Loongson, a Chinese fabless microprocessor manufacturer, has developed a new chipset featuring a microprocessor with built-in graphical capabilities. The processors containing the new “7A2000” iGPU are China‘s new ISA-based quad-core 3A5000 and 16-core 3C5000 processors.
ISA—or Instruction Set Architecture—refers to the set of instructions that a particular architecture can perform. The architecture just changes how these instructions are carried out. Examples of ISAs are ARM, x86, and the up-and-coming RISC-V; whereas examples of microarchitectures can be Intel’s Alder Lake, AMD‘s Zen4, and so on.
Loongson uses the MIPS ISA, which is actually a US-made Reduced Instruction Set Computer (RISC). It’s not as powerful as any of the current ISAs that dominate the market.
Nonetheless, Loongson’s new CPUs make use of the 7A2000 bridge chip (chipset), developed by Loongson itself. Although, it is to be noted that its features date back to 2004–2005. So, to answer your question, no you cannot play the latest AAA titles using this GPU. However, it may just provide a cost effective solution for lighter workloads.
When used with two HDMI connections (or an HDMI and a D-Sub/VGA connection), Loongson’s 7A2000 bridge chipset supports up to two screens with a 1920×1080@60Hz or 2560x1440x30Hz resolution. The GPU is OpenGL 2.1/OpenGL ES 2.0-compliant and operates in the 400 MHz to 500 MHz range.
Moreover, PCIe 3.0, SATA 6 Gbps, USB 3.0, GbE PHY, UART, and even GPIO are supported by the 7A2000’s core logic, which means it does allow connection to a host of relatively modern devices. Interestingly, Loongson mentions these as “rich North-South bridge functions” which is true, but it speaks volumes about the type of product this is, considering the fact that the Southbridge hasn’t existed since the past decade or so.
Performance wise, the results seem rather intriguing as this iGPU scores 300 FPS in GLMark2. A fun fact is that this benchmarking utility is 20 years old at this point. In another benchmark from 1999 called “Glxgears“, the GPU nets a whopping 1,800 FPS. It is also noteworthy that the GPU cannot run Windows 7 because it does not support even the most basic DirectX functionality.
Some more features of the the Loongson 7A2000, according to the company, are:
- Hyper Transport 3.1 32-bit interface reaching 3.2 GHz
- DDR4 RAM support up to 2400 MHz
- SATA Read/Write performance improved by 82% and 97% respectively [compared to last-gen]
- PCIe performance increased 2.4x [compared to last-gen]
According to Loongson, various motherboard manufacturers and ODMs have already created a large number of boards with a quad-core 3A5000 processor and a 7A2000 chipset, as well as a 16-core 3C5000/3C5000L CPU and a 7A2000 chipset.
Not only that, a number of board partners have developed single-channel, dual-channel and four-channel memory for the chips as well. A roadmap is also present which shows the upcoming chipsets and their performances.
Despite the on-paper specs of this chipset, it does not equate to China being far behind the rest of the world in semiconductor manufacturing. Recent reports state that China has been producing 7nm chips despite US sanctions. Just a few days ago, China released its Glenfy-Arise GPUs based on a 28nm process node which seem much more practical than this chipset.
After all, even though China-developed IP lags behind its European or American counterparts by years, Loongson’s clients are a variety of government or local authority-run organizations. These tiny, simple, and rudimentary chips, however, usually serve as learning resources while the process technology is being refined.