Disclaimer: I have a neutral stance on Bitmain as a company – They do as they see fit to make the most money. This article is not on business ethics or ideology. Instead, let’s talk from the stand point of profitability, leaving the more subjective topics for another day.
Today I’d like to talk about the newest ASIC that has been announced by Bitmain the 10th of this month. Priced as 5 GTX 1080 Ti GPUs and hashing like 80(!!!) of those, the Antminer Z9 by Bitmain aims to completely revolutionize the way we mine Equihash.
The Antminer Z9 can be preordered at Bitmain’s official site right now. As usual, they have a limited amount of units for sale so they might run out of stock anytime. Now the question is: is it worth it investing in the Z9?
To answer this question, we will first have to get back to the Antminer Z9 Mini. You will see why in a bit. Let’s take a look.
A Little Bit of Context
For a while now, Equihash used to be the haven for GPU miners. ZCash was the leader, followed by Bitcoin Gold and Zencash. This lasted until Bitmain has announced their Antminer Z9 Mini – an Equihash ASIC that could mine Equihash as fast as 20 GTX 1080Ti GPUs, while being priced a fraction of what such a rig would cost.
The first batch of the Z9 Mini has been shipped to the public between June 20 and 30. The day before the shipping, the Z9 Mini was expected to deliver anywhere from $1500 to $2500 USD a month. The day people got their Z9 Minis and plugged those into the wall, profits dropped to $460 USD/month. That was batch 1.
For batch 2, Bitmain has decreased the price from $2000 to $850 per Z9 Mini. This was an attempt to make up for the dramatic drop in profitability of the units. The next batch of Z9 Minis is expected to be shipped between August 24th and September 4th.
This is the same day the Antminer Z9 will be shipped to the public.
Antminer Z9 = Antminer Z9 Mini?
Back when the Antminer Z9 Mini was announced, many people were curious whether there would be an Antminer Z9 ‘Maxi’ too. Apparently, they were right, though eventually the Antminer Z9 “full edition” or ‘Maxi’ is not too different from the Z9 Mini.
A Z9 Mini hashes 10 Ksol/s with a power consumption of 260W and a price of $850 USD (for the September batch). The Z9 hashes ~41 Ksol/s with a power consumption of 1150W and a price of $3319 USD. We can observe a 4x increase in hashrate together with a 4x increase both in price and power consumption. This means that the Antminer Z9 is basically four Z9 Minis stacked together.
In other words, by purchasing an Antminer Z9 you are basically buying a pack of four Antminer Z9 Minis in one box. There is no difference between the two – Both models offer the same $/sol and the same Watt/sol.
This also suggests that it might be possible to overclock both miners to the same extent, though we will see that once the Z9 is shipped to people.
Why Is this Relevant?
I hope we now all agree that both ASIC models offer the same efficiency and profitability. Both are the same price/hashrate ratio, and therefore are the same ROI. What changes is the scale.
We all know that in the world of Bitmain ASICs, only those people who order units from the first batch see real profits. Sometimes, batch 2 pays off too and even gives some profit over time. Miners from batch 3 and forth are little to not profitable in 90% of the cases.
This is even more relevant for algorithms such as Equihash. Unlike Ethash that includes popular coins such as Ethereum (with a network hashrate of ~290000 GH/s), most Equihash coins are relatively small. ZCash is the biggest one with a network hashrate of ~600 MH/s. It is obvious that releasing a batch of ASIC miners that output 10 KH/s each has a great impact on the network.
What about the Antminer Z9?
I see many people getting excited about the Antminer Z9 and preordering it from Bitmain because it is the first batch of those miners and it should be profitable. In theory, that is.
In reality, we can see that the Z9 is the exact same thing as the Z9 Mini. Batch 1 of the Z9 Mini has already been shipped. Batch 2 will be shipped in late August.
The Antminer Z9 can be considered Batch 3 of the Z9 Mini. Will it be profitable? Looking back at how it usually goes, I would say no. The Antminer Z9 will more likely take a lot of time to pay off (if at all). Unless of course ZCash price goes bullish in the next months.
We can expect the network hashrate for Equihash coins to skyrocket in September once everyone receives their batch #1 Z9 and batch #2 Z9 Mini units. Whoever has got their Z9 Mini back in June will probably have their money back by September. Can’t say the same about those who preorder their Z9 and Z9 Minis these days.
So basically, once the Z9 Mini becomes a doorstop, so will do the Z9.
As for today, Equihash is dominated by ASICs. We can observe the same thing happen to other Equihash coins that forked against ASICs, such as BitcoinZ and LitecoinZ.
Do You See a Pattern?
This scenario is not new in the world of ASICs. In fact, there is a pattern that in my opinion, some people ignore. I say that because there are a lot of people who get burned by ASIC manufacturers. Yeah, in raw numbers an ASIC can outperform 10x or even 100x times a GPU rig, though sometimes, what we see in real life is different.
I have made a detailed article on how profitable ASICs are compared to GPUs and why sometimes an ASIC is not as profitable as it might seem. I invite you to check it out if you are considering buying an ASIC and/or creating an ASIC mining farm.
Is it a good idea to buy the Antminer Z9? I believe it is not. In this article, I have not included additional red flags such as the possibility of Zcash forking. The current situation of the crypto market does not help either (it is bearish). Besides, Bitmain competitors are releasing Equihash ASICs too, with Innosilicon shipping their 50KH/s A9 ZMaster July the 9th with a second batch planned to ship in August.
What could be a good alternative to the Antminer Z9 and similar ASICs? Personally, I believe that FPGAs are the future of mining. GPUs might still be viable for a while too, especially if you pair your rig with a couple of Acorns.
I’d like to know your thoughts on this topic.
Thank you for reading. As always, your comments, suggestions and questions are welcome.
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