BlackMiner F1 mini review: FPGA mining "with a human face"

FPGA mining is experiencing a new dawn due to the struggle of cryptocurrency developers with ASIC miners. The article discusses one of these devices – Blackminer F1 Mini.

The production of equipment for cryptocurrency mining is a booming industry that has gone through certain stages of development in a relatively short time of existence.. One of these stages was the use of FPGA, or FPGA, to create hardware miners.. The first such devices were intended by themselves for bitcoin mining and existed for a short time, after which they were supplanted by ASIC miners.. One of these devices was considered for example here.

However, the era of FPGA mining did not end there.. Over the past years, the number of cryptocurrencies has increased significantly, as well as the number of hashing algorithms.. Equipment manufacturers are responding to the changing situation in this market by releasing more and more devices for mining based on ASIC.

However, modern ASIC chips are created for only one algorithm, and when the cryptocurrency algorithm changes, it is impossible to modify the chip for the new algorithm.. And such a change in the algorithm is quite common.. Suffice it to recall at least the ongoing struggle of Monero with ASIC miners, or Vertcoin, the creators of which changed the algorithm by withdrawing their coin from the sphere of ASIC mining. Unlike ASIC, the FPGA chip has a huge undeniable advantage – adaptability and software flexibility, since it can be reprogrammed and continue to be used on a changed algorithm.


Modern FPGA-based miners can be divided into two categories. The first category, which can be conditionally called “for specialists”, includes typical FPGA boards with various interfaces, for programming and maintenance of which you need to have a number of specific knowledge.. The second category, “for a home miner”, includes ready-made devices with a friendly interface, the configuration of which does not require additional knowledge.

Representatives of the second category of FPGA devices for mining are devices manufactured by BlackBlock. To date, the company manufactures and sells four models of miners:

  1. Blackminer F1 Mini, $179;

  2. BlackMiner F1-single, worth $1300;

  3. BlackMiner F1, worth $2000;

  4. BlackMiner F1+, worth $2800.

This article deals with the cheapest and easiest miner of the BlackMiner family – F1 Mini. Reading a short description on the manufacturer's website, you can see the phrase “No radiators and no power supply are included in order to reduce shipping cost”. This means that for the operation of the product, you need to prepare the power supply in advance.. Suitable ATX blocks with power connectors for PCI-e video cards. However, the board also has a connector for a conventional DC 12V power supply, the main requirement for which is to provide honest 8A at the output.

Order and delivery

According to the good old tradition, especially for the users of our resource, the manufacturer has prepared a discount code to receive a discount on the F1 Mini – The code must either be entered in the order window, or initially follow the link.

Delivery to the Russian Federation is carried out through the service “EMS Express”. The use of EMS as a courier company is convenient for the manufacturer, since other courier companies are currently undergoing a serious inspection and clearance at the customs of the Russian Federation. To other countries, the miner will be shipped via UPS.

Packaging is quite standard for such shipments.. In the FPGA customs declaration, the miner is listed as a “development board”.

Under the packaging is a fairly solid cardboard box:

In the box itself, the miner board is packed in an antistatic bag, which is placed in a special lodgment formed from foamed polyethylene. On top of the package with the board is covered with a lid made of the same material.. Such careful packaging eliminates the possibility of damage to the miner board during transportation.

Physical device and characteristics

The considered miner consists of two parts. The front part is designed to install cooling, which should not interfere with anything. That is why there are practically no electronic components on the front.

The FPGA chip is hidden under the yellow warning sticker.

The miner uses an FPGA from Xilinx of the Kintex-7 family, model XC7K325T. This is a fairly powerful and productive chip with 326080 logical cells.. Detailed specifications are as follows:

In the Kintex-7 family, this chip belongs to the middle segment both in terms of its technical characteristics and price.

The back side of the miner is undoubtedly more interesting in terms of its content.

In the lower right part of the board there is a connector for connecting the 12V power supply of the PCI-e standard.. To the left of it is an “ON-OFF” switch, a connector for connecting power from DC 12V units and a reset button in the lower left corner. At the top of the board on the left are two 4-pin red connectors for connecting active cooling fans. In the center of the composition, a black board with a white inscription “Antminer” proudly flaunts.. Many owners of Bitmain ASIC miners sincerely believe that this board is nothing more than a control panel for Bitmain Antminer. However, this black board is just a BeagleBon Black version 2.5 single board computer or BBB in common.

