[Update 4/30/2014: Prices have fallen, and I updated the article with current pricing. Also added a link to the YellowJacket USB miner. - Bryan]
The world of Bitcoin mining can be confusing if you're new. You used to be able to mine with your CPU, and then GPUs ruled the roost for a couple of years. Today, however, you'll need to buy specialized mining gear based on ASICs (application-specific integrated circuits), but the good news is that there are several entry-level options available, and you can run them from your Mac, a Windows PC, or a Linux box.
First, Where to Buy?
The most intimidating thing about Bitcoin mining is where to buy that gear. You can buy on Ebay, but I've found two U.S. retailers—JonesGear and ZoomHash.com—that not only offer excellent customer service, they back up the gear they sell.
I've bought several times from both retailers. I got one defective (manufacturer's defect) piece of gear from each company, and they both promptly replaced it. In the Wild West world of Bitcoin mining, that's worth a lot.
Better yet, both companies set up discount codes for you, my gentle reader, to use.
JonesGear: Use coupon code "MacObserver" during the month of April to get 5 percent off your order.
ZoomHash.com: Use coupon code "MacObserver" to get 7.5 percent off your order.
Return on Investment
The question that experienced/serious miners look at is what their return on investment (ROI) will be. In other words, if you spend $1,000 on mining equipment, how long will it take to generate $1,000 worth of Bitcoins—after you also pay for electricity.
Search for Bitcoin Mining Calculator, and you'll find a ton of them. I like the Bitcoin Mining and Profitability Calculator at VNBitcoin.org the best. No calculator tells the full story, though, because you can sell your used gear on Ebay or Craigslist when it still has value to someone coming up the Bitcoin ladder. Then, of course, you'll be free to buy new equipment of your own!
Another consideration is future value. If you think Bitcoins will rise in price, determining the value of Bitcoins mined today is massively subjective. My advice is to do your research and only invest in gear at levels you are comfy with.
Let's get to the gear! I started with the least expensive and worked my way up from there:
- Antminer U2 from JonesGear
- ASICminer Cube fro JonesGear
- Antminer S1 from JonesGear
- Gridseed Infinity 5-Chip from ZoomHash
Entry Level Mining Gear
Next: The Antminer U2