In just a few short years, bitcoin mining has come a long way, from CPUs, to GPUs, to specialized, single purpose, system-on-a-chip beasts. There's still progress to be made, though, more efficient mining marvels to build. This is that progress. Meet the (prototype) brains of an insane digital drill.
What you see above is part of a Butterfly Labs Monarch, a 600 gigahash, 350 watt, $2,196 behemoth that's available for preorder right this second if you have a lot of money and even more love for bitcoin.
Like any other bitcoin miner worth its salt these days, it's an Application-Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) machine, and while more powerful rigs technically exist, the Monarch's gains come mostly in the field of power efficiency. Because every cent you spend on power makes your mining endeavors less obscenely profitable.
Also on display at Butterfly Labs' CES booth is a mock-up of a water cooling system for this bad boy. In actuality, the coolant systems won't look exactly like this, but it still gives you an idea of how ridiculous and insane these systems are. Leaps and bounds past the hacked-together miners of old.
Butterfly Labs expects to be able to start shipping its Monarch rigs later this month, but where bitcoin's price will be then is anybody's guess. Even if it tanks, though, these boards will still look sweet.