Update Sept. 8th. The price of the GAW Miners HashletPrime rose by $10 today to $49.95. I wrote the article below over the weekend (when the HashletPrime was still $39.99) and published it earlier today.

As I mentioned in my previous post, GPU mining of cryptocurrencies is now a dead duck for me. Rising network difficulty, the arrival of (Application-Specific Integrated Circuit) ASIC Scrypt miners and the relative high cost of electricity (US$0.24 per Kw/h) has meant that running a 390W mining rig is just throwing money down the drain. At least when the rig was break-even (ish), it was a way of converting electricity into altcoins.

ASIC Mining Equipment

GAW Dedicated Scrypt MinerA number of companies are selling ASIC mining equipment that have high hash rates, but equally high power consumption and high shipping fees. Most, it would appear, after all costs are taken into account, will provide a return on investment after several months. However, these calculations do not take into account the inevitable rise in network difficulty for altcoins in that period. That will make coins less profitable in a given period of time. So any rise in network difficulty will push out the date at which an ASIC miner will recoup its costs. The big question is: will and ASIC miner ever recoup all its costs?

With that in mind and the high initial cost of ASIC miners (gridseeds notwithstanding – but they’re no longer profitable), is there a way to make money from mining altcoins at all?

ASIC Scrypt Mining Contracts

I looked at Bitcoin mining contracts earlier this year and after a lot of reading concluded that they probably would not be profitable over their lifetime. It’s down to that increasing network difficulty again.

Since I only delved back into the cryptocurrency world again a few days ago, I wasn’t really aware of what changes had happened in how coins are mined. Yes, I knew about ASIC miners and Gridseeds (small ASIC miners), but things seem to be shifting to cloud-based mining solutions rather than plugging boxes into your wall.

The downside with physical miners is that they depreciate in value. GPU miners could always be converted into gaming machines and sold on. ASIC miners just become bricks. They’re built for one thing only – mining cryptocurrencies – and when they become unprofitable, the only thing to do with them is throw them out.

Altcoin MiningMining contracts usually (but not always) have a fixed term – usually 1 year. You get the use of the miner for that period. The miner exists in the cloud – at some, perhaps unspecified, location where electricity is cheap and cost savings can be made because companies are buying huge volumes of mining equipment wholesale.

Hashing rates can be parcelled out to customers which provides a low-cost entry point for those who are testing the cryptocurrency waters. Since there’s no physical equipment shipped, there are no shipping costs. Electricity costs are low (around US$0.03) which is significantly lower than my local supplier charges (US$0.24).

The downside is that most of the online mining companies charge a “maintenance” fee per Mh/s per day – typically $0.07 or $0.08 per day. That may not seem a lot, but it adds up over a year.

The Altcoin Mining Contracts I’m Looking At

I seem to have come back to the cryptocurrency world at almost the right time, maybe a couple of weeks late to get in on some deals. ASIC Mining contracts are appearing from more and more companies providing choice for consumers.

GAW Miners offer Bitcoin (SHA-256) and Scrypt mining contracts. Bitcoin mining just doesn’t look to be profitable. So I’ve decided to only look at Scrypt mining (for coins like LiteCoin, FeatherCoin, etc.).

One caveat: It’s not clear from the description of the mining contracts at any of the companies if they also offer Scrypt-N mining (these coins are currently more profitable than Scrypt coins).

I’ve been researching what’s on offer over the last few days and these are the options that appeal to me:

1. GAW Miners

They released their “Hashlet” mining contracts in early to mid August. Early adopters got their contracts at early-bird prices but the prices have since risen. They are still about the same price as those offered by other companies.

There are three flavours of Hashlet:

HashletGenesis – exclusively mines Bitcoin. Very cheap – $9.95 for 10Gh/s – but probably wouldn’t be profitable, so I’m ignoring this.

Hashlet-Genesis

Hashlet Solo – there are 5 variations of this 1 Mh/s miner, with each one being plugged into a different mining pool. You choose the pool that suits you. It appears that once you pick your option, that’s the pool you’re stuck with for the duration of your Lifetime contract. GAW recently bought ZenPool and have created one of the Hashlets to work with it. The claim is that this pool is more profitable (20-50% more depending on different sources) than the other pools and it appears to be the most popular option with buyers. It’s also the most expensive Hashlet in this group ($20.95 vs $15.95 for the cheapest). These Hashlets only hit the market on August 30.

GAW Miners Hashlets

HashletPrime – the most expensive at $39.95 but this 1 Mh/s miner can mine both Bitcoin and Scrypt coins. This Hashlet can mine in multiple pools. This was the original Hashlet released by GAW in early-mid August; it originally sold for $16 bit the price went up in several stages until the release of the HashletSolo at the end of August.

Hashlet-Prime

This table compares the Hashlet options:

Type Pool Price USD Fee / day Speed
Mh/s
Contract Est. Pool 1MH/s
BTC income
Income
/ day
ROI
days
HashletPrime Multipool 39.99 $0.08 1 Lifetime 0.00065035 $0.31 223
ZenHashlet Zenpool 20.95 $0.08 1 Lifetime 0.00065035 $0.31 162
WaffleHashlet WafflePool 18.95 $0.08 1 Lifetime 0.00049058 $0.23 209
CleverHashlet CleverMining 17.95 $0.08 1 Lifetime 0.00043600 $0.21 225
NiceHashlet NiceHash 19.95 $0.08 1 Lifetime 0.00038350 $0.18 273
MultiHashlet Multipool.us 16.95 $0.08 1 Lifetime 0.00033946 $0.16 288

Note that with GAW Miners, Hashlets come with a Lifetime contract rather than a fixed 1-year contract.

