Intel reveals details of Larrabee graphics chip
Source:Intel reveals details of Larrabee graphics chip | News | Custom PC
Larrabee has been the subject of much debate since Intel’s CEO, Paul Otellini casually said that it would move the company 'into discrete graphics' at the Intel Developer Forum
last year. Until now, all we knew was that it was going to feature multiple x86 cores, and many assumed that it was going to push ray tracing
into the mainstream. However, Intel has now finally given us some more details on the mysterious new chip.
Featuring many IA++ (Intel Architecture - basically x86) cores, Intel claims that Larrabee will be scalable to TeraFlops of processing power, while Intel’s new vector instruction set is capable of both floating point and integer calculations. As well as this, Intel says the chip will feature a new cache architecture, although no details of this have been specified yet.
What’s interesting is that Intel sees Larrabee as a strong alternative to today’s traditional GPUs. In a presentation slide shown at a US press conference yesterday, Intel listed ‘triangle/rasterisation’ and ‘rigid pipeline architecture’ as problems with today’s GPUs. However, it listed ‘life-like Rendering e.g. Global Illumination’ as a benefit of Larrabee.
Considering that Global Illumination is a part of DirectX 10.1, and is supported by ATI’s latest Radeon HD 3000-series GPUs, which also feature multiple stream processors rather than traditional pixel pipelines, you could think of this as pretty rich. However, the fact that the cores are based on Intel’s x86 architecture with a new vector processing unit, rather than being simple scalar stream processors, could mean that the chip is capable of some impressive calculations.
One example is physics, and Intel claims that current mainstream graphics cards are ‘inefficient for non-graphics computing’ such as this. Intel sees the programmable and ubiquitous nature of the x86 cores as a big benefit of Larrabee over traditional GPUs, although the company also says that Larrabee will function with DirectX and OpenGL, so it will still need to be able to perform traditional rasterisation in games.
There’s still a lot that we don’t know about Larrabee, but it’s now clear that Intel is taking the gaming graphics market very seriously, and that it plans on shaking up the traditional GPU architecture. Could Intel take on Nvidia and ATI in the graphics business, and are current GPUs too limited? Let us know your thoughts.