Intel on Monday conducted the first demonstration of its long-awaited Larrabee graphics processor, which will launch the chip maker into competition with Advanced Micro Devices and Nvidia in the high-end graphics market.
Sean Maloney, chief sales and marketing officer for Intel, showed off a working Larrabee at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco. The graphics processor was used to render a game-like environment built on ray tracing, a computing-intensive technique for generating 3D graphics. The technique is particularly useful in rendering realistic shadows and reflections.
Larrabee was used in conjunction with Gulftown, codename for a six-core processor scheduled for release next year. The chip is based on Westmere, codename for a 32-nanometer variant of Intel's current 45-nm Nehalem microarchitecture. The first Westmere-based chip is scheduled to ship in the fourth quarter of this year.
During a news conference following the keynote, Maloney offered few details on Larrabee, but acknowledged that it will eventually be used in building a discrete graphics card used in high-end gaming PCs and workstations. "We've got a discrete product coming up," he said.
The bigger market, however, will be beyond the PC, when Larrabee technology is incorporated in system-on-a-chip products for handheld devices, Maloney said. The executive did not provide a timetable for Larrabee, but said one of the chip's market advantages is as an easier programming platform for developers, since the processor is built on the same x86 architecture used in Intel's other products. "We're keeping the programming model very close to what would be seen as conventional," Maloney said.
In the meantime, Intel is preparing to release some new integrated graphics technology soon. "You're going to see a big jump ahead in integrated graphics next year," Maloney said.
Integrated graphics are chips embedded in the motherboard, as opposed to being used in a separate card, which offers much more horsepower for graphics rendering. Intel dominates the market for integrated graphics in PCs.