Since 2009, the Bitcoin mining industry has completely transformed itself several times, and modern ASIC-based (Application-Specific Integrated Circuit) Bitcoin mining devices offer much better price per hash and electrical efficiency than even the most efficient GPUs (Graphical Processing Units) and FPGAs (Field-Programmable Gate Arrays), which used to dictate the pace of Bitcoin mining until ASIC mining took over.
ASIC-based Bitcoin mining devices are actually so efficient that they can be powered from the standard USB port and still deliver a respectable hash rate, making them perfect for cryptocurrency newbies who would like to give mining a try without spending lots of money and time on building a custom mining rig. An ASIC miner can be plugged into any computer with at least one 2A USB port and controlled straight from your favorite Linux distribution. Below are our three favorite USB-based ASIC miners currently available.
The NanoFury NF6 consists of six NanoFury NF1 ASIC miners, all mounted on a single printed circuit board and powered from any USB port that can supply at least 1.2 A. Considering that a single NanoFury NF1 miner often sells for over $100, there’s really no reason not to get the NanoFury NF6 instead.
To set up and use the NanoFury NF6, you’ll need BFGminer, which is a modular ASIC and FPGA miner written in C. BFGminer features dynamic clocking, monitoring, remote interface capabilities, among many other neat features, and it runs on Linux and Windows. Arch, Debian, Gentoo, and Ubuntu users can install BFGminer straight from official repositories with a single command. And if you prefer the convenience of GUI over CLI, you can install a front-end such as EasyMiner or MultiMiner.
With a maximum hash rate of up to 15 GH/sec, the GekkoScience 2Pac ASIC miner is the most powerful Bitcoin mining device on this list. It consists of two Bitmain BM1384 chips, which are known for their excellent efficiency and outstanding performance. As a result, the GekkoScience 2Pac ASIC miner allows you to mine Bitcoin at just 0.32–0.35 W per GH.
GekkoScience recommends the latest version of CGMiner, which is a popular, multi-threaded ASIC and FPGA miner for Bitcoin. CGMiner is distributed under the GPLv3 license and developed openly on GitHub. Depending on which Linux distribution you use, you may need to build it from the source code, but the instructions on how to do so are straightforward and easy to follow, so there’s nothing to be afraid of.
The AntMiner U2 is a tiny USB Bitcoin miner with a heatsink and an amazing power consumption of just 2 W on USB 5V at 1.6 GH/sec. The maximum hash rate the miner is capable of is 2.2 GH/sec, but you’ll need to manually overclock it to achieve it because the default hash rate is 2.0 GH/sec.
The AntMiner U2 is manufactured by Bitmain, which is one of the world’s most recognized Bitcoin companies, so you have no reason to doubt its reliability. That said, the AntMiner U2 has been around for a while, and its hash rate isn’t exactly impressive by today’s standards. But if you just want to give Bitcoin mining a try and want things to work flawlessly, the AntMiner U2 is still a good choice.