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ASICs and GPU mining rigs; which one is better?

Pros and cons of both mining technologies

If you’re looking to start mining crypto, you may be wondering whether you should buy an ASIC miner or build a GPU mining rig. There are many points of comparison between the two, with several pros and cons on each side. Let’s dive deeper into each one of them.

ASICs and GPU mining rigs are the most popular mining hardware.

What can ASICs and GPUs mine?

The first thing you should consider is the cryptocurrency you want to mine.

ASICs are professionally built machines for only one purpose: mining cryptocurrency. These devices’ efficacy is unparagoned by GPUs or any other mining methods.

However, that superiority comes with certain limitations.

Hardware manufacturers build ASICs with only one goal in mind: maximum output and efficiency. Thus, these powerful machines can produce an enormous amount of hashrate but only to mine one specific algorithm.

Miners can acquire different ASIC models for the following algorithms:

  • SHA-256 (Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash).
  • Ethash (Ethereum, Ethereum Classic).
  • Eaglesong (Nervos Network).
  • X11 (Dash).
  • Blake256R14 (Decred).
  • Scrypt (Litecoin, Dogecoin).
  • Equihash (Zcash, Bitcoin Gold, Horizen).
GPU mining rigs can't compete with ASICs on high-difficulty networks.

On the other hand, GPU mining rigs are modular. They rely on general application hardware that can be replaced or repurposed.

The ease of updating, modifying, and replacing components makes them more versatile and adaptable to mine virtually every proof-of-work cryptocurrency.

The downside of GPU mining is its much lower hashrate output and efficiency. These computers can’t compete with ASICs in high-difficulty networks like Bitcoin or Litecoin.

Even if they can technically mine their algorithm, the hashrate GPU mining rigs produce is so insignificant under those difficulty parameters that it’s practically wasted.

Hashrate output

ASICs are the most powerful devices for crypto mining, unquestionably. Equipping your mining operation with these robust machines will allow you to be one step ahead of other solo miners.

In contrast, as we mentioned above, GPU mining rigs’ hashrate can’t compete with ASICs, and it’s worthless to point to any proof-of-work network with high mining difficulty.

Energy consumption and efficiency

Again, ASICs take this one. Remember, hardware manufacturers optimize ASIC miners to produce more hashrate with less energy. Their hashrate output and energy efficiency are their most significant advantages.

At the same time, GPU mining uses general-purpose components that can’t achieve that electricity optimization. They consume more energy and produce less hashrate proportionally than ASICs.

Struggling with electricity bills? Be sure to visit our guide on the topic: How to calculate your Bitcoin mining electricity costs.

Flexibility and adaptability

Here’s where GPU mining rigs start balancing the scale.

ASIC miners have no repurposing capabilities whatsoever. Their only application is mining a single algorithm.

Another disadvantage of ASICs’ lack of adaptability is obsolescence. Hardware manufacturers are constantly working on more powerful and efficient models. As soon as these new miners are out on the market, the old ones lose significant profitability, and consequently, market value.

ASICs and GPUs have very different characteristics.

Contrarily, adaptability is arguably GPU mining’s most crucial feature. Not only for repurposing them for anything besides mining but also to adjust to the ever-changing crypto market conditions.

Indeed, GPU mining rigs enable miners to switch algorithms in pursuit of increased revenue.

Suppose you are mining a coin and its difficulty rises beyond profitability. In that case, you can point your hashrate to another crypto with a few clicks.

Not only can flexibility cut losses. It can also increase profits.

Additionally, mining rig components keep better value over time. Miners can resell their parts whenever they please, whether to other miners or a completely different market, like gamers, engineers, or video producers.

User-friendliness and maintenance

Building a mining rig takes thorough planning, carefully analyzing and choosing the right components, and assembling all of them in a suitable location.

These components also need exhaustive care and maintenance —especially graphic cards, which define your rig’s hashrate.

However, this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Many people mine crypto as a hobby and enjoy the mining rig building process from start to finish.

If you’re planning to build a GPU mining rig but are not sure about where to start, you can’t miss our in-depth guide: How to build an efficient crypto mining rig.

ASICs are much simpler to set up and run. They’re already built for you to plug into the current and start mining instantly. They also require regular maintenance and cleaning, but it’s much easier than in a GPU mining rig.

ASIC miners’ maintenance is critical to maximize performance and extend their lifespan. If you’re interested in making your mining equipment last longer, check our recommendations: How to prolong your ASIC miner’s lifespan.

Price and costs

This subject is tricky because neither GPUs nor ASICs are easy to price.

How much you spend on building a GPU mining rig will depend on your choice of components, the hashpower you want to reach, and how sophisticated you want it to be.

Some miners even spend a lot more than necessary to make their rigs look good, with colorful lights and custom frames.

A fully-equipped GPU mining rig.

Contrarily, ASIC market prices tend to follow that of the cryptocurrency they mine. This makes sense because the more that coin is worth, the more wealth ASICs can produce by mining it.

As a coin rises in value, demand for the devices to mine it grows, driving their price up.

GPU mining rigs’ pricing is different because they are general-purpose hardware. These components’ supply and demand respond to many other factors besides cryptocurrency prices.

TL;DR: What are ASICs and GPU mining rigs pros and cons?

In this article, we’ve tried to make a thorough and honest comparison between the two most popular mining technologies, ASICs and GPU mining rigs.

It’s clear that they are very different and have both their pros and cons, although some factors are determinant to go for either one or the other.

ASICs are the only possible way to go if you want to mine a particular cryptocurrency, especially if it’s a high-difficulty coin like Bitcoin.

Their efficiency and output are unmatched, but they’re also expensive and subject to several factors like changing difficultynew model releases, and Bitcoin price fluctuations, among others.

On the other hand, GPU mining seems a safer alternative for retail miners, even if they’re less powerful.

The versatility of mining rigs enables miners to switch to the most profitable coin in real-time, maximizing profitability.

Additionally, the repurposing and reselling possibilities of the hardware components imply fewer risks and allow miners to recover a part of their initial capital.

So which one is best for you? Each case is different, and each miner has their own plans, so there’s no correct answer.

Think about what you’re trying to achieve with mining and how much time you are willing to commit to it. Do you want to mine as a hobby? Are you thinking of it as a side-hustle, or do you want it to be your primary source of income?

Do your own research, answer these questions, and make your decision. We hope this article was helpful to get started.

Happy mining!