China’s homegrown semiconductor industry continues to grow by leaps and bounds. CPU maker Loongson recently announced the 3A4000 and 3B4000 chips. These are entirely made in China, using indigenous tech and know-how. According to Hu Weiwu, Loongson’s president, the 3A4000 delivers performance on par with AMD’s Excavator line. In real-world terms, that’s not an earth-shattering level of performance. Bristol Ridge APUs with Excavator CPUs accompanied first-gen Ryzen in 2017. These quad-core parts handed in worse performance than Intel’s budget dual-core Pentiums.
The real story here, though, is that Chinese manufacturers are able to produce fully indigenous processors that are at least in the same ballpark as mainstream parts manufactured by AMD and Intel. The 3A4000 and the server-oriented 3B4000 don’t have to deliver stellar gaming performance.
What exactly are we looking at though, with the new Loongson parts? Both the 3A4000 and 3B4000 are fabbed on the 28nm FD-SOI process by STMicroelectronics. They both have four cores, and a healthy 8MB of L3 cache. Both processors are clocked fairly low, between 1.8-2.0 GHz. This is interesting, considering Wewu’s claim that they perform on par with Excavator. The lowest-clocked Excavator APU, the Athlon X4 940, has a 3.2 GHz base clock.
Unless Weiwu’s specifically talking about clock-for-clock performance, this indicates that the Longsoon parts have a relatively high IPC, perhaps in the vicinity of Sandy Bridge–it might just be low clock speeds that are holding them back. The 3A4000 is relatively power efficient, too, for a 28nm part: it consumes 50W at 2GHz, and just 30W at 1.5 GHz–lower-clocked variants could well end up in laptops.
They just need to be fast enough to run Chinese government and private-sector software at acceptable speeds. As long as WPS office and CCTV surveillance camera backends don’t choke, Longsoon’s on the right track. The key points here are technological autonomy and security: who’s to say Intel or AMD don’t install CIA backdoors on their consumer parts?
Longsoon’s not content to sit on its heels, however. Their plans for next year include bringing the 3A5000 and 3C5000 to the market. Both of these are set to be 12nm parts and will be clocked at up to 2.5 GHz. The 3C5000 is a 16-core part, meaning that it could be a drop-in replacement for Xeon servers.