Loongson Hardware Is Still A Tough Find
While the Loongson MIPS64 CPUs have been available for a while now as a Linux-friendly chip, they are still tough to find in the western countries. New benchmarks reveal that the ARM SoCs are becoming a much more compelling offer for those caring about performance.
The Loongson processors from ICT/Lemote has gained some interest among open-source enthusiasts in past months since these MIPS64-based CPUs are a much more open architecture than what's been available from other vendors. GNU/Linux is also the primary target for hardware running these processors coming out of China and there's been Loongson support ported to BSD and other operating systems. Richard Stallman has even used and promoted the Loongson-based Lemote Yeeloong netbook since it can run 100% free software down to the BIOS level. Just a couple months back I was writing about the Loongson-3 Linux kernel support.
While this open platform may sound appealing to many Linux enthusiasts and as a popular MIPS based product backed by the Chinese Institute of Computing Technology, it's still quite hard to find the hardware in the United States and other western countries. From Lemote there is the Yeeloong netbook that uses a Loongson-2F processor, the Lynloong desktop computer, and then the Yeeloong-8133 that was launched last year with a quad-core 900MHz Loongson-3A CPU. From only one Internet retailer am I aware of the Yeeloong (the Loongson-2F model) being available for shipping to the United States, but the retailer is not too well known and there's been many consumer complaints about the company that is offering this laptop shipped for $249 USD.
I haven't been able to get my hands on any Loongson hardware yet, but there's been Phoronix Test Suite benchmarks done by other individuals with hardware access and have shared the results on the collaborative OpenBenchmarking.org platform. Back in June I relayed some benchmarks of the Loongson-3A on Debian Linux.
Uploaded this weekend to OpenBenchmarking.org was a new Loongson-2F benchmark (see its Loongson-2 cpuinfo). That result file is only for a single test profile, but it's the worthwhile FFTE computational benchmark.
For putting some perspective though on this Loongson-2 Yeeloong system, here's a dynamic comparison showing the Yeeloong's performance against an Arndale ARM board with a Samsung Exynos 5 Dual Cortex-A15, a TI OMAP4 ARM PandaBoard, and then an Intel Core i5 2520M x86 system. The single-core 800MHz Loongson-2 is running at about 60% the speed of the ARM-based PandaBoard, 22% the speed of the latest-generation Samsung Exynos 5 Dual A15, or 6% the speed of a modern Intel Core i5.
There's also some Loongson-2 benchmarks from earlier with CacheBench and Stream. For those that didn't look at the latest-generation Loongson-3A benchmarks from earlier in the year, there are results in 1205022-BY-ZHANGS1SH63 and 1202071-AR-ROOT7503768 among other OpenBenchmarking.org result files.
While Loongson CPUs will certainly get much faster in the coming years and with more capabilities, they are still a ways from competing with the latest-generation ARM SoCs and especially x86 CPUs. The Lemote hardware is nice due to the very open platform that even receives the rare blessing of Richard Stallman, but that's about its only advantage for consumers. At least though this "open" CPU is in much better shape than the failed open-source graphics card initiatives.
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