All About BTC, LTC, ETH mining as well as other alternative crypto currencies
We have been playing around with a FutureBit MoonLander USB Scrypt ASIC Miner for a few days already and it is time to share our experience with the device. We should start by stating that the FutureBit MoonLander is a small and not very powerful in terms of performance USB miner that is more for fun than for profit. The device is intended for people that just want to play around and experiment with a small and not very powerful Scrypt ASIC that is available at a low price. The miner uses a special version of bfgminer 5.4 (source).
The MoonLander can run on a very wide range of speed and efficiency, allowing the user large headroom for tweaking and playing around. The device comes with a variable resistor on the PCB that allow the user to adjust the core voltage (0.7-1.1V) and a wide range of operating frequencies that can be set via the software (104 MHz to 400 MHz). Of course you need to be careful playing with these as increasing the operating voltage past the default level of about 0.75V and going past 264 MHz would require the usage of powered hub and active cooling for the miner based on our experience. The official information about the miner performance cites a value of 2.77 KHS per 1 MHz, so the lowest frequency should be able to provide about 288 KHS hashrate for mining Scrypt crypto currencies and the maximum of 400 MHz should result in around 1.1 MHs.
With a hashrate in the range 0.288-1.1 MHS for mining Scrypt-basec crypto currencies you will not be able to mine much and you will also have to look for mining pools that offer user adjustable difficulty level or support low fixed difficulty. If we get back a few years to the times of Litecoin mining with GPUs we can say that this miner gets you in between half to almost two high-end GPUs worth of Scrypt hashrate. Of course the power usage of this USB Scrypt ASIC is much lower than what a high-end video card consumes, but then again at these low hashrates you will need many months to even earn enough to cover the cost of the miner. Anyway, our goal was to see what you can get in terms of performance with the FutureBit MoonLander miner by powering the device with a regular USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports with their power limits that do not allow the miner to reach its maximum performance. You will need to use a powered USB hub in order to be able to overclock to the maximum the miner, a 2A powered hub should allow you to reach the 10W maximum power and you will also need to provide a serious active cooling to the device if you want to push for higher core voltage and the maximum supported frequency.
Out tests have shown that the default operating frequency of the device set at 144 MHz is what is possible with a USB 2.0 port capable of providing 0.5A at 5V or about 2.5W. With this operating frequency and using the stock core voltage of about 0.75V you can expect to get around 400 KHS worth of Scrypt mining power. On the thermal images above you can see the operating temperatures at these settings, the AlcheMiner ASIC chip does get hot with temperatures of around 55-56 degrees Celsius and the heatsink on the back is at about 44 degrees Celsius. These temperatures should not be a problem for operating the miner without any additional cooling on the long run, unless of course the ambient temperature is not very high.
Going for the higher power limit of USB 3.0 ports that are capable of 0.9A at 5V or about 4.5 Watts of power you can push the device to an operating frequency of 264 MHz. Any higher and the power provided by the USB 3.0 port will not be sufficient enough to keep the miner operating properly. The expected hashrate at these settings should be around 730 KHS, a result that is not bad but we were hoping for a bit more. Apparently achieving 1 MHS or more will be possible only with the use of a powered USB hub that can provide more power to the USB miner and 2A is needed for pushing things to the maximum along with cooling fans as already mentioned. It is important to note that the thermal camera photos show an increase of about 15 degrees for the ASIC chip and about 10 degrees for the cooling radiator when using USB 3.0 as compared to USB 2.0. Note that at this level adding some airflow around the miner is a good idea in order to keep it cooler as otherwise it may overheat after a while, so it will be a wise idea to monitor the operating temperatures.
All in all the FutureBit MoonLander USB Scrypt ASIC miner is a fun little gadget to play around with and that is what it is for – playing around with an affordable ASIC miner. It is not intended to be profitable or to make you a lot of money, it is for people that are curious like us and love to play around with tech. The next thing we are probably going to do with the device is to improve on cooling and try with powered USB hub and some overvolting and more serious overclocking of the device. Do note that increasing the operating voltage and trying to max out the operating frequency can decrease the live of the mining hardware and even damage it permanently if you are not careful what you are doing!
