back to article China's Loongson debuts processor that 'matches Intel silicon circa 2020'

Chinese chip houses Loongson and CXMT have debuted products that demonstrate the Middle Kingdom’s increasingly sophisticated semiconductor scene, and an interest for such efforts from major electronics manufacturers. Loongson's effort is the 3A6000 processor, which uses its own LoongArch CPU instruction set that has …

  1. DS999 Silver badge

    Fake benchmarks though

    This chip tops out at 2.5 GHz, and they claimed it matched an Intel CPU that clocks up to 6 GHz in IPC - basically that if you downclocked that Intel CPU to 2.5 GHz this Loongson chip will beat it.

    Apple M3 is neck and neck with that Intel chip when the M3 is running at 4 GHz and the Intel is running at its full 6 GHz, so Loongson has a loong way to go to catch up to the state of the art in either IPC or raw performance.

    1. StrangerHereMyself Silver badge

      Re: Fake benchmarks though

      Maybe it isn't needed. A PC from 2020 is still very useful today. In fact, I'm typing this post on a AMD Ryzen 5 from 2019.

      1. tiggity Silver badge

        Re: Fake benchmarks though

        Indeed, fairly irrelevant if they are a few years behind the curve for many uses.

        In IT you forget how little most people actually "hammer" their PCs and so a less performant CPU generally not a problem for the majority of people.

        And the main push of this is to get a "good enough" CPU for internal Chinese use (for a variety of reasons thumbing nose at other countries, national pride, independence from foreign suppliers (China has seen various trade embargos so may want to be prepared for worst case scenarios e.g. USA bans Intel / AMD CPU exports to China) etc.)

        A phone / tablet is usually lower performance compared to a PC but many people younger than me seem quite happy with the capabilities of those device (know plenty of people from younger generation's that don't have a desktop PC or even a laptop, their personal computing needs are met by mobile devices)

        1. Paul Crawford Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: Fake benchmarks though

          The Chinese CPU performance will be great - until the running-dog decadent west ports Windows 11 to run on it...

          1. Gene Cash Silver badge
            Joke

            Re: Fake benchmarks though

            Chinese hacker: Esteemed Party Chairman! We have stolen the Windows 11 source!

            Chinese party member: [looks] Ewww.. That's disgusting, put that back.

            1. Snowy Silver badge
              Joke

              Re: Fake benchmarks though

              Winddogs XII runs great on it, it is the dog b****cks

            2. HISTSIZE=10000
              Joke

              Windows Xi (視窗习)

              Chinese hacker: Esteemed Party Chairman! We have stolen the Windows 11 source!

              Party Chairman: Let's change the name. And use Roman numerals instead. So that we can't be accused of spying (again).

        2. Geoff Campbell Silver badge
          Holmes

          Re: Good enough

          Yup. I'm typing this on a PC with a 12th-gen i9, 64GB of RAM, and an NVMe SSD on the motherboard. Which mostly gets used to access websites and do simple Office applications work.

          I'll be replacing it next year, probably with something ARM-based, but the reality is that it is *massively* over-spec'ed for my usage. (And, yeah, the components will get re-purposed when it is replaced, they won't go to waste.)

          GJC

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Fake benchmarks though

        A PC from 2020 is still very useful today. In fact, I'm typing this post on a AMD Ryzen 5 from 2019.

        Indeed ...

        In fact, I'm typing this post on a Sun Ultra 24 WS / Intel Core 2 Q9550 from 2008.

        It turned 15 last November and has been my main box for the last 8.

        .

      3. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: Fake benchmarks though

        Maybe it isn't needed. A PC from 2020 is still very useful today.

        It is also nowhere near as fast as the fastest PC from 2020, but I agree a fast PC from 2013 or an average PC from 2020 it IS as fast as would be fine too. But they didn't point out its true performance in comparison with either current or past Intel chips, they used bogus benchmark comparisons to make it seem like it is competitive with Intel's highest end CPUs.

        The comparison they made would be like if some third world auto manufacturer making ultra compacts claimed their car had performance comparable to a Lamborghini, by saying "in third gear it is as fast as a Lamborghini Huracan", ignoring the difference that their car had only three gears while the Lamborghini has seven.

      4. LybsterRoy Silver badge

        Re: Fake benchmarks though

        That was very much my thought. For the vast majority of business tasks (and probably a lot of games) the speed quoted will be fine. Sort of like do you need a supercar capable of 170mph to do the school run?

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Loongson has a loong way to go

      Maybe so, but the important thing is that they've started the journey.

      Give them time and they may well find architectures that are better than ours.

      Besides, competition is always a good thing for the consumer, right ?

      1. fg_swe Bronze badge

        Both Russia and China

        ...have been in the CPU business for many years now. There are obvious reasons of sovereignty, security, military aspects and so on. It's called ELBRUS and Loongson for at least 10 years now. Both quite low-speed(approx RPI 3 speeds) if you cannot use the VLIW modes. On top of that they consider themselves smart by running Linux and all the FOSS you can find on the net. The good old socialist "can't we borrow from the enemy?"-strategy.

