases – due to ASICs – mining rewards for those using weaker systems dramatically decreases, leading to a loss of incentive for individuals to fully implement the “decentralized” ethos.
Echoing these thoughts is Zcash founder Zooko Wilcox:
“That is absolutely never what I had intended to commit to, because (a) I always thought that it would probably become impossible long-term, and (b) I always believed that there was a fundamental trade-off between widespread distribution of the coins on one hand, and miners having a large sunk-cost investment into the coin on the other hand, and that the latter might eventually prove to be valuable for attack-resistance and network stability.”
In the wake of rising technological threats from ASIC miners, developer teams are resorting to “hard forks” of their coins, ensuring the forked coin is fully resistant to ASIC mining.
For example, bitcoin gold – which was forked from bitcoin to prevent ASIC mining – may upgrade its network again, as is evident from their latest tweet:
Venezuela Miners in Limbo
Venezuela is one the cheapest places to mine cryptocurrencies as their energy sources are subsidized. Additionally, their national currency is extremely volatile, even more so volatile than bitcoin so there is more faith in bitcoin and cryptocurrencies.
The introduction of ASICs for Zcash could effectively limit a critical lifeline for Venezuelans as highlighted by the project’s founder Zooko Wilcox:
“One thing I’ve learned along the way is that GPU mining is absolutely essential to Zcashers in Venezuela. If Venezuelans try to import ASIC miners (i.e., for Bitcoin, currently), then they risk having the miners stolen or extorted by the army which controls all imports. GPUs are not (yet?) nabbed on import like that, and anyway, there are a lot more GPUs already floating around inside Venezuela.”