Intel May Be Working on a Chip Specializing in Bitcoin Mining

Jan 25, 2022
4 min read

Cryptocurrency mining continues to be all the rage, for better and worse. Of course, it is tricky for gamers, who will soon be forced to mortgage their homes for an RTX 3080 if the problem worsens. But contrarily, it is also an opportunity for manufacturers to take advantage of the game. And that Intel understood it well; According to Tom's Hardware, the blue team could soon release hardware dedicated explicitly to Bitcoin mining.

Bitcoin mining is a controversial topic, but it looks like Intel might join the fray by releasing a chip designed specifically for it. Intel may unveil a " Bonanza Mine " chip, according to the latest rumours. However, this powerful chip would be used only for cryptocurrency mining and would not interest casual users.

Often, graphics cards are associated with cryptocurrency mining. Many attribute the current GPU shortage, in part, to Ethereum mining, as cards are sold out before ordinary users can get their hands on them. However, rumours suggest Intel may be working on a specialized mining chip it calls Bonanza Mine.

According to Tom's Hardware, Intel could unveil this chip at the ISSCC (International Solid-State Circuits Conference), which will take place in February. The conference focuses on semiconductor circuits and system-on-chips (SoCs). Intel is expected to present the new Bonanza Mine processor in the Highlighted Chip Releases category.

This processor is described as an "ultra-low-voltage, low-power bitcoin (BTC) mining application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC)", and it looks like it could mark a new milestone in mining hardware for Intel. The company may be looking to compete with analogue ASICs, such as those made by Bitmain, in a market sector centred around bitcoin mining.

If it's graphics cards that get the bad rap, bitcoin is usually mined on ASICs: specialized chips designed to perform only one specific task. But, as proven by Bitmain, ASICs can provide the power needed for mining at a lower cost.

Not a new interest

It should be noted that the cost reduction comes in the form of higher efficiency and lower power requirements of the ASICs in question. When buying one from Bitmain, the price and delivery times are pretty steep. A quick look at Bitmain's website shows dozens of ASICs, some costing well over $10,000.

As Tom's Hardware reports, Intel's interest in Bitcoin mining is nothing new. The company patented a specialized ASIC optimized for SHA 256 in 2018, aimed at mining. While Intel hasn't revealed much since it looks like the chip may have been in the works all this time, and the company may be preparing to show it off.

Intel will soon launch its new Arc Alchemist discrete gaming GPUs. The company has announced that it will not limit mining on these cards, but it would prefer the cards to go to players rather than miners. However, it is also clear that Intel could support the idea of ​​Bitcoin mining to the point of creating specialized hardware for this purpose.

A next-generation ASIC

The first instinct upon reading this information would have been to turn to Arc GPUs. After all, the Intel troops have already promised that specific models will be specially designed for cryptocurrency mining. But the mere presence of the word Bitcoin is already enough to exclude Arc cards from the equation since this cryptocurrency is almost entirely mined on technological platforms, ASICs. This information is confirmed by the title of the presentation spotted by Tom's Hardware, which explicitly mentions an ASIC.

Intel probably hopes to find a place in this highly buoyant market with this new product. At this time, it's still unclear if Bonanza Mine will end up on the shelves as such or if it's a research and development project. But what is interesting is, above all, the philosophy behind Intel's crypto adventure.

Raja Koduri, the honcho of Intel's GPU division, has noticed a form of market overlap like the rest of the general public. On the other, we have miners and gamers all competing for the same products. Koduri, therefore, believes that there is an urgent need to develop hardware specifically designed for mining. It is a question of increasing the availability of cards for their natural uses and optimizing a process that is currently very energy-intensive and a tad unruly.

Towards a definitive schism between mining and gaming hardware?

"GPUs will take care of graphics, gaming, and all those wonderful things," Koduri explains. "But being able to perform blockchain validation operations much more efficiently [and therefore with specialized equipment, editor's note] is not an insoluble problem. We are working on it, and we will soon present interesting material for this purpose".

Intel's interest is good news for token enthusiasts. But it is also an approach that the gaming community will certainly applaud with both hands, knowing the significant impact of the cryptocurrency industry on the price of graphics cards. Indeed, we should not expect GPUs to fall back to factory prices as soon as Bonanza Mine is officially announced, far from it. But it could be a fundamental first step in this direction.

Indeed, if Bonanza Mine proves convincing enough and ends up bringing big money to Intel, other manufacturers could start developing lots of ASICs to mine various cryptocurrencies. They could thus become increasingly affordable, even more, profitable for miners than consumer GPUs. Of course, it is still much early to say that this market split will indeed take place. However, one thing is certain: Bonanza Mine will have to be followed closely because this still very discreet product could initiate significant changes throughout the world in this industry within several years.