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Chinese chipmaker insists it has Intel on-side, not inside

Home-grown CPU looks suspiciously like a Core i3, but local firm insists it's a collab not a copy

Chinese vendor Baode Group has denied claims its recently released homegrown CPU is in fact just a rebadged Intel CPU.

The chip shop launched its Powerstar P3-01105 CPU in early May, trumpeting it as a local triumph, suitable for all manner of desktop applications.

It's not in dispute that the chip uses the x86 architecture. Even in the current geopolitical climate, it is not odd for a Chinese maker to produce an x86, because Shanghai Zhaoxin Semiconductor Co. acquired a license to the architecture from Taiwanese firm Via in 2020.

Via spent the better part of 20 years trying to crack the x86 market and, while it produced some decent silicon, it never threatened Intel or AMD. So eventually it sold its IP into a joint venture with Shanghai Zhaoxin.

Current geopolitical issues do, however, make Chinese-designed and/or made CPUs a matter of great interest and strategic significance. So Baode's boasts that it had built an x86 were noticed far and wide.

Once silicon sleuths started to look into the processor, though, they found it had the same specs, and the same performance, as the Core i3-10105 – a quad-core cruiser based on the Comet Lake architecture and released in 2021.

On Twitter, wags pointed out that the two CPUs even look the same, and that the names "P3-01105" and "i3-10105" are more than passingly similar.

Tongues began to wag: might Baode – also known as PowerLeader – have Intel inside?

Rumors raged for weeks, until Baode boss Li Ruijie smacked them down with a social media post that states the CPU was designed "with the support of Intel."

Just what that means is not entirely clear, and Intel has stayed schtum on the matter.

If Intel did indeed have a hand in the CPU's genesis, it would not be out of bounds – nor out of the ordinary. Intel could have sought and been granted a license to export its tech to PowerLeader, because US sanctions on tech exports are designed to stop Beijing building its military and conducting surveillance. The People's Liberation Army will not become markedly more formidable if it gets its hands on some mid-range desktop CPUS.

But Intel does make custom tweaks for big customers: in 2015 we spotted it doing Xeons tuned to Oracle Cloud's requirements.

PowerLeader claimed it would shift 1.5 million Powerstar P3-01105 CPUs – a number big enough to pique Intel's interest.

Li Ruijie maintains PowerLeader will go on to become a giant of China's semiconductor scene.

With China intent on replacing foreign-made PCs and developing its own CPUs, Intel probably can't say the same. ®

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