China gets its first homegrown x86 PCs · TechNode

Shenzhen-based Yingzhong Technologies released China’s first x86 computers with a homegrown central processing unit (CPU) on Saturday. But the CPU technology by fabless Zhaoxin Semiconductors is at least three years behind other players’.

Why it matters: The PCs announced are the first to integrate Zhaoxin’s x86 CPUs, which in turn are China’s first homegrown microprocessors based on the x86 architecture.

  • Market on a plate: Beijing wants to replace all foreign-made hardware with domestic alternatives in government agencies.
  • No gaming: The CPUs’ performance is far behind Intel and AMD models in terms of speed and graphics processing. Zhaoxin is unlikely to compete with them in the gaming and high-performance computing markets.
  • Official use only: Zhaoxin’s processors are better suited for government work pertaining to document processing and presentations, an industry insider said.

Details: In their first common product launch, the two companies released more than 50 new products, from desktops to notebooks.

  • The computers run on Zhaoxin’s series of 16nanometer KX-6000 processors, their response to Intel’s x86 line, which dominates the market.
  • The KX-6000 series includes quad-core and 8-core microprocessors that promise processing speed ranging from 2.6GHz to 3GHz. Released in February 2020, KX-6000 chips include an integrated graphics processing unit (GPU) that supports 4K video decoding.
  • Hardware rating site Geekbench gave the KX-6000 a score of 363 for the single core iteration and 2091 for the multi-core. Intel’s 2017 i5-7400 3.5GHz model rakes in 884 and 2793 respectively in the same categories.
  • Project 2021: Zhaoxin aims to be on par with industry leaders by 2021, when it reportedly will release a 7nm CPU.

Read more: SILICON | China’s progress on homegrown CPUs

Context: Founded in 2013, Zhaoxin is a joint venture between Taiwanese VIA Technologies and the Shanghai government. VIA Technologies is one of three companies around the world with a license to produce x86 processors, along with US-based AMD and Intel.

  • VIA’s involvement in the JV allows Zhaoxin to pump out x86 CPUs without violating licensing agreements.
  • AMD has a JV with two Chinese companies, meant to design x86 for the Chinese market.
  • Zhaoxin works with Taiwan Semiconductor manufacturing Corporation’s fabs to manufacture the chips, unlike Intel which runs its own production.
  • Playing catchup: CPUs are some of the most complicated chips to manufacture—and where China is significantly behind its global competition.
  • Huawei’s HiSilicon has had better luck with the Kunpeng 920. Released in January 2019, the 7nm CPU is based off licensed ARM architecture and integrates 64 cores with a maximum speed of 2.6GHz. The microprocessor is intended for big data and cloud applications.

Eliza is TechNode’s community listening reporter at the Shanghai office. She acts as a link between the editorial team and TechNode Squared members. She previously worked as a reporter for WikiTribune…
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