Centaur Technology announced its CNS x86 core back in 2019. Unfortunately, it never made it to the market, officially, at least, because the company was sold to Intel last year. However, Twitter user Brutus (opens in new tab) recently snagged a Centaur CHA processor from a liquidation auction and put it through its paces. The user's benchmarks provide us with a quick look at what the chip could have been if the project had come to fruition.
For those of you that don't know or remember Centaur Technology, it used to be the x86 R&D arm of VIA Technologies. Centaur Technology had been a subsidiary of VIA Technologies since 1999 before the latter offloaded part of the former's engineering personnel to Intel for a whopping $125 million in 2021.
Centaur Technology started development on CHA in 2016. The chip wields the company's CNS cores along with an AI co-processor, has AVX-512 support, and presumably offers similar performance to Intel's Haswell processors at the time. The chipmaker designed CHA for TSMC's 16nm process node and envisioned the processor for the server market. The last forecast for CHA production was 2020, but the project is probably dead by now.
Brutus' Centaur chip, which carries the CentaurHauls codename, has eight CNS cores at 2.2 GHz and 16MB of L3 cache. The frequency is static. The Geekbench 5 submission (opens in new tab) revealed that the processor seemingly resides in a socket similar to Intel's LGA2011 socket. It explains why the CHA looks shockingly identical to Intel's Core X-Series HEDT chips and even has four DDR4 memory channels at its disposal.
Brutus shared multiple benchmarks of the Centaur CNS, but we could only find comparable results for some of them. Therefore, we picked the Cinebench R23 and Geekbench 5 results and compared them to the data from our sister site AnandTech and the Geekbench 5 database, respectively.
Centaur CNS Benchmarks
|Header Cell - Column 0||Cinebench R23 Single Core||Cinebench R23 Multi Core||Geekbench 5 Single-Core||Geekbench 5 Multi-Core|
|Ryzen 5 3400G||N/A||N/A||925||3,575|
|Intel Core i5-6600||1,042*||3,810*||957||3,103|
|AMD Athlon II X2 250||477*||910*||358||657|
*Data obtained from Anandtech's CPU benchmark database.
In Cinebench R23, the Centaur CNS's single-core performance was equal to AMD's Athlon II X2 250, a low-end chip that dates back to 2009 on the extinct K10 cores. On the other hand, multi-core performance was similar to Intel's Core i5-6600 (Skylake) from 2015.
If you prefer Geekbench 5 as a reference point, the Centaur CNS performed roughly in the same alley as AMD's Bulldozer-powered FX-8150 in single-core performance. However, regarding multi-core performance, the Centaur CNS was just a hairline from the Ryzen 5 3400G, a more or less modern chip that leverages Zen+ cores.
By now, it should be clear that the Centaur CNS isn't a powerhouse and not a gaming chip. However, for the curious, Brutus discovered that the Centaur CNS was on par with quad-core, eight-thread Haswell chips in Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Unfortunately, the reviewer didn't have any luck with Minecraft. Power consumption wasn't horrible, either. According to Brutus, the Centaur CNS returned with a reported power draw of 65W approximately.
It would be foolish to think that VIA Technologies would resurrect the Centaur CNS for the retail market. However, that doesn't mean that it's gone for good. Although VIA Technologies sold its Centaur division, the company retained the x86 license and other CPU-related patents. In addition, VIA Technologies is in a joint venture with Chinese chipmaker Shanghai Zhaoxin Semiconductor Co., so it wouldn't shock us if some remnants of the Centaur CNS made their way into Zhaoxin's next-generation x86 processors, such as the KaiXian KX-7000 series.