Archive for the ‘Mining Hardware’ Category

gridseed-g-blade-voltmod-1

In the previous post with our first hands on experience with the new G-Blade miners we have mentioned a bit the topic about voltmodding the new Blade Miners. Now is the time to talk a bit more about it and share our experience based on the voltmod experiments we have already done on our G-Blade. We already said that the new G-Blade uses the same UPI Semiconductor UP1509 chip for controlling the voltage of the GC3355 chips as is used on the smaller 5-chip ASICs. So it is easy to do the voltage modification to the G-Blade as you are going to be essentially replacing the same resistor, though there is a bit of a difference in how things look on the new PCB. There are no element markings, so make sure you replace the right resistor marked on the photo above with a green circle with the 333 written on it. The resistor we are replacing is also a 33 kOhm one (~1.2V default), though here it is 603 type and not 402 like on the 5-chip ASIC devices, so it is easier to replace.

Do not be in a hurry to solder a new one before reading our advice. Since the default voltage of the GC3355 chips is 1.2V as on the smaller 5-chip ASIC miners here you can pretty much expect the same out of the box performance, though our tests have shown about 800 MHz to be the safest option in terms of how high you can go with no or very minimal HW errors, so a bit lower results than what we are seeing on the 5-chip ASICs. Also since the voltage regulators used on the new G-Blade are not that much powerful than the ones used in the 5-chip models you are not going to have the same safe headroom to increase the operating voltage of the chips, in fact you are actually pretty limited.

gridseed-g-blade-voltmod-2

We were quite disappointed in how Gridseed has designed the cooling of the new G-Blade miners, and especially the use of a powerful and noisy fan to compensate for the lack of adequate cooling for the three VRMs. The CG3355 chips can easily be cooled with a silent and much lower RPM fan, however it seems that the powerful fan is there just to be able to ensure that the mosfets are kept cooler without having any radiators directly placed on them or on the back of the PCB where they are located. We are getting about 60 degrees temperatures of the IR mosfets at the standard voltage and operating frequency of 800 MHz, however as soon as we remove the fan the temperature of the VRMs starts to get higher very quickly while the CG3355 chips still remain pretty cool. By replacing the resistor marked above with a higher value one and increasing the operating voltage of the chips you can easily overload the voltage regulators and burn them in a matter of just a second without the fan and even with the fan running you can still burn them if they get too hot. So the moment you decide to voltmod the new Gridseed G-Blade you need to also think of improving the cooling of the voltage regulators a lot and not try to push the operating voltage of the chips too much, or you risk the VRMs easily overheating and burning up. We have used an old motherboard chipset radiator glued on the back of the PCB (with thermal glue) where the voltage regulators are placed, so that it can help in keeping them cool and have also placed a smaller video memory cooler directly on top of the regulators on the other side of the PCB.

gridseed-g-blade-voltmod-3

We have slowly started increasing the operating voltage of the chips from the standard value of about 1.2V until we have reached 1.4V with the use of a 39 kOhm resistor and decided to stop there as we’ve already seen the voltage regulators getting quite hot. At this point we were aiming at a stable operating frequency of about 1000 MHz while keeping the device cooler and being on the safe side for the voltage regulators. With the 39 kOhm resistor replacing the standard 33 kOhm one we already saw the mosfets easily getting up to 90-100 degrees Celsius in about a minute (without the extra cooling). With our extra 2 radiators attached to the PCB and the chips we were able to bring the temperature below 70-75 degrees on the long run, so pretty much safe for leaving the miners run all the time like that, though you should continue to carefully monitor the temperatures. We have decided to stay at 39 kOhm, though pushing a bit more for like 40-41-42 kOhm with extra cooling might work, going for 47 or 49 kOhm may be a bit too much for the VRMs to handle. So be extra careful should you decide to go higher tan what we have used, though we do not recommend it, and monitor carefully the temperature of the voltage regulators as they may get very hot in no time and burn up without adequate cooling!

