Want to juice up your desktop? Xeon Phi cards are just $200

Intel's powerful co-processor card will pop right into a PCI Express slot, but using it is not trivial.

Is your Haswell processor too slow? Well of course it is, it only runs at 177 GigaFLOPS, after all. For a limited time, though, you can give your desktop a 1 TeraFLOP boost with a Xeon Phi card.

Intel has been running a special developer promotion by offering the Xeon Phi 31S1P coprocessor card for around $200 since October 17. The deal is expected to run through the end of the year. These cards, which look like a really big video card and fit in a PCI Express slot, normally retail for around $1,695.

This card is no joke. It comes with 57 cores running at 1.1GHz, 8GB of memory, is passively cooled, and offers over 1 TeraFLOP of double-precision compute power.

Of course, it's not just a matter of popping the card into your tower and off you go. If it was that easy I'd buy one to speed up my Einstein@Home client. First, you have to make sure your motherboard will support it.

Second, you have to get it working with your computer, and if you don't run Linux, that gets tough. The Xeon Phi runs its own flavor of Linux on the card, so it's more natural in a Linux environment. Because of this, apps have to be recompiled to take advantage of the Xeon Phi processor.

On a Linux system, that's pretty easy. With Windows, it gets more complicated. This guide from Puget Systems, a Seattle-based high-performance computer builder, shows just how complex the steps are, if you are a novice.

So I don't get a new toy to play with, but for developers this is a steal, and Intel is severely undercutting Nvidia's Tesla cards, with which Xeon Phi competes and sell for $2,000-$3,000. Looks like Intel really wants to get this card out there.

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