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More Cell Processor Details And First Pictures 535

Posted by timothy
from the never-a-good-time-to-buy-a-computer dept.
slashflood writes "After reading two articles on slashdot about the Cell architecture and another one that criticizes the extensive roundup of the STI patents, I found the first pictures of the Cell core. It seems that at least some predictions were true. Seeing is believing." mtgarden points to this ZDNet article which says that the "first version of the chip will run at speeds faster than 4GHz. Engineers were vague on how much faster, but reports from design partners say 4.6GHz is likely. By comparison, the fastest current Pentium PC processor tops out at 3.8GHz." (More below.)

Hack Jandy writes "Anand Shimpi has some details about the upcoming Cell processor (PS3) in his personal blog. According to Anand, "Rambus announced that the new Cell processor uses both Rambus XDR memory and their FlexIO processor bus. Because Rambus designed the interface for both the memory controller(s) and the processor interface, the vast majority of signaling pins are using Rambus interfaces - a total of 90% according to Rambus." Hasn't Rambus been showing up a lot again recently? The fact that Cell uses XDR has been widely speculated, but the fact that it will also use the Rambus bus signalling is something completely new."

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More Cell Processor Details And First Pictures

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  • Pictures? (Score:5, Funny)

    by vurg (639307) on Monday February 07, 2005 @07:25PM (#11601972)
    How about HL2 benchmarks?
  • Cell (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ryanmfw (774163) on Monday February 07, 2005 @07:26PM (#11601981)
    Cell processors could really dominate. With how cheap they arespeculated to be, their distributed processing, and their all around speed, the could take over a significant part of the computer marketshare. If Cell processors also have the Power4 processors in them, this could be a replacement for x86. Could be. As other articles have pointed out, x86 has had superior competition in the past, and has been able to weather it. We shall wait and see. Cheers
    • Re:Cell (Score:5, Interesting)

      by hattig (47930) on Monday February 07, 2005 @07:31PM (#11602024) Journal
      From http://www.aceshardware.com/forums/read_post.jsp?i d=115121622&forumid=1

      CELL is a Multi-Core Architecture

      Contains 8 SPUs each containing a 128 entry 128-bit register file and 256KB Local Store
      Contains 64-bit Power ArchitectureTM with VMX that is a dual thread SMT design - views system memory as a 10-way coherent threaded machine
      2.5MB of on Chip memory (512KB L2 and 8 * 256KB)
      234 million transistors
      Prototype die size of 221mm2
      Fabricated with 90nanometer (nm) SOI process technology


      We're talking about a single-core POWER5 design (because of the SMT).

      But 221mm^2 ... that's big, bigger than a 130nm Opteron, bigger than a dual-core 90nm Opteron. But wait for 65nm, and you've got something of a manageable size to make a cheaper console. I don't see 4 Cells in a PS3 though, not even at 65nm, unless it is going to cost a boatload. Still, Sony aren't a little company, I'm sure they could sort it out.

      Still, I guess this means the next PowerMac G5 will be using processors with SMT finally.
      • Re:Cell (Score:5, Informative)

        by doormat (63648) on Monday February 07, 2005 @07:59PM (#11602304) Homepage Journal
        234M transistors @ 90nm is actually about as big as most graphics processors are. They tend to be 150M-200M @ 110nm or 130nm. I dont see it being terribly difficult to fab really,
      • Re:Cell (Score:2, Funny)

        by ryanmfw (774163)
        Well, it seems like it's being produced on a .3 meter process! "The firms expect to begin production of Cell processors at IBM's 300mm plant in New York and Sony's Nagasaki fab later this year." Why do I sense that the article is wrong? Maybe there is a grain of truth though, and I had heard about a 30 nm plant, but I could just be crazy. :)
      • by Ideaphile (678292) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @02:15AM (#11604297)
        I was at the Cell event today, and quoted in some of the news stories. I also have the ISSCC technical papers.

        The PowerPC core in the Cell prototype chip is NOT a Power5, as speculated here. According to IBM, this core was designed from scratch for this application. One critical difference is that the new pipeline executes instructions in strict program order rather than reordering instructions to improve throughput as is done with Power5.

