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How were the Antminer hardware made to decrease electric power consumption by half with each new product, like at the current generation of S9?

What are the projections to future efficiency that can make current hardware obsolete?

Why can't Intel do the same with their Core i7, and why do smartphones not last much longer on a battery charge than several years ago?

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The mining hardware industry started very recently and their chip fabrication technology was way behind that of traditional chip manufacturers (ie Intel, AMD).

Chip energy efficiency depends on the distance between the transistors of a chip. The closer the transistors are the better. Intel produced their first 14nm (distance between transistors) in 2014. Mining hardware manufacturers resently produced their 16nm ones. They started with 28nm (or worse) ~4years ago.

Still mining hardware almost reached the chip density of Intel which is remarkable for only 4 years of development. It would be very interesting to see, if mining incentives remain high, whether it reaches or surpasses the big players in chip manufacturing.

Note that mining hardware is now very close to the best available chip so we can expect that the energy efficiency of mining would follow Moore's Law from now on (just as Intel hardware does).

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    There is another perspective: the world's joint experience in building chips has been focused on producing hardware with extremely low failure rate. Hardware that is twice as efficient, but produces nonsensical results 40% of the time is a perfectly good deal. This is a very different problem than the one Intel's chips are solving, and there is a lot to be learned about it. – Pieter Wuille Jul 18 '16 at 20:09
  • This is indeed true. However, the massive decrease in consumption has to do with transistor density. Mining hardware will not have such improvements anymore; only those allowed by Moore's law similar to the big manufacturers. – karask Jul 19 '16 at 20:21
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The main reason that miners can gain power efficiency at a faster rate than smartphones is because they lack the hardware the consumes the most power: the screen.

Intel is constantly making more energy efficient chips, but when that only accounts for a small fraction of the power consumed by the phone, it doesn't result in impressive increases in battery life.

On the other hand, miners are practically nothing more than custom chips. So when they increase the efficiency of those chips, the whole device sees a huge increase in efficiency.

  • This is true for mobiles and other devices with screen. I believe the question was more general though. Intel is making more efficient chips but in accordance to Moore's law. Until now, mining hardware manufacturers were way behind thus allowing them to decrease consumption and increase processing way more than ×2 every 2 years (which is Moore's law). – karask Jul 19 '16 at 20:28
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    Yes, that's definitely true, and was covered well by your answer. I just wanted to make sure that anyone comparing power consumption between asic miners and mobile phones recognizes the obvious differences in what uses the power. – Jestin Jul 19 '16 at 20:31
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I think that if you look at antminers specs you can see that they were very energy inefficient at the beginning. Their great rate of improvement thus stems from their terrible base (start) level.

Smartphones are in reality way more efficient than antminers on the whole... and it is harder for smartphone makers to improve at that stage than for Antminer.

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