We've all been waiting a long time to catch a glimpse of Intel's new graphics chip in action, and a glimpse is exactly what Sean Maloney gave the crowd at IDF today. Intel confirmed that Larrabee will be shipping as a discrete graphics solution, at least at first, with dev boxes already heading to software developers.
Maloney also confirmed that Larrabee will eventually be integrated into a CPU - integration was the watch word for Sean's keynote after all. But today's demo system comprised a discrete Larrabee chip along with Intel's Gulftown 32nm, six-core CPU, and with that kind of processing power it came as something of a surprise that the demo was so, well, disappointing.
The demo in question was basically Quake Wars: Enemy Territory being rendered in real time using ray tracing, and to say that it looked nothing special is an understatement. In fact, when aircraft entered the scene, it was clear that the frame rate was woefully low. Add to that the fact that the water effect resembled what you might see in a game five years ago, and I and many other journos were left wandering whether Larrabee will be worth the wait.
I'm not entirely sure what Intel's obsession is with real time ray tracing, especially since even a next generation, multi-core hardware platform can't seem to render it smoothly. Sometimes different isn't better, it's just different.