        Also, IBM has not described the core as "simultaneous multithreaded", just "multithreaded." I presume from this that the multithreading is coarse-grained-- only one thread is active at a time, unlike Power5 which can execute instructions from two different threads in the same cycle.

        The logic design for the Cell CPU was optimized for higher clock speeds in a given process than Power5 can achieve. This is a good tradeoff for more linear multimedia algorithms, but reduces effective throughput on other types of code.

        I think it's reasonable to suppose that if Apple were interested in using the Cell architecture, it would prefer to use a version of the design that includes a Power5 core in place of the one in the Cell prototype.

        . png
        • The PowerPC instructions core is simply to provide a way to leverage existing compilers against this new architecture. Sony learned, the hard way, that developers don't want to hear about a quirky new instruction set.

          I hear you though. The Power5 is designed to handle large multi-process loads. This new Cell architecture, or at least this particular Cell chip, is designed for real time processing of large piles of data.

          I'm not reliving computer architecture class... I'm not reliving computer architectur

    • Re:Cell (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bonch (38532)
      The Cell chip uses the Power architecture, so one wonders if Apple isn't going to ship a 3.0 Ghz G5 after all and just wait for Cells instead (4.3 Ghz dual Power Mac Cell? Geez...).
    • Re:Cell (Score:2, Insightful)

      by radixvir (659331)

      With how cheap they arespeculated to be

      Please explain why you think this will be cheap. Everything i see points to a very expensive chip. With rambus memory technology, an ibm design, and the fact that it's brand new, I dont know where you are coming up with the idea this thing will be cheap. Not to mention everyone thought the Itanium would spell death for x86, but that went nowhere.

    • Re:Cell (Score:4, Insightful)

      by nokiator (781573) on Monday February 07, 2005 @08:23PM (#11602524) Journal
      As usual, media is making a bigger deal out of this than what it really is worth. After looking at the details in the articles linked above, Cell looks to me like a combination of two well known technologies: SIMD units integrated with a microprocessor and MIMD geometry engines that is used in all modern GPUs. STI team must have figured out that moving the geometry engines from the graphics coprocessor to the main CPU may provide performance benefits in terms of processing 3D data structures. As for the 4+ GHz clock speed, this is more likely the pipeline clock speed for the SPEs and the embedded PPC core on this device would probably run from a much slower (2.4GHz?) clock. Current Intel P4 processors use 1.5X core clock in some parts of the floating point unit, so you should consider a 3.8GHz P4 to be a "5.7GHz" chip to make a fair comparison to the speculated clock speeds for the cell chip.
    • Re:Cell (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 07, 2005 @08:30PM (#11602591)
      There isn't much info on this processor yet, but from what I've heard about it, I conjecture that its design is in danger of violating Nakamura's law of quantum molecular finitism, especially as the clock speeds are increased. This could result in an asymmetric shift of the lattice substrate, in which case the transistor conductivity would actually start to skew in the direction of anticonductivity (the inverse of superconductivity), forming insulating barriers. As insulating barriers would form and more heat would be generated, unbounded oscillations the molecular level could cause regenerative superhetrodyning - a cascading effect leading to the processor eventually failing catastrophically while emitting a sound remarkably similar to the Love Boat theme. Or not.
    • by flaming-opus (8186) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @11:15AM (#11606317)
      It is a radeon/geforce competitor. Or something like that.

      The cell processor is only really fast when the spus are in use, which means 32-bit non-branching floating-point arithmatic. For anything involving integer math, flow control, or uneven memory access, the SPUs defer to the main processor. I'm sure IBM put a decent processor in there, but it doesn't sound like it's anything revolutionary, and there's only the one.

      What does this get you? -- A processor that is really good at decoding mpeg, rendering graphics, maybe approximating the physics of flying dragons. It is not a fast general purpose processor. Operating systems, word processors, databases, these are all integer tasks, and much more-so they are branch tasks. Scientific computation - this requires double-precision floating point. Photoshop is about the only piece of non-multimedia software that might be able to take advantage of this.

