Export bans prompt Russia to use Chinese x86 CPU replacement

With few options, Russia will look to half-fast chips from Chinese maker


With Russia cut off from foreign processor makers Intel and AMD, the country has been scrambling to switch to more local CPUs and components.

Russia's latest step in securing supply chains for new computers comes in the form of a newly released desktop motherboard designed to support x86-compatible CPUs made by Chinese chip designer Zhaoxin, which is a joint venture between Taiwan's Via Technologies and the Shanghai municipal government.

The new motherboard, called MBX-Z60A, is made by electronics manufacturer Dannie, which has headquarters in Russia and China, according to a machine translation of an article published last week by Russian-language news aggregator Habr.

The motherboard was designed to help Russia replace the x86 processors it can no longer get from Intel and AMD due to export bans imposed by the US and other countries.

Habr said that Danny LLC, the Russian division of Dannie producing the motherboard, has the capability to make tens of thousands of boards every month, and that could expand over time.

The MBX-Z60A has a micro-ATX form factor, meaning it can fit in smaller desktops, and the CPU going inside is Zhaoxin's KaiXian KX-6640MA. There is some conflicting information on the processor's specs. Habr said that it has eight cores, but test results submitted for the Geekbench and PassMark benchmarks indicate that the KX-6640MA has four cores.

This is corroborated in a report by CNX Software, where benchmarks showed a base frequency of 2.1 GHz, a turbo frequency of 2.6 GHz, an L2 cache of 4MB, and a thermal design power of 25 watts. The processor also comes with 16 lanes of PCIe 3.0 connectivity and USB 3.0 support.  

In other words, the KX-6640MA isn't just behind the times in terms of features, it's also not fast — at all — even when compared to recent smartphone chips, as Habr notes.

According to test results submitted for the PassMark benchmark, the KX-6640MA had an average CPU mark score of 1,566, which puts it at a fraction of the 8,543 score notched by Apple's A14 Bionic chip that goes in 2020's iPhone 12 family of smartphones.  

When you compare the KX-6640MA to four-core options from Intel, it's very unflattering for Zhaoxin, given that the CPU seems to have come out last year. For instance, Intel's Core i5-2500K from 2011 has an average CPU mark score that is 2.5x higher than the KX-6640MA, and the score for Intel's Core i3-12100 from this year is more than 9x higher.

Habr said the KX-6640MA should still be suitable for a "wide range of office tasks," and at least the processor will be compatible with x86-based software. But its slow nature underlines the issues Russia has created for itself by committing atrocities against a neighboring country.

The KX-6640MA is also going into a new laptop manufactured by Russian device maker Tonk, as Russian-language IT news site iXBT.com reported earlier this month.

As for other efforts that will help Russia replace Intel and AMD CPUs in PCs, a state-backed company called Rostec was working on laptop chips using the open-source RISC-V instruction set architecture, according to a report from last year.

On the server side, Russia has been adjusting to export bans with the introduction of a new supercomputer platform that can use foreign x86 CPUs as well as the country's homegrown Elbrus processors. The idea is to help developers port x86-based programs to Elbrus.

But even then, the performance of Elbrus-based servers hasn't been promising, with Russian-language site ServerNews.ru reporting in December that SberInfra, the technology division of Russia's biggest bank Sber, found Elbrus processors were inadequate for multiple workloads due to "insufficient memory, slow memory, few cores [and] low frequency." ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • AMD to end Threadripper Pro 5000 drought for non-Lenovo PCs
    As the House of Zen kills off consumer-friendly non-Pro TR chips

    A drought of AMD's latest Threadripper workstation processors is finally coming to an end for PC makers who faced shortages earlier this year all while Hong Kong giant Lenovo enjoyed an exclusive supply of the chips.

    AMD announced on Monday it will expand availability of its Ryzen Threadripper Pro 5000 CPUs to "leading" system integrators in July and to DIY builders through retailers later this year. This announcement came nearly two weeks after Dell announced it would release a workstation with Threadripper Pro 5000 in the summer.

    The coming wave of Threadripper Pro 5000 workstations will mark an end to the exclusivity window Lenovo had with the high-performance chips since they launched in April.

    Continue reading
  • Nvidia taps Intel’s Sapphire Rapids CPU for Hopper-powered DGX H100
    A win against AMD as a much bigger war over AI compute plays out

    Nvidia has chosen Intel's next-generation Xeon Scalable processor, known as Sapphire Rapids, to go inside its upcoming DGX H100 AI system to showcase its flagship H100 GPU.

