First Avalon ASIC Arrives – Meh

Hey look everyone, it’s a box with fans!

In all seriousness, though, this is kind of a big deal. Avalon has officially won the hard fought battle to be the first ASIC manufacturer to actually ship a product. How that product will withstand competition and hold up under 24/7 use and abuse, only time will tell.

Well-known Bitcoiner Jeff Garzik has posted pictures on his blog of Avalon’s handiwork as well as some material about the device’s functionality. I highly encourage you to go get your information directly from the source, but I’ll be doing my best to keep this post up-to-date as more news breaks.

My first impression of the Avalon ASIC is probably tainted by my prior dealings with BFL and their product line: It’s big. Really, really big. Like, the size of a desktop computer big. It’s also not particularly aesthetically pleasing – while I’m sure I’ll earn the ire of many a commenter with this remark let me clarify: I personally wouldn’t care if they shipped me a raw circuit board and a soldering iron, but I happen to have a wife who would be quite angry if I brought home a big ugly silver box packed with this many noise-making fans – and not without good reason: I ruined all enjoyment of the one-bedroom apartment we shared at the time with my GPU mining experiments and haven’t been fully forgiven yet. Even with the side panel removed the three ASIC modules make this look a lot like the GPU rigs that once dominated my living room and drove my significant other insane. Again, it’s not that the design is bad, it’s just that it’s bad for me. Many can abide ugly and noisy, sadly those are no longer options for me.

Interior shot of my old GPU rig the Avalon ASIC rig showing the three GPUs ASIC modules
Interior shot of my old GPU rig the Avalon ASIC rig showing the three GPUs ASIC modules. I’ve got to be honest, there are no good memories I associate with this.

Also unfortunate, the device shipped with a power cord for Chinese-style outlets, not for American or European standards. Thankfully the power supply appears to be auto-switching and accepts a standard power cable that most of us probably have a drawer full of. This falls more under the heading of “mild annoyance” than real problem. The device also seems to ship with no instruction manuals of any kind – no word from Jeff about how easy/hard it was to configure this thing, which is important data – there’s a big difference between “plug and play” and “ifconfig eth0” style configuration.

The unit also appears to be hashing in the neighborhood of 67GH/s, somewhat higher than the 60GH/s advertised, which could be a sign of good things to come or it could simply be that Jeff got a particularly good unit – there is some amount of variance in manufacturing after all. Still no word on actual power consumption, so I suppose we can still assume the 350 watts advertised is accurate.

As someone with units on order from BFL I had the gut reaction that I’d backed the wrong horse, and to some extent I still have that same feeling, but in the time since Jeff’s announcement I’ve nestled into a “lost the battle, could still win the war” thought pattern. While it’s true that the ~20TH/s worth of ASICs Avalon is shipping stand to about double the difficulty and therefore halve my profits, BFL should (hopefully) ship before Avalon’s second batch goes out the door and in the long run consuming ~280 fewer watts, shedding ~955 BTU/hr less heat, producing less fan noise, taking up less space, costing less to ship and being wife-pleasingly-pretty aren’t optional features, making the Avalon ASIC a no-go for me. Maybe your personal requirements are different.

Avalon, I love you guys, have nothing but the deepest respect for your skills and offer my warmest congratulations on being first to market, but I just can’t buy your stuff.

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