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Intel chief touts mobile 3D chip, ignores next-gen XScale

Wireless MMX shunned

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IDF Having once claimed that its next-generation XScale processor, codenamed Bulverde, would bring "mobile gaming into the 21st Century", Intel now argues that you'll really need a discrete mobile graphics chip too.

Bulverde was announced at last autumn's IDF by Ron Smith, the company's then head of wireless products. The processor will sport Wireless MMX, an XScale implementation of the MMX extensions added by Intel to the Pentium in the mid-1990s.

Bulverde is due to ship sometime in the second half of 2004, after a formal unveiling sometime between now and July.

Today, however, Smith's successor, Sean Maloney, who heads Intel's Communications Group - which now encompasses Smith's wireless chip unit, following regime change - told IDF attendees that phone makers and PDA designers will need to implement 'Carbonado', the company's prototype mobile 3D graphics accelerator, in order to obtain an "unusually real 3D feel".

Carbonado first surfaced during Intel President and COO Paul Otellini's CES presentation last month. Developed for use alongside an ARM-based processor like XScale, the chip is believed to derive from Imagination Technologies' PowerVR MBX core, which Intel licensed in July 2002.

Carbonado will offer an "effective throughput of up to three million polygons per second" and will enable "much faster graphics performance into phones and PDA", according to Mahoney.

So much for the 'Xbox on a phone' claims made for Bulverde. Carbonado will go into production this quarter, Mahoney said - well ahead of Bulverde.

On the tiles

PowerVR MBX uses the screen-tiling technique long a feature of PowerVR graphics features. The core renders a screen as collection of independent tiles, which speeds the overall rendering process considerably. That allows the chip to be relatively simple, in turn keeping the power consumption down.

Maloney lauded Carbonado's low power design. Bulverde, however, didn't rate a mention - Maloney simply promised to continue scaling the XScale line up through future process technologies. ®

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