Zhaoxin is a developer of homegrown x86 processors from China, but apparently has ambitions beyond CPUs. The term Zhao xin means ‘million core’. According to a recent report by cnTechPost, the Chinese company teased a new low-cost 70W discrete GPU in a video posted on its newly overhauled website. The video has been taken down though, but cnTechPost grabbed a copy of the company’s roadmap, and it appears that Zhaoxin has plans to introduce a new 70W discrete GPU that will be fabbed using TSMC’s 28nm process. Zhaoxin said that this will fill a gap in China’s GPU space.
Now, this news might not seem that much relevant to some of you, but having another GPU competitor in the market space is always a welcome change for sure, despite Zhaoxin being a Chinese-based company.
As you know the number of discrete GPU vendors shrank to two by the late 2000s as a result of a tough competition between ATI Technologies (now part of AMD) and Nvidia. In 2017, Intel announced its comeback to the market of standalone discrete graphics cards, and according to recent reports Apple might also offer desktop-class graphics too. Now one more player is willing to join in the game, which appears to be Zhaoxin.
So if we only count AMD and Nvidia for the time being, Zhaoxin appears to be the third gaming/enterprise GPU competitor in the market, but sadly only for the Chinese/Asian market. Though as per one report, if the company manages to introduce a capable discrete GPU for China, then they might target other regions and countries as well. But nonetheless, a third/fourth GPU competitor is always a welcome change for sure, at least in my opinion.
Zhaoxin, is a joint venture between China-based Shanghai SASAC (that owns an 80% stake) and Taiwan-based Via Technologies (with a 20% stake), and the company has been selling ‘homegrown’ x86 processors exclusively for the Chinese market for several years now.
The company’s top high-end ‘KaiXian KX 6000’series of CPUs which feature eight in-house designed ‘LuJiaZui’ cores, and a dual-channel DDR4 memory controller are said to offer performance comparable to that of Intel’s 7th Generation Core i5, which is a quad core non Hyper-threaded processor. In the video recently posted on their website, Zhaoxin revealed that a new standalone graphics processor is in the works according to the company’s roadmap. Due to be released in late 2020 or in early 2021, the GPU will likely support a DirectX 11.1 or DirectX 12-level feature set, but we don’t know for sure. The chip will also have a TDP of up to 70 W, which seems high for laptops, but it is good enough for small form-factor PCs/OEM desktops (SFF).
This homegrown dGPU can also been seen as a development platform for ISVs. The dGPU is expected to derive from VIA’s S3 Graphics IP as VIA has collaborated with Zhaoxin as an iGPU provider for its KaiXian lineup of x86 SoCs.
If you are interested in the KaiXian KX 6000 series processor, then you can read the full review and testing done by Tom’s Hardware. The company’s use of the 28nm process node for the dGPU obviously seems a bit odd and lags the current industry norm, with vendors like AMD and Nvidia already moving on to TSMC’s 7nm tech node, but this move could be because of the recent ongoing US sanctions which prevents TSMC from providing 16nm and smaller processes to its own China customers.
As of now, it’s not very clear how Zhaoxin would be able to produce a discrete and a competitive GPU without infringing any graphics IP from AMD, Nvidia, or Intel. However, according to Tom’s hardware KaiXian review, Zhaoxin’s parent company VIA has access to a graphics IP from S3 graphics.
Given the 28nm process technology and a 70W TDP of this upcoming GPU, it is unlikely that Zhaoxin’s discrete homegrown graphics processor will be able to compete against the likes of AMD and Nvidia, at least on the high-end enterprise/gaming graphics card market.
Though, Zhaoxin has plans to conquer other markets as well, such as the high-performance computing sector. Zhaoxin also has integrated graphics units for its CPU platform, though the GPUs are embedded in the chipset. Zhaoxin’s existing iGPUs support DX11, OpenCL 1.1, and OpenGL 3.2 and features hardware-accelerated video encoding and decoding. The integrated graphics also support DisplayPort, eDP, HDMI and VGA interfaces and can simultaneously output to two screens at 4K resolution.
Based on the 70W TDP envelope, it’s conceivable that the new homegrown Chinese GPU will target SFF systems, and low cost OEM desktop PCs, thus giving China an alternative to produce its own graphics, and capture the market.
Via Technologies used to own a bunch of graphics patents it acquired with S3 Graphics in the early 2000s, but in 2011 the majority of those patents were sold to HTC, which happens to be controlled by the same person as Via Technologies.