Things That Could Go Wrong

I had to write this section because as strong as Intel has been executing these past couple of years, we must keep in mind that in the GPU market, Intel isn't only the underdog, it's going up against the undefeated. NVIDIA, the company that walked into 3dfx's house and walked away with its IP, the company who could be out engineered and outperformed by ATI for an entire year and still emerge as dominant. This is Intel's competition, the most Intel-like of all of the manufacturers in the business, and a highly efficient one at that.

Intel may benefit from the use of its advanced manufacturing fabs in making Larrabee, but it is also burdened by them. NVIDIA has been building GPUs, some quite large, without ever investing a dime in building its own manufacturing facility. There's much that could go wrong with Larrabee, the short list follows:

Manufacturing, Design and Yield

Before we get to any of the GPU-specific concerns about Larrabee, there's always the basics when making any chip. There's always the chance that it could be flawed, it might not reach the right clock speeds, deliver the right performance and perhaps not yield well enough. Larrabee has a good chance of being Intel's largest die produced in desktop-like volumes, while Intel is good at manufacturing we can't rule these out as concerns.

Performance

As interesting as Larrabee sounds, it's not going to arrive for another year at least. NVIDIA should have even higher performing parts out by then, making GT200 look feebile by comparison. If Intel can't deliver a real advantage over the best from NVIDIA and AMD, Larrabee won't get very far as little more than a neat architecture.

Drivers and Developer Relations

Intel's driver team now is hardly its strongpoint. On the integrated graphics side we continue to have tons of issues, even as we're testing the new G45 platform we're still bumping into many driver related issues and are hearing, even from within Intel, that the IGP driver team leaves much to be desired. Remember that NVIDIA as a company is made up of mostly software engineers - drivers are paramount to making a GPU successful, and Intel hasn't proved itself.

I asked Intel who was working on the Larrabee drivers, thankfully the current driver team is hard at work on the current IGP platforms and not on Larrabee. Intel has a number of its own software engineers working on Larrabee's drivers, as well as a large team that came over from 3DLabs. It's too early to say whether or not this is a good thing, nor do we have any idea of what Intel's capabilities are from a regression testing standpoint, but architecture or not, drivers can easily decide the winner in the GPU race.

Developer relations are also very important. Remember the NVIDIA/Assassin's Creed/DirectX 10.1 fiasco? NVIDIA's co-marketing campaign with nearly all of the top developers is an incredibly strong force. While Intel has the clout to be able to talk to game developers, we're bound to see the clash of two impossibly strong forces here.

The Future of Larrabee: The Many Core Era and Launch Questions Final Words
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  • Midwayman - Monday, August 04, 2008 - link

    I not interested in the graphics so much. It may or may not compete with the the top end nvidia chips if released on time. What is more interesting is if this can easily be integrated as a general purpose cpu for non-graphics work? Imagine getting a benefit out of your gpu 100% of the time, not just when you're gaming. I know its possible to use more modern GPU's this way if you code specifically for them, but with its x86 architecture, it might be able to do it without having apps specifically coded for it.
    Reply
  • ocyl - Monday, August 04, 2008 - link

    Larrabee will be shipped when Diablo III is, and it will mark the beginning of the end for DirectX.

    Calling it first here at AnandTech.

    Thanks go to Anand and Derek for the very well written article. You are the ones who keep tech journalism alive.
    Reply
  • erikespo - Monday, August 04, 2008 - link

    "At 143 mm^2, Intel could fit 10 Larrabee-like cores so let's double that. Now we're at 286mm^2 (still smaller than GT200 and about the size of AMD's RV770) and 20-cores. Double that once more and we've got 40-cores and have a 572mm^2 die, virtually the same size as NVIDIA's GT200 but on a 65nm process. "

    this math is way off

    143 mm^2 is 20449mm.. if they fit 10 there that is 2044.9 per core
    286mm^2 is 81796mm.. that is 4X the space so 40 cores in 286^2
    and 572mm^2 is 327184mm is 160 cores..

    double length will double area.. doubling length and width will quadruple area.
    Reply
  • bauerbrazil - Monday, August 04, 2008 - link

    Hahahaha, YOUR math is way off!!!

    Jesus.
    Reply
  • erikespo - Monday, August 04, 2008 - link

    I see where the article and you got your math..
    you both did 143mm^2 / 10 and got 14.3 then divided 286^2 by 14.3 and got 20.. this math is only acting on the one number..

    I know this because the area of 14.3 is 204.49 mm. 10 of those would be 2044.9mm. but the area of 143mm^2 is 20449mm.
    Reply
  • WeaselITB - Monday, August 04, 2008 - link

    Wow ... No.
    143mm^2 is NOT equivalent to 143^2 mm ... Your analysis is flawed.

    If we use your example, 2mm^2 is NOT 2mm x 2mm ... it's actually root(2)mm x root(2)mm ... 4mm^2 is 2mm x 2mm, not 4mm x 4mm (that'd be 16mm).

    Maybe you should examine in depth that Wikipedia article you linked earlier ...

    Thanks,
    -Weasel
    Reply
  • MamiyaOtaru - Monday, August 04, 2008 - link

    143mm^2 is NOT equivalent to 143^2 mm

    ^^THIS

    That's it in a nutshell. mm² doesn't mean you square 143, it refers to Square Millimeters, a unit of area (unlike Millimeters, a unit of distance).

    Revised mspaint illustration: http://img379.imageshack.us/my.php?image=squaremmh...">http://img379.imageshack.us/my.php?image=squaremmh...
    Reply
  • erikespo - Monday, August 04, 2008 - link

    Anandtech Comment Section.. Forever record of my retardedness Reply
  • erikespo - Monday, August 04, 2008 - link

    Dang.. Many apologies..
    got my square area and squared numbers confused..
    Reply
  • WeaselITB - Monday, August 04, 2008 - link

    [quote]4mm^2 is 2mm x 2mm, not 4mm x 4mm (that'd be 16mm).[/quote]

    Dang, that was supposed to read "(that'd be 16mm^2)."

    Thanks,
    -Weasel
    Reply

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