New Ethereum ASICs could help reduce the mining demand for graphics cards

This may not be strictly gaming related, but in what is sure to please gamers hoping to upgrade to a new graphics card, Bitmain has announced pre-orders for its upcoming Antminer E3. The new ASIC will target the Ethash / DaggerHashimoto algorithm, currently used by Ethereum, Ethereumclassic, Ubiq, Piri, and several other cryptocurrencies. Prior to the arrival of the E3 ASIC, Ethereum has been one of the favorite mining targets for GPU miners, with droves of AMD and Nvidia GPUs working in the mines. The improvements in efficiency and performance from E3 should put a stop to that—though other algorithms like Equihash, Neoscrypt, and more remain.

The Antminer E3 targets a conservative 180MH/s for Ethash, at 800W, and a pre-order price of $800 (limit of one per customer for the first batch). By comparison, GPUs like the Vega 64 can do around 40MH/z and use 250W, and cost close to $1,000 each right now. Even at the original MSRP, you'd need to spend $2,000 for four Vega cards to come close to the performance of a single Antminer E3, and you'd still end up drawing several hundred watts more power.

Bitmain has an estimated shipping date of 16-31 July, which suggests the company already has early samples back and is working to ramp up production now. As an interesting footnote, Bitmain reportedly has been ordering 20,000 wafers per month from TSMC for its Bitcoin-focused Antminer S9. That's more wafers than Nvidia orders per month, if that number is correct, and the E3 will likely increase that number.

I don't recommend getting too excited, however: at 180MH/s and 800W, using current difficulty calculations, you would only net about $4 per day. That's 200 days to break even, best-case, though the long-term prospects might be better. This should at least speed up the decline in GPU-based cryptocurrency mining, however, and if we're lucky we'll be able to buy graphics cards for gaming purposes at MSRP again by July—just in time for the rumored launch of Nvidia's next-generation hardware.

Bitmain also makes several other ASICs, including the Antminer X3 that targets 220KH/s of CryptoNight, effectively killing off CPU and GPU mining of that algorithm if true. There has also been a large drop in the valuation of Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other cryptocurrencies over the past month, with declines of 30-50 percent. Combined with these news ASICs, we could see the end of GPU cryptomining. At least until someone creates another new GPU-friendly hashing algorithm.

Jarred Walton

Jarred's love of computers dates back to the dark ages when his dad brought home a DOS 2.3 PC and he left his C-64 behind. He eventually built his first custom PC in 1990 with a 286 12MHz, only to discover it was already woefully outdated when Wing Commander was released a few months later. He holds a BS in Computer Science from Brigham Young University and has been working as a tech journalist since 2004, writing for AnandTech, Maximum PC, and PC Gamer. From the first S3 Virge '3D decelerators' to today's GPUs, Jarred keeps up with all the latest graphics trends and is the one to ask about game performance.