      The end result is that this will likely be a great chip for set-top boxes of all sorts, maybe even for video-editing workstations. A G5/pentium replacement it isn't; that's a different ball game.
  • PS3 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by clean_stoner (759658) on Monday February 07, 2005 @07:27PM (#11601990) Journal
    The Cell is going to be in the PS3, so does that mean that the PS3 will be clocked at 4.6 GHz+? That seems like a big leap considering consoles are normally running a little slower than "good" computers at the time they come out.
    • Re:PS3 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by AssFace (118098) <stenz77@gmail . c om> on Monday February 07, 2005 @09:21PM (#11602752) Homepage Journal
      The GHz figures mean nothing at all in terms of performance expectations unless you are comparing within the same processor family.

      4GHz cell != 4GHz P4 != 4GHz Opteron != 4GHz G5
  • by itistoday (602304) on Monday February 07, 2005 @07:29PM (#11602009) Homepage
    I understand the chip will be used in Playstation 3, but it will also likely be used in future Apple computers, of which, the G5 is already based on the Power architecture. Maybe IT would've been a better section to put this under?
  • by X43B (577258) on Monday February 07, 2005 @07:29PM (#11602012) Journal
    I'm waiting to see how much work it can actually do before making a judgement. At the least it always exciting to have another option. I wonder how difficult it will be to take advantage of the new architecture.
    • Seriously, I've noticed that Intel is probably teh 2nd favourite target here after Microsoft (ok, 3rd favourite now that SCO claimed the throne). When Intel does something some way, it's bad and stupid, when someone else does, it's good and better than Intel.

      Like the whole ISA things. People always seem to be down on Intel for sticking with x86. They like to talk about what a hack it is, and how much better a RISC archetecture is, and so on. Then the IA-64/x86-64 fight comes and now AMD's the good guys for
      • x86 seems to a be a pretty capable architecture to me.
        • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday February 07, 2005 @08:02PM (#11602329)
          It is, and receantly with developments in chip design and compiler design, the architecture of a chip has become much less of a big deal.

          Back in the day, RISC was important because it allowed pipelining, the ability for a chip to be doing multiple things at once. Like old MIPS chips used to have 8 parallel piplines that took 8 cycles to execute an instruction, giving an effective rate of one instruction per cycle. Couldn't do that with CISC. Well now processors are decoupled from their ISAs. Each of those instructions is translated into a number of micro operations, which are actually what get handled by the processing section. Likewise it means there can be more registers than are exposed by the ISA.

          The upshot is that it doesn't matter as much it used to.

          However, there are still plenty of people who like to villify Intel for sticking with x86. They declare it to be an olde kludge of an architecture that needs to die and makes things all slow. However when AMD decided to stick with it, rather than hop on the EPIC bandwagon, they are suddenly heros for maintaining backwards compatibility, which is the whole reason Intel has stuck with x86 for so long.

          What's I'm pointing out is the bashing is done against Intel, regardless of what they do. Intel is in the "bad" position, no matter what that is. Like with the cell chips and speed. Slasdotters have been long raging on Intel for making a design that has higher MHz but less performance per MHz (as opposed to AMD). They declare it to be a marketing gimick, etc. Now here we have an article talking about cell chips that are designed to cycle even faster, and taking shots at how slow Intel chips cycle by comparison.

          It's not that these people actually have good reasons to like or dislike the decisions, they just dislike Intel and so slam on them.
      • If I were to villify Intel, it wouldn't be for sticking with the x86 instruction set.

        I'd villify them for...

        Building the 8086 down to such a super low cost, by crippling them with a pitifully small number of interrupts, registers and DMA channels, they knew it was a bad idea but went ahead with the design anyway.

        Making a chip (the 286) with an enhanced 16-bit mode, but no way to switch back to real mode (fixed in the 386) which resulted in the 16 bit mode of the chip being nearly useless.

