Pre-orders for CoinTerra's 16nm AIRE Miner prompts controvery

bitcoin mining

Digital rendering of the still-on-the-drawing-board CoinTerra AIRE Miner.

Bitcoin-mining hardware maker CoinTerra announced today that it was accepting pre-orders for their newest creation, the 16nm AIRE Miner. On paper, it looks like a promising entry in the mining wars: 4.5 TH/s at 1350 watts at the wall, or around 0.28 watts per gigahash. If true, that level of efficiency doesn’t sound like bad deal for a pre-order price of $2,500.

Shortly after the announcement, however, skeptics began pointing out some troubling elements of the CoinTerra’s announcement. The most striking concern is that CoinTerra told CoinDesk that their new SHIVA ASIC “delivers a five-fold increase in performance-per-watt,” something that sounds like a true breakthrough. Unfortunately, it also sounds a little too good to be true.

In fact, the SHIVA ASICs that CoinTerra claims will power this device have yet to actually be produced. CoinDesk’s coverage noted that chips haven’t even been taped out, making it unclear exactly how far along in the process the ASICs actually are. Even CoinTerra’s own product listing for the pre-order notes that the TH/s rating is based purely “on simulations.”

Ask anyone burned by last year’s ASIC delays, and they’ll tell you this has the makings of a very big problem.

Even a minor loss in efficiency could put the AIRE into “ho-hum” mining rig territory, particularly when the AIRE is planned for a Q1 2015 release. This puts CoinTerra in a race against 14nm Intel chips slated for release later this year, and a Samsung/GlobalFoundries 14nm chip to be released at the start of 2015. Neither of those chips are claiming a five-fold increase in hashing power per watt, so either CoinTerra is onto something incredible, or something is wrong with their simulations.

Equally troubling, however, are CoinTerra’s Terms and Conditions for the sale, which ominously states:

ALL PURCHASES ARE FINAL, NON-CANCELABLE AND NON-REFUNDABLE. NO CANCELLATION OR RESCHEDULING OF ORDERS BY YOU WILL BE ACCEPTED.

While almost certainly not legally binding or enforceable, the tone of the T&C is decidedly hostile, going so far as to demand buyers to surrender their right to sue the company should the deal go belly-up. For a product that doesn’t exist, with no clear shipping date and a $2,500 price tag, that’s a bitter pill to swallow when the alternative is to buy bitcoin.

Written on 18 Sep 2014.