What is the Antminer Z9 Mini? (Profitability May 2018)

On the 3rd May 2018, Bitmain released an ASIC miner for Equihash-based coins such as ZCash, ZClassic, ZenCash and Bitcoin Gold. This miner is around 6x more cost effective than than mining Equihash with a GPU, so the implications of this ASIC are significant.

This guide will explain what the Antminer Z9 Mini is, how it compares against other ASICs/GPUs, and risks associated with buying it.


Antminer Z9 Mini Specs & GPU Comparison

To start, this ASIC is called the Antminer Z9 Mini; perhaps they chose 'Z' because several Equihash-based coins begin with this letter - ZCash (ZEC), ZClassic (ZCL) & ZenCash (ZEN)).

The Z9 Mini claims to offer 10kH/s at 300W (sometimes referred to as sol/s, 1 sol/s = 1 h/s). Bitmain claim that these are "conservative estimates", so it may actually be more efficient than this. Initial shipments look to be between the 20-30 June 2018, and on their website they limit purchases to 1 unit.

Comparing this against existing GPUs, the Z9 Mini seems to offer around 13.3x more hashpower per unit than a GTX 1080 Ti, but is more expensive upfront. A comparison of the two:

1080 Ti:

  • 740H/s at 200-240W, upfront cost of $700
  • $9,500 upfront cost for 10kH/s
  • 2,970W power usage at 10kH/s

Z9 Mini:

  • 10,000H/s at 300W, upfront cost of $1,999
  • $1,999 upfront cost for 10kH/s
  • 300W power usage at 10kH/s

So in general, the Z9 Mini is much more efficient than existing GPUs (the above numbers are estimates, as the price of graphics cards in particular varies drastically, and other graphics cards may be more efficient). Based on the above numbers; the upfront cost is 79% less, and the Z9 Mini looks to be around 9-10x more efficient at Equihash mining.

Just to compare this against other ASICs released in early 2018:

  • The Antminer X3 was cheaper than existing GPUs, and was around 99% more efficient (but since Monero's hard-fork, its profitability has dropped massively due to limited coins available to mine).
  • The Antminer E3 was 64% cheaper than existing GPUs, but had similar efficiency.

Profitability/Risks for the Antminer Z9 Mini?

Assuming you're mining ZCash (ZEC) with the Z9 Mini (the profitability of specific coins looks to vary by 5-10%), at ZEC's current price and difficulty you'd potentially be getting $20-30k per year. You need to keep 3 things in mind here though:

  • The Z9 Mini is much more efficient than existing GPUs, so Equihash-based coin difficulties could potentially increase significantly.
  • If you buy a Z9 Mini you don't get it immediately, you have to wait until the 20-30 June 2018 best-case-scenario (there may be delays) and so difficulty may have increased significantly before you even turn your miner on.
  • Bitcoin Gold (an Equihash-based coin) has already announced they'll become ASIC resistant, others may do the same (this happened to Monero with the Antminer X3). If an Equihash coin becomes resistant to the Z9 Mini, then the Z9 Mini's efficiency for mining that coin drops massively.

On top of the above points, also keep in mind that regardless of the long-term risks of buying ASICs on pre-order (where difficulty increases/ASIC resistance could decrease profitability), a user on the ZCash forum raised a good point that in the short/medium-term some miners might not have a choice if they want to continue mining ZCash. Although many crypto miners mine coins for profit, and so dislike the low resale value of ASICs and all these other risks, many also do it to support coins. People in this group may buy this ASIC knowing that they may lose money.

Also some people might just not be aware of the associated risks, or be aware of them and willing to take them in exchange for potential profits. Generally this looks like a very high-risk investment, but if Equihash-based coins go up in price significantly or difficulty increases slower than expected, a lot of money could potentially be earned by Z9 Mini owners (although just to reiterate, this is a very high-risk point of view).

Two areas of speculation to mention:

  • This miner is called the Z9 Mini, some have theorised that a second full-size version may be released at some point. Will this be more efficient?
  • Some have suggested that Bitmain may already be using these Z9 Mini's themselves. Looking at ZCash's difficulty over the past 2 months this doesn't seem as suspicious as Monero's difficulty prior to the Antminer X3's release, but it's good to be aware of this point of view in-case ZCash difficulty starts increasing prior to Z9 Mini deliveries on the 10th June 2018 onwards (which would be very suspicious as pre-orders wouldn't have been delivered yet).

What Equihash Coins Will Become ASIC Resistant?

See this website for a list of Equihash-based coins. The ASIC resistance situation around some of these:

  • ZCash: The ZCash Foundation announced that they're researching ASIC resistance. Their community seems mostly opposed to ASICs, with one of their forum moderators suggesting it's not too difficult for this to happen from a technical standpoint (but the founder/CEO of ZCash, Zooko, doesn't seem to have given a clear statement yet).
  • Bitcoin Gold: Will become ASIC resistant.

We'll update this guide as other Equihash-based coins give their stance on ASIC resistance.

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