IF FAN BOYS across the globe got hot and bothered about the release of dual and quad core processors in tablets and phones during the last year, I’d wager that its a sure-fire they’ll be positively wetting themselves if Intel has anything to do with things.
Wondering what the fuss is all about? How’s this for size? The chip-making giant’s ompah-lumpahs have been busy slaving away over a hot Intel chip fabrication plant to crank out a prototype 48-core processor. Yes, you read it right, 48 freaking cores, I shit you not. This chip isn’t some abstract piece of silicon designed to test an IT wonk’s pet theory, either. Intel has designed this beast for smartphones and tablets.
It may have previously amazed me that my HTC One X has more processing power than that used by the entire Apollo progamme to put a man on the moon, but 48 processor cores in a smartphone is utterly bonkers. Take my money, Intel!
Geek-bragging rights aside (“mine’s got 48 cores, how’s about yours?”), there are some potentially massive benefits to be realised with such a massive amount of computing power in the pockets and purses of your average Joe and Jo-anne.
While multi-core chips have become more commonplace in smartphones and tablets over the last year, a 48-core chip could see smartphones delivering seriously on the multi-tasking front. Imagine applying military grade encryption to an IM or email while also playing Crysis on maximum graphics settings while also listening to some music as you wait for the bus. Complex tasks such as speech recognition (which are currently farmed out by devices such as the iPhone to data centres and as such cost a bomb in mobile data charges) could be handled without sending data anywhere (I’m liking the cost savings already) with relative ease and greater accuracy using the sheer computing power on tap with this new silicon.
If that’s the good news, the not-so great news is that all these cores could in theory consume several boatloads of power compared to the current crop of CPUs. Battery life could drop from a day or two to mere few hours on a 48 core processor. Thankfully, there is an answer to this that needn’t involve the energiser bunny or a nuclear reactor in your pocket. Power management routines could see energy consumption split it up and distributed between different cores, so that some cores consumed more energy than others depending on the tasks they were running.
Adding to the already substantial buzz around this uber chip, Intel’s CTO Justin Rattner, has also indicated that the 48-core chip could hit the market sooner than the 10-year window analysts are predicting. With ever-increasing computational demands being placed on phones as they begin to encroach on niches previously occupied by PCs, games consoles and other consumer digital doodads (think 3D, HD video, augmented reality and speech recognition, plus greater artificial intelligence and you’re pretty much cooking with gas) they’ll require ever increasing amounts of mobile computing power.
Me, I’m wondering what bizarre and wonderful codename Intel will come up with for this chip. We’ve already had some doozies from Intel (Ivory Bridge, Allendale and Clarkdale – which sources say are all place names from the US), but I think this chip should be code-named Bacon Factory given the sheer amount of grunt it’ll have. What do you reckon? PAT PILCHER