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In brief: China is trying to become more self-reliant when it comes to semiconductors with a plan to slowly replace its public infrastructure with solutions based on homegrown chips. It looks like commercial adoption is happening even faster, albeit with much less fanfare.
Over the past few years, China has been spending billions to reduce its reliance on American technology. The primary aim of that effort is to develop the homegrown intellectual property around semiconductors. Another goal is to extend the manufacturing capacity of local foundries and help them catch up with advances in process node technologies.
Last time we took a look at what China closing the gap looked like, we found its progress to be quite impressive considering the challenges that had to be overcome. We're talking about Zhaoxin's KaiXian KX-U6780A CPU, a relatively modest performer that doesn't challenge modern processors from Intel and AMD. At most, it can keep up with something like an Intel Core i3-7100 or an AMD Ryzen 3 3200G.
This week, CNX Software spotted a new small form factor PC circulating on the Indonesian market that's powered by a Zhaoxin KaiXian KX-6640MA CPU. Surprisingly enough, the tiny computer from Beelink sold out almost immediately thanks to its low price of 3.86 million Indonesian Rupees – a little over $271.
The Zhaoxin KX-6640MA is a 64-bit quad-core processor with no hyper-threading, a base clock of 2.1 GHz, four megabytes of level 2 cache, and a TDP of 25 watts. The processor can boost to a modest 2.6 GHz – enough to achieve the same single-core performance as the KX-U6780A but only half the multi-core performance due to fewer cores. Someone found the new CPU to be similar to an Intel Core i3-5010U, a dual-core CPU. That's not surprising when you consider this is a processor built on a 16 nm process node, with no L3 cache and no hyper-threading.
Interestingly, the C-960 integrated graphics allow for 4K 60fps video decoding acceleration. Otherwise, the mini PC itself comes with a standard configuration of eight gigabytes of DDR4 RAM (upgradeable to 64 gigabytes), a 256 GB PCIe SSD, and a one terabyte hard disk drive. There's also a slot for a second blade SSD of the SATA3 variety.
Connectivity options include six USB Type-A ports that support USB 3.0 speeds, two HDMI 2.0 ports, and two gigabit ethernet ports. There's also support for Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth 4 on board. It runs both Windows 10 and UOS – a commercial Chinese operating system based on Deepin Linux.
The Beelink LZX may look unimpressive, but it shows that Chinese-made x86 processors are slowly conquering the Asian market one step at a time. There's even a laptop from Megacore equipped with the same KaiXian KX-6640MA processor popping up at Asian retailers.
If you're curious about testing the Chinese CPU for yourself, you can find it in a similar mini PC at Newegg for $260.