On the announced day and time, China did what it said it would do: unveil the Loongson 3A6000. As China’s first fully independent “low-performance” CPU, the announcement is highly significant. In true Western fashion, the company displayed all the performance data, making it clear that their approach is equally valid, and that the 3A6000 is only three generations behind industry giant Intel.
The dependence on Intel and AMD is coming to an end. China is officially and gradually saying goodbye to the low-end CPU offerings of the two American companies by 2024 with this CPU. Now, China has control over hardware and software for businesses and institutions under Xi Jinping’s leadership, and the country is not too far behind.
Loongson 3A6000, the beginning of China’s independence in CPUs, is now a reality.
As the years go by, this reality will become even more pronounced, as Loongson already has a successor in the works. With the Loongson 3A6000, China possesses a CPU composed of 4 P-Cores + 4 E-Cores with a frequency of 2.5 GHz and some unique features beyond having a completely independent ISA and a revamped microarchitecture.
These features include 128-bit LSX instructions, 256-bit LASX, and support for what they call SMT2. In terms of RAM, it supports Dual Channel with DDR4-3200 and SM2, SM3, and SM4 compatibility. This is the culmination of a true race that began 10 years ago, when the company made a significant leap in performance from 1985 to 2013, putting them in a position to compete with Intel and AMD. Now, in 2023, Loongson claims it has learned from its mistakes and can keep pace with its two global rivals. But what real performance does the Loongson 3A6000 achieve?
The Loongson 3A6000 is 103% faster than its predecessor, comparable to an Intel Core i3-10100
The company has been asserting that it would be on equal footing with the i3-10100, a CPU launched in 2020 as part of Intel’s low-end offerings. The data they presented demonstrates the performance leap they achieved in just one generation—with the Loongson 3A6000 boasting a 103% increase in multicore integer performance and an 83% increase in FLOAT compared to its predecessor, the 3A5000.
In single-core performance, the differences are 62% better in INT and 92% better in FLOAT, which is outstanding and speaks well of their ability to correct previous errors. But how close is it to Intel?
Considering Intel has four generations of more advanced CPUs on the market—equivalent to three years—the comparison is with the aforementioned i3-10100 with 4 cores and 8 threads. In SPEC CPU 2006 benchmarks, the 3A6000 is reported to be 20% faster in multicore INT and 17% better in multicore FLOAT.
As for single-core performance, the two CPUs are tied in integers, while the Chinese CPU is only 5% slower in FLOAT, and there’s more.
SPEC CPU 2017 benchmarks surprise further with the Loongson 3A6000
Moving on to SPEC CPU 2017 benchmarks, the data is even more closely matched, although Intel’s CPU does win in three of the four tests by a slim margin. Lastly, in Stream Copy, the Loongson 3A6000 achieves a single-core performance of +26% with 32.210 Gb/s. In multiprocessing, it scores a +99% difference compared to Intel’s CPU, almost doubling the performance.
In UnixBench, the average percentage difference favors the Loongson CPU by over 10%. Therefore, China is only four CPU generations and three years behind, and it is now officially independent in entry-level PCs. By next year, China aims to achieve independence in mid-range PCs, and if it continues this trend, it will do so in high-end PCs within two more years, even if slightly behind Intel and AMD, at least based on the performance projections provided by Loongson.