The AntMiner cometh

Some great designs sneak up on you. At first glance, the Bitmain AntMiner S1 might seem unfinished, all rough and caseless with its insides on the outside.

But the AntMiner doesn’t try to be anything that it isn’t. It has no case, since it’s not a consumer product and it’s not meant for the general public. Since it needs to be attached to an external power supply, why pretend that it’s self contained?

Instead of being bolted to a case or frame and hoping they don’t break loose in shipping, the heavy heatsinks are the frame, and the blades and endpieces bolt to them instead. This simplicity earns the AntMiner a gold star for economy of parts: 2 heatsinks with blades bolted to them, 2 endpieces holding them together, 1 fan, 1 TP-Link TL-WR743N.  The result is sturdy and downright elegant.

What's in the box?
What’s in the box?
The heatsinks are part of the frame.
The heatsinks are part of the frame.

For comparison, a  Butterfly Labs Bitforce SC Single is roughly the same size but has 4 fans,  a 4-piece case, and an interior armature with a whole array of tubes and screws to hold the boards, case, heatsinks and fans all in place.  The airflow is byzantine, it sounds like a jet engine and it sill needs to be connected to another computer to run. The AntMiner is almost silent and, at 180GH/s, it’s also 3 times the speed.

It has its own version of OpenWRT with CGMiner built in, much like an Avalon, and connects right to the internet through an ethernet jack. It also has an attachment for a wifi antenna.

The lights are fantastic. On each side, facing outward, is one green LED which pulses at high speed, giving the whole thing the frantic energy of a firing laser cannon.

It makes a plaintive beeping when it can’t connect to the internet, which is a handy notification, but when it wakes me up in the middle of the night I feel like I’ve acquired another needy pet. Most of the time, though, it just purrs warmly.