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.


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


View All Comments

  • paydirt - Monday, August 4, 2008 - link

    STFU Griswald. It's not helpful for you to grade every comment. Grade the article if you like... Anandtech, is it possible to add an ignore user function for the comments? Reply
  • Shinei - Monday, August 4, 2008 - link

    Some competition might do nVidia good--if Larrabee manages to outperform nvidia, you know nvidia will go berserk and release another hammer like the NV40 after R3x0 spanked them for a year.

    Maybe we'll start seeing those price/performance gains we've been spoiled with until ATI/AMD decided to stop being competitive.

    Overall, this can only mean good things, even if Larrabee itself ultimately fails.
  • Griswold - Monday, August 4, 2008 - link

    Wake-up call dumbo. AMD just started to mop the floor with nvidias products as far as price/performance goes. Reply
  • watersb - Monday, August 4, 2008 - link

    great article!

    You compare the Larrabee to a Core 2 duo - for SIMD instructions, you multiplied by a (hypothetical) 10 cores to show Larrabee at 160 SIMD instructions per clock (IPC). But you show non-vector IPC as 2.

    For a 10-core Larrabee, shouldn't that be x10 as well? For 20 scalar IPC
  • Adamv1 - Monday, August 4, 2008 - link

    I know Intel has been working on Ray Tracing and I'm really curious how this is going to fit into the picture.

    From what i remember Ray Tracing is a highly parallel and scales quite well with more cores and they were talking about introducing it on 8 core processors, it seems to me this would be a great platform to try it on.
  • SuperGee - Thursday, August 7, 2008 - link

    How it fit's.
    GPU from ATI and nV are called HArdware renderers. Stil a lot of fixed funtion. Rops TMU blender rasterizer etc. And unified shader are on the evolution to get more general purpouse. But they aren't fully GP.
    This larrabee a exotic X86 massive multi core. Will act as just like a Multicore CPU. But optimised for GPU task and deployed as GPU.
    So iNTel use a Software renderer and wil first emulate DirectX/OpenGL on it with its drivers.
    Like nv ATI is more HAL with as backup HEL
    Where Larrabee is pure HEL. But it's parralel power wil boost Software method as it is just like a large bunch of X86 cores.
    HEL wil runs fast, as if it was 'HAL' with LArrabee. Because the software computing power for such task are avaible with it.

    What this means is that as a GFX engine developer you got full freedom if you going to use larrabee directly.

    Like they say first with a DirectX/openGL driver. Later with also a CPU driver where it can be easy target directly. thus like GPGPU task. but larrabee could pop up as extra cores in windows.
    This means, because whatever you do is like a software solution.
    You can make a software rendere on Ratracing method, but also a Voxel engine could be done to. But this software rendere will be accelerated bij the larrabee massive multicore CPU with could do GPU stuf also very good. But will boost any software renderer. Offcourse it must be full optimised for larrabee to get the most out of it. using those vector units and X86 larrabee extention.

    Novalogic could use this to, for there Voxel game engine back in the day's of PIII.

    It could accelerate any software renderer wich depend heavily on parralel computing.
  • icrf - Monday, August 4, 2008 - link

    Since I don't play many games anymore, that aspect of Larrabee doesn't interest me any more than making economies of scale so I can buy one cheap. I'm very interested in seeing how well something like POV-Ray or an H.264 encoder can be implemented, and what kind of speed increase it'd see. Sure, these things could be implemented on current GPUs through Cuda/CTM, but that's such an different kind of task, it's not at all quick or easy. If it's significantly simpler, we'd actually see software sooner that supports it. Reply
  • cyberserf - Monday, August 4, 2008 - link

    one word: MATROX Reply
  • Guuts - Monday, August 4, 2008 - link

    You're going to have to use more than one word, sorry... I have no idea what in this article has anything to do with Matrox. Reply
  • phaxmohdem - Monday, August 4, 2008 - link

    What you mean you DON'T have a Parhelia card in your PC? WTF is wrong with you? Reply

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