The first (slightly) detailed image of Intel’s upcoming Larrabee architecture was shown today at the opening ceremonies for the Visual Computing Institute of the Saarland University in Germany.  Website PC Games Hardware was on hand at the event and snapped up this image:

Detailed Larrabee die shot shown, cores counted - Graphics Cards 3
Click to Enlarge

We are hoping to do some more investigation and get counts on the actual number of cores and vector units included on the upcoming graphics processor but the image doesn’t quite have enough focus for us to do it easily.  There appears to be 32 cores paired with 32 vector processing units – a 1-to-1 ratio we were told about last year.  There is cache and what is likely memory interface and PCI Express logic around the edges of the chip but again any of our guesses are really just that for the time being.

Detailed Larrabee die shot shown, cores counted - Graphics Cards 4
Is this one Larrabee ‘core’?

One thing is for sure – Intel is getting closer to an actual release if they are starting to show off images like this!

We also know that the base design for the Larrabee x86 cores is based on the second-generation Pentium architecture known as the P54C.  Originally launched in 1994 at clock speeds of about 120 MHz, the running theory for Intel’s P54C is that on the current 45nm technology it would easily be able to reach 2.0 GHz and possibly as high as 3.0 GHz.  With 32 of these cores, and their associated 16-wide vector processors, the Larrabee chip could well be exceed 2.0-2.5 TFlops by the time of its release next year. 

The question remains: will that be enough performance and at what cost (in terms of power and efficiency) will it take to reach those speeds?  AMD and NVIDIA will likely have nearly 2.0 TFlops processing GPUs on the market by the end of this year and Intel has yet to prove that the Larrabee architecture can be anywhere near as efficient as the custom logic in traditional GPUs. 

Update: We asked Intel for a higher resolution image of this die shot, and while they wouldn’t give it to us, they did have this to reply with:

Justin Rattner did show what the silicon looks like. Larrabee is healthy and in our labs right now. There will be multiple versions of Larrabee over time. We are not releasing additional details at this time.

To me, this translates as follows: “This die you see here may not actually be the one we release first due to various technical concerns” aka “Don’t get your hopes up.”

Update 2: We also have posted some news on Intel’s Joseph Shultz’s indicating that Larrabee would indeed see a 2010 introduction rather than a late 2009. 

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