Innovation

Samsung confirms production of ASIC chips for cryptocurrency mining

The South Korean company hasn't given any details but has confirmed it began producing crypto mining chips in January.

Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
  • Samsung announced that it is producing specially designed cryptocurrency mining chips.
  • Samsung's entry into the cryptocurrency mining market may make it more practical for miners to move away from GPUs, which may help stabilize that market.

South Korean tech giant Samsung confirmed that it is now producing chips specially designed for cryptocurrency mining.

Samsung confirmed its crypto mining chip production in a conversation with TechCrunch, which itself was prompted by a report in South Korean media (translation required) that the company began mass production of its cryptocurrency chips in January.

The news comes hot on the heels of Samsung's overtaking of Intel as the largest chipset manufacturer in the world. Our sister site ZDNet said that the change is unlikely to last, but Samsung's new push into the cryptocurrency mining space could give it more leverage, especially as specialized cryptocurrency mining chipsets start to become prefered to graphic cards.

The basics of ASICs

Application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) are chips built for one specific purpose, and they're quickly becoming the prefered hardware for high-powered cryptocurrency mining.

ASICs are not new technology: They've been around since the 1980s in various electronics, but the recent explosion in cryptocurrency mining has made them a preferred choice. Since ASICs are built for one particular purpose, they're faster and more efficient than using anything else.

Up until recently, graphics processing units (GPUs) like those found in Nvidia graphics card were dominant. GPUs were prefered to computer CPUs because of their ability to handle a lot of repetitive tasks, like mathematical computation.

GPUs used for crypto mining are still not performing the task they were designed for, which is rendering 3D graphics. A chip specifically designed to crunch through the huge amount of math that cryptocurrency mining requires would be able to greatly outperform a GPU, which is where ASICs come in: The only thing they can do is what they're specifically designed for, and they can do it better than anything else.

Hope for the graphics card market

A side effect of the GPU dominance in cryptocurrency mining has been a hardware market bereft of video cards.

Companies that need high-end cards for 3D modeling and PC gamers have both been left in the lurch as miners buy up video cards, but Samsung's move may change the landscape and help the video card market stabilize.

SEE: IT hardware procurement policy (Tech Pro Research)

Chinese-based Bitmain is the current leader in crypto mining ASIC chips, and Samsung's entry into the market makes it the first large tech firm to do so. Whether Samsung will upend the cryptocurrency mining market remains to be seen, but the company's high profile may make ASIC mining far more accessible than it has been.

Companies that want to invest in crypto mining as a way to make money are still advised not to consider it a quick way to build capital. There are a lot of grey areas surrounding cryptocurrency, and the market's instability may make a large investment of time and mining hardware still work out to a loss.

Also see

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Image: iStock/serpeblu

About Brandon Vigliarolo

Brandon writes about apps and software for TechRepublic. He's an award-winning feature writer who previously worked as an IT professional and served as an MP in the US Army.

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