The Week of IDF Begins Early

The Intel Developer Forum started with a quick look at a new Futuremark game engine that will utilize quad-core processors!

Quad Cores and XP Home Edition

Last night Intel held a small press-only pre-IDF meeting to quickly give us an overview of some information we might need to start off our week of keynotes and tech sessions.  At this meeting, Intel showed a few new things to us that weren’t public knowledge yet and I felt they were worth sharing before I headed out for the initial tech talks on the first real day of IDF.

First, to address a concern that Intel has seen raised on various tech websites and magazines around the world, they showed the new Intel Kentsfield quad-core processor running on a copy of Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition.  Those of you that thought the licensing and “processor limitations” on the Home Edition software would keep quad-core processors from being able to fully utilize their power, we can confirm that is not the case.  Home Edition will be able to detect, use and thread with four processor cores in the same way that XP Professional Edition will be able to.

Quad Core Gaming

Next we heard about the problems software vendors have had moving from single theaded gaming engines to multi-threaded ones; this is not new information for readers of PC Perspective though.  Intel claims that “by next Christmas” (we are assuming that is Christmas of 2007) there will be tons of games that are multithreaded capable.  To prove it is possible to create such a game engine, Intel charted Futuremark to create such an engine.

Dubbed “Ice Storm Fighters” as of right now, this is a playable game engine (not to remain a running demo only) that uses four threads. The areas these threads are responsible for are the unit updates, physics, frame updates and scene updates (rendering).  Each of these threads is running independently on the hardware.

IDF 2006: Quad Core in Action and a FutureMark Game Engine - Shows and Expos 4

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You can see in this screen shot above that the software is tracking CPU utilization of the four cores of a Kentsfield processor.  You can also see the frame rate of the game being reported in the center there.  The CPU utilization is fairly high on all four cores, indicating a work load that is being distributed fairly evenly. 

When Intel disabled two of the cores and went into dual threading mode, the game came to a halt; take this with a grain of salt though as we weren’t able to play with or test the game in our own environment.

IDF 2006: Quad Core in Action and a FutureMark Game Engine - Shows and Expos 5

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Regardless, the demo showed that Intel is committed to bringing multi-threaded gaming to user and has their developers, and their wallet, to back them up.

Power by Numbers

Intel was also eager to talk about a new performance-per-power indicator that they would like to see the industry adopt in some fashion.  Basically, Intel would like to see some standard for reporting the amount of energy and cost associated with a computer on a set task.  In Intel’s demonstration, they used a couple runs of Sysmark 2004 SE to simulate a typical “work day” and came up with some arithmetic to show this:

IDF 2006: Quad Core in Action and a FutureMark Game Engine - Shows and Expos 6

This cost per year amount is based on typical sleep times, idle times and work loads, but of course this will vary from user to user.  We’ll have more information from Intel about this during the week and I’ll be sure to report on it in more detail then.

Final Thoughts

The world of quad-core processing is just around the corner for desktop users and Intel is going to be the first there.  Will that new power be fully utilized?  Intel thinks so and is putting their money where their mouth is. 

More from IDF soon!

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