Does the Antminer S19 XP use 5nm ASICs? Here we explore this idea by examining the integrated chip performance of top bitcoin mining rigs. We then compare models from the Antminer S1-S19 series, produced between 2013-2022.
We end this piece by addressing concerns over the potential slowing of Bitcoin’s ASIC technology, and the bottlenecks of chip supply.
Antminer S19 XP
Bitmain’s S19 XP is the latest generation of the S19 series. It is set to be the most potent SHA-256 machine on the market next year. As Bitmain states,
“The S19 XP transcends limitations…”
Antminer’s new-gen. model incorporates a “refined temperature control” which increases energy efficiency. The S19 XP machine is expected to hash 140 TH/s, with a power draw of 3kW, at 21.5 W/TH. The hash power and the efficiency are both a 27% increase from the previous generation S19 Pro (2020), and S19a Pro (2021).
The first batches of S19 XPs were listed at $11.6k on the manufacturer’s website, but are now sold out. Among those who placed pre-orders are DMG Blockchain Solutions, Ault Global Holdings’ subsidiary Bitnile, and Greenridge Generation who ordered Green S19 XPs which come with carbon offsets. The first S19 XP units should ship out between July-October, 2022. Miners can also get ahold of S19 XP futures for around $16k from resellers.
S19 XP Profitability
Between the S19 Pro and the S19 XP, profit increases about 40% due to the heightened hash rate and better efficiency rating. The currently profitability of the S19 XP is just under $40/day after electricity at 6¢/kWh is paid. At this power rate and current BTC price, electricity costs are about 9% of the gross profit.
Interestingly, before the S19 XP’s official release there were rumors that the machine was 150 TH/s. Then at the Dubai conference in early November the machine was on display and ran at about 126 TH/s. However, the rig on display likely did not have time to warmup to its full capacity of 140 TH/s, especially as the power draw shows 2.7 kW compared to the advertised 3 kW. In any case we will not know the actual S19 XP specs until miners get their hands on them next year.
Does Antminer S19 XP use 5nm ASICs?
Many are under the impression that the new XP model uses 5nm chips. But let’s dig deeper and see what we can find out. ⛏
Chip Nm Vs TH
First let’s take a look at the nanometer (nm) size of SHA-256 chips, and their corresponding terahashing capacity (TH/s). Data is taken from the top four ASIC manufacturers. Hover over the bars for the estimated TH/s range per chip.
The S19 XP is assumed to be a 5nm with a hash rate of 133-147 TH/s. This hash range includes the +/- 5% margin promised by the manufacturer.
Notice that the 7nm and 8nm integrated circuts are thought to be able to produce bitcoin miners between 28-112 TH/s per unit. This is a range of 84 TH/s! So, based on this variance information, it seems plausible that a S19 XP could be a 7nm which made a huge efficiency advancement. Although, the 30 TH/s jump between the S19 Pro and S19 XP seems like a long stretch for the 7nm. So from this chart it seems likely that the Antminer S19 XP use 5nm ASICs.
Let’s go one step further and compare Bitmain’s ASIC progress between each Antminer model. Maybe this analysis can also help to decipher whether the Antminer S19 XP use 5nm ASICs.
Below we compare names, chip advancements, and machine specs for the first of each model release in the Antminer Series.
Table of Antminer Models
|S19 XP||2022||5nm ?||140||21.5||27%||27%|
The information in the table above is an estimate. Bitcoin mining manufacturers are known to be very secretive.
You can see that Bitmain models only use odd numbers. However, a S13 was never released. In 2018 there were rumors that Bitmain’s S13 omission was due to failed chip design, TSMC supply issues, debts with TSMC, and/or co-founder Jihan Wu’s preoccupation with endorsing BCH.
From the table we can see that in the past Antminer has changed its series number not only when a new chip was introduced, but also when a chip’s efficiency advanced. So, according to this logic, the S19 XP may still be a 7nm as the name is not “S21”.
On the other hand, what if S19s have been using 5nm?
Is the S19 Pro 5nm?
