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.
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Eliza Gkritsi

Eliza was TechNode's blockchain and fintech reporter until July 2021, when she moved to CoinDesk to cover crypto in Asia. Get in touch with her via email or Twitter.