Using the Core i7 970 as a GPU
Subject: Processors | November 4, 2010 - 11:11 AM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Phoronix has been having a lot of fun with the 12 threads on offer to owners of the i7 970, testing the performance scaling of multiple threads in Linux. Their most recent experiment involved the Gallium3D LLVMpipe (Low-Level Virtual Machine compiler) driver that allows you to use your CPU as an OpenGL accelerator. Until recently this has not been terribly useful, GPUs are a viable product because they are just so darn good at what they do and is why the discussions of GPGPUs and APUs are so closely watched. This experiment differs from that topic but does show how effective the sheer power of hyperthreaded processors are as they run through the performance scaling of Linux based games like OpenArena, World of Padman, Urban Terror, VDrift, and Warsow.
"When finding out that an Intel Core i7 970 "Gulftown" CPU was on the way, which boasts six physical cores plus
another six logical cores via Hyper Threading, immediately coming to mind was to try out this latest Intel 32nm
processor with the Gallium3D LLVMpipe driver. There's a lot to love about Gallium3D when it comes open-source
Linux graphics drivers with the possibilities being presented by the different state trackers (such as native
Direct3D 11 support on Linux) and the hardware drivers themselves being more advanced, easier to write, and
eventually should be much faster than the classic Mesa drivers for Linux. One of the drivers that has
especially been of interest is LLVMpipe, which is an attempt to finally make a useful CPU-based software
rasterizer for Linux by leveraging the Low-Level Virtual Machine infrastructure. Here is our introductory
article to LLVMpipe and even with a Core i7 "Bloomfield" processor the driver is very demanding, but with
Intel's Gulftown the results are somewhat surprising as we experiment with how this CPU-based driver scales up
to twelve threads."
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