Huawei brings sanctions-busting Kirin 9000C CPU to desktop PCs to replace banned Intel Alder Lake chips

 Huawei Qingyun W515x.
Huawei Qingyun W515x.

Chinese computer giant Huawei is switching gears in its latest pre-built PC and using homemade silicon instead of Western-built 12th Gen Alder Lake CPUs. As reported by Huawei Central, the new Qingyun W515x is equipped with China's bleeding-edge octa-core Kirin 9000C processor, which clocks up to 3.1 GHz.

The new system is a slimline OEM PC that targets large businesses. It sports a plain black finish and a slim Micro-ATX form factor that only supports low-profile PCIe cards. The Quingyun W515x has three hardware configurations: 8GB + 256GB, 8GB + 512GB, and 16GB + 512GB memory and storage combinations. The storage options include a single NVMe M.2 PCIe slot.

While the CPU specs remain a secret, the CPU cooler is a low-profile unit that reportedly maintains a chassis temperature below 30C at maximum load. The fan noise level is also quiet, coming in at 21.82 dB.

Front I/O consists of three USB Type A 3.2 Gen 1 ports, a single Type-C port, an audio jack, and a disk drive. The rear I/O consists of three audio jacks, VGA, HDMI, a single serial port,  four USB Type-A 3.2 Gen 1 ports, and an ethernet slot. Three low-profile slots exist on the case itself, but the motherboard only has a single PCie x1 slot, where the second slot is. It is suitable for connecting only small single- or dual-slot low-profile 1x compatible PCIe cards.

Due to U.S. regulations, Huawei can no longer access Intel-based CPUs, forcing the company to use homemade solutions. The Kirin 9000C is an octa-core CPU with 12 threads and a 2.48 GHz frequency. The chip is based on SMIC's 5nm fabrication process and features an ARM-based Mali-G78 integrated graphics unit.

Sadly, we have not been able to get more details about the 9000C beyond this. However, this chip is primarily suspected to be like its Kirin 9000S sibling, which uses SMIC's 5nm tech. Performance-wise, the 9000C isn't fast and much slower than its Kirin 9000 predecessor, which relied on TSMC's far superior N5 (5nm-class) process technology.

Huawei has gotten good at hiding CPU specs. The Chinese chip maker has made it a habit to hide the specs of its chips from Western states to protect itself. Since the U.S. banned China from acquiring chips and chipmaking tools from Western entities, China has been using unconventional means to grab the hardware it needs, particularly from the grey market. Hiding its processor's specs and performance capabilities allows it to continue using these shady tactics without coming under fire from the U.S. government.

5nm technology is the best manufacturing process China currently has access to. Since U.S. regulations have banned China's access to the latest generation of chipmaking tools, China's chipmaking facilities have to deal with the restrictions of older shipbuilding tools that aren't necessarily capable of building the latest-generation tech, like extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV). It has limited China's ability to develop competitive CPUs with Intel, AMD, Apple, and Qualcomm's latest chips.

However, new rumors have emerged that this could change. Kirin is building a new CPU that it hopes will compete with Apple's M3 silicon. If true, this would represent a massive leap in performance from Chinese processors.