The biggest news in PC hardware in 2017 was AMD's return to the mainstream and high-end desktop spaces with its Ryzen and Ryzen Threadripper CPUs. Qualcomm and Microsoft spent the year working to bring Redmond's OS and the associated software to a new class of ARM-powered laptops. In all the hubbub, one could be forgiven for forgetting that Via Technologies also has a license to produce x86-compatible processors. Chinese site EEFocus reports that Zhaoxin Semiconductor, Via's joint venture with the Chinese government, has announced the KX-5000 line of x86-64-compatible chips, which it claims are the first Chinese processors with full integration of platform controller chips and dual-channel DDR4 memory controllers.
The x86-64 KX-5000 CPUs will come in four- and eight-core versions manufactured by TSMC on a 28-nm process. The chips use an SoC design with integrated graphics, video decoding, SATA and USB controllers, PCIe 3.0 interfaces, and a dual-channel DDR4 memory controller. Zhaoxin claims the processors will be able to run at speeds above 2 GHz. While EEFocus didn't share any deeper details of the KX-5000's "Wudaokou" microarchitecture or thermal design power specs for these SoCs, Via's past x86 CPU efforts have been designed with low cost and power efficiency in mind, so we'd expect these parts to compete with Intel's lower-power Atom cores.
The KX-5000 is one part of a larger roadmap at Zhaoxin. The venture reportedly plans a 16-nm follow-up called KX-6000. The company already sells four- and eight-core ZX-C CPUs that can run Microsoft Windows or China-developed operating systems. These chips don't use the SoC design that's the hallmark of the KX-5000, according to Golem.de, so the transition from separate CPU and platform controllers to a fully-integrated design might mark a major advance for Zhaoxin's chips. Zhaoxin's existing processors are sold in the Chinese market only, and we suspect that the same policy will apply to the KX-5000 for the immediate future.