Last year there was some information about the upcoming next generation of Scrypt ASICs from Innosilicon as the company was looking for investors. Back then they already had apparently designed and taped-out the A4 Dominator chips and needed sufficient investment to start making the chips using 14nm production process. Now, about four and a half months later Innosilicon comes with an official announcement of the final specifications and additional details of the upcoming A4 Dominator Scrypt ASICs that are apparently now entering into production.
The next generation Innosilicon Scrypt miner using 14nm ASIC is code-named A4 Dominator as already expected. This is a full custom optimized LTC mining ASIC with a focus on efficiency and cost, that should be capable of delivering up to 4 MHS per chip with as low as 1.5W of power usage per MHS efficiency in a DCDC less daisy chain configuration. This should allow for next gen Scrypt miners to offer 400 MHS to 500 MHS hash power per box, with easily over 300% better power efficiency over the previous generations. Initial batch of A4 ASIC chips is expected to be available in May for miner developer to design PCB and software, mass produced A4 ASIC/Miners should be available in June/July 2016 based on pre-order sequence.
Innosilicon A4 Dominator ASIC and Miner Specifications:
– A4 Miner: 400 MHS per 1 KW power supply in one standard miner box
– A4 ASIC: 3.5 MHS per chip performance at 2.5 W/MHS nominal
– Extreme Low Power: ASIC with large memory running at single rail 0.6V
– One Start and New PCB: eliminate the need of DC-DC components and enable 14 to 20 A4 chips – running off the single 12V DC supply
– PSU Requirements: common PCI-E 8 Pins/6+2 Pins with 12V output
– Included: Raspberry Pi running the user friendly A2 Terminator software
– Server Grid Reliability: Built-in high-procession temperature sensor for automatic chip protection and variable frequency operation to maximize chip life time
There is no word about pricing at the moment, but it seems that Innosilicon is finally going to beat the KnC Titan Scrypt ASIC miners in terms of performance and power usage as the king in Scrypt mining efficiency at the moment. Unlike KnC however whose miners are no longer available and were problematic as hell and quite expensive when launched, based on our experience with previous A2 miners we know that we can expect a more affordable and reliable product from Innosilicon that should not give you a lot of headaches like many Titans did. There is no word on pricing yet, but a somewhat acceptable price would be in the 2K USD range, otherwise there might be not much demand for it with the current market conditions. With the high expectations we had and the total failure that SFARDS turned out to be in making available their products our hopes for Innosilicon finally starting to do something on the LTC and Scrypt crypto currency mining front are high, but let us see what will happen this summer…
When talking about GPU mining with Nvidia-based GPUS for crypto currencies there are two models that usually come in mind – the GeForce GTX 750 Ti and GTX 970. When talking about Ethereum mining however Nvidia mining rigs do not do that well compared to AMD-based rigs and while the GTX 970 does pretty well at about 20-21 MHS the GTX 750 Ti is performing terribly, so it is not suitable for ETH mining. A good choice for GPUs that have only 1 GB of video memory or do not perform well for mining Ethereum is to go for mining Decred (DCR) at the moment, so you have good alternative. But if you are currently building a low powered multi-GPU mining rig at the moment with Nvidia-based GPUs the card of choise will most likely not be the 750 Ti anymore, you should go for the slightly more expensive GTX 950.
The GTX 950 is doing much better for mining Ethereum as compared to GTX 750 Ti, you can expect to see somewhere around 10 MHS from the 950 and it has been like that since the beginning (no performance drop like on some AMD cards). The reference design GTX 950 has a TDP of 90W as compared to 60W for the reference design GTX 750 Ti, but it also offers higher performance and is usable for Ethereum mining at 10 MHS. So a 6 GPU mining rig using Nvidia GeForce GTX 950 video cards should come at about 600W of total power consumption at max load and giving you about 62 MHS hashrate for mining Ethereum (Ethereum does not use the most power hungry algorithm). The GTX 950 does pretty well for other mining algorithms as well, you have alternatives available like DCR and will still get good performance and profit. Here is a comparison between GTX 750 Ti doing around 500 MHS with the latest ccMiner fork from tpruvot with Decred support (the faster 64-bit version) versus around 645 MHS for GTX 950, these numbers are from the publicly available miner. So do consider going for GTX 950 instead of GTX 750 Ti if you are building an Nvidia mining rig now and GTX 970+ is not an option at the moment.