Via's back with improved x86 CPUs, and fab advances are coming too

China’s autonomy is growing fast on chips… now the only remaining other x86 licensee has a CPU that’s getting to look competitive.

It’s been a long journey for Zhaoxin and its KX-7000 series consumer CPUs, which were first anticipated to launch in 2019. They have arrived at last, with Zhaoxin claiming that the KX-7000 is twice as fast as the previous generation KX-6000 processors we tested. The KX-7000 represents an important step forward for China’s fledgling semiconductor industry as it looks to gain independence from Western technology and sanctions, and it comes from the sole Chinese company with an x86 manufacturing license. Speaking of which, the US has restricted China’s access to leading process node technologies, making it hard for the country to create chips. Zhoaxin isn’t divulging the process node used in its new processor, and sources close to the matter tell Tom’s Hardware that the company won’t reveal its fab partner or process node due to an NDA.

In either case, the Zhoaxin KX-7000 chips are sure to be one of the fastest CPUs natively made in China, and they come with a much more robust array of platform features that provide modern amenities — a rarity with China’s self-designed chips. These new features include PCIe 4.0 interfaces and DDR5 memory support.

The new “Century Avenue” architecture inside KX-7000 has an improved front-end, out-of-order execution, and optimizations to the cache and memory system, so it’s plausible that Zhaoxin might have pulled off a Zen moment. Fellow Chinese CPU maker Loongson achieved Zen 3-like IPC with its 3A6000, so there’s no reason Zhaoxin couldn’t do the same.

Gate-all-around transistors are in reach too. They’re not sitting on their hands.

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