Miners are divided on this. Some believe that the S19 Pro is a 5nm as the efficiency between the 17- and 19-series jumped by a third. However, from the table above we see that efficiency improvements in the 28nm and 16nm were up to 64% between models. So, a 34% jump in efficiency between the S17 Pro and S19 Pro with the 7nm chip seems plausible.
Furthermore, naysayers comment that competitor Whatsminer are thought to have achieved 112 TH/s with 8nm chips in their M30 series. This suggests that the S19 Pro at 110 TH/s is likely 7nm.
Next, we look at the number of chips used in selective Antminer models to analyze some new data.
|Model||No. of Chips|
Terahash and Watt Per Chip
Below we compare the terahash per chip per unit in green, and the watt per chip per unit in blue. The greater the TH per chip, the better the performance. Whereas the less watt per chip means either that the efficiency is better, or that there are just more chips per unit.
In the first table we looked at we found that compared to the 15-series, the overall efficiency of the 17-series improved 21%, and the TH/s capacity doubled. To achieve this performance we see above that the S17 Pro uses half as many 7nm chips as the S15, but requires three times the amount of watt per chip. The S17 Pro chips appear to have made a huge leap in technology from the S15. This is interesting, it makes us question, “what if the S15 was really a 16nm and not a 7nm?“ After all, the Whatsminer M10 and the AvalonMiner 1047 both got the same specs as the S15 with 16nm Samsung chips.
Contrarily, the S19 Pro uses more than double the amount of chips than the S17 Pro, and achieves less TH per chip. Because the S19 Pro uses a larger quantity of chips than the S17 Pro, it requires 44% less energy per chip. Overall the S19 Pro hashes 96% more per unit than the S17 Pro, and the efficiency improved 34%. However, the fact that the S19 Pro machine uses 342 chips, compared to the S17’s 144 chips, seems to again infer that the S19 Pro is still a 7nm.
Interestingly, there was talk in September 2020 that Micree Zhan was set to release 5nm rigs, and Jihan Wu was angry because these chips were unstable and he did not want to cheat customers. Thus the S19j (2021) could be a 5nm, yet the efficiency profile is the same as the S19 Pro (2020). At the time of writing we were unable to ascertain how many chips a S19j Pro has to compare further, we’ll let you be the judge and jury.
S19 XP 5nm Summary
By looking at the integrated circuit and energy efficiency improvements of the Anmtiner series, it seems probable that the Antminer S19 XP use 5nm ASICs. Both the S19 XP’s efficiency and TH/s improves by 27% from the S19 Pro. However, we do not know the amount of chips per S19 XP unit, so cannot compare the final metric.
Is Bitcoin’s ASIC Tech Slowing?
When we look at the efficiency gains in Antminer chips in our first color-coded table, it seems like the amount of change is diminishing. The 55nm, 28nm, and 16nm efficiency improved 26-64% between models. Whereas the change of efficiency of the 7nm and 5nm is much less, between 21-34%. So, is ASIC technology slowing?
Below is a graph of the percent of efficiency change between Antminer models, and between chip size. The red line is a superimposed trend line. The trend does seem to suggest that ASIC technology is slowing.
But if we look at some other metrics we see that although the advancements of the W/TH efficiency seem to be shrinking, the evolution of the TH/W is growing. Why is this?
Well bitcoin miner efficiency, W/TH in yellow above, is a goal-seeking ratio that cannot go lower than zero. So, advancements between chip sizes are slowing in broad terms. This is because as chips get smaller it becomes harder to make microscopic improvements and dissipate heat. In a previous article we also address how Moore’s law with bitcoin ASICs has been broken as chip advancements are taking longer than 2 years.
Yet the TH/W specs in purple above are continuing to increase thanks to manufacturer improvements in machine builds, and other types of engineering feats.
Workarounds and Immersion
Don’t fear, innovation happens in other ways. In order to push ASIC chips to their maximum performance, bitcoin mining manufacturers improve machine cooling, hardware and software engineering, and explore other solutions.
