A Working Intel Larrabee Graphics Prototype Just Sold For $5,000
This big blue speaker is likely the only working prototype of Intel’s Larabee GPU in the world, and it just went on sale on Ebay France for €4,650 ($5,234). Do you think the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 is expensive in today’s market? Try being a collector of rare PC components and talk to us.
Our friends at Tom’s Hardware noticed details of a recent Larrabee GPU listing, where the card is highlighted as an internal-use-only Intel engineering sample and includes a screenshot of the BIOS to show the GPU working, but no drivers.
For those who haven’t caught up, the Larrabee GPU is Intel’s previous attempt at a completely in-house discrete graphics design that predates all of the Intel Arc graphics business.
The company invested a considerable sum of money in the design of the card, in all likelihood billions, but eventually scrapped the retail version in late 2009, and the project ultimately fell through six months later. Intel said at the time, “At least in the short term, we will not bring discrete graphics products to the market.” The reason? “We missed some key product milestones,” among other things. Among them, the company’s focus is constantly changing.
Intel’s trajectory is clear: “We’re focused on processor graphics, and we believe media/HD video and mobile computing are the most important focus areas going forward.” Clearly, gaming was not a viable focus in 2010.
While the card was canceled, that doesn’t mean it was a failure. As Tom Forsyth, one of its lead designers, put it when he rejoined Intel’s graphics team under Raja Koduri: “Every month or so, someone asks me what happened to Larrabee and why it failed so badly. Then I Will try to explain to them that not only did it not fail, but it was a huge success.”
The card’s technology actually continues to underpin Intel’s supercomputing division, and in 2012 helped form the basis for the high-profile accelerator card Knights Corner as well as the Xeon Phi coprocessor.
Every month or so, someone asks me what happened to the rabbi.
The x86-based Larrabee cards themselves are more like CPU/GPU hybrids than just graphics cards. It’s more of a general-purpose computing unit without any specialized chips, and is derived from the Intel Pentium CPU design – with only a more powerful vector unit than older Intel processors.
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Inside the Larrabee card’s thick blue box are 32 four-way multithreaded cores, a 512-bit vector processing unit, and a 1,024-bit (512-bit bidirectional) memory bus.
This all makes it hard to match its modern counterparts, but the 48-core version was closer in performance to competing graphics cards from Nvidia and AMD at the time, albeit at a much higher power cost. This may be another reason why they never entered the market.
Apparently, a working prototype of the original Larrabee GPU did survive, and some lucky souls have now managed to bag it. How the Larrabee got into the hands of the seller is unclear, but they did make one collector very happy.
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