Electronic Enthusiasts Network reported (text / Zhou Kaiyang) Do you still remember the Russian self-made notebook Bitblaze TItan that we reported not long ago? Promobit, the manufacturer of this Russian notebook, which will be put into production at the end of the year, finally announced the latest progress, announcing that the product has officially entered the application testing stage, and also issued a photo of the actual machine running. Judging from the program running on the photo, It should be an office application such as LibreOffice in a Linux environment. While progress has been gratifying, the dilemma facing this notebook remains unresolved.
The strength of Russia’s self-produced notebook chips
Bitblaze TItan is equipped with the Arm chip Baikal-M developed by the Russian company Baikal Electronics. It integrates 8 Arm Cortex-A57 CPU cores with a main frequency of up to 1.5GHz and 8 Mali-T628 GPU cores with a frequency of up to 750MHz. The entire chip is based on TSMC’s 28nm process, with a maximum power consumption of 35W.
Having said so many parameters on paper, it cannot reflect the real performance of this chip, but as a 28nm 8-core ARM Cortex-A57 chip, there should not be much expectations for its performance. We might as well speak with running points. Baikal-M, which was developed by the Russian government’s industrial development fund, naturally has to pass the acceptance, so they also gave data in various test environments.
Bitblaze TItan Notebook/Promobit
First of all, let’s look at the single-core performance. Baikal-M’s CoreMark single-core running score is 5.52CoreMark/MHz. In the EEMBC score database, we look for a similar ARM processor, which is only the 2016 mobile phone SoC. Samsung’s Exynos 5250 single-core performance is similar, and Samsung’s 2012 mobile processor uses the Arm Cortex-A15 architecture. Compared with the RISC-V architecture, its CoreMark single-core score is comparable to Andes’ 45 series.
Then came SPEC 2006, which tests the performance of integer and floating-point computing, with Baikal-M scoring 56.7 for integer computing and 55.7 for floating-point computing. In contrast, the Feiteng FT-2000/4, released in 2019 and only integrating 4 Arm core FTC663, scored 61.1 for integer calculations and 62.5 for floating-point calculations.
The above are still relatively common CPU test benchmarks, but regardless of the difference in running points brought by the compiler and the system, it is unrealistic to use it as a reference for actual performance. So, let’s take a look at the test scores of some practical applications. In the decompression test of 7-zip, the average compression score of 8 cores is 9064 MIPS, and the average decompression score is 11557 MIPS. This score is actually better than that of Loongson’s 28nm 4-core chip 3A4000, but it occupies the core after all. With the advantage of a large number, the single-core score is still poor.
According to the sales director of Promobit, they are already testing some key applications, and the self-proclaimed “thin and light” Bitblaze TItan currently only tests office applications and browsers, and will test the performance of other workloads in the future. But this notebook only supports two Russian operating systems, ALT Linux and Astra Linux, so there are not many civilian workloads that can be tested.
The manufacturer behind the first self-produced notebook
After all, Bitblaze Titan is the first real Russian-made notebook, and we can’t just stare at its backwardness, and Promobit, the manufacturer behind this notebook, is a loyal supporter of Russian-made chips, especially another A Russian self-developed chip series Elbrus. In the past, they have been developing hardware and software solutions for data storage, dedicated server and storage chassis, etc. around the Elbrus chip, such as the motherboard Bitblaze Gorynych specially prepared for the Elbrus-8S chip.
In order to get rid of the dependence on foreign interconnection technologies such as Infiniband, Russia’s HPC and supercomputing systems have also built their own interconnection system Angara, and Promobit has begun to use Angara and Elbrus-8S to build a multi-interface solid-state drive module Bitblaze MTN-1, and NVMe-based -oF high-speed storage device. Therefore, this company mainly focuses on the 2B business of servers, storage and workstations. The notebook is more like a 2C business testing the water, and from the situation faced by the Baikal processor, this is likely to become a business that is about to be cut in half. business.
Will the Baikal chip die?
Everything has been complicated by the conflict between Russia and Ukraine and sanctions by Western countries. First, the Baikal-M chip is based on TSMC’s 28nm process, and the next-generation Baikal-S chip has set a 16nm process roadmap. After the sanctions fell, the supply from TSMC has been completely cut off, and the existing inventory of Baikal-M chips can only meet the production of 1,000 Bitblaze Titan computers this year. But 28nm is actually not the most difficult hurdle to overcome. The most difficult thing is the development space after the Baikal chip.
Baikal-S, Baikal-M and Baikal-L are all based on the Arm architecture, but after the United States imposed sanctions on Baikal Electronics and the United Kingdom followed up, the subsequent Arm IP authorization was completely useless. You must know that after their parent company T-Platforms was sanctioned by the United States in 2013, the cooperation authorization plan with Arm has been terminated, so they switched to the MIPS architecture and cooperated with Imagination Technologies to build Baikal-T series processors.
With the lifting of sanctions at the end of 2013, Baikal Electronics re-signed an agreement with Arm in 2014, and this resulted in the subsequent Arm architecture chips, but the current sanctions have almost eliminated the opportunity for further evolution of the series. Under many worries, even the website of Baikal Electronics has entered a stage of continuous maintenance.
If the sanctions are not lifted in the end, self-developed architectures like Elbrus, or switching to open source architectures like RISC-V may be their only way out. But at least for now, it is also sanctioned. Elbrus has enough stock in stock. In the future, after Russia builds its own advanced manufacturing industry chain, there will still be a chance to continue its life, while the Baikal series is likely to live soon. Carry on.