gridseed-g-blade-voltmod-4

Here is what we are getting after replacing the resistor from the standard value of 33 kOhm to a 39 kOhm one. Running the device (only one of the PCBs is connected on the photo) at 1000 MHz seemed quite Ok with little HW errors, though we have decided to go a step lower in order to lower the HW errors a bit more. After some additional testing we have settled for 988 MHz as it brings down the HW errors up to something about 1-2 per hour which is much more acceptable than getting an error about every minute or so at 1000 MHz. The local hashrate at 988 MHz we are getting per PCB is close to 3.4 MHS or almost 6.8 MHS total for the whole miner with the 2 PCBs modified, up from about 2.6-2.8 MHS per board or about 5.2-5.6 MHS without the mod and the miner running at 800 MHz. The power usage per PCB after the voltage modification is about 85W or a total power consumption of about 170W for the whole modified miner.

The results we are getting are not bad, but do require you not only to solder a resistor, but also to improve cooling of the device. You also need to be extra careful should you decide do go even higher than what we have achieved as the voltage regulators might not be able to handle well the additional load or the temperature. It seems that with the G-Blades things were already pushed close to their limits by Gridseed, so there is not that much of headroom left for users to squeeze some extra performance for free by voltmodding the units. We are a bit disappointed by that, we kind of expected more, especially after seeing what the GC3355 chips were capable of in the smaller 5-chip devices. We are going to be doing some more tests and experiments in the next few days to see if we can get something better than what we are already getting, but the chances for some significant improvement are not that good.

Again we advise anyone willing to do a voltage modification to his Gridseed G-Blade ASIC miner to be extra careful as these devices are more expensive and can handle less abuse from the users as compared to the smaller 5-chip ASIC miners, so proceed with caution! The smaller 5-chip miners allowed more headroom as they were designed to handle much higher power usage because of the BTC mining part, but for the new G-Blade miners Gridseed has decided not to support the SHA-256 mining part (the chips do, but the device cannot supply enough power, so do not try to activate BTC mining or your miner may burn). So the headroom for overclocking without doing some modification related to the voltage regulators is actually very little with the new G-Blade ASIC devices, and working only on improving their cooling does help only a bit. Reworking the power part of the miner could open up some additional possibilities, but that is not something that most users can easily do themselves unlike the replacement of a single resistor for example. In short, if you are expecting performance boost on the bigger G-Blades like on the smaller 5-chip devices with a voltmod, you will be very disappointed, and the fact that after voltmodding the Blade Miner you might have trouble cooling it down properly for long term operation might not be worth the extra performance boost you will get.

gridseed-g-blade-asic-miner-1

Not long ago when Gridseed has announced the new 80-chip Blade Miner with an expected retail price of about $3000 USD we were not planning to buy any of these devices, but at the new $1600 USD price we have decided to order one and play with it. We just got our unit yesterday and have been playing with it since, so we are ready to share our first hands on experience with the new G-Blades. Soon after the announcement of the new Blade Miners we were able to do some remote testing of the performance, so you might want to check that out first if you still haven’t read the post. Now, that we finally have the device in our hands we can say it performs pretty much the same as we’ve seen from our tests.

gridseed-g-blade-asic-miner-2

Starting with our first impressions, the new G-Blade Miner is a bit smaller than we have expected it to be, but that is not a problem. The thing that we did not like very much is the noisy fan – a 92mm fan is being used and a quite powerful one that can produce up to about 55 dB. The cooling radiators however do seem very cool after 24 hours running the device, so the fan does its job perfectly fine, however we suspect that with a quieter fan we could have achieved the good cooling performance and much quieter operation. The fan is directly powered by 12V from of the PCBs of the miner, so there is no temperature based control for example and it runs at maximum RPM all of the time.

gridseed-g-blade-asic-miner-3

A single Gridseed G-Blade ASIC Miner consists of 2 PCBs that are attached into a single device, each of the PCBs has 40 GC3355 chips and has separate power and control logic built in. So essentially you get two separate miners each with 40 chips packaged in a single device.

gridseed-g-blade-asic-miner-4

Do note that the cooling radiators are at the back of the PCB and not directly on top of the chips, this is the easier way to do things, especially if the chips don’t get too hot, as you use the back of the PCB as a cooler as well. There is a thermal pad between the PCB and the radiator on the back and apparently with the powerful fan there are absolutely no problems for cooling the Gridseed GC3355 chips.

