Several manufacturers have been creating ASICs for many algorithms. Baikal, one of the first to create an X11 ASIC, has now also brought one of the first Cryptonight ASICs to market. The Baikal Giant N is a Cryptonight ASIC that runs at 20 KH/s (kilohash per second) while drawing only 60 watts. As you can imagine, to get the same out of a GPU rig would take a bunch of GPUs and take roughly 2,500 watts or more, depending on the GPUs and settings. It’s no surprise then that not only would they be in demand — but also expensive. The Giant N currently runs $1,900 USD but was recently $3,200 to $3,800, depending on where you were buying it from.
But there’s more to this story than just new ASICs for Cryptonight. The Monero dev team and part of the community have decided that they want to stay ASIC resistant, and will fork within a few weeks or less from the time of this review to a new algorithm to make any existing ASICs unable to mine Monero — and harder to develop one for the new algorithm.
We are not going to delve into the politics of ASICs, though. We will instead focus on the miner itself and how it performs. The specifications are great (power draw to KH/s wise) and encompass two algorithms.
Baikal Giant N Specifications
Cryptonight 20 KH/s at 60 watts
Cryptonight-Lite 40 KH/s at 60 watts
Power 3x PCIe connections
Controller: Orange Pi Zero
Note: Miner comes with two adapters one for an AC Adapter
Also one for a PCIe connections to 3 tails as 1 PCIe cable can power entire miner
Baikal Giant N Cryptonight Miner Fun
The Giant N arrived safely packed with no loose heat sinks or connections.
The first thing you might notice is, like many of Baikal miners, it’s not very big. The miner has three boards, backplane and an Orange Pi Zero for the controller. It all goes into the case with a fan on the outside and access ports for the power and Ethernet connections.
The Giant N ships with two tails for the power connection. One will connect to a standard AC adapter that runs at least 60 to 100 watts with a barrel connection, the type typically found on laptops. The second tail is for a PCIe PSU connection and splits into three connections for the miner.
One PCIe on most PSUs can run 150 watts or more, so only one is needed to run the hashing boards on the Giant N. Once connected and powered up, simply navigate to the IP address assigned by your network.
Easy Setup With Lots of Options
Baikal has produced a robust firmware which makes setup simple. The default password to get into the control panel is “baikal”, all lower case. Make sure you change this once in.
The first page gives you a rundown of the status of the miner with graphs, pool status and stats which also show if your alternate pools are alive or not. The second tab is where you add your pool info, choose the algorithm, and set SGMiner settings such as fan control, remote status and control settings.
Baikal also makes setting up your pool info easy, if you have one of the pools on the list above you can click it and then just enter your wallet/worker and PW. Choose your pool location. You can choose which order the pools are in as well — 0 being the first pool used if alive on the way up.
For our testing we used Nanopool’s Monero pool. The setup as noted is simple; you can even go into further tabs to choose local time zones, graph time intervals and values, setup remote control private keys and more. It has a simple backup and restore settings panel as well.
Once set up, the Baikal Giant N connected quickly to the pool and got to work. The stats are stable and the miner stays cool and fairly quiet. We consistently got 20 KH/s to 23 KH/s mining Monero. The Baikal Giant N also mines Aeon as noted, using the Cryptonight-Lite algorithm. The miner was stable at 40 KH/s on Aeon Pool xyz using 60 watts still.
Quite a Change From GPU Mining
With ASIC miners there is not a ton of extra work like there is with GPU mining — which requires constant tweaking, testing different GPU BIOS, and mining client settings — all of which people normally mining Monero and other Cryptonote coins are used to by now. In fact, running this machine is almost anti-climatic, after becoming so accustomed to all that goes into GPU mining.
As we mentioned, Monero mining will only be temporary if the project does implement that algorithm change. This creates a dilemma: is the Baikal Giant N or any other Cryptonote miner worth buying at the prices they are, with the short time they will be able to mine the most profitable coin of this algorithm?
The time to the Monero fork could be days to a few more weeks. The other coins this machine is able to mine vary, but none have the value of Monero, which at publication time is $190 USD. Other coins like Aeon hover in the $1.86 range.
The Giant N can mine the following coins currently on Cryptonight: Monero, Bytecoin, Electroneum, Graftcoin, IPBCcoin and SUMOKOIN. For Cryptonight-Lite, it’s only Aeon that can be mined. There are a few other coins that can possibly be mined, but we haven’t tested them yet.
Before You Buy: Will This Machine Actually Mine Anything Valuable?
One of the main things the Giant N has going for it at Baikal is — in some cases, the ability to add new algorithms to existing miners, making them able to be run longer and with a more diverse set of coins to mine. However, at the time of publication, there are no other announced algorithms for the Giant N.
Getting a Cryptonight miner at this time is speculative at best, and it may be difficult to ever break even on — since Monero will block them soon. So the choice to buy would depend on if you like trying out different mining gear, or testing/supporting coins that have compatible blockchains.
Baikal has made the Giant N a powerful, easy to use miner which is a definite plus if you are going to buy one. It’s a nice miner, but a shame that it will be relegated to lesser value coins in the near future.
As we promised in our Antminer V9 review, we have more reviews coming in the days to follow. This is the first of many as several next-gen miners have been showing up at Bitsonline Labs. There are still more to come so stay tuned.
What are your thoughts on Cryptonight ASICs? Let us know in the comments section.
Image source: Bitsonline.com, Baikal