Larrabee: Intel's New GPU

Last year was rich in new developments in the world of 3D graphics. There was the first real update of the Nvidia architecture, the GT200. We also witnessed AMD’s return to the big leagues with the RV770 and its radically different approach, as the firm bet everything on its small, efficient chip rather than a larger, more complex design.

On the application programming interface (API) side, the first details of DirectX 11 were revealed and OpenGL 3 was made available. But even with all of that going on, the event that really marked the year was Intel’s official introduction of Larrabee at SIGGRAPH.

What’s all the excitement about? Simply: the fact, as we’ll see in this article, that Larrabee is radically different from any GPU currently available, and as such, it’s intriguing. Enthusiasts are wondering if this is going to be the design that changes the perception of how well Intel and graphics go together.

It also marks Intel’s return to the high-end GPU market after it killed off the i740 some 10 years ago. That retreat coincided with the end of the golden age in PC graphics, when numerous companies were struggling to reach the top of the GPU market before disappearing one after the other, or else refocusing on a less competitive sector. Today, the high-end GPU market boils down to AMD and Nvidia, and the few attempts to change that state of affairs have met with failure. Matrox, with its Parhelia almost seven years ago, XGI with its Volari, and 3DLabs with its Realizm all threw in the towel, and with good reason--modern GPUs are extremely complex and, consequently, require considerable investment and skills that only a few companies can afford. 

This thread is closed for comments
95 comments
    Your comment
  • thepinkpanther
    very interesting, i know nvidia cant settle for being the second best. As always its good for the consumer.
  • IzzyCraft
    Yes interesting, but intel already makes like 50% of every gpu i rather not see them take more market share and push nvidia and amd out although i doubt it unless they can make a real performer, which i have no doubt on paper they can but with drivers etc i doubt it.
  • I wonder if their aim is to compete to appeal to the gamer market to run high end games?
  • Alien_959
    Very interesting, finally some more information about Intel upcoming "GPU".
    But as I sad before here if the drivers aren't good, even the best hardware design is for nothing. I hope Intel invests more on to the software side of things and will be nice to have a third player.
  • crisisavatar
    cool ill wait for windows 7 for my next build and hope to see some directx 11 and openGL3 support by then.
  • Stardude82
    Maybe there is more than a little commonality with the Atom CPUs: in-order execution, hyper threading, low power/small foot print.

    Does the duo-core NV330 have the same sort of ring architecture?
  • "Simultaneous Multithreading (SMT). This technology has just made a comeback in Intel architectures with the Core i7, and is built into the Larrabee processors."

    just thought i'd point out that with the current amd vs intel fight..if intel takes away the x86 licence amd will take its multithreading and ht tech back leaving intel without a cpu and a useless gpu
  • liemfukliang
    Driver. If Intel made driver as bad as Intel Extreme than event if Intel can make faster and cheaper GPU it will be useless.
  • IzzyCraft
    Hope for an Omega Drivers equivalent lol?
  • phantom93
    Damn, hoped there would be some pictures :(. Looks interesting, I didn't read the full article but I hope it is cheaper so some of my friends with reg desktps can join in some Orginal Hardcore PC Gaming XD.
  • Slobogob
    I was quite suprised by the quality of this article and am quite eager to see the follow up.
  • JeanLuc
    Well I am looking forward to Larrabee but I'll keep my optimisim under wraps until I start seeing some screenshots of Larabee in action playing real games i.e. not Intel demo's.

    I wonder just how compatible larrabee is going to be with older games?
  • tipoo
    Great article! Keep ones like this coming!
  • tipoo
    IzzyCraftHope for an Omega Drivers equivalent lol?



    That would be FANTASTIC! Maybe the same people who make the Omega drivers could make alternate Larrabee drivers? We all know Intel sucks balls at drivers.
  • armistitiu
    So this is Intel's approach to a GPU... we put lots of simple x86 cores in it , add SMT and vector operations and hope that they would do the job of a GPU. IMHO Larrabee will be a complete failure as GPU but as an x86 CPU that is highly parallel this thing could screw AMD's FireStream and NVIDIA's CUDA (OPENCL too) beacause it's x86 and the programming is pretty popular for this kind of architecture.
  • wicko
    IzzyCraftYes interesting, but intel already makes like 50% of every gpu i rather not see them take more market share and push nvidia and amd out although i doubt it unless they can make a real performer, which i have no doubt on paper they can but with drivers etc i doubt it.

    Yeah but that 50% includes all the integrated cards that no consumer even realizes they're buying most of the time.. but not in discrete cards. I'd like to see a bit more competition on the discrete side.
  • B-Unit
    wtfnl"Simultaneous Multithreading (SMT). This technology has just made a comeback in Intel architectures with the Core i7, and is built into the Larrabee processors." just thought i'd point out that with the current amd vs intel fight..if intel takes away the x86 licence amd will take its multithreading and ht tech back leaving intel without a cpu and a useless gpu


    Umm, what makes you think that AMD pioneered multi-threading? And Intel doesnt use HyperTransport, so they cant take it away.
  • justaguy
    Now we know what they're trying to do with it. There's still no indication if it will work or not.

    I really don't see the 1st gen. being successful-it's not like AMD and nVidia are goofing around waiting for Intel to join up and show them a real GPU. Although there's no numbers on this that I've seen, I'm thinking Larry's going to have a pretty big die size to fit all those mini-cores so it better perform, because it will cost a decent sum.
  • crockdaddy
    I would mention ... "but will it play crysis" but I am not sure how funny that is anymore.
  • Pei-chen
    Can't wait for Larrabee; hopefully a single Larrabee can have the performance of 295. Nvidia and ATI are slacking as they know they can price fixing and stop coming out with better GPU, just more cards with the same old GPU.
  • decapitor
    Is it likely that one could compile existing C or Fortran code that includes MPI for parallelization for Larrabee, or would memory addressing issues require some code modification? As it stands, porting existing parallel code to CUDA is more trouble than it's worth for many people (not all I know...)
  • PrangeWay
    I worry about actualy performance. Originally last summer it was "as fast as current high ends from nvidia and amd", than in the fall with the 260 and 4870's out it was "75% of the performance of nvidia and amd's", well by the time this is out nvidia will be in their gtx 300's, and amd in their 5000's, with signficant work on the 400's and 6000's already in place. I think Intel is trying to hit a very very fast, moving target to avoid blowback.
  • TheFace
    I wouldn't think these would compete on a graphics level. These seem to be more on the side of massively parallel processing, for work like supercomputing and things like the @home projects. I'm sure these will have some graphical capabilities, but I wouldn't expect them to be on the level of AMD/NVIDIA (Unless someone actually programmed them "direct to metal").
    This is the only area of business that intel partakes in which it is not exactly in the forefront of the field. It has been a thorn in their side, and they will come out with something respectable, but probably not a good rasterization card.
  • velo116
    I agree with the post above (TheFace). I was under the impression this wasn't a "gaming" card but something more intended for design of 3d movies etc. Someone jokingly mentioned "but will it play Crysis", and I think the answer is "no" because it's not designed to.