The ASICs or GPUs Debate

Crypto Mining: The ASICs or GPUs Debate

CoinDesk’s Consensus 2018

The fourth edition of the annual Coindesk Consensus summit is in full swing in New York, and as expected, great debates are already in flow. The annual Blockchain specific technology conference sees over 4,000 attendees including 250 speakers plus get together over three days to discuss this industry as it stands right now and plan/develop what the future holds. It is a well looked forward to the event on the digital currency calendar and a chance for startups, financial houses, academics, and investors to name a few to get together and push this new generation of technology forward just that little bit more. Over 70 countries from all over the world were represented in 2017 and 2018 has already shaped up to be groundbreaking in so many ways – which is never surprising in this fast-moving industry.


One of the biggest exchanges on stage on day one was that of the age-old parley on ASICs or GPUs for crypto mining. As is well know, proof-of-work is a vital piece of the mining pie and allows miners to amend the Bitcoin Blockchains – as well as other Cryptocurrencies too. The hardware responsible for completing this proof-of-work is where the huge difference sits.

During a panel session, discussions with three industry leaders were held over ASICs (application specific integrated circuits) versus GPUs (graphics processing units). ASICs are computer chips, which are a favorite amongst many miners because they do their job extremely quickly and extremely efficiently. They have been specifically designed to mine coins in this manner. However, the very process of this is bulldozing the much smaller GPUs out of the way. This is not the main reason for the debate; however, the main topic is the security or more to the point lack of security and decentralization associated with ASICs and GPUs.

In one corner you have GPU hardware, which is decentralized but not as secure as ASIC hardware. In the other corner, there is the ASIC hardware, which is not as decentralized but a lot more secure than GPUs. And this is where the big argument points lie. Which is the lesser of the evils, will have less affect and in the long run, better for the industry going forward. GPUs are cheaper than ASICs and preferred by the smaller miners, but then, on the other hand, the Bitcoin industry has relied heavily on the ASICs over the last few years.

Due to the very nature of the new digital economy industry, which is very much still developing as it goes, there are some trades offs including security. Although this is a worrying statement, as with everything Cryptocurrency related there is a massive divide between the two sides of the fence, and as always, everything will fall into place in its own good time. For now, though, the jury is still out on which option is better for Cryptocurrencies, and it will certainly take more than the odd panel discussion to get to the bottom of this one.

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