Introducing the Acorn
A couple of months ago, mining firm Squirrels Research Lab announced the creation of Acorn, an FPGA GPU mining accelerator.
While high-performance GPU’s are the best solution to mine algorithms like X16r, or Lyra2Rec2, they lack optimization for several tasks that exist in the algorithm chain. Because of this, GPUs will mine at much lower hash rates, hence leaving a lot of room for improvement. Until now, the common choice when faced with this issue was to replace the GPU with an FPGA, yet programming bit streams are bound to take a lot of time.
Fully optimizing the mining code on FPGA requires all code, for all algorithms to be written by hand. Additionally, this also implies larger hardware costs, associated with building FPGA rigs, as using a GPU on an FPGA board isn’t possible.
Acorn fixes this issue by providing miners with an FPGA capable of making the GPUs hash faster, with a much lower time and money investment.
How it Works
Here’s the short version of how the Acorn GPU mining accelerator works:
It is a small FPGA capable of fitting into the M.2 slot present on your motherboard. Thanks to plug-n-play functionality, once it has been plugged in, the Acorn will increase the GPU hash by approximately 30MH/s for algorithms that are memory intensive – think CryptoNight V1 or Ethash.
For less intensive algorithms like Monacoin, Ravencoin, X16r, or LyraREv2, the Acorn can provide an additional 60 MH/s,
From a technical standpoint, GPUs are effective when working on tasks that constantly change, whereas FPGAs can effectively split tasks into functions, and replicate them. With this in mind, the accelerator basically makes the job easier for the hardware by organizing computing tasks – which are therefore split into processor-intensive and memory-intensive tasks that are then offloaded accordingly.
To run the Acorn, miners will need a motherboard that supports M.2 2280 M-Key (PCIe) slots, which are generally used to connect SSD’s to the motherboard. Squirrels Research suggests doing a hybrid form of mining that uses the GPU alongside the Acorn FPGA – in other words, you need at least one graphics card and one Acorn. Do keep in mind that the Acorn is 1mm wider than the official specifications, so check whether there is enough clearance room on your motherboard for the device to fit.
In terms of system requirements, the hardware supports Windows 7 and above, alongside Ubuntu 16.04 and above.
Squirrels Research believes that the Acorn will extend the life of mining GPUs. Additionally, the company has a future-oriented philosophy. Based on this, as new algorithms and coins become relevant, the accelerator will adapt. SQRL products have an open community, which means that developers will likely create new bit streams that they’ll share with others. Additionally, the SQRL developers have promised to actively make performance optimizations for the chip.
According to the company, the first commercial batch of the Acorn mining accelerator will be available at some point in September. Yet, reports indicate that this batch has already been exhausted, therefore customers can pre-order from the batches available in the next three months.
Developers are trying their best to make the accelerator plug-n-play regardless of the motherboard being used. Additionally, Squirrels Research has confirmed that manufacturing facilities are ready to kick-off timely production of the product. In other words, the device is just about ready to be manufactured and sold as soon as the pre-order period is finished.
Where to Pre-Order
At this moment in time, the device is available for pre-order on SQRL and Mineority. While the websites offer the same prices and likely share the same stock, it is important to point out the fact that Mineority accepts digital currencies only, whereas SQRL also accepts traditional payment methods.
According to David Stanfill, the President of Squirrels LLC, “We are handling all CE, FCC, RoHS, and other certifications as well as ITAR and export compliance, so we will be able to ship to all non-US embargoed countries. Taxes and import duties will fall on the purchaser. We will be offering at least a 90-day warranty”.
Should You Buy?
Because the Acorn accelerator is completely new on the market, it hasn’t been tested accordingly until now. With this in mind, MH/s estimates are to be taken with a grain of salt. In case you do not mind risking $300ish USD on the device, then, by all means, purchase it. On the other hand, if you want to be sure that the accelerator is worth it, simply wait a few more weeks until other miners have had enough time to test out the product and determine its true value.
Based on everything that has been outlined so far, the Acorn FPGA GPU Mining Accelerator could be a game-changer for miners throughout the world, by offering a noticeable MH/s increase with a minimal investment.