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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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erratum?
By vignyan on 3/17/2008 10:51:19 PM , Rating: 2
Hey Kris and Gab,
Some erratum for your speculation?
1. Gesher is not just 32nm shrink of nehalem but a completely integrated gfx core. And approx 5x performance G45 but still no Larabee gfx in it.

2. Nehalem w/ igfx has a multi-die package with gfx core on the CPU connected closely using quicpath. Do you really think Intel will go ahead and not consider any of the design risks by integrating the full GPU into a CPU? Thats so not Intel. Amd can do that. But latest reports confirm that AMD is also doing a Multi-die package for the late-2009 fusion. Lessons learnt from Phenom. Learn to walk before you run! :)

3. The gfx going with Nehalem initially will be a G45 derived core. But thats not just it. It has some of the very required tunings done for performance optimization (12 EUs, 1EM box per EU and ofcourse higher frequency). Expect Nehalem to go with almost 2.5x performance compared to G45.

4. Please check with your sources again for the G45 capabilities. Its a Dx10 full support including shader model 4.0.

Dont get me wrong. I was thoroughly confused when i first read this article. Please re-check your information. If you are right, you are right... How should i know so much about Intel! ;)




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