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Intel looks to get into the graphics market in 2009, and in a big way

Next month heralds the 2008 Spring Intel Developer Forum in Shanghai, China.  Pre-show briefings opened up with a quick mention on the status of Larrabee, Intel's upcoming graphics core.

Larrabee differs significantly from AMD's Radeon and NVIDIA's GeForce processors.  For starters, Larrabee is based on the x86 instruction set found in CPU architecture.  Intel vice president Steve Smith emphasized that Larrabee is not just a GPU, but a multi-core die capable of any stream processing task.

Smith would not detail exactly how many cores reside on Larrabee, though early schematics from 2006 detail designs with 16 cores.  Each in-order core is capable of operating in excess of 2 GHz.

Larrabee can apparently scale to several thousand cores, sharing much of the same research as Intel's Tera-scale project.  In addition to the x86 approach, the company announced it will soon announce another SSE-like extension set, dubbed Advanced Vector Extensions. These extensions will likely be what separates Larrabee's x86 instruction set from the x86 instructions featured on Core 2 Duo and Phenom.  Smith said Larrabee will support OpenGL, DirectX and ray-tracing instructions.

However, to much disappointment, Larrabee will not find a home on 45nm Nehalem processors, scheduled for an early 2009 launch. Smith said Larrabee samples will be ready in Q4 2008, with shipments in 2009, though the initial launch appears to be only for discrete computing.

Likely a fully integrated CPU design will not come until the next architecture redesign of Nehalem, codenamed Sandy Bridge (previously Gesher).

An Intel engineer tells DailyTech, "You have to walk before you can run." Walking, at Intel, means discretely connecting a much simpler GPU into the processor first.

Intel’s hybrid CPU and GPU chips are set to be released in two flavors, both of which will be based on the Nehalem CPU architecture. The first version, dubbed Havendale, will be a desktop chip, while the second version, dubbed Auburndale, will be a notebook chip.

Auburndale and Havendale will have two Nehalem cores paired with a graphics subsystem. The twin cores will share 4MB of L2 cache and feature an integrated dual-channel memory controller that supports memory configurations up to DDR3-1333.

The graphics subsystem will be initially derived from Intel’s G45 integrated graphics. This indicates that neither Auburndale nor Havendale will be for heavy graphics processing, but will be more of an integrated graphics replacement.

According to Intel roadmaps, the new processors are expected to enter the market in the first half of 2009. This beats out the expected time of arrival of AMD’s Fusion processors, which are planned to debut in the second half of 2009.

In the meantime, Smith promises the discrete Larrabee offerings will compete competitively with Radeon and GeForce offerings when its finally announced.


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Isn't the first time...
By tfranzese on 3/17/2008 7:24:33 PM , Rating: 3
that Intel's gotten into discrete graphics. Their last time was a flop (Intel 740) and poor performance compared to the quick pace of the industry as well as poor drivers doomed it.

quote:
In the meantime, Smith promises the discrete Larrabee offerings will compete competitively with Radeon and GeForce offerings when its finally announced.


Right, maybe their low-end parts.

I'm not excited about this until I see them produce. Drivers have made and broke many manufacturers. Intel continues to demonstrate they don't have what it takes with their poor driver support on current integrated GPUs.




RE: Isn't the first time...
By vignyan on 3/18/2008 12:46:26 AM , Rating: 2
Tell me if you are satisfied with Nvidia/ATI drivers! ;)
Drivers problems exist and occur once in a while and not more often than when you have to reboot your windows loaded machine.

Jokes apart, Intel's first discrete gfx was sure a flop. But i have faith that this radical new design will have gr8r performance than the top dogs of Nvidia/ATI.

Simple calculations:
Assuming a non-ooo, w/ Higher b/w and dedicated memory for a core running at 2GHZ to have 60GFLOPS is only fair. (will have smaller size than silver thorn w/ smaller cache, no fsb)

Nvidia's top-dog, 8800GTX has ~500GFLOPS. Lets assume that this increases to 900GFlops by the time intel kicks in...

now for the division.. 900/60 ~ 15 processor cores... add another core, 960GFLOPS per sec... :) there you go... We have a winner...

Now i am being too optimistic about Intel.


RE: Isn't the first time...
By tfranzese on 3/18/2008 2:00:47 AM , Rating: 2
Sorry, but nVidia and ATi display drivers are worlds better than Intel's are. They are heavily tuned for performance and better support for the big reason people plunk down a lot of money: games. Intel has demonstrated deficiency in both when it comes to the GPU world.

Things always look great on paper (not that I'm even sold on this one).

And this GPU is meant positioned as a discrete solution from all signs so far that I've seen (both that mentioned in this article and the one on /.), so only having good 2D driver support isn't what I'm on about.


RE: Isn't the first time...
By amx on 3/18/2008 4:02:53 AM , Rating: 2
Why should intel tune their graphic drivers for games if its not really designed to get the ultimate performance out of each and every game. There is a reason you go out and buy Nvidia and AMD parts, its because you want the best hardware for your games, Not to see pretty family photos. Actually they do tune their drivers for the games that are popular on their parts, such as Warcraft. When Intel comes out with discrete or higher performing parts in the graphics market, I am sure they will take a step further in tuning drivers.


RE: Isn't the first time...
By tfranzese on 3/18/2008 10:56:00 AM , Rating: 2
Sorry, but I consider the GPU rendering the game correctly to be their biggest problem and wasn't clear. They do tune, but not to nearly the same degree of their rivals. You're SOL if you have integrated graphics and the game you play isn't the handful of mainstream games they make sure render correctly.


RE: Isn't the first time...
By tfranzese on 3/18/2008 2:11:14 AM , Rating: 2
Don't get me wrong though, I'm very interested in these. I'm just skeptical due to Intel's past in this sector which should be obvious :)


RE: Isn't the first time...
By amx on 3/18/2008 3:58:30 AM , Rating: 1
and how is it poor? 100s millions of PCs are running Intel Integrated graphics, what driver issues do you speak of? Windows update/mac update takes care of intel driver updates automatically? I think the quality of AMD/Nvidia drivers is much worse then that of Intel.


RE: Isn't the first time...
By badconsumer on 3/18/2008 10:31:01 AM , Rating: 1
Ha Ha Ha, before the 740 they flopped with the i860 in the early 90's.
The 860 looked like a good idea in the heyday of programmable graphics co-processors, but it was too late. With low cost accelerators like IBM's 8514/a, S3 and Matrox on the horizon, they missed the boat.

The 740 was essentially aquired technology from Real3D and even with that head start they got nowhere.
To be fair I'm sure they rolled some of that into the integrated products.

Either they don't have the skillset or the commitment to execute in this area, graphics is just not their core (no pun intended) competency.


RE: Isn't the first time...
By tfranzese on 3/18/2008 10:57:19 AM , Rating: 2
They did indeed, their current integrated GPUs are derived from the i740.


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