Microsoft software, Intel or AMD processor technology: Russia’s IT industry has been cut off from foreign high-tech components due to unprecedented Western economic sanctions. Russian chip companies like Baikal Electronics and PC makers like Bitblaze are said to step in: Their “Made in Russia” laptop Titan BM15 has now been spotted for the first time on Russian Facebook rival Vkontakte.
It has long been known that Russia wants to start producing notebooks. Now the first pre-series models of the Titan BM15 device have been produced. On Vkontakte, a Bitblaze employee poses with the first Russian-made laptop. The accompanying text reads: “I have a legend in my hands.”
Chips were still manufactured at TSMC
“Made in Russia” is relative with the Bitblaze Titan BM15: the exotic main processor of the Baikal M type, used in the device, was manufactured before the start of the war by the chip specialist TSMC in Taiwan. And he announced that he no longer wanted to supply highly developed processors to Russia. The manufacturer is therefore dependent on existing stocks for the time being.
Nevertheless, the chips from TSMC production in stock should turn out to be a windfall: Russian chip factories produce processors using the 90-nanometer process, as was the state of the art 20 years ago at American processor giant Intel.
Processor technology like ten years ago
The Baikal M processor in the Russian laptop is based on technology that was common ten years ago. Manufactured by TSMC using the 28-nanometer process, the up to 1.5 gigahertz Baikal M processor in the Titan BM15 is based on ARM architecture, which is also found in most smartphones. But on a more outdated basis: The A57 compute cores in the Baikal processor were up to date on smartphones ten years ago.
The Bitblaze employee reports on Vkontakte that the laptop – remarkably bulky for a device with an ARM processor – offers a battery life of about five hours and offers enough power for office activities and YouTube videos. She also praises the “thin aluminum housing” and the “light weight” and reports that the pre-series models are currently undergoing thorough testing with a view to commencing market launch soon.
In the long run, China could help
It is considered unlikely that the Russian IT industry can actually do without foreign partners – if only because the manufacturer will face a problem once the chips produced at TSMC run out and there are no stocks. The IT portal “Heise” therefore assumes that Russia will eventually be able to tap into Chinese know-how. China’s TSMC rival SMIC does not have such a highly developed production capacity as the leading chip manufacturer from Taiwan. However, the SMIC chip factories should also be able to make an old chip etched into silicon using the 28-nanometer process without any problems, such as the Baikal M.
DDR4 RAM, SSD and even USB-C on board
Interestingly, the Bitblaze BM15 also includes more modern components for the exotic chip. According to the manufacturer, the device should be equipped with 16 gigabytes of DDR4 memory and a fast SSD with a capacity of 512 gigabytes. The 15.6-inch screen offers Full HD resolution. In addition to HDMI, audio jack and four large USB ports, connectivity also includes modern USB-C. WLAN and Bluetooth are also available – although it is unclear what data rates are possible here.
Linux instead of Windows, high price
The operating system is based on Linux distributions developed in Russia: buyers can choose between Astra Linux and Alt Linux. The price of the Bitblaze Titan BM15 is not very attractive considering the offer: the notebook “made in Russia” should cost the equivalent of 1600 euros. According to data from the Russian Statistical Authority, this was around two and a half monthly average wages at the end of 2021. In this country you would pay a few hundred euros for a device with the required performance.
Kremlin strives for IT independence
However, the target audience is not private users anyway, but mainly Putin’s government: most of the first batch is intended for them, and Russian companies would be among the first customers. The Kremlin had already announced in the spring that it wanted to become independent from foreign hardware and software as soon as possible.
However, that will not be easy: tens of thousands of Russian IT experts have left the country since the beginning of the war, which is why there are now even prisons and prison camps looking for specialists…