Bitmain Antminer Z9 Mini: The World's First Zcash (ZEC) ASIC Miner

Siamak Masnavi

The Antminer Z9 Mini is the latest ASIC mining product from Bitmain. It is designed for mining all cryptocurrencies that use the Equihash algorithm, one of the most well-known examples of which is the privacy-focused Zcash (ZEC).

Bitmain announced this product yesterday via Twitter:

According to Bitmain's website, the Z9 Mini costs $1999, orders can be placed now, and it will be shipping (but not to Hong Kong, Macau, or Taiwan) 20-30 June 2018. To stop a few rich miners from buying al the available supply, there is a limit of one Z9 Mini per customer.

At this price point, the specifications are simply stunning: a hash rate of 10k Sol/s with a power consumption of only 300W.

For the sake of comparison, let's take a look at one of the best solutions available today for GPU mining cryptocurrencies that use the Equihash algorithm: the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti. According to data from CryptoCompare, this GPU has a hash rate of 680 Sols/s and a power consumption of 250W. This means that to get the equivalent performance to the Z9 Mini, you would need around 15 of these cards, for a cost of around $10,000, i.e. at five times the cost of the Z9 Mini; you would also need to pay much more for electricity since the power consumption of all these cards would be at least 15 x 250W, or 3750W (which is 12.5 times the power consumption of the Z9 Mini).

Natually, many miners in the Zcash community are angry because they spent money on their GPU-based mining rigs based on the belief that the Equihash algorithm was ASCI-resistant. And their anger only increased when the founder and CEO of Zcash, Zooko Wilcox, said in a post on the Zcash community forum that the Zcash team had never intended to make people believe that they would try to maintain Zcash's ASIC-resistance forever:

I’m really chagrined that I let it sound like we were committing to a social contract of ongoing ASIC-resistance. That is absolutely never what I had intended to commit to, because (a) I always thought that it would probably become impossible long-term, and (b) I always believed that there was a fundamental trade-off between widespread distribution of the coins on one hand, and miners having a large sunk-cost investment into the coin on the other hand, and that the latter might eventually prove to be valuable for attack-resistance and network stability. (I still believe both of these things: even if ASIC-resistance is possible this year and next year, it will almost certainly become impossible given enough scale and enough years. And: distributing coins widely with a commodity PoW is fundamentally incompatible with locking miners into a sunk-cost-investment incentive-alignment with custom PoW, and the latter has advantages that might eventually prove to be important.) But, I allowed ZcashCo’s public statements to let people jump to that conclusion (i.e. we stated that our motivation was widespread distribution of the coins and the mining, which allowed people to reasonably assume that this was a long-term principle rather than a temporary strategy), and I have to take responsibility for that and if possible to try to honor what people thought.

Zooko Wilcox, Founder & CEO of Zcash

We don't know what the Zcash team will do next, but another cryptocurrency that also uses the Equihash algorithm, Bitcoin Gold (BTG), very shortly after Bitmain's announcement, made very clear its feelings about the Z9 Mini, when the co-founder  (and Operations Lead) Martin Kuvandzhiev replied to Bitmain's Tweet with these words: "@BITMAINtech Just FYI as soon as Z9 goes to public, @bitcoingold will hardfork and make Z9 useless for mining $BTG. Bitcoin Gold will always be decentralised!"


Feature Image Credit: "Money" by "Pictures of Money" via Flickr; licensed under CC BY 2.0