Be that as it may, the presence of the stigma from Bitmain on the single-board itself is surprising, but it is not surprising that the BBB was used as the control board for the miner. For this single-payer there is a sufficient number of ready-made system solutions, including those in the public domain.

As noted above, the miner is sent to customers without a cooling system and without a power supply. A tower cooler for the Intel CPU LGA115X family is suitable as cooling. There are four holes on the front side of the board for its installation.. However, noteworthy is the fact that there are four more holes near the FPGA chip.. That is, it is possible to install a small passive cooling on the chip. It is advisable to install such cooling if you plan to place the board in a closed, well-ventilated case.

At the end of the board there are two signal LEDs. The logic of their work is standard, used in many ASIC miners. If the green LED blinks slowly, at a frequency of about once per second, then everything is fine, if it is red, then there are some problems.

It is not recommended to turn on the miner without cooling. Pools and hashing algorithm are already registered in the default settings of the miner. Therefore, when you connect the power and turn on the network with DHCP, the miner will immediately start working.

The software component of the miner

The operating system and software part of the miner are located on the BeagleBon Black single-board computer mentioned above.. Linux for ARM was chosen as the operating system, there are no surprises here.

Not the newest, but tested on many systems kernel 3.8.13. Plenty of free RAM. In general, the conclusion suggests itself that BBB is more than enough for this model of the miner, and instead of it it was possible to take another fee, cheaper.

The main resources of the control board are spent on cgminer 2.3.3 adapted to work with FPGA. The “Load average” indicator for Linux systems is 0.6 on average, which is quite comfortable for systems of this class.

In the list of running processes, you can see a number of programs and scripts that can be seen on Bitmain miners, for example “monitor-ipsig”, “montorsd”, “monitor-recobtn”, “monitorcg”. As a result, we can conclude that not only the control board was borrowed, but also Bitmain software components.

In the screenshot above, you can see that cgminer works through the screen program and has the name cgminer. In the console, you can connect to screen and watch the cgminer work.

Unfortunately, cgminer doesn't output a lot of statistical information to the console.

The structure of the file system is quite typical for operating systems of this type:

Although if you look closely, you can see a couple of unfamiliar directories – fpgabit and sdcard, and their presence is not accidental. This control board controls the FPGA, which, in turn, needs the so-called “bit streams”, or bitstreams, to work.. Each algorithm needs its own bitstream, and since the F1 Mini “understands” a lot of algorithms, a lot of them can be stored in the internal memory of the miner. Device developers talk about seven bitstreams that can be stored simultaneously. If the memory is full, but there is a need to add a new algorithm for mining, then you will have to connect to the miner yourself and delete unused bitstreams.

The screenshot above shows that the fpgabit directory contains five bitstreams and five configuration files for them for cgminer. You can see that the bitstream itself has a size of about nine megabytes.. For the Kintex-7 FPGA used, this is normal. For example, the size of a Cyclon V bitstream is approximately four megabytes.

The sdcard directory appeared only in the latest versions of the miner software.

This folder represents the mount point of the external SD card and is intended to store bitstreams of only one Odocrypt algorithm, which at the time of writing is not yet used. This is the algorithm that will be introduced to DigiByte instead of Myriad-Groestl after July 19th and which was initially made FPGA friendly. The need to use a separate memory card is due to a change in the hashing algorithm every 10 days. That is, every 10 days the miner will have to change the bitstream. Accordingly, manufacturers plan to pre-generate a certain amount of them, which will not fit in the internal memory of the control board.


User interface accessible via browser. As with other similar miners, the main task is to find a device on the network, and then access the found IP address using a browser.

All basic information is given on the start screen of the miner. However, the first step is to go to the mining pool settings. It was noted above that the F1 Mini comes with the settings prescribed in it.. Therefore, on the screen you can see something like this:

It is quite possible that something else will be found in other F1 Minis, but in this sample there were prescribed pools for the amoveo algorithm. The full set of algorithms available for the miner can be viewed and downloaded on a special page.

