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The Return of Intel's Pentium MMX

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 33 comments

Mountain House (CA) - Earlier today we learned that Intel is already heavily pitching its Larrabee technology to partners, but the technology foundation largely remains a mystery. German publication heise.de now provides more clues with a rather interesting note that Larrabee is built on Intel’s nearly two decade-old P5 architecture.

Intel Pentium MMX

According to Heise author Andreas Stiller, possibly the most prominent person to cover computer hardware in Germany, Intel dipped into the bin of obsolete technology (Intel’s phrase for replaced technology) to come up with a technology base for the Larrabee cGPU. While attending Intel’s 40th anniversary briefing (Intel will celebrate its 40th birthday on July 18), Stiller apparently found out that the Larrabee cores will be built on the P54C core — which was the code-name for the second-gen, 600 nm Pentium chip.

The first Pentium core (P5, 800 nm, 60 and 66 MHz) was in development since 1989 and was introduced in 1993. The P54C was launched in 1994 with speeds up to 120 MHz, while the succeeding 350 nm P54CS reached 200 MHz. The 55C core (280 nm up to 233 MHz) followed in 1995 and was replaced with the Pentium II in 1997.

Stiller added that Larrabee will debut with 32 cores that "are likely" to be equipped with MMX extensions, which would mean that Larrabee will actually be based on a modified, 45 nm P54CS core. The cores will also support 64-bit. If you count in the fact that the MMX part was replaced with a 512-bit wide AVX (Advanced Vector Extensions) unit, Stiller comes up with a theoretical performance of 32 flop/sec. per clock, topping the 2 Tflop/sec. mark at a clock speed of 2 GHz.

If this is true, then Intel may be able to hit about twice the performance in single precision calculations as Nvidia and AMD achieve today. However, both Nvidia and AMD were able to double their floating point performance between 2007 and 2008 and we have reason to believe that once Larrabee will be available, GPUs may be hitting 3 to 4 Tflop/sec. in single GPU configurations. AMD’s dual-GPU ATI Radeon 4870 X2 (clocked at 778 MHz) is estimated to hit 2.49 Tflop/sec. when it debuts within the next few weeks.

It looks like that Intel should be aiming for at least 4 Tflop/sec. for the second half of 2009.

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  • -3 Hide
    Anonymous , July 8, 2008 9:00 PM
    they should have based it off core 2 duo =P

    then it would own even more
  • 1 Hide
    jcwbnimble , July 8, 2008 9:50 PM
    Interesting that intel is going back almost 20 years to try and compete with Nvidia and AMD/ATI's current (or near future) technologies. That would be great if we could get one more player in the GPU market. AMD is forcing Nvidia to lower their prices, can you imagine what Intel could do if they introduced a 3rd GPU in the market? SWEET!
  • 2 Hide
    San Pedro , July 8, 2008 10:32 PM
    Still skeptical about Larrabee. . .
  • 2 Hide
    jimmysmitty , July 8, 2008 10:51 PM
    thogrom Core 2 is based off of Core which goes all the way back to the Pentium Pro which had its roots from the Pentium MMX. So in a way it is based off of the same technology that Core 2 is based off of.

    Funny thing, kinda related, I have a old Pentium w/MMX sitting on my desk. Its a reminder of where we used to be (75 whole MHz YAY!!!!)
  • 0 Hide
    stuart72 , July 8, 2008 11:44 PM
    Confused now. Will this thing run x86 native then?
  • -3 Hide
    Preytor , July 9, 2008 12:05 AM
    Return of the Mack
  • 0 Hide
    plbyrd , July 9, 2008 12:07 AM
    This is very good news. For years I've been saying that Intel should dust off the 386 and put dozens of them on a single die. It looks like they've done me one better and gone with the Pentium. This is a very smart move for Intel because it accomplishes three things:

    1) They don't have to develop a new core for the cGPU.
    2) The cGPU will use x86/x64 instructions, thus making it far easier for developers to write code and debug code targeting the cGPU.
    3) Developers will learn to employ proper threading techniques to utilizes 32 cores. This means they'll learn the skills necessary to truly take advantage of the modern CPUs.

