Russian Company Taps China's Zhaoxin x86 CPU to Replace AMD, Intel CPUs (Updated)

Zhaoxin
(Image credit: Zhaoxin)

Update 05/19 5:05 pm PT: A representative from Zhaoxin has confirmed to Tom's Hardware that the company only focuses on business in China. Zhaoxin has no intention thus far to sell its products to other countries. Zhaoxin has also sent out announcements to its partners to emphasize the company's policy and to ensure that they understand Zhaoxin's policy.

Original story:

Now that AMD and Intel do not officially sell their processors in Russia, the country has to find replacements to not find itself in the stone age one day. This week Dannie (opens in new tab), a motherboard maker with offices in Russia, China, Lithuania, and Turkey, introduced its new motherboard based on Zhaoxin's system-on-chip. While this chip can barely compete against modern CPUs from AMD and Intel, it is compatible with the vast majority of apps and OSes, so it can indeed replace these processors.

Dannie's MBX-Z60A micro-ATX motherboard features Zhaoxin's eight-core KaiXian KX-6640MA system-on-chip featuring the LuJiaZui microarchitecture, a 4MB of L2 cache, and a frequency of 2.10 GHz – 2.70 GHz. In addition, the SoC features a built-in graphics processor, 16 PCIe 3.0 lanes, a built-on SATA controller, an integrated USB 3.0 controller, and other essential I/O technologies. Since the chip caters to desktops and laptops, its maximum thermal design power does not exceed 25W.

As for specifications of the MBX-Z60A motherboard, it carries two memory slots for DDR4 memory and has two PCIe x16 slots for add-in-boards, one M.2-2280 slot for SSDs, an M.2-2230 slot for Wi-Fi/Bluetooth adapters, and three SATA ports, reports Habr (opens in new tab). External I/O connections are concerned; the platform has USB ports, display outputs (a DisplayPort, an HDMI, and a VGA/D-Sub), a GbE connector, 3.5-mm audio input/output, and even PS/2 ports.

(Image credit: Habr.com)

From a performance point of view, the KaiXian KX-6640MA is slower than the KaiXian KX-U6780A processor that sits higher in the product stack and which we tested a couple of years ago. Still, the lower-end one is probably cheaper too, which is essential for many clients, particularly those who only run office applications and do not need serious performance anyway.

One of the advantages that processors developed by Zhaoxin, a joint venture between Via Technologies and the Shanghai Municipal Government, have over other CPUs designed in China because they feature the x86 instruction set architecture. Therefore, they are compatible with dozens of operating systems (including Windows) and tens of thousands of apps. As a result, while processors developed by Zhaoxin are tangibly slower when compared to CPUs from AMD and Intel, they have still been deemed an alternative because of compatibility.

In fact, in the recent quarters, we saw the growing adoption of Zhaoxin's CPUs by international brands amid a tight supply of low-end SoCs by AMD and Intel. Qnap introduced a NAS based on a Zhaoxin CPU about a year ago. Then Lenovo chose one of such chips for its thin-and-light machine aimed at the Chinese market and designed for government and government-controlled companies that need to use software intended solely in China.

Will Dannie's MBX-Z60A motherboard relies on Zhaoxin's eight-core KaiXian KX-6640MA SoC to help Russia reduce the consequences of international sanctions and lack of AMD and Intel CPUs? For some applications, probably yes. Dannie can produce 'tens of thousands of motherboards per month,' which should be enough to meet demand from various government institutions for a while. For Zhaoxin, additional sales are a benefit. But for any performance-demanding workloads, Zhaoxin's SoCs will not be able to replace CPUs from AMD and Intel.

Anton Shilov
Freelance News Writer

Anton Shilov is a Freelance News Writer at Tom’s Hardware US. Over the past couple of decades, he has covered everything from CPUs and GPUs to supercomputers and from modern process technologies and latest fab tools to high-tech industry trends.

  • BillyBuerger
    Is that really an 8-pin CPU power header for a 25W CPU?
    Reply
  • escksu
    BillyBuerger said:
    Is that really an 8-pin CPU power header for a 25W CPU?

    Yes it is. But 8pin atx 12v is standard these days. You can still connect 4pin connector to 8pin socket.

    And if you are wondering why still need the connector. Its for 2 reasons:

    1. Atx 24pin connector supplies power to pcie slots.

    2. Trace routing. If you tap power from the 24pin, you have to route traces from the atx connector. As you can see, its very far away from the voltage regulators.
    Reply
  • Headbrother
    The way is "ARM" and "ARM-V"
    Or Until something different is accomplished.
    Reply
  • BillyBuerger
    escksu said:
    Yes it is. But 8pin atx 12v is standard these days. You can still connect 4pin connector to 8pin socket.

    Yeah, that's a good point. Most PSUs expect an 8-pin CPU power. If it were just a 4-pin which would be sufficient, you'd have to split the now default 8-pin CPU power cable and have the second half hanging off looking weird.
    Reply
  • King_V
    I'm curious, given Russia's limited options, how much China is going to milk them on the price.

    I imagine that China is going to enjoy being the partner with the much greater leverage between themselves and Russia, and will have no qualms over leveraging Russia's self-inflicted desperation.
    Reply
  • user2287
    Couldn't Intel just yank the licensing?
    Reply
  • thisisaname
    user2287 said:
    Couldn't Intel just yank the licensing?


    If they could there is a few others they would like to un license before doing this one.

    A license you can revoke on a whim is not much of a license.
    Reply
  • hotaru.hino
    user2287 said:
    Couldn't Intel just yank the licensing?
    Instruction sets are not copyrightable. Basically it was ruled that instruction sets are considered an interface to the system. It'd be like someone trying to copyright a steering wheel, the keyboard, or a light switch. They are interfaces to something. If instruction sets were copyrightable and someone could be able to be taken down, then I'm surprised Wikipedia still has a page listing every x86 instruction.

    What is copyrightable however is how these instructions are executed. That's the tech being licensed around the microprocessor world.
    Reply
  • TJ Hooker
    hotaru.hino said:
    Instruction sets are not copyrightable. Basically it was ruled that instruction sets are considered an interface to the system. It'd be like someone trying to copyright a steering wheel, the keyboard, or a light switch. They are interfaces to something. If instruction sets were copyrightable and someone could be able to be taken down, then I'm surprised Wikipedia still has a page listing every x86 instruction.

    What is copyrightable however is how these instructions are executed. That's the tech being licensed around the microprocessor world.
    The x86 ISA is protected by patents rather than copyright. Patents only last 20 years, so the original x86 patent has expired, but in practice it keeps getting extended by new instruction set extensions. By the time older patents expire, the newer extensions (still protected by patent) have received wide enough adoption that a CPU without them would be handicapped, especially for a newcomer trying to break into the market. Wash, rinse, and repeat.

    Implementation/execution details would also be protected by patent, or simply be trade secrets (as patenting them necessarily involves revealing the design details to the public, potentially allowing a competitor to copy your product/feature with a design modified to skirt the patent).
    Reply
  • Krotow
    By moving on such CPUs Russias IT sector is effectively moving back to begin of 2000-s. Well, it is pretty much usable for existing office and utility applications anyway. But any progress will be slow if even will happen.
    Reply