Chinese Chip Maker Loongson Claims Its CPU's IPC Will Rival AMD's Zen 3 By 2023

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Whatever your feelings on the modern Chinese state, you have to admit that it's reasonable for the country to want to achieve technological independence. Whether it's reasonable to think that the country could actually achieve such a thing is arguable, but it's looking more and more likely by the day.

The latest announcement out of the country's state-backed Loongson, a CPU manufacturer that's been around for 21 years, was centered on the release of its Godson 3A5000 quad-core and 3C5000 16-core CPUs. These chips aren't particularly impressive compared to the latest processors based on overseas technology, but they're faster than just about anything else designed and produced in China—at least by Loongson's own reckoning.

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Chart showing a comparison of the new 3A5000 and upcoming 3A6000.

The real fascinating news from the announcement was that its next-generation Godson 3A6000 processors based on LA664 architecture will match the instructions-per-clock (IPC) of AMD's Zen 3 processors. That's also similar to Intel's 11th-generation Tiger Lake CPUs. Loongson has been committed to improving its single-threaded performance for the last decade, and it seems those efforts have paid off.

Loongson itself ran SPEC 2006 on a Ryzen 5 5600G and a Core i7-1165G7 as well as a simulation of its own 3A6000 CPU. The results bear out similar IPC for the three chips, but it's worth noting that the Loongson chip is not expected to clock higher than 3GHz, meaning that the actual realized performance will be much lower than its foreign counterparts. The final performance deficit is largely down to fabrication process, according to Loongson.

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Roadmap showing Loongson's planned performance trajectory.

Heady enthusiasts might sneer at this kind of last-generation performance, but it's important to put this in context. Loongson is using its own instruction-set architecture; these aren't x86-64 compatible CPUs. The architecture is home-grown from the ground up, although EE Times China notes that the new chips feature the "introduction of overseas technologies," at least if Google Translate is to be believed. No clue on what that might be.

Naturally, software support is a concern for any CPU using an unusual instruction set, but Loongson is understandably eager to note that it has basically everything open-source running on its chips, and it also has a translation layer for x86 to LoongArch, though there's no word about how fast it is. Loongson is expecting to release the 3A6000 and 3C6000 CPUs next year, with an MCM 32-core model coming later in the year.

Images courtesy of EET-China