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ASIC vs GPU Mining, What’s Better?

ASIC | Application-Specific Integrated Circuit

What is an ASIC?

An ASIC (Application-Specific Integrated Circuit) is a microchip designed for a special application, such as a kind of transmission protocol or a hand-held computer. You might contrast an ASIC with general integrated circuits, such as the microprocessor or random access memory chips in your PC. In terms of crypto-currency mining hardware, ASICs designed and produced after CPUs, GPUs and FPGAs. ASICs are capable of easily outperforming GPUs in terms of mining in both speed and efficiency.

Pros of ASICs

  • Low Power Usage: ASIC typically consume significantly less power compared to GPUs and CPUs. The H/W efficiency of ASICs is unmatched by anything else.
  • Very High Hash Rates for Specific Coin: A litecoin ASIC will greatly outperform anything else at mining Litecoin.
  • Physical Size: ASICs are usually much smaller and lighter for similar performance.
  • Higher Profit Margin: ASICs are so much more efficient and powerful. This makes them much more profitable.

Cons of ASICs

  • High Starting Cost: These cost quite a bit, so your ROI date will be delayed longer than with a GPU.
  • Application Specific: A Bitcoin ASIC can only mine Bitcoins, and is completely useless for anything else.
  • Shorter Lifespan: ASICs get updated constantly with newer models. The previous versions are at a very severe disadvantage compared to the newer models.
  • Low Resale Value: Unlike GPUs, once ASICs are used, they’re worth significantly less. Finding a buyer would also be much harder.
  • Non-Upgradeable: When the new ASIC models come out, older ASIC models become obsolete. There is no way to upgrade an ASIC.
  • Volatile and Can Become Obsolete Fast: A change in the hashing algorithm. can render the ASIC useless.
  • Few Manufacturers: The very high cost to design and manufacture a batch of ASICs keeps most of the market limited, due to lack of competition. The designers of the coin often design ASICs to stabilize the mining of the coin long term, and keep interest in that coin.

GPU | Graphics Processing Unit

What is a GPU?

(Graphics Processing Unit) A programmable logic chip (processor) specialized for display functions. The GPU renders images, animations and video for the computer's screen. GPUs are located on plug-in cards, in a chipset on the motherboard or in the same chip as the CPU.

Pros of GPUs

  • All Purpose Computing Power: From mining to Al, processors are great with complicated computations, no matter the type. Graphics cards can mine any type of coin, as well as be used for other purposes if mining is no longer profitable.
  • Many Manufacturers: Even though only AMD and NVIDIA design GPUs, many companies such as ASUS, EVGA and Gigabyte manufacture and resell GPUs. This creates competition, and prevents a single entity from controlling the market.
  • High Resale Value: GPUs can always be resold for a higher portion of their original value than ASICs.
  • Standard Hardware: GPUs go into any standard computer and motherboard. This means they’re reliable, easy to support, reusable and odds are you already have one.
  • Upgradable: BIOS upgrades are always available, which can drastically improve performance. In a worst-case scenario, you can always just replace your GPU with a better one.

Cons of GPUs

  • High Power Usage: GPUs just don't match the efficiency of ASICs in terms of power usage. They use much more power for much less in terms of results.
  • Can't Mine Certain Coins Profitably: Any coin that is mined by ASICs will be very hard to mine with a GPU due to competition. Your share of the pools will always be less.

ASIC | Application-Specific Integrated Circuit

GPU mining has benefits to the networks you mine in that are not discussed here, which is why specific coins are unlikely to go to ASIC. New blockchains like Ethereum can perform different types of calculations on the blockchain. Because of this, you’re very unlikely to see ASICs mining for Ethereum. There will always be a significant number of coins that are ASIC-resistant. The chances that one of those coins becomes profitable is higher than picking a singular coin and hoping that that one coin succeeds.

There is a situation where ASICs are beneficial. If you have a large equipment budget, access to very low-cost electricity, and you’re okay with sticking to one coin for the long run no matter what - ASICs are by far the best choice for you. However, if you want flexibility and freedom from a singular coin, GPUs are the way to go. If GPUs is the route that fits you best, you can check out our GPU guide here to decide which card to buy.

If you’re looking to get started with something small to get introduced to an ASIC system, the AntRouter R1-LTC ASIC Litecoin Miner is a good starting point.

Now for a midrange priced Bitcoin rig, the AntMiner S5 ASIC Bitcoin Miner is a great way to go.

If you’re a bit more advanced, and have a higher budget, you can buy the Bitmain Antminer S9. This is definitely one of the best Bitcoin rigs on the market, and it’s very easy to set up.

In case you’re in the market for an ASIC, or you’re intrigued by this article and want to know more, here are a few models you should definitely take a look at. They very on speeds, types of coins they can mine, and power usage. Looking through these models will let you try and find the perfect fit for your situation.

Antminer D3 19.3 GH/s X11 ASIC Dash Miner
AntMiner S3 441Gh/s @ 0.77W/Gh 28nm SHA-256 ASIC Miner
AvalonMiner 741 - 7.3 TH/s
Antminer S7 ~4.73TH/s @ .25W/GH 28nm ASIC Bitcoin Miner