Now, the actual problem is with the parts of the PCB that is not covered by the radiator – the place where the power and control chips are located as well as the connectors for the power supply and the USB port for control of the miner. The weakest point in terms of cooling actually do seem to be the voltage regulators and the powerful fan is some kind of a not-so-good solution to address the issue with the VRMs getting quite hot without getting a serious airflow. Gridseed uses International Rectifier 5300 and 5302 power mosfets and while these are a bit better than the ones used on the 5-chip ASICs, they are not much more powerful to handle serious increase in the power consumption. In fact they are not capable of supporting the power consumption that the GC3355 chips would require if they are used in BTC mining mode, so that is why Gridseed does advertise the new miners only as Scrypt capable and warns users not to try to mine BTC with them.

The good news for people that are interested in voltmodding these new G-Blade miners is that the voltage control part is again controlled by UPI Semiconductor UP1509 Single-Phase Synchronous-Rectified Buck Controller with 2-Bit VID Input control, just like on the smaller ASICs from Gridseed. So you can easily increase the operating voltage by replacing a single resistor, however we do warn you to be extra careful in doing so, especially with higher value resistors as the voltage regulators will not be able to handle voltages as high as on the smaller ASIC miners. Another good news is that the resistor you need to replace here on the G-Blade is a 603 type and not the smaller 402 type used in the 5-chip ASIC devices, so you can have less trouble replacing it. We have already done a voltage mod to our G-Blade and are currently running tests on the device, so shortly we are going to publish a little more details about that, meanwhile we warn you not to be in a hurry to mod yours as you can very easily damage the device. And using a 47 or 49 kOhm resistor will most likely be a bit too much for the VRMs to handle and you can easily blow them up in a matter of seconds without the appropriate cooling or even with such!

kncminer-litecoin-asic-miner-drawng

It is already clear that Scrypt mining is moving to ASIC devices with Gridseed already shipping a lot of units and though they are not so powerful in terms of total hashrate if you multiply the numbers the total increase in hashrate is actually quite big. So far the only company actually shipping Scrypt ASIC devices is Gridseed, but many more are working on devices and promise to start shipping later this year. And GPU miners are already either moving to alternative algorithm crypto coins or selling their hardware and moving to ASIC devices. Below we have prepared a short list of companies that are claiming to be working on Scrypt ASIC miners with some information about the prices and expected shipping dates. Do note that listing a company here does not mean we endorse it or confirm that they are safe to invest in the hardware they are promising. So be very careful when choosing what and where to invest in and do a thorough check should you decide to throw in a couple of hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Gridseed is a Chinese company and currently the only manufacturer of Scrypt capable ASIC mining hardware. They produce the ASIC chips that the single chip CG3355 USB DualMiner ASIC devices are based on (not listed on their official page) that are already a bit obsolete with just up to 70 KHS in Scrypt only mining mode and a bit high price of about $80 USD per unit. The devices that Gridseed makes by themselves are the 5-chip Infinity USB miners with a hashrate of about 300 KHS in Scrypt only mode (overclockable to 360 KHS and voltmodable to about 500 KHS) with a price of about $160-$180 USD. The latest product by the company that was launched recently is their Gridseed G-Blade 80-chip Scrypt ASIC miner that offers abut 5.2 MHS hashrate and had a retail price of $3000 USD, though it is currently available at about $1600 USD.