Their pools all have 0% fees (so nothing else siphoning profits here).

Income per day depends on the value of USD/BTC (at time of posting it was $480/BTC).

Since there’s a daily maintenance fee, that has to be factored into the overall cost of a Hashlet. The fee is USD$0.08 per 1 MH/s per day. That amount is in dollars, not BTC, so as the price of BTC changes, so will the daily maintenance fee (the lower BTC goes, the higher these fees will be). The maintenance fee is deducted from earnings rather than you being billed separately for it. GAW have said that maintenance fees will go down over time but haven’t said by how much.

The ROI Days figure is a guesstimate as it depends on the USD/BTC exchange rate, daily fees and the profitability of coins mined. I’ve based cost on $0.08 per day for 1 year plus the initial cost of the Hashlet, divided by the Daily Income. Currently, the ZenHashlet looks to give the best ROI.

The HashletPrime has some additional features and the ability to mine using a better, more profitable algorithm in the future. It could be one to keep an eye on. However, I’m concentrating on the HashletSolos.

Hashlets can also be ordered in 5, 15, 25, 50, 75, 100, 150, 200, 250 and 500 Mh/s packages. There are no discounts for bulk buying hashing power.

Payment Options: One of the problems in gaining entry to the Bitcoin world is in converting fiat currency into BTC. Not much of an issue for those in the USA but outside there, it’s more problematical. So it’s good to see that GAW are accepting major credit cards as well as BTC for their mining contracts. That’s a big plus for me.

2. ZoomHash

ZoomHash have been around for a while, providing dedicated (physical) mining equipment to buyers. They’ve only recently offered mining contracts.

Their offering is a 1Mh/s ASIC Scrypt mining contract with a fixed 1-year term for $15.99 (currently on sale at this price). They too charge a daily maintenance fee but it’s a slightly lower $0.07 per 1 Mh/s. ZoomHash also say they expect fees to go down over time.

ZoomHash Mining Contract

Their mining contracts are tied to the CleverMining pool. Their site doesn’t say if there are pool fees or not.

Type Pool Price USD Fee / day Speed
Mh/s
Contract Pool 1MH/s
btc income
Income
/ day
ROI
days
Crypt miner Clevermining $15.99 $0.07 1 1 Year 0.00043600 $0.21 198

Since this is a fixed-term mining contract, it’s easier to calculate when ROI will occur.

Interestingly, the ZoomHash miner looks to be a slightly better option than the GAW CleverHashlet.

Payment Options: PayPal (yay!)

3. Genesis Mining

These guys offer both Bitcoin and Scrypt mining contracts. Their Starter (Gold) Bitcoin mining contract is $29 for 10 Gh/s for a 1-year term. That seems a lot more expensive than GAW Miner’s offering ($9.95) for the same hashing power BUT Genesis Mining do not charge a daily maintenance fee. A GAW HashletGenesis would cost $39.15 for a year (taking daily fees into account) though would cost less in succeeding years if you kept one going.

But, as I’m not currently interested in Bitcoin mining, I’ll give this option a pass.

Genesis Mining also offer altcoin mining contracts (1-year terms). Three options are available:

  1. Gold – 1 Mh/s for $49 (GAW equivalent price: $46.15 – $50.15)
  2. Platinum – 20 Mh/s for $880 (GAW equivalent price: $923 – $1003)
  3. Diamond – 100 Mh/s for $3,900 (GAW equivalent price: $4615 – $5015)

Genesis Mining Contracts

As of June 2014, the coins that can be mined are: LTC, Doge, Feathercoin, Auroracoin, Lottocoin, Megacoin and Reddcoin. Their site says new coins would be added over the ensuing weeks but no recent additions have been listed. It’s worth noting that no Scrypt-N coins are in that list (they’re among the more profitable coins at the moment).

They also offer the option via their Autotrading feature to mine the most profitable coins any time and exchange them to Bitcoin. They claim it is up to 300% more profitable to “mine” Bitcoin this way than to directly invest in Bitcoin hashpower (a claim I can neither verify nor dispute).

They say that 2-4 pools will be used per coin but won’t say what pools they’re using.

No indication of daily earnings is given or if there are pool fees here. But, assuming 0% pool fees, and a guesstimated daily income of $0.21, then ROI would be achieved in 233 days.

Payment Options: Bank Transfer and Bitcoin only (boo!).

4. ZeusHash

ZeusHash were offering mining contracts on Saturday (2 days ago), but their site was updated yesterday with an announcement that “A New Era of Hash” is approaching and a countdown clock for an unveiling in 23 days (September 30). I’ll have to keep an eye on this.

Conclusion

So there are three companies in the running. Their altcoin mining contacts are all very similar offering the same hashing power for similar prices (daily maintenance fees taken into account).

My instinct is to go for a GAW Miners ZenHashlet to start with. Then perhaps a ZoomHash CryptMiner. Since Genesis Mining don’t accept credit cards or PayPal, I’d only buy a miner from them with funds earned from other miners so it looks like it’ll be a while before I buy one of their miners (as I have no BTC funds at the moment).

It would be interesting to contrast how the different miners perform over time. But I’ll report the performance from time to time of the miners I do buy.

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Filed under: Altcoin Mining Contracts