Chinese Inventors to Reveal Quad-Core “Nearly x86” Microprocessor Next Year

Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Godson 3 May Compete Against AMD and Intel

by Anton Shilov
09/09/2008 | 06:06 PM

There were numerous companies trying to compete against Intel Corp. on the field of x86 microprocessors, but all of them have vanished into thin air. But Chinese Academy of Sciences hopes that it will be able to offer an alternative to products by AMD and Intel in the coming years.


The first central processing units (CPUs) developed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences – Godson and Godson 2 (also known about Loongson and Loongson 2) – could allow building certain very low-cost products, but for something that required even minimal level of performance microprocessors by Advanced Micro Devices and Intel Corp. were compulsory. However, developers of Godson 3 hope that the forthcoming chips that are due in 2009 and 2010 will offer an alternative to AMD and Intel not only because relatively high performance, but also because of certain level of compatibility with x86 instructions.

The Godson 3 processor, which was recently discussed by its developers, is a 64-bit quad-core MIPS RISC chip that includes 200 extra instructions which allow to run x86 code on the CPU. The central processing unit will have integrated DDR2 memory controller. The chip is scheduled to arrive in 2009.

“The most interesting part of the chip is that they’re adding about 200 new instructions to assist with x86 compatibility. It won’t be an x86 processor. But the 200 instructions will optimize the x86 performance, said Tom Halfhill, an analyst at In-Stat, reports web-site.

An improved version of Godson 3 processor will be even more advanced: it is projected to have eight heterogeneous cores, which means that they can potentially feature more or less advanced integrated graphics core and provide a lot of computing power. It will hardly be able to compete against such chips as AMD Phenom or Intel Core in terms of performance, but if they offer enough performance for certain types of end-users in China, this may hurt sales of the x86 CPU makers eventually.

“I don’t think they’re doing this to compete with x86 per se, but if somebody has to run some software that’s only available to x86, you can do it. Every processor that China sells is one less processor that somebody else sell,” said Mr. Halfhill.

But the most important thing about Godson/Loongson is that the project is supported by the Chinese government, which can afford funding the development till the scientists invent something truly competitive, but still affordable. In fact, Godson 3 may be exactly what they are looking for.

“They want to get a lot of computers out into their schools and companies and they want to make them in China. With a MIPS-compatible processor, they can stick Linux on it, they can stick Open Office on it, and adapt open-source Web browsers,” Mr. Halfhill explained.