Innosilicon is another Chinese company that is just about to start shipping their Scrypt ASIC solutions called A2 Terminator. They already have their 28 nm ASIC chips ready and working miner prototypes available and these devices will most likely start shipping by the end of May, so they will be faster than other companies and follow in the footsteps of Gridseed. The company claims their chips can do 1.6 MHS to 1.8 MHS at only 10W power consumption or up to 150 MHS per box performance with 1KW power supply and quiet fan cooling. The batch A2 ASIC chips is currently priced at $199 USD per chip for 1K order and up and $189 USD for 5K order or up, so these miners will not come very cheap at least at first. The Innosilicon A2 Terminator official miners with 88 MHS (within 5% variation) using 750W power supply should be priced at $12K USD, so not that cheap compared to other solutions, but available earlier.

KnCMiner is a company from Sweden, Europe and is the only company besides Gridseed that had previously shipped products and thus you might have a bit more trust what they claim than the other companies below. So far the company had made and shipped only Bitcoin ASIC miners, and they have just recently announced that they are working on Scrypt ASIC hardware as well. The KnC Titan Scrypt ASIC miner is supposed to offer a minimum 250 MHS Scrypt mining hashrate with a total power consumption of up to 1000W and a price of $9995 USD with no VAT included. This is a bold claim as KnC had initially announced the Titan to be 100 MHS and had soon after that increased the hashrate to 250 MHS, thus making this the most powerful Scrypt ASIC miner. If you want to pre-order the KnCMiner Titan Scrypt ASIC you need to pay up front the full amount of almost 10K USD + VAT (depending on your location) and expect a delivery in Q2/Q3 of 2014 according to the latest official information.

You can consider the three companies mentioned above as the top 3 for Scrypt ASCI miners, they should be the safest choice from all, though do note that we are not guaranteeing anything or recommending them over the other available options!

Zeus Integrated Systems is a new company claiming to have offices in USA and Hong Kong, their website is registered in January this year and they promise shipping dates at the end of Q2 for their products. The smallest miner from the company is Zeusminer S-Flex Portable USB 300 KHS Scrypt ASIC Miner that seems to be designed to be powered by a USB port and the device is priced at just $99 USD. There is a 10 pack 3 MHS version consisting of 10 of the smaller miners at the price of 10 miners or $990 USD. And then moving to 8 MHS for $2500 USD, 16 MHS for $4800 USD and 80 MHS for $25000 USD and 160 MHS for $48000 USD. The power consumption claimed is about 100W per 8-10 MHS. They sure do some pretty bold claims especially for the more powerful blade type of miners they have available for pre-order on their website. Interesting fact is that Zeus has apparently partnered with Seeed Studio to resell their products, some of which are already listed there for pre-orders, though their prices are higher than on the official website.

Alpha Technology was one of the first new companies to make some bold clams about an upcoming Scrypt mining ASIC that they were working on. The company is apparently based in UK, Europe, however the development is being done in India by a company called Dexcel Electronics. Alpha Technology is currently offering two products, a lower performance 16 MHS Viper (Scrypt) Miner with a price of £1350 UK Pounds and 90 MHS Viper (Scrypt) Miner with a price of £5450 UK Pounds (prices are without VAT). The product page of their website is a bit misleading as it cites only 30% of these total product prices as Alpha Technology requires only 30% to be paid in advance for pre-ordering the product. Their shipping targeted is Q2/Q3 of 2014, so similar to that of KnC, though they have made claims to be able to ship before the competition. And there was a bit of a battle going on between them and KnCMiner when the Swedish company has announced an increase in the hashrate of their ASIC, Alpha Technology also increased the speed ratings for their hardware. Currently their offers are lower in terms of hashrate but they promise the same power efficiency and an earlier shipping than the competition.

Mining ASICs Technologies (MAT) is a new Netherlands, Europe based company that have appeared in February this year. The company is apparently working on both SHA-256 and Scrypt ASIC miners, though they have not yet shipped any hardware their Bitcoin miners are currently marked as out of stock. The Scrypt ASIC miners that we are more interested in are called Excalibur and are available in 2 favors, 125 MHS Excalibur 4 for 6799 EUR and 250 MHS Excalibur 5 for 12900 EUR without VAT (35% paid in advance to pre-order). The company has already joined the Scrypt ASIC miner war and instead of promising a higher hashrate like the other companies above has decided to offer buy one and get 2 miners incentive, so essentially you get double the hashrate for the price of a single ASIC. They do make some bold claims for a new company that appeared in Q1 and promises shipping of actual products in Q2/Q3 of 2014.

