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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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By winterspan on 3/17/2008 9:58:48 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, its too bad AMD has had so much trouble. And actually this could present a way for AMD to get back into the game.
Think of a cheap AMD platform with a dual core Phenom or even an Athlon derivative that also uses a lower-end ATI Radeon part. Even with a lower-end GPU, AMD could make it have 5x or 10x the performance of an integrated Intel POS.

This could even work for a laptop platform. Use their cheap mid-level K8-derivative laptop CPU, and have a fast lower-end integrated GPU that blows the Intel graphics to bits. Then offer it as a cheaper Intel competitor that can actually play games decently.

By vignyan on 3/18/2008 12:32:59 AM , Rating: 2
Hmm.. I like your optimism... but considering the performace increase in G45 and G47, i dont think your dream of 5x to 10x performance in AMD numbers vs intel numbers is possible... And talking cheap... define the segment that wants real cheap computers for gaming... I would say revise that thought/definition... I know it does exist.. but not of much interest for either of the companies or nvidia...

And also all that you suggested about cheap cpu, cheap gfx, low power... all comes to Intel Atom... you want AMD to do the same? I think its difficult... considering the resource crunch in AMD and the requirement of highly skilled labour for such tasks (these projects need to be done w/ hc of 50 Vs the 500 HC for Major gfx projects) :D

"I modded down, down, down, and the flames went higher." -- Sven Olsen
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