We have already written that the Chinese company Huawei, despite US sanctions, successfully produces various devices. Moreover, the company has released a new processor using the second generation 7nm process technology. This processor was produced by SMIC, which, as far as one can judge, is gradually improving technological processes and producing more and more modern chips. However, the company’s components lag behind the advanced chips produced by TSMC and other contract manufacturers. Huawei believes that this is not a big deal, the main thing is that it is already possible to produce such components even under sanctions. Details are under the cut.
What’s with the lag?
He was recognized by Huawei spokesman Xu Zhijun. At the same time, he said that Chinese chips must be used even if they lag behind their foreign counterparts. Zhijun made this statement in response to a question about the relatively poor performance of the Kirin 9000s chip, which is used in the Huawei Mate 60 Pro series of phones. Despite the problems, Huawei believes that the use of new chips makes it possible to develop the country’s electronics industry. “If we don’t use such chips, the technology gap will not disappear or narrow,” Zhijun said.
As for the new phone and chip, they were presented recently. The smartphone, in general, differs little from other devices of this type. But the processor is unique for it. HUAWEI Kirin 9000S became the first mobile ARM processor to support hyperthreading technology, familiar to Intel and AMD chips. It has 8 physical cores with 12 threads. The cores are “specialized” as follows: one high-performance Taishan core with a frequency of 2.62 GHz, three mid-range Taishan with a frequency of 2.15 GHz and four energy-efficient Cortex-A510 with a frequency of 1.5 GHz.
Details about the processor became known thanks to several users who were able to test the chip and post the results online. One of these users was the author of the video posted below.
The technology on which the processor is manufactured is called N+2 SMIC. The company itself briefly mentioned it back in 2020, when it was improving the previous generation, N+1. True, in 2022, the Chinese press called N+2 a technology for the production of processors using the 5nm process technology. SMIC has never confirmed or denied the possibility of producing such chips. But, as we have already said, SMIC definitely released ASICs for mining Bitcoins MinerVa Semiconductor using its 7-nm N+1 class technology.
As for stacking itself, it is not yet clear what the Chinese are doing and how. It’s likely they’re placing the modem chip on top of the CPU and graphics chip to save space. But be that as it may, the current technology is a breakthrough for SMIC and Huawei. If companies have received or developed equipment for the production of modern chips, we will soon hear about other new products.
Recently, details about the processor became known. Thus, it consists of one high-performance core with a clock frequency of 2.62 GHz, three medium-performance cores with a frequency of 2.15 GHz, and four energy-efficient Cortex-A510 cores with a frequency of 1.5 GHz. In Geekbench 5 testing, the Kirin 9000S scored 1005 in single-core mode and 4019 in multi-core mode, consuming almost 13 W of power under full load. The overall power efficiency of the processor is higher than the Snapdragon 888, but lags behind the Snapdragon 865 and the original Kirin 9000.
The main core and middle cores are based on Huawei’s Taishan architecture. The kernels support multithreading. Using medium cores results in a performance increase of 21.8%, while energy consumption increases by 24.2%. As for graphics, it is built-in, this is Maleoon-910. The graphics is a block of four cores that operates at 750 MHz. In terms of performance and power consumption, the graphics are on par with the Adreno 660, however, due to the still insufficiently optimized drivers, it does not show all its capabilities. For example, in Crackdown 3 this GPU produces 58 fps versus 56 fps from the Kirin 9000 with the Mali-G78 MP24 built-in.
The Huawei representative compared Chinese technologies to elementary school, and modern foreign technologies to doctoral-level studies. However, Zhijun notes gradual progress in the development of chip manufacturing technologies from China. He said that China’s development of its technological infrastructure for the production of modern components is extremely important – this process makes it possible to reduce dependence on foreign supplies.
China produces its own lithography machines
According to Bloomberg, the Chinese company Shanghai Micro Electronics Equipment Group (SMEE), which produces not the most modern lithography machines, introduced its first 28-nm scanner. According to analysts, if the Chinese put production of such equipment on stream, they will be able to avoid dependence on foreign manufacturers. Of course, 28nm is not the most modern technological process, but for a large number of equipment 7nm and 5nm chips are not needed.
It is worth noting that SMEE is one of the companies that received government support. Previously, the Celestial Empire allocated over $1.5 trillion for the development of the electronics industry in the country. Despite some problems, such a grandiose program still shows some results. And one of them is a new lithographic scanner. It is worth noting that for SMEE the release of such a machine is a very noticeable success, since it previously produced lithography machines for the production of 90 nm chips.
The scanner is called SSA/800-10W; its advantage for China is that only Chinese components are used during production. There are no imports from abroad, so sanctions cannot affect production. Directly, anyway. Of course, China also needs more modern chips, but 28nm production is already a success compared to what it was before. Most likely, the components are produced by Mloptic, Kingsemi and Castech – manufacturers of optical systems from China. The scanner will begin operation at the end of 2023.
Unfortunately, there are no special details yet – the Chinese kept the release of such a system secret until the last moment. We have only just learned about it, so more detailed information will probably appear a little later. In particular, it is unclear how many of these machines SMEE can produce per unit time and whether this will be enough to cover China’s needs in the near foreseeable future.
There are, of course, other problems. For example, the use of government funds (and China will allocate over 1 trillion US dollars by 2025) – some companies abuse government money. There is also a lack of qualified managers who are able to establish the production and logistics processes necessary for the production of modern components. Nevertheless, as far as one can judge, China has more successes than failures, and progress is clearly visible.
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