Fibonacci is a website for a company selling Scrypt ASIC that if you happen to stumble upon by chance will probably hurry to close and not think of ordering anything from. Their website does not give a lot of information which is a mistake in our opinion as they apparently rely too much on dedicated crypto communities to publish information and do not put that information in brief on their website. Fibonacci has three miners listed on their website, a 3.5 MHS Recursion, 65 MHS Axion and 126 MHS Epsilon with no clear price information or estimated shipping dates. You need to either look for additional info in Litecointalk forum and go through a lot of posts or register in order to get a bit more details at least about prices. After registering you are presented with a page were you can purchase “mining shares” each one equal to 3.46 MHS of Scrypt mining power for about 1.03 BTC per share or about 35.8 LTC per share at this very moment. And when they do start shipping the shares you own will be translated to the hasrate of the respective miner. As for shipping dates we could not easily find information, but most likely some time later this year probably not earlier than Q3. As we said confusing, lacking information and not easily convincing you to buy from them, unless if you have been a long term follower of the project development in the dedicated crypto communities.

For the last three companies we advice to threat with even more caution than the ones already mentioned above, as there are even more concerns to what they are offering!

Flower Technology is a Canadian company, a fairly new one, that has been working on Scrypt ASIC miners. Their hardware development partner is a UK-basec company called EnSilica that has been around for a while longer on the market. The company is working on a 20 MHS Orchid Scrypt ASCI miner that is priced at $1900 (USD, or CAD?) and already available for pre-order as well as a 100 MHS Lilac Scrypt ASIC with a price of $7900 that is not yet available for pre-order. The shipping is announced for Q3 of 2014.

Bliss Devices is a USA-based company that has already caused quite a lot of concern in users in terms of their legitimacy (you can read more in the crypto forums) such as posting photos of actual existing products of other companies as their miner photos. They offer three different products, the first one is an 8 MHS capable Neon C08 PCI-E board with a 40W power consumption and priced at $1440 USD. The other two are in the form of standalone miners, a 32 MHS model Neon M32 with 300W power usage and a price of $5400 USD, and a 100 MHS Neon M100 ASIC with 800W power usage and $14400 USD price tag. The smallest PCI-E miner is with an estimated delivery date of end of October 2014 and the other two with an estimated delivery date of November 10, 2014 according to the official information. The interesting thing is that currently all of their devices are marked as sold out, so you are not able to pre-order them anymore. Another interesting fact is that they do mention about their devices capable of Scrypt-N support in the FAQ section.

Alcheminer is a apparently a new Taiwanese company that had their website up and running since last month and are already offering a broad portfolio of Scrypt ASIC hardware on it. They are talking about shipping actual hardware in June/July and compensation if it is August, or September and a full refund if not by October, so they should be pretty quick in development and production to be able to just show up and start shipping. We recommend extreme caution with them! Their smaller 4 MHS and 32 MHS miners are out of stock and only the very high priced 128 MHS miner is available, including a very attractive limited units price offer. Again we would recommended to stay away from this company as it is the one that seems least trustworthy and literally everything screams scam.

We have been approached by some of these companies that wanted to advertise here on the website, but we have declined their offers and instead have offered to review their products when they have actually working products and publish the results here for our readers. As you can see we have so far done reviews of Gridseed-based products in terms of Scrypt ASIC miners as they are the only company that already has ASIC hardware available (we have purchased and actually use these ourselves). We are more then happy to review other Scrypt ASIC hardware as it becomes available, but are not ready to advertise or endorse promises of something that might not see the light of day at all. So again we advice everyone interested in investing in Scrypt ASIC hardware to be extra careful before giving the hard earned coins or cash for a pre-order of some hardware at some of these companies listed above or from another company. In the world of crypto currencies the hardest thing to do is earn the trust of users and at the same time it is the easiest thing to loose…


top