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Intel announces Haswell graphics extensions with unified memory

Goes down the unified memory access route
Thu Mar 28 2013, 01:03
An Intel logo on a piece of equipment

SAN FRANCISCO: CHIP DESIGNER Intel has released specifications for three graphics extensions that will appear in the GPU of its upcoming Haswell processors.

Intel's upcoming Haswell processors will largely retain the same HD Graphics 4000 core found in the firm's Ivy Bridge chips, however there will be new features that will allow the firm to claim some technological advances. The firm announced the first of those changes at the Games Developer Conference (GDC) with DirectX graphics extensions for games developers.

Intel revealed some details on its Pixelsync and Instantaccess technologies, claiming its introduction at GDC rather than later will help games developers take advantage of the technologies when chips appear. Intel is widely expected to announce Haswell later this year.

Intel's Pixelsync allows developers to composite partially transparent pixels without having to enter further subroutines. The firm claims this will allow developers to render more realistic textures.

Intel also announced Instantaccess, where the CPU and GPU can read and write to the main memory. Intel didn't mention it by name, but given that Intel's HD Graphics 4000 supports OpenCL, giving read and write access to system memory to both CPU and GPU is edging towards having a unified memory architecture.

While Intel allows for the CPU and GPU to access main memory, it didn't reveal the addressing scheme, which is important from a developer's viewpoint. Nevertheless slowly but surely, Intel is seemingly edging towards GPU computing, even publishing a whitepaper supporting heterogeneous system architectures.

Intel's GPUs might be the butt of gamers' jokes but the firm has been the largest PC GPU supplier by far for many years and is often used as the benchmark for mass market games. Therefore, what the firm includes as part of its GPU specifications determines what many games will look like for a number of years.

All of Intel's posturing with its HD Graphics extensions strongly suggests that the firm is preparing its Haswell announcement sooner rather than later. µ


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