(Image credit: YouTube via 二斤自制)
Huawei, through its HiSilicon subsidiary, has a line of promising 7nm ARM v8-based Kunpeng processors that stretch up to 64 cores for the data center and support leading tech, like PCIe 4.0. Now at least one model of the chip is being used for desktop systems, too. Chinese YouTube channel 二斤自制 purchased and tested a Huawei-powered desktop PC that features both the company’s eight-core eight-thread 7nm Kunpeng 920 ARM v8 processor and the Huawei D920S10 desktop motherboard in a third-party system, giving us the first glimpse of the new products enabled by Huawei’s recent entrance into the market as a supplier to OEMs that produce desktop PCs. SSDPEKKW010T801
The development could help further China’s targeted strategy to reduce its reliance on western semiconductor technology. Still, in many ways, the system highlights the difficulties the country has encountered, particularly in terms of software support. In fact, that’s the primary focus of the video. The video doesn’t give us much in the way of broadly-comparable benchmarks (though there are a few tidbits), but we do learn some specs that we’ll cover below.
The narrator spends much of the video covering the problems she encountered with running meaningful software applications. Due to Kunpeng’s ARM architecture, the system is limited to running the China-produced 64-bit UOS operating system that is largely a modified flavor of Linux. The narrator commented that the UOS operating system runs smooth and has an intuitive interface, and it even supports a 4K resolution at 60Hz via a Yeston RX550 graphics card. Still, she had to pay an extra 800 Yuan (~$115) to gain access to the app store. Moreover, the store had a woeful selection of applications, lacking such staples as Adobe and other apps. That’s exacerbated by the system’s lack of support for 32-bit software.
The system did run a Blender BMW test render, but it completed in 11 minutes and 47 seconds, which is woefully slower than most modern chips. The system did well streaming 4K video, but ‘choked’ during local playback due to poor encoding performance. The narrator says the system is obviously best for light office work only.
The channel purchased the system for 7,500 Yuan (roughly $1,060 USD), and it comes with an eight-core eight-thread 2.6 GHz Kunpeng 920 2249K processor soldered to the motherboard. We can’t find specs for this processor online, but the video lists it with 128K of L1 memory (64K I$, 64K D$), 512K of L2, and 32MB of L3.
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The Huawei D920S10 motherboard has four DIMM slots, but the system only has 16GB of Kingston DDR4-2666 memory spread across two DIMMs. Despite the chip’s seeming support for PCIe 4.0, there are only three PCIe 3.0 slots available (x16, x4, x1), and the motherboard’s connectivity options are also pretty mundane (6 SATA III ports, two M.2 slots, two USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports, and a VGA connection). The board also has a Gigabit ethernet port, or you have the option to use an optical connection of an unspecified speed.
A 256GB SATA hard drive, 200W power supply, and a Yeston RX550 graphics card round out the other accommodations. The system also comes with an optical drive.
The difficulties the channel encountered with software availability, and performance, highlights that even the best chips in the world aren’t very effective without a robust software and developer ecosystem. That’s yet another facet of the challenge that China faces as it looks to reduce the amount of silicon it procures from external vendors, and the Huawei-powered systems could be designed to help foster a developer ecosystem for the ARM architecture and the UOS operating system.
According to IC Insights, China-native vendors only produce 6.1% of the country’s total silicon consumption, and a recent report indicates the country will fall far short of its 2025 goals for 70% semiconductor self-sufficiency, instead only hitting one-third of its original target.
The country has invested heavily in multiple native semiconductor producers and their projects, with its multi-pronged efforts including chips like the x86 Zhaoxin KaiXian processor we recently tested. The EPYC-based Hygon Dryhana x86 processors were also developed under a joint venture with AMD that was later scuttled by the US government, and we’ve also seen signs that Huawei is testing a desktop PC design with AMD’s Ryzen 4000 series processors. The latter shows that Huawei might also be pursuing an x86 route into the desktop PC market, albeit with non-native processors.