Intel reveals Larrabee specs

Intel has revealed the first technical details of Larrabee, the company’s foray into the discrete graphics market.

Intel reveals Larrabee specs

Larrabee will be an x86-based standalone chip, comprised of anything between eight and 48 individual cores. Intel is describing Larrabee as a halfway house between its traditional CPUs and a GPU.

“It looks like a GPU and acts like a GPU but actually what it’s doing is introducing a large number of x86 cores into your PC,” according to Intel spokesperson Nick Knupffer, quoted on

Analysts say consumers are unlikely to make the distinction between Larrabee and exisiting GPUs. “Larrabee is not a GPU in the sense an ATI, Nvidia, or S3 chip is a GPU,” says Jon Peddie of Jon Peddie Research. “It is a gang of X86 cores that can do graphics processing, so it is a GCPU – graphics capable processing unit, as are ATI, Nvidia, and S3’s chips. It’s unlikely the industry is going to take such subtleties into consideration and adopt a new term like GCPU and rather will incorrectly label and refer to Larrabee as a GPU.”

The Larrabee cores are derived from the Pentium processor family, and will support 64-bit instructions and multithreading. Each core has 256KB of level 2 cache, which means the overall cache count increases proportionally with the number of cores.

Larrabee will offer support for both Microsoft’s DirectX and Apple’s Open CL, making it compatible with games that are already on the market.

Intel faces a rough ride entering the discrete PC graphics market where just two companies – Nvidia and ATI – have a combined market share of 98%. And Peddie says those two will not be resting on their laurels. “Intel is announcing a 2010 part now,” he says. “Maybe that will influence some potential buyers to wait, certainly that would be Intel’s ambition. However, do you think ATI and Nvidia are just going to sit on their hands until 2010 and wait for Larrabee to show up?

“ATI and Nvidia are fleet-footed companies and can turn much faster than Intel. So if they chose to they could have a counter punch to Larrabee by 2010.”

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