        Just looking at all of this exposes some of their limits.

        The interwebs and GooTranslate can tell you more.

        Spoiler: haven't seen anything truly innovative in both efforts, but maybe I overlooked something.

        1. fg_swe Bronze badge

          Re: Both Russia and China

          (of course a bit better than copying S/360 computers transistor-by-transistor...)

        2. Tuto

          Re: Both Russia and China

          The Russians reached Intel and Oracle how to make useful processor, lookup Vladimir Pentkowsky, the father of the first Pentium and the team from the Russian Academy of sciences that designed the wide instruction set Spark processor for Sun and Fujitsu ( now Oracle ).....

    3. thames

      Re: Fake benchmarks though

      Neither the author of the story nor the presenter at the conference made any claims about their 2.5 GHz chip matching an Intel 6 GHz chip in terms of performance. The story clearly states that it was being compared to "a comparable product from Intel's 10th-generation Core family, circa 2020". Anyone with a technical background would know that they would be comparing chips of a similar clock rate. Suggesting otherwise is being rather disingenuous.

      The conference statements (linked in the story) show that the chip at introduction was being targeted at the broader desktop market, rather than the top end niche gaming computers which Intel said their fastest chips were aimed at.

      The announcement title also suggested that they are aiming the first chip in this series at the mid-range PC market. They are clearly looking at mass market PC sales. They have server chips under development which will be announced later. If you want to see how their fastest server chips do, you'll have to wait for those to come out.

      You have provided no evidence that any of the benchmark results were "fake" as you claim. You have just done a lot of hand waving to distract from the fact that the developers appear to have been able to design a chip which is competitive in technical terms in the market for which it is oriented.

      Commercial success is different from technical success, so we'll have to wait and see how well this chip sells in the Chinese market and abroad, particularly outside of government sales.

      I suspect that we will be seeing similar announcements coming out of India in about 10 years time or so, except based on RISC-V. They have similar ambitions as China with respect to IT technology independence, and for similar reasons.

      1. Johannesburgel12

        Re: Fake benchmarks though

        Designing such a chip is not the issue. Just look at all those startups designing AI accelerators, they build ginormous chips that easily rival current-gen western designs.

        The main issue is actually producing the design. If you can only get a 38 Watt chip to 3 GHz with liquid nitrogen, there are some very serious limitations in your production process. Everybody else has been producing 3+ GHz designs with way larger nodes than 12/14 nm.

      2. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Fake benchmarks though

        "Neither the author of the story nor the presenter at the conference made any claims about their 2.5 GHz chip matching an Intel 6 GHz chip in terms of performance."

        It wasn't the comparison mentioned in the article, but yes, they sort of did. Specifically, the Intel Core I5-14600K running at 2.5 GHz. 6 GHz is an exaggeration as that chip only clocks up to 5.3 GHz, though. They did make that comparison, as limited as it is. Before accusing someone of making up facts to support their biases, you may want to check whether those facts are real and check your own biases.

      3. HISTSIZE=10000
        Meh

        India is must surer bet than China

        > They have similar ambitions as China with respect to IT technology independence, and for similar reasons.

        Ambition is cheap. India has tried before. And failed. But that was a long time ago.

        Now that the Indian diaspora is much better integrated in the IT community, they might very well succeed. But they will do so as part of the ecosystem. Not by recreating a parallel one. No country can do that. Not even India. In the semiconductor industry, self-sufficiency is a doomed anachronism.

        1. fg_swe Bronze badge

          India Did NOT Fail

          India yearned for true sovereignty, including nuclear weapons. They did not wanted to be bossed around by other nuclear powers.

          That is why they needed a secure supply of indigenous computers. Depending on the US and IBM was too risky.

          From a beancounting perspective they failed, but from a political-military perspective they rose to a semi-superpower by means of their homemade computers and the homemade nuclear weapon.

          There are many aspects of looking at an elephant. Don't focus on the backside, also look at the trunk, the big ears, the mighty tusks !

      4. Groo The Wanderer Silver badge

        Re: Fake benchmarks though

        Never mind the downvotes; you're bang on. People are taking nationalism to a foolish extreme when they think that America has some magical superiority to the Chinese. Look at who actually wins those national math competions in America... :)

        1. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

          Re: Fake benchmarks though

          If I’m not mistaken, the kind of kids you refer to, who regularly win those national math competitions in America are… American.

    4. Groo The Wanderer Silver badge

      Re: Fake benchmarks though

      CISC instructions sets do not run as efficiently as RISC instruction sets do. It is entirely feasible for one of Intel's processors to take several clocks per instruction vs a typical 1-2 for a RISC processor. Although branch prediction reduces that difference, it certainly doesn't eliminate it.