For example, Canaan are investing R&D into new immersion devices. Also, industrial miners CleanSpark, Riot, and Argo Blockchain are testing immersion solutions with the aim to use them on-scale in the future. Home miners and hobbyist are also exploring immersion set-ups, which not only increase performance but also combat noise which is another serious issue.
Immersion systems may improve efficiency up to 78%, but the trade-off is that they come at a cost. It is estimated that immersion cooling set-ups are up to $2,000/miner. Such systems also require higher maintenance costs and more operator attention than standard plug and play bitcoin mining. And, overclocked machines may have shortened lifetimes. But over time we expect the cost of such systems to come down as they evolve. We’re still early.
Lastly, miners are concerned with bottlenecks in microprocessor chip supplies from top foundries. Whilst there is a number of semiconductor fabrication plants worldwide, only a select few produce the cutting edge 5nm-8nm microchips used in bitcoin mining rigs from Antminer, AvalonMiner, and Whatsminer.
As chips are difficult to get ahold of, bitcoin mining manufacturers could be forced to limit the production of new machines like the S19 XP in the future. With the global chip squeeze we could also see new miner manufacturers who use larger nm chip sizes which are easier to get ahold of than 5-8nm.
Note that in the past there were more bitcoin mining manufacturers, including discontinued brands like ASICMiner, Black Arrow, CoinTerra, KnCMiner, Spondoolies-Tech, and more. The majority of these companies lost their competitive edge against the quickly advancing machine specs of industry leaders: Bitmain, Canaan, and MicroBT.
Fabrication News and Expansions
On a positive note semiconductor fabs are being constructed to assist in stemming the global microchip shortage, however most of these will not be completed until 2024.
We end this article with a brief of leading semiconductor companies and their expansion and development plans:
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), the market leader, have their main production plant in Taiwan. They have also planned an expansion in Phoenix, Arizona. The new fab will start producing 20,000 wafers per month of 5nm chips from 2024. Bitmain uses TSMC’s chips exclusively in Antminers.
There are also rumors that TSMC are planning up to five new fabs in Arizona, one in Japan, and one in Nanjing. The hope to meet the world’s surging chip demand which they believe was brought on by Covid, increased EV production, and digitalization.
Samsung produce 8nm chips in South Korea. Their chips are used in Whatsminer, Innosilicon, and AvalonMiner. The company are already developing second generation 3nm chips, and road mapping 2nm.
Samsung are currently building a new fab in Taylor, Texas, set to be completed in 2024. The Texas plant will make chips smaller than 7nm. The company already have one production plant in Texas that manufactures larger dies.
Shanghai-based Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC) produce 7nm-like chips. It is debated whether or not these chips are used in AvalonMiner.
The firm had planned to open a US foundry, but were unable as they are on a US government blacklist. The US alleges SMIC has ties to China’s military, SMIC denies the claims. SMIC are instead constructing a sub-14nm plant in Shanghai and hope to ramp up production soon.
US-owned Intel were stalled at 14nm for years, but worked to advance their technology to a 7nm-like process in 2021. Intel plan to open two fabrication plants in Arizona, and begin mass production of 7nm chips from 2024. Currently the company does not make bitcoin ASICs, but maybe in the future they will?
From this investigation we find that it is likely that the Antminer S19 XP use 5nm ASICs. Also, we believe that the S19 Pro uses 7nm TSMC chips, but this is debatable. And, we are left wondering if the S15 was really a 16nm, and not a 7nm as widely believed.
Furthermore, Bitcoin’s ASIC technology is slowing as chips are getting smaller and harder to improve. But other engineering solutions like immersion cooling will continue to push the terahashing and efficiency capabilities of ASICs.
Lastly, microchip production is bottlenecked thanks to the global chip shortage and the increased demand across several industries. Top foundries are building out fabrication capacity, but the majority of these new facilities will not produce wafers until 2024. Thus, due to squeezed chip supply, bitcoin mining manufacturers may have limited production of new bitcoin mining rigs in the short-term.