Loongson CPU that performs like 2020 Core i3 makes its way to Chinese mini PCs

Slow but bona fide made in China

Loongson's current-generation 3A6000 processor, one of the fastest designed and made in China for consumers, is now available in a line of mini PCs.

The computers are made by Morefine, which terms its Loongson-powered small desktop offering the M700S. It has pretty standard specs that fit its ¥2,799 (just under $400) price tag: 16GB of DDR4-3200, a 256GB PCIe 3.0 SSD, Wi-Fi 5, and Bluetooth 5. The PC runs Loongson's Loongnix operating system, which is based on Linux.

The real draw for this computer, though, is the CPU, which is Loongson's 3A6000 that debuted last year. The 3A6000's LoongArch architecture takes cues from RISC-V and MIPS, which Loongson used for its prior CPUs. However, LoongArch might be more heavily based on MIPS than Loongson lets on, as one developer calls the Linux kernel code for LoongArch CPUs "a blind copy of the MIPS code."

With a modest four cores and eight threads running at clock speeds between 2.0 and 2.5 GHz, the 3A6000 doesn't set the world on fire. The limited number of reviews of the 3A6000 indicate it's only about as good as Intel's Core i3-10100 and AMD's Ryzen 3 3100, both of which launched in 2020 and have four cores and eight threads. The latest entry-level chips from the two American companies would undoubtedly outclass the 3A6000 substantially.

Although it's not a performance champion, the 3A6000 is fairly efficient according to a review by an employee of Asus, which is a partner of Loongson. While the Core i3-10100 consumed up to 52 watts, the 3A6000 consumed only 42, making it more efficient than the Intel chip in benchmarks where the performance level was even or in Loongson's favor. That's a low-enough power draw to fit into mini PCs such as the M700S.

The same review showed the 3A6000 matching the Core i5-14600K when at the same clock speed of 2.5 GHz, indicating the Chinese CPU has an equivalent instructions-per-clock (IPC) rate of Intel's Raptor Lake architecture. Other reviews found the 3A6000 matches the IPC of AMD's 2020 Zen 3 architecture.

In the wider market of mini PCs, the Morefine M700S isn't a great deal overall. There are plenty of entry-level models that boast AMD and Intel chips with more performance than the 3A6000, and sometimes more memory and storage, too.

However, Loongson may not need to worry too much about competition since the Chinese government seems poised to banish AMD and Intel silicon from the country. That would leave Loongson and similar companies such as Zhaoxin, which makes x86-compatible CPUs, as candidates to fill the void in the PC market. ®

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