  2. StrangerHereMyself Silver badge

    Not big

    Loongsoon isn't even very big in China, except in High-Performance Computing where they're used in Chinese supercomputers. But the PC and server business is still mostly x86-based. There are a few Chinese x86 clones around, but they're mostly used for low-end stuff, like signage displays.

    1. fg_swe Bronze badge

      GNSS

      Apparently they use this CPU also for GNSS and other sovereign/mil applications. For obvious reasons of security.

    2. thames

      Re: Not big

      Loongsoon hasn't been big in China because Intel and AMD chips had been available for import at competitive prices.

      However, now that the Americans are embargoing sales to China, Loongsoon has been effectively granted a protected market to grow and develop in. The Chinese market is huge, so even if they don't see a lot of export sales (outside of embedded applications), they can still sell a lot.

      If the Chinese government had been the ones to make the decision to exclude Intel and AMD from this market segment in order to promote sale of Loongsoon CPUs, the Americans would have been the ones complaining about protectionism.

  3. David Newall

    As I explain, every time a colleague asks me to order a new PC, I won't because the cheapest, slowest PC you can buy is more than enough for most users. If you're doing large data analysis, I'll get something fast and big, if you're a gamer, yes, you need fast but but it yourself. If you're just doing email, web, typical spreadsheets and word processing, go away and stop wasting my time I've no patience for people who simply want shiny.

  4. xanadu42

    If China's manufacturers can follow (and achieve) a path along the lines of what Japanese manufacturers achieved with cars and electronics in the last quarter of last century then they will make western manufacturers vastly improve quality or product...

    1980's Japanese cars were pretty ho-hum, not today...

    1. fg_swe Bronze badge

      And

      Japan learned to live without babies. All human energy and friendliness spent on flooding the world with great cars, great cameras, binoculars and video recorders. Facilitated by a bonfire of giant monetary expansion.

      Future archeologists will call it the "Toyota Episode" followed by the "Phillipine phase". The latter is when a foreign people take over Japan, because the Japanese died of age and lack of children.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        China will be old...

        ...before it gets rich.

        China's demographic pyramid looks like a pagoda (with an ever shrinking base). It's well known and it is its most pressing issue. As a matter of fact, the CCP gerontocracy should worry more about their youth making babies than copying CPUs.

        Meanwhile, China's GDP per capita is still 1/3rd of Japanese one (and 1/7th of USA). And the current Chinese economy meltdown, peppered with a textbook FDI crisis, will not help.

  5. Bitsminer Silver badge

    But...

    Can you compile Crysis for it?

    With such mixed heritage (mips+risc iv) the compiler will be key.

  6. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

    Forget performance, what about availability and documentation?

    There's an OpenBSD port to decade old Loongson systems. It's basically functional but suffered from a lack of availability, higher cost (at least to get it out of China), and poor non Chinese documentation.

    Seems a bit odd given the incredibly cheap tech that can otherwise be obtained from China, but if loongson had made kit with acceptable performance easily available [1] then various operating systems would have been ported to it. I'm unaware of anyone shouting about it, although they've an uphill battle given the plethora of cheap ARM and x64 systems.

    [1] lets be honest : performance equivalent to a reasonably speedy Core 2 system from around 2008 is still adequate for web browsing, most desktop productivity, and if there's a reasonable graphics chipset in use video acceleration is offloaded onto that.

    1. thames

      Re: Forget performance, what about availability and documentation?

      According to the press release it runs several different Linux distros, including Kirin, Euler, Dragon Lizard, and Hongmeng. The first one may be an Ubuntu derivative for desktop, but I'm not entirely sure as there are multiple projects with similar names. the second two are CentOS derivatives from Huawei and Alibaba. The fourth is an open source Android derivative from Huawei. They're all existing current Linux distros that have simply been ported to Loongson.

      There's also a big range of development tools ported to the architecture, including GCC, LLVM, Go, Rust, Dot Net, etc. There are audio and video accelerator codecs, They said they are working with and contributing code to nearly 200 international open source communities, they're not working in isolation on this.

  7. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

    The real q is not when will China get better chips, but when will China actually build its own OS ?

  8. uidd1234

    Being able to overclock to 3.0g Hz is completely sufficient

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      It certainly is a good way to use my extra liquid nitrogen. Eventually, you get tired of flash freezing things, but who doesn't have some LN2 just lying around? Okay, you probably don't ever really get tired of flash freezing things, you just have to keep switching up which things you're doing it to.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Loongson was the FOSS hardware of choice

    I distinctly remember Richard Stallman using that hardware due to it offering more freedom (free BIOS support and proper free firmware). People might mock their marketing department for playing a bit loose with the truth about performance, but they're very quickly catching up to ARM and x86 levels of performance. It's only a matter of time until people have a lot more freedom of choice and freedom of use with their hardware than times past.

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