If you’ve been mining "low-price Bitcoin wannabe" Litecoins with a rig of graphics cards, now is the time to shuffle them off to eBay – unless you can find a better use for them.
Chinese chip manufacturer Innosilicon is now selling its “A2 Terminator”, a 28nm ASIC for mining Litecoins. It follows on the heels of its A1 offering, a Bitcoin ASIC.
The A2 is capable of 1.8 mega hashes per second (MH/s) at only 13W power consumption, and Innosilicon configures this to 88MH/s per box performance with a 750W power supply. That means one A2 ASIC will beat the best GPU graphics card in the world by almost twice the performance yet consumes 40 times less power. All this means nothing, though, if you're spending more on power than you're making on the transactions.
Chips and miners are now being sold with chips at $199 each and miners at $12k but this is aimed at resellers who will order at least 20 miners at a time.
Innosilicon has beaten rival ASIC-pusher KnC Miner to be the first to ship a Litecoin chip, with the KnC Titian being listed as coming in “Q2/Q3” this year, and costing $5,495 for a 150MH/s box.
At the time of writing, Litecoin were trading at $9.85 each but more typically people mining Litecoin exchange them for Bitcoins and arbitrage the difference in the relative growth in complexity of Litecoin and Bitcoin. The arms race from the introduction of Litecoin hardware will soon make graphics card mining uneconomic.
We’ve seen exactly the same path taken by Bitcoin, which went from processor mining, to graphics card GPU mining to custom ASICs, and we are now seeing a battle between the manufacturers of Bitcoin ASICs.
Litecoin appears to be taking the same route. People who had been using the GPUs on graphics cards switched to Litecoin when the Bitcoin difficulty made the approach uneconomical. There are other alternative currencies which might have some mileage for graphics cards, but this really does feel like the end of the road for the approach.
You thought the BITCOIN market was unstable? Amateur
While people keep Bitcoins, they seem more likely to trade Litecoins – which makes the market even more unstable. Bitcoins peaked at over $1,000 a coin but for the past month have been unusually stable at between $450 and $500. This reduces the arbitrage opportunities as the Litecoin difficulty also increases and what is necessary for Litecoin to be economic is a lag between the rate at which Bitcoin and Litecoin difficulty increases coupled with a rise in the value of Bitcoins.
Despite Nvidia claiming that it is growth in gaming that has led to its recent better-than-expected fourth quarter results, there must be a significant level of mining in these figures and the move to ASICs can only serve to cool the sales of the very fastest graphics cards. ®