The screenshot above shows 18 algorithms, as well as the main firmware for the control board – “Rootfs Linux Image”. The algorithms themselves are partially universal – files with bitstreams intended for the older model of the F1 miner are suitable for F1 mini.

In the list, you can see algorithms that have a hidden name. For example, in the screenshot above, this is the Algo7 algorithm. Miner developers deliberately hide the name of some algorithms. As they themselves clarified, the fact is that some communities of certain cryptocurrencies do not like it when their coin is mined using FPGA. That is why the name of some algorithms is hidden and reported only to buyers of devices.. By the way, for a preliminary assessment of the profitability of miners, the developers suggest that you familiarize yourself with a special page on their website.

Unfortunately, there is no information on profitability for the F1 Mini, but it is quite possible to present the overall picture.

Updating algorithms and the file system is done in the same menu.

After downloading the archive with the algorithm files, the miner will automatically restart, and after that all the downloaded algorithms will be available on the pool configuration page in the drop-down list.

The “Customize the fan speed percentage” option enabled at the bottom of the screen with 0% set is vital. As practice has shown, there is some kind of error in the current firmware version. If you do not set this option, then mining will not start corny. This is due to an error in recognizing the connected cooling fan.. However, it is likely that other instances of the F1 Mini will not experience this error.

F1 Mini mining testing was carried out on our own pools, made on the basis of a decentralized pool – p2pool. This choice is not accidental.. The stratum of the decentralized p2pool is not quite standard due to the peculiarities of the pool itself. Therefore, it is always interesting to check how the next new miner is able to perceive different interfaces for mining.

Three algorithms were selected from the list – Phi2 (Argoneum coin), Tribus (Denarius coin) and Lyra2rev3 (Vertcoin coin). When the article was written, another GPU algorithm was released – Honeycomb (Beenode coin). All four algorithms were previously considered GPU-only algorithms, which showed good profitability on them.. Consider setting up and mining using the Tribus algorithm as an example.

After setting up the miner, after a while information appears on the “Miner Status” page.

The screenshot above shows the results of mining on the Tribus algorithm.. The average hash rate for three days was 236 Mh/s, although manufacturers indicate 244 Mh/s on the F1 Mini specifications page.. A slight difference may be due to a not very stable Internet channel at the location of the test bench.

The power consumption of the F1 Mini when mining on the Tribus algorithm at the default frequencies (490 MHz) was 68.2 watts.

To test the overclocking potential, the default frequency of 450 MHz was increased by 10% to 540 MHz

Power consumption at the same time increased from 68.2 to 73.1 watts, by 7.1%

At the same time, the hashrate increased from 236 Mh / s to 262 Mh / s by 11%, and the temperature on the FPGA chip increased from 35 to 38 degrees, by 8.5%.. Overclocking F1 Mini, like any other miner, needs to be done carefully, controlling the parameters and understanding what you are doing.. As a mandatory recommendation – the normal cooling of the chip.

It is most interesting to compare the efficiency of mining on different algorithms for GPUs from different manufacturers and the considered miner F1 Mini. For such a comparison, the four algorithms mentioned above were taken – Phi2, Tribus, Lyra2rev3 and Honeycomb. In addition to F1 Mini, mining was carried out on AMD Vega64 and Nvidia 1060. The results were summarized in a comparative table


AMD Vega64

Nvidia 1060

F1 Mini








11.3 Mh


5 Mh


7 Mh



99 Mh


60 MH


237 Mh



98 Mh






honey comb

49 Mh




31 Mh


The results obtained do not need comments and allow us to evaluate the efficiency of FPGA mining in comparison with GPU mining.. It is quite logical that different algorithms have different efficiency on different hardware.


In the end, it is worth noting that the device turned out to be very interesting.. The implementation of multi-algorithm mining on FPGA with a user-friendly interface turned out to be quite good.

Blackminer has a large community, but it's mostly on Discord. In Telegram, especially in the Russian-speaking segment, the manufacturer is not represented. An open group has been created specifically for the development of the Russian-speaking community.

For those interested in FPGA mining and those who want to buy F1 Mini, we remind you that a discount code has been created especially for users – The code must either be entered in the order window, or initially follow the link with this code.