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TSMC delivers its first batch of Russian-designed Arm chips

What’s at stake: This week, Baikal Electronics in Russia received the first batch of Arm SoCs from TSMC. It was a significant step toward the Russian government’s goal of establishing a self-sustaining electronics sector.

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The BE-M1000 is the name of Baikal’s new processor, which is the company’s second. It’s an octa-core Arm processor with a connection focus. The initial production run of TSMC’s chips yielded roughly 5,000 chips, which were sent to Baikal in a single enormous and expensive box.

Although 5,000 processors may not seem like enough to pique the market’s interest, especially from a novice, Baikal claims to have already teamed with numerous system integrators to manufacture computers that will be available in a matter of months.

iRU, Russia’s largest domestic system integrator, is one of them. It recently stated that in Q1 2022, it will begin offering office PCs based on the BE-M1000. Opal-branded laptops and small form factor PCs, as well as Agate-branded AIOs, will be among the company’s offerings.

According to iRU, they’ve already found purchasers, including significant government contractors. As a result, the PCs will come preloaded with government-approved software such as the Linux-based Astra OS or Red OS, My Office, a Microsoft Office competitor, and ViPNet SafeBoot security software.

By the time iRU intends to market its systems, Baikal expects to be receiving monthly shipments of 10,000 to 15,000 CPUs. Baikal had intended to be there by now, but the chronic chip shortage got in the way.

The cargo this week was supposed to arrive four months ago, but despite the delays, Baikal Electronics CEO Andrey Evdokimov thinks the company has handled the shortage successfully.

“We managed to adapt to the market conditions: we started working on organizing mass production almost two years ago and were able to book production lines in advance at fixed terms early on,” Evdokimov told Russian site CNews. “Thus, we entered the crisis prepared. Our good relationships with major international suppliers along the whole production line helped a lot, too.”

Baikal benefited from the use of the 28nm node in its design, which is less stressed than newer, more common nodes.

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The BE-M1000 is equipped with eight 1.5 GHz Arm Cortex-A57 processors. It has an L2 cache of 4 MB and an L3 cache of 8 MB. It also includes eight Mali-T628 GPU units with 700-750 MHz clock speeds. It has a TDP of 30-35 W, although it’s probably customizable.

The connectivity of the BE-M1000 is more astounding than its performance. It contains a dual-channel memory controller with 16 PCIe 3.0 lanes and supports up to 32 GB of DDR3 or DDR4 memory. Six USB ports, two 10 Gb Ethernet connections, and two 1 Gb Ethernet ports are also available.

It performs comparable to the Intel Core i3-7300T, according to CNews, which evaluated an engineering sample of the chip last year. Although this isn’t an exciting performance range, it’s adequate for the applications the CPU is designed for and commendable given Baikal’s lack of experience designing chips.