In the last few years, the crypto mining jumped from one ship to another, mostly from GPU mining to ASICs and then back to GPU mining. However, there is another recent option for miners to choose, called FPGA mining.
FPGA or Field Programmable Gate Array is a highly adaptable microchip that offers miners low-cost alternative of expensive GPUs. In addition, there are plenty of more reasons for FPGA to make sense for a growing number of crypto miners.
The growing popularity of FPGA mining is because it solves a number of problems for miners. First, as mentioned above, it is cheaper than GPUs so it makes mining more profitable, especially when the profits associated with GPU mining declined in 2018.
Second, it also resolves the problem associated with ASIC, that is not flexible as GPU mining. For example, when GPU allows you to switch between the multiple cryptocurrencies, ASIC is hard-wired to mine only one cryptocurrency or algorithm. This is where FPGA mining comes in, providing your flexibility just like GPU mining.
In simple words, FPGA offers you the power of ASIC mining and the flexibility of GPU mining, combined.
What is the Difference between FPGA and ASIC?
They both are chips, but with a major difference. ASIC chip stands for Application Specific Integrated Circuit, that is programmed to perform a specific task. However, FPGA, as the name states, Field Programmable Gate Array, is a programmable chip.
What does this mean for miner? Well, with ASIC, you can mine only one crypto and can’t jump to another. However, with FPGA, you can switch between multiple cryptocurrencies as the profits shifts from one crypto to another. All you need is to reconfigure FPGA board, something that is not possible for ASIC boards.
Even though FPGA was first introduced in 1982, but it was not cost-effective for miners until recently, when the low-cost FPGA chips are introduced to the market. The fact that the market size of FPGA chips is expected to reach around USD 10 billion by 2020, almost double the market size in 2013, reflects the growing popularity.
FPGA also offers faster hashrate compared to GPU, from 3 times to 100 times, based on your configuration, GPU used, and the cryptocurrency you are mining. So you can mine more crypto while keeping your energy bill low.
Pros of FPGA Mining
- Power Efficient
Cons of FPGA Mining
- Still a little pricy compared to GPUs
- Still not available for mainstream use
How Does FPGA Mining Works?
As this chip is programmable, you need a program to tell it what to do, or what algorithm to mine. These programs mostly written in the low-level programming language are called Bitstream. You need to load the bitstream to the FPGA RAM as soon as the system boots.
The standard FPGA board used by miners has 64GB RAM. This is why FPGA can store as many bitstreams you want it to store and can switch between them whenever you want it to. However, keep in mind, you can still mine only one cryptocurrency at a time with FPGA.
The Final Word
The initial FPGA boards designed for mining are available for more than USD 3500 for now. However, they are still not marketed for mass use. But this can change in the next few months, as there is a growing demand for FPGA boards for mining.