The last year has been a frustrating one for many BFL customers that pre-ordered one of BFL’s Bitforce SC Bitcoin miners. After having recently received my BFL Jalapeno I’ve decided to go ahead and put together a review of the Jalapeno. What follows is a brief history of Butterfly Labs as well as a quick tutorial on setting up the BFL Jalapeno.
Butterfly Labs, abbreviated BFL, is a manufacturer and online retailer of a unique line of Bitcoin mining hardware. Their initial foray into Bitcoin came with a line of FPGAs. FPGAs represented a significant improvement over the use of Graphics Cards in that they reduced power consumption considerably. However, FPGAs did come with a higher price tag making the initial investment a bit steeper.
Then in mid 2012 Butterfly Labs announced that they would be producing a new line of Bitcoin miners using ASIC technology (Application Specific Integrated Circuit). Unlike FPGAs, these miners would be built with the sole purpose of mining Bitcoin and would do so at much higher speeds and lower costs. BFL began taking pre-orders for their line of Bitcoin ASICs in late June of 2012 with a purported shipping timeline of Fall 2012.
However, delays ensued and Butterfly Labs continually pushed the ship date back. The events that followed have led to a bit of a running joke in the Bitcoin community, that BFL will ship in “just two weeks”. Butterfly Labs continually changed their shipping dates, assuring their customers that their ASIC miners would be shipping shortly, even before they had a viable product.
The first customers to pre-order received their BFL ASICs roughly one year after their pre-order date, in June of 2013. In that time several other Bitcoin manufacturers managed to ship their products. Companies such as Avalon ASIC and ASIC Miner beat BFL to the market resulting in a drastic increase in difficulty prior to BFL customers receiving their orders.
To date many BFL pre-orders have not been filled. Regardless, the company has recently announced a next generation ASIC to much ridicule.
BFL Bitforce SC Line
The current line of BFL Bitcoin Miners, labeled the Bitforce SC, come in several speeds. The smallest of the group is the Jalapeno. The Jalapeno was originally rated for a speed of 4.5 GH/s and at a price of $149. However BFL had to adjust their original specifications for the Jalapeno which resulted in a larger casing, higher price tag of $274 and a speed closer to 5.5 GH/s. Pictured below, the original case for the Jalapeno on the left. The Jalapeno ended up occupying the cases originally meant for the single and little single on the right.
The other products in the line experienced similar changes. The Bitforce SC Little Single and Single were originally slated to produce speeds of 30 GH/s and 60 GH/s with price tags of $600 and $1200 respectively. However, after delays and adjustments during development, the Little Single produces approximately 25 GH/s at a price of $1,249 and the Single produces 50 GH/s at a price of $2,499.
BFL also offers a larger Bitcoin miner labeled the ‘Mini-Rig’. Like the rest of the product line, the Mini-Rig changed considerably from its original specifications. The mini-rig was first listed at a speed of 1,500 GH/s and with a price tag of $30,000. BFL has since adjusted the mini-rig to a speed of 500 GH/s with a price tag of $22,484.
After announcing changes to the product lines due to engineering difficulties, BFL announced that they would honor the pre-orders with the specified speed for the original price. For mini-rig pre-orders that meant receiving three 500 GH/s mining rigs instead of just the one 1,500 GH/s rig. It is also worth noting that BFL did not meet their original specifications for power consumption on any of their models.
Setting Up The BFL Bitforce SC Jalapeno
My BFL Jalapeno came with the Miner, 3′ USB cord, power cord, and Butterfly Labs coffee mug. After unpacking the Jalapeno, I went ahead and plugged the power cord in and connected the USB cord from the back of the Jalapeno to my Windows 7 desktop. My desktop immediately began to download the drivers for the Jalapeno.
With the drivers downloaded and installed I decided to go ahead and give Butterfly Labs mining program, EasyMiner, a try. To download easy miner just follow this link. With EasyMiner downloaded I went ahead and entered my settings for Slush’s Pool. Under the settings tab I selected ‘Manual Mining’ and entered the following:
bfgminer -o stratum.bitcoin.cz:3333 -u UserName.worker -p Password
After that just click on the ‘Pool Mining Tab’ and click on the ‘Start Mining’ button. Immediately my BFL Jalapeno started mining at a speed just over 5 GH/s.
In the last week I’ve had no problems with the Jalapeno mining. It has consistently mined at speeds between 5,000 MH/s and 5,400 MH/s. It is a pleasant upgrade from my sometimes finicky GPUs that will on occassion go offline.
Perhaps the most pleasant experience was using BFL’s easyminer. While I’ m perfectly content using command line programs, it is nice to see a professionally put together mining program that even the less computer savvy amongst us would find easy to use.
Return On Investment
Calculating ROI on Bitcoin mining equipment is a bit tricky. If we’re talking in terms of US dollars then it appears I will likely make back my initial investment and then some. I originally pre-ordered by Jalapeno in November of 2012 at a price of $149 and received it on August 17th, 2013. Even with coming difficulty increases it appears I’ll at least make back my initial investment in US dollars and possibly a bit more(assuming the BTC/USD exchange rate remains about the same).
However, considering the investment in potential Bitcoin lends different results. The same time that I placed a pre-order for a BFL Jalapeno I also purchased 16.6 BTC on MtGox at a price of roughly $12 per Bitcoin which amounted to approximately $200. Those same Bitcoin are valued at roughly $1,800 today.
In other words, considering that a BFL Jalapeno had a price tag of roughly 12.5 BTC at the time I purchased it, it would not have been worth investing my BTC into a Jalapeno. In fact in terms of Bitcoin, I’d be looking at a considerable loss in this investment considering that I’ll likely only make a few Bitcoin at best with my Jalapeno.
I’m actually pretty happy with the end product that I received from BFL. The Jalapeno appears to be well crafted and is running at decent speeds. With that said, at the moment I am not planning on investing much more into Butterfly Labs. With a number of other options for ASICs popping up, I’m tempted to look at options that do not include so much uncertainty and such long waiting periods.
I do intend to keep up with the difficulty increases, but more than likely by purchasing ASIC miners from other companies as they become more available. If you’re looking to purchase an ASIC today, your best bet is to find someone reselling ASICminer block erupters.
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