Holy Mega Multitasking, Batman! Intel Handing Out Samples of Experimental 48-Core Chip

Just when you thought your 6-core chip was the baddest processor on the planet, Intel goes and announces plans to ship PCs equipped with an experimental 48-core CPU to a handful of lucky researchers sometime by the end of the second quarter.

That doesn't mean that you just wasted $1,100 and that your Core i7 980X is suddenly obsolete. As part of a research project, the 48-core part might never become commercially available, and if it did, it would be destined for mainframes and supercomputing tasks, not home desktops.

At the same time, there is reason to envy. The underlying architecture of the 48-core part includes tweaks that reduce memory and communication bottlenecks inherent in all current x86 processors. The 48 cores are arranged with multiple connect points in a serial mesh network to transfer data between cores. Each core also has on-chip buffers to instantly exchange data in parallel across all cores.

Intel Terascale 48-Core Test Board - Video demo after the break...

According to Sean Koehl, technology evangelist with Intel Labs, remarkably the 48-core part only draws between 25W and 125W, and cores can be slowed down or shut off completely in order to save power.

Intel speaks to their 48-core Terascale technology in this recently released video promo...

"With a chip like this, you could imagine a cloud datacenter of the future which will be an order of magnitude more energy efficient than what exists today, saving significant resources on space and power costs," said Justin Rattner, head of Intel Labs and Intel's Chief Technology Officer. "Over time, I expect these advanced concepts to find their way into mainstream devices, just as advanced automotive technology such as electronic engine control, air bags and anti-lock braking eventually found their way into all cars."