Intel's Larrabee - A candidate processor for NEXT generation game consoles


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By Dean Takahashi


Intel CEO Paul Otellini finally talked up Larrabee today at the Intel
Developer Forum. This code-named graphics-CPU combination chip has
dozens of cores capable of running as many as 64 threads, (think
programs), at the same time. Unlike the upcoming Fusion chip from
Advanced Micro Devices, which combines a CPU and a graphics chip on a
single chip, Larrabee consists of a bunch of Intel x86 cores on a chip
that are capable of either CPU or graphics processing. Programmers can
determine how they will use those cores at any given time.


Larrabee will certainly have implications for graphics giant Nvidia.
But its timing in 2008 with 45-nanometer technology is just in time
for consideration in the next generation of video game consoles.
Everyone knows that all of the game console makers are hard at work
designing their next game consoles. If you recall, IBM said last year
that it was working on a 32-core version of the Cell microprocessor
for a few years from now. I figure that will represent IBM's pitch to
Sony to use another IBM chip in the PlayStation 4. Intel certainly
doesn't want to be left out again, so it may want to position Larrabee
as a chip for a video game console. (FYI, 2008 isn't a launch date for
anybody's new console, but the console makers will want to use a high-
end chip that has been cost reduced and debugged for a least a year or
two or more).

Justin Rattner, chief technology officer at Intel, said that Larrabee
could indeed prove useful for devices beyond the PC such as a video
game console. He noted how Larrabee would be more focused on
processing tasks, in contrast to the floating-point calculation
focused Cell processors from IBM-Toshiba-Sony. And if we believe
reports that Sony is shopping its Cell chip factory to Toshiba and
others, then we might conclude Sony might be ready to consider other
processor architectures the next time around. This is all rank
speculation, of course, but fun food for thought. Rattner said that
Larrabee would be based on the familiar IA architecture that
programmers know well. He also noted that games require a lot of
physics processing these days, something Larrabee would be good at. In
general, he thinks that the PCs and game consoles will come together
architecturally, now that all are embracing multiple cores.

http://tinyurl.com/29lwux
 
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