    A side effect of all this is that a computer built solely around the Larrabee. Over on my blog at ITtoolbox I've pontificated about the possibility of building GPU-based computers, and this could be a great place to start.
  • 1 Hide
    techtalk , July 9, 2008 12:10 AM
    You are missing a "T" in 32 flop/sec ?
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , July 9, 2008 12:22 AM
    Definitely it will run x86 because it was developed on x86 architecture. If Intel will manage to develop and make it a powerful GPU, it simply means that powerful GPU was already develop 2 decades ago but only used for general purpose computing.
  • 0 Hide
    harrycat88 , July 9, 2008 12:48 AM
    LMAO, I still got my old Pentium 233MHz MMX Socket 7 CPU. Can you believe I got that thing to over clock to 333MHz back in 1998. I ran a duct from outside which was 20 degrees F to the CPU. It would scream through Quake2 and Tomb Raider 2 which was fast back then, But today the CPU is obsolete unless you want to run windows 98 or 2000. Who would have thought that Intel would use the design for a GPU.
  • 0 Hide
    Luscious , July 9, 2008 1:04 AM
    I remember my first pc box was a P200MMX, with windows 95 and a Tseng Labs ET6000 PCI video card. I could not find anything at the time that would not run on that machine. In fact, I still have it today and it still works!

    Very interesting idea to put 32 Pentium cores on a single die/package. Parallel processing is definitely the direction to go for, it's just a shame that even today SO MANY applications out there suck on multi-core systems.
  • -1 Hide
    cruiseoveride , July 9, 2008 2:41 AM
    great, but does it work on Linux?
    what are windows users going to do with 32cores anyways....

    /hides
  • 0 Hide
    draxssab , July 9, 2008 3:20 AM
    Pentium MMX!?! that was my first computer (now my mother's one :p )with a nice Voodoo 2 video card lol ;) 

    Seriously, if it gives the performance the hope, i'l be the first surprised

  • 0 Hide
    randomizer , July 9, 2008 3:47 AM
    techtalkYou are missing a "T" in 32 flop/sec ?

    It's 32 FLOPs/Second/Clock so it's probably about right, but I can't be bothered with the maths.
  • -4 Hide
    iocedmyself , July 9, 2008 4:14 AM
    Wow..just...wow. I really don't expect much from this. It is a combination of everything that intel falls horribly short in.


    Good multi core design
    64bit performance/compatibility
    Graphics performance
    Actually innovative design period.

    When they were designing the core/2 duo/quad chips to which they churn out a new flavor, socket, chipset every 3 or 4 months now at obscene prices yes they went back to the PIII chips and improved off of that. But those stating the connections of core2 to core to pentium pro back to the pentium MMX and "that powerful gpu was developed 20 years ago but only used for general purpose computing"...are you guys serious? Are you actually impressed by those analogies, or just trying to make intel sound better than they are?

    First off it's pretty much a given that each new generation of cpu's is in a minor or major way based off an earlier design. Working off that logic AMD and intel have ties going back to chips that were run in warehouse sized computers.

    You could also make the claim that AMD has ties to going back to those chips since AMDK5 and the intel pentium 75mhz-133mhz shared the socket 5 platform, and Socket 7 was shared by intel Pentium, Pentium MMX and AMD K6. It could also be said that Intel's 64bit chips are based off AMD designs...since intel had to liscense the intrustions from AMD to even get in the 64bit game.

    But then of course the AMD 64bit chips were a direct result of Alpha designs. Alpha having had the first 64bit RISC cpu back 1992. Yes that's how long 64bit cpu's have been around...since '92. The AMD socket A series of cpu's were actually based off the Alpha64bit cpu, only increased cache sizes and clock speeds using 32bit extenstions. How could that be? Because the guys that worked for alpha (later DEC) and designed the 64bit chips went to work for AMD. The socket A being a place holder while they focused on the opteron, based even more closely on the Alpha64.

