Cryptocurrency mining giant, Bitmain, have just confirmed they will be launching their own Ethereum ASIC miner: the Antminer E3. Why should gamers give a damn? Well, it could ease graphics card demand globally, for one.
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Thanks to its ASIC-resistant design, Ethereum is one of the largest GPU-sinks in the crypto-business – which hasn’t been great for the graphics card market. However, Bitmain are betting on their new Antminer turning a profit and that could signal a big change in the future of the Ethereum cryptocurrency and the market as a whole.
Rumours of Bitmain’s near-imminent launch of an Ethereum miner were floated last week when a financial analyst from Susquehanna reported Bitmain were “readying the supply chain for shipments in 2Q18”. They weren’t the only ones either, with further Ethereum miners supposedly in the works from rival companies.
Bitmain’s Antminer E3 is now available for pre-purchase on their store. The units are expected to ship sometime between July 16 – 31, 2018. Currently, there is a limit of five miners per customer in place.
This isn’t the first time that the idea for an Ethereum ASIC has been floated, but due to the reliance of the Ethash algorithm on memory, ASICs like those used with Bitcoin have proven unprofitable for Ethereum mining.
Bitmain’s Antminer E3 features an absolute ton of memory, supposedly DDR3, which allows this ASIC miner to reach a hashrate of 180MH/s combined with a power consumption of 800W. AMD’s RX 580 manages a hashrate in the ballpark of 30Mh/s, while even the top-end gaming Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti tops out around 40 Mh/s.
For that 180Mh/s performance then, you might expect a hefty bill. However, Bitmain’s Antminer E3 are on sale for only $800 – that’s little more than the current price of a single GTX 1080 on Amazon.
The performance-per-watt ratio of the Antminer E3 isn’t unobtainable through a properly optimised GPU mining rig, although the initial cost and investment would likely be considerably higher. This means that, while future rigs may be less reliant on GPUs, large mining operations will likely be in no rush to ditch their current mining setups.
Some Ethereum miners have unsurprisingly taken the ASIC news quite badly. Many are now hoping for a fork in the Ethereum protocol to essentially block the new miners and keep Ethereum mining open for smaller mining operations to still turn a profit.
Another potential fork in the road – which has been on the cards for quite some time – is the somewhat inevitable move toward a proof-of-stake algorithm. This would take away much of the incentive for miners as it would be much more difficult to make a quick buck, and could be a thorn in the side of Bitmain’s ASIC profitability. The idea has been floated since Ethereum’s early days, but so far very little progress has been made to its inception.
Even with the future of Ethereum looking a little unsure for GPU-miners, there are plenty of other factors lending to the graphics card market shortages that will need to be addressed to really make a large difference to retail. While this could be great news for gamers in need of a graphics card come July, there’s also a chance that plenty of the GPU-mining rigs currently mining Ethereum will simply adopt an altcoin alternative and the flow of new graphics cards intended for mining will divert to greener pastures.