    Jensen Huang, co-founder and CEO of Nvidia, confirmed the CPU choice during a fireside chat Tuesday at the BofA Securities 2022 Global Technology Conference. Nvidia positions the DGX family as the premier vehicle for its datacenter GPUs, pre-loading the machines with its software and optimizing them to provide the fastest AI performance as individual systems or in large supercomputer clusters.

    Huang's confirmation answers a question we and other observers have had about which next-generation x86 server CPU the new DGX system would use since it was announced in March.

    Continue reading
  • Intel says Sapphire Rapids CPU delay will help AMD catch up
    Our window to have leading server chips again is narrowing, exec admits

    While Intel has bagged Nvidia as a marquee customer for its next-generation Xeon Scalable processor, the x86 giant has admitted that a broader rollout of the server chip has been delayed to later this year.

    Sandra Rivera, Intel's datacenter boss, confirmed the delay of the Xeon processor, code-named Sapphire Rapids, in a Tuesday panel discussion at the BofA Securities 2022 Global Technology Conference. Earlier that day at the same event, Nvidia's CEO disclosed that the GPU giant would use Sapphire Rapids, and not AMD's upcoming Genoa chip, for its flagship DGX H100 system, a reversal from its last-generation machine.

    Intel has been hyping up Sapphire Rapids as a next-generation Xeon CPU that will help the chipmaker become more competitive after falling behind AMD in technology over the past few years. In fact, Intel hopes it will beat AMD's next-generation Epyc chip, Genoa, to the market with industry-first support for new technologies such as DDR5, PCIe Gen 5 and Compute Express Link.

    Continue reading
  • AMD touts big datacenter, AI ambitions in CPU-GPU roadmap
    Epyc future ahead, along with Instinct, Ryzen, Radeon and custom chip push

    After taking serious CPU market share from Intel over the last few years, AMD has revealed larger ambitions in AI, datacenters and other areas with an expanded roadmap of CPUs, GPUs and other kinds of chips for the near future.

    These ambitions were laid out at AMD's Financial Analyst Day 2022 event on Thursday, where it signaled intentions to become a tougher competitor for Intel, Nvidia and other chip companies with a renewed focus on building better and faster chips for servers and other devices, becoming a bigger player in AI, enabling applications with improved software, and making more custom silicon.  

    "These are where we think we can win in terms of differentiation," AMD CEO Lisa Su said in opening remarks at the event. "It's about compute technology leadership. It's about expanding datacenter leadership. It's about expanding our AI footprint. It's expanding our software capability. And then it's really bringing together a broader custom solutions effort because we think this is a growth area going forward."

    Continue reading
  • Russia, China warn US its cyber support of Ukraine has consequences
    Countries that accept US infosec help told they could pay a price too

    Russia and China have each warned the United States that the offensive cyber-ops it ran to support Ukraine were acts of aggression that invite reprisal.

    The US has acknowledged it assisted Ukraine to shore up its cyber defences, conducted information operations, and took offensive actions during Russia's illegal invasion.

    While many nations occasionally mention they possess offensive cyber-weapons and won't be afraid to use them, admissions they've been used are rare. US Cyber Command chief General Paul Nakasone's public remarks to that effect were therefore unusual.

    Continue reading
  • Nothing says 2022 quite like this remote-controlled machine gun drone
    GNOM is small, but packs a mighty 7.62mm punch

    The latest drone headed to Ukraine's front lines isn't getting there by air. This one powers over rough terrain, armed with a 7.62mm tank machine gun.

    The GNOM (pronounced gnome), designed and built by a company called Temerland, based in Zaporizhzhia, won't be going far either. Next week it's scheduled to begin combat trials in its home city, which sits in southeastern Ukraine and has faced periods of rocket attacks and more since the beginning of the war.

    Measuring just under two feet in length, a couple inches less in width (57cm L х 60cm W x 38cm H), and weighing around 110lbs (50kg), GNOM is small like its namesake. It's also designed to operate quietly, with an all-electric motor that drives its 4x4 wheels. This particular model forgoes stealth in favor of a machine gun, but Temerland said it's quiet enough to "conduct covert surveillance using a circular survey camera on a telescopic mast."

    Continue reading
  • IBM finally shutters Russian operations, lays off staff
    Axing workers under 40 must feel like a novel concept for Big Blue

    After freezing operations in Russia earlier this year, IBM has told employees it is ending all work in the country and has begun laying off staff. 

    A letter obtained by Reuters sent by IBM CEO Arvind Krishna to staff cites sanctions as one of the prime reasons for the decision to exit Russia. 

    "As the consequences of the war continue to mount and uncertainty about its long-term ramifications grows, we have now made the decision to carry out an orderly wind-down of IBM's business in Russia," Krishna said. 

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022