    Sure i suppose you could look at the Core/core 2 series of being a testament to the longevity of intel's designing skill and innovation. But more realistically it should be screaming the fact that between Febuary 26th of 1999 with the release of the pentium 3 550mhz, and the release of the Core 2 january 5th i belive of 2006 they didn't release a product with ANY staying power.

    That's nearly 7 years without progress...or if you wanted to nitpick, between November 2000 with the release of the P4, and january 2006 everything they designed was crap. Which is pretty much true. They had to go all the way back to the last millennia to find something worth building off of. Am i the only one that gets how sad that is? Endlessly deep pockets, vastly greater resources than AMD, and 7 years of work were not worth paying attention to. This is what the AMD/intel war has been like going back 15 years or more.

    Intel makes something ground breaking chip...regarding the fading platform generation
    Everybody wants it
    they muscle out the competition
    Milk their good idea for all it's worth while ignoring the competition
    Wake up to find the guy 1/10th thier size has leapt light years ahead of them
    Rely on muscle and the power of marketing to sustain their sales for the next several years while they come up with another great product to revitalize the fading platform.

    Intel is the reason that there is such shoddy multicore application support, and 64bit application support. Multicore was intended for 64bit. But intel couldn't play on that level, they knew it, the competition knew it and the hardware vendors knew it. So they stall. They come out with Core2, which is meant for 32bit, because really no one needs 64bit stuff, it's all just hype. So what if we say it's hype because we can't make stuff like that? So what if we say it's hype because the little guy we laughed at for so many years that has been beating our skulls in as it is in 32bit stuff for years gets another 15-20% performance in 64bit application. Why should you upgrade your hardware to take advantage of new software.

    Instead you can upgrade to new hardware that makes all the software you know and love run REALLY REALLY FAST! We think you'll love it so much we'll let you spend money on it every 3-6 months, and lots of it!
  • 0 Hide
    klarkmdb , July 9, 2008 4:24 AM
    Pentium MMX 75mhz, i had that before until i sold it to a student who wants to use if for school and study (of course in our place). Imagine that until now it's working and running! with a windows 98! We're nearing the age where technology posted on fictional movies are coming to life!
  • -2 Hide
    mf_fm , July 9, 2008 5:23 AM
    AMD/ATI vs Intel vs Nv

    its gonna be very interesting, looks like Nv is left out cold, when the technology move forward to CPU/GPU fusion.

    that wouldn't happen soon, but i totally hope that a PC make over, remake motherboard completely, make it small and powerful, lose the weight of a desktop yet gain more power, less energy consumption, please.

    MOVE FORWARD>>>>>> PC hasn't really MOVED in terms of the design, Window needs to MOVED FORWARD as well, hopefully Window 7 isn't "Window Me 3".

    so AMD/ATi, Intel & Nv, good luck.

    Key: No graphic card is worth more than USD$250, its just none sense, and rip off.
  • 0 Hide
    martel80 , July 9, 2008 7:31 AM
    cruiseoveridegreat, but does it work on Linux?what are windows users going to do with 32cores anyways..../hides

    If I'm not mistaken, this will be an add-on card so it will work anywhere (with a PCIe slot). Intel is likely to provide some reference "software" renderer in the drivers but you should be able to write and use your own renderer with this card (raster/raytracing/whatever). So it is just a matter of making Linux drivers which would allow you to communicate with the card over the bus (upload your code and run it).
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , July 9, 2008 9:14 AM
    LOL, I have a pentium 120@133 as a fileserver, and one Pentium MMX 233 which is currently unpluged but going to be plugged in very soon. :-D
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , July 9, 2008 9:22 AM
    Sorry for the second post but I forgot what I wanted to say. ^_^;

    The most fascinating thing is, you take 32 Pentium MMX processors, do some adjustments (make it 64bit), and can compete with Ati and Nvidia?
    What exactly were this companies all the years doing (just inflating the chip)? Or is intel working on this already for a long time (several years) and doing really big changes to the old core?
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