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Monday February 7, 4:18 PM

Sony's "supercomputer on a chip" to make debut

SAN FRANCISCO, Feb 7 (Reuters) - The highly anticipated microchip that will power the Sony PlayStation 3 video game system will be described in detail for the first time on Monday by its developers, IBM , Sony Corp. and Toshiba Corp.
Dubbed a "supercomputer on a chip," the Cell microprocessor has until now been long on ambition but short on specifics. At a technical conference here, the three electronics giants say they plan to disclose the inner workings of the chip, which is designed to run portable electronics, home entertainment devices and powerful computers.

Aimed squarely at the "digital home" market highly sought-after by Intel Corp. , the Cell initiative, which has been in development for more than three years, is viewed by some as a formidable, if fledgling, competitor to the world's largest chip maker.

The Cell chip will appear in the PlayStation 3, the follow-on to Sony's successful video game console that is expected to be released next year. Cell will likely also be marketed as an ideal technology for televisions and supercomputers, and everything in between, said Kevin Krewell, the editor in chief of Microprocessor Report.

Cell "promises to be a very exciting challenge to mainstream processors," Krewell wrote in a recent issue, naming it the best chip technology of 2004, remarkable if only for the fact that no one has actually seen the chip in action.

According to released details, Cell is based on the core of IBM's existing Power processor line, which is used in desktop PCs made by Apple Computer Inc. . Cell contains multiple cores, allowing it to perform like many chips in one.

It is capable of "massive floating point processing, optimized for compute-intensive workloads and broadband rich media applications, including computer entertainment, movies and other forms of digital content," according to an earlier statement from the companies.

Sony and IBM have called Cell a strong technology for high-powered workstations and supercomputers, with multiple Cell chips able to work as a cluster.

"The supercomputer-like processing and performance of the Cell processor-based workstation is just the beginning of what we expect will be a wide range of powerful next-generation solutions resulting from our joint development efforts," Colin Parris, an IBM vice president, said in a November statement.

If history is any lesson, Cell is by no means guaranteed to encroach on the most successful microprocessor technology to date, the so-called x86 architecture that is the mainstay of the PC world and the profit center for both Intel and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. .

Intel itself once aimed at pushing the x86 technology to the margins with a chip called Itanium it developed at great cost with Hewlett-Packard Co.

After a cool market reception, the Itanium project drifted away from those grand expectations. Today, Itanium remains a niche product marketed primarily at the relatively limited segment of supercomputers and high-end servers.
 

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http://gear.ign.com/articles/585/585862p1.html

# Each Cell processor contains 8 Synergistic Processing Units and a single 64-bit Power Architecture Unit (All are RISC designs with SIMD)
# Operates at >4GHz and capable of >256GFLOPS
# 256KB Local Storage per SPU and 512KB L2 Cache (2.5MB total)
# 128+ concurrent transactions to memory per processor
# High-speed internal element interconnect performing at 96B/cycle
# 234 million transistors
# Prototype die size of 221mm^2
# Fabricated with 90nm SOI process technology

....

Sony, IBM and Toshiba said that they have ran Cell processors at "greater than 4GHz", though they wouldn't name an exact speed. Performance of the processor is said to be in excess of 256GFLOPS (256 billion floating-point operations per second). That's an extremely large number, the sort that you normally throw around when you're talking about arrays of multiple processors or even supercomputers. Measuring FLOPS can be done in a few different ways, but as a comparable number the highest you could get from a fast Pentium 4 these days is somewhere in the upper 20's.
 

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Seems like it's stacking up to be a "monster machine". :D No wonder nVidia was brought in as a partner in this enterprise. I'm thinking that they'll be invaluable to provide tools and middleware support to the different producers/publishers.
 

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Well, given the power of some of the hardware, it looks like it might be a long lasting console. Which is probably what sony was wanting to do.

If you think about it, they can manufacture this chip at low cost for the next couple of years, and extend the life of the console. I think PS3 will last longer than the 5 year mark. If you think about it, it might take developers a long time to truely harness all of the power that PS3 may or may not offer. I just have high hopes for thsi console though, as it seems to be the true endeavor into a powerful console.

And since it also uses Blu-Ray..I'm really pumped. I'm praying that Blu-Ray DOMINATES HD-DVD in the market....that is my dream.
 

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tha_con said:
Well, given the power of some of the hardware, it looks like it might be a long lasting console. Which is probably what sony was wanting to do.

If you think about it, they can manufacture this chip at low cost for the next couple of years, and extend the life of the console. I think PS3 will last longer than the 5 year mark. If you think about it, it might take developers a long time to truely harness all of the power that PS3 may or may not offer. I just have high hopes for thsi console though, as it seems to be the true endeavor into a powerful console.

And since it also uses Blu-Ray..I'm really pumped. I'm praying that Blu-Ray DOMINATES HD-DVD in the market....that is my dream.
eh..i think its WAY too early to tell how powerful the cell will be 5-7 years down the road, but it does seem they have a really good concept going so far. i did notice in an article i was reading in the paper today, that we shouldn't expect everything sony is telling us the cell can do..in an actual computer anytime soon..thats just what its capable of.

on that note tho, its not just sony hyping it, so i guess we can trust some of the hype they're pumping out. and i'm with you..i REALLY want blu ray to win over hddvd. with 200gb+ down the road, they'd be stupid to not pick blu ray. i think the ps3 will do for blu ray what the ps2 did for dvd's.
 

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///M3ssican said:
dammit I want to see demos of this PS3...
E3 couldn't come any sooner. with xbox 2 and ps3 getting shown off, with the posibility of the revolution too. its gonna be a good E3
 

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5genlude said:
i bet you anything ps3 will cost 500. because it will do many things, be soo powerful and last long.
thats what everyone says for every launch, ps2 was supposed to be over 500..and it was 299

show me a succesful console that launched over 299 and was succesful
 

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CDI lol

ahahah j/k

well then say this will be 699....i bet it is 500, because it wont just be a console system. it will be a home digital entertainment system. you will run everything through it. it will play every ps format game, dvds, cd, cd r, whatever, run ur stereo through it, ur cable, ur blah, and bleh its gonna be a multifunctional system.

ORRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.

sony will create a totally diff product to do all that shit, and just have a $300 ps3 that is super powerful and does alot of shit too but not as much as the other.
 

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the ps2 did more than just play games, and it came out at 299. cdi? haha..good one. the only thing the ps3 is going to do that the ps2 doesn't, is blu ray. for some reason i really doubt sony is gonna put a hard drive in it. but who knows, rumors still say there's going to be more than one xbox 2 at launch, so sony will prolly play it by ear for their launch, see how people react to that.

i just want to see some screenshots of the next gen..just read an article that sony is going to show off the ps3 before E3 :clap
 

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^ Next month is an industry conference in SF. i think some more info. is going to be released there. I was thinking about going, but unlike E3 I'd have to pay for this one and tickets were in the $600 range for 3 days (not including transportation, hotels, etc. :cry )
 
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