        Failing to prop
        • Making a chip (the 286) with an enhanced 16-bit mode, but no way to switch back to real mode (fixed in the 386) which resulted in the 16 bit mode of the chip being nearly useless.

          You weren't supposed to switch back to real mode, which was obsolete. They underestimated the PC industry's fixation on backwards compatibility and overestimated the ability of Microsoft and other software vendors to produce advanced operating systems. It was a decent chip, but it wasn't what most of their customers wanted.

  • by leathered (780018) on Monday February 07, 2005 @07:30PM (#11602017)
    While 4.6 GHz sounds impressive, I thought we were getting away from the notion that clock speed = performance. The Pentium 4 killed off clock speed comparisons.

    I must admit the specs are impressive, but show me the benchmarks!
    • by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Monday February 07, 2005 @07:39PM (#11602102) Homepage
      That's true. But there are two important things here. The first is that it's at 4ghz. The P4 hasn't been able to reach that (though Intel origionally said it would happen by now). So it's all ready up there.

      The second is that it's STARTING at 4ghz. It's one thing to say a chip can scale and run at some speed (again, I'm looking at you Intel), but to debut it running faster than the fastest mass produced CPU in the world is something all together different.

      Cell should be quite formidable, and I think it will be quite interesting to see what comes of it. I've held the opinion for a few years that computers would move to having a couple of CPUs each running their own task (like in Cell), with one main (quite possibly slower) CPU controlling them all and running the OS (traffic cop, again like in the Cell). While the individual processing units are not general purpose (they are more vector oriented), it should still be interesting to see what comes of this. After all, most things people use high-end CPUs for are (or can be) vector ops, right? Compression, 3D, etc. Wordprocessing and spreadsheets don't tend to need much power. A large generalization, I know, but still... the introduction of the Cell (especiall the way it should be able to "group" its self with other Cell processors in your house) should prove quite interesting even if it turned out to be a failure (which I SERIOUSLY doubt.)

      • You forgot the most important aspect: It is a NINE WAY chip.
        Nine processors on a single chip running at over 4GHz at introduction... *WOW*
      • by Johnno74 (252399) on Monday February 07, 2005 @08:02PM (#11602327)
        As the grandparent post said, MHZ != performance.
        A good analogy tell computer illiterate people is MHZ is kinda like the RPM an engine will do. Higher RPM doesn't necessarily mean higher speed.

        Also, its a RISC design. it may well do LESS in each clock cycle than x86.

        And aren't we close to the theoretical limit transistors can switch at? If the cell processor starts at such a high clock rate it won't have as much headroom for improvement.
    • by TexVex (669445) on Monday February 07, 2005 @07:40PM (#11602104)
      The Pentium 4 killed off clock speed comparisons.
      No, that was the Athlon.
    • by jc42 (318812)
      I thought we were getting away from the notion that clock speed = performance.

      Actually, there's a good use for such comparisons: It tells you that the writer is clueless.

      I'd already read enough about the Cell to know that it's more like the PowerPC than it is like an Intel cpu. So, when I read the comparison of its supposed speed and a Pentium's, I immediately knew that the writer hadn't a clue.

      Any info around about benchmarks? Those can be misleading, too, in the hands of the wrong marketer. But wit
    • In particular, for a processor whose architecture isn't even particularly similar to anything else out there, it's even less meaningful than it might be otherwise!
    • While 4.6 GHz sounds impressive, I thought we were getting away from the notion that clock speed = performance. The Pentium 4 killed off clock speed comparisons.

      Nobody is claiming that clock speed always equals performance, but think about it this way -- say you have data coming in at 10 GB/s. You could either have 8 wires (and buffers and processing) running at 10 GHz, 16 wires (etc.) running at 5GHz, 32 wires at 2.5GHz (etc.), you get the idea. If the Cell architecture processes data at 4GHz, the on

    • You are right. Check out this article [newscientist.com]

      In laboratory tests, the Cell chip reached a top "clock speed" of 4GHz, which means it can perform more than four billion calculations per second. By comparison, the fastest Intel Pentium chip is currently capable of 3.8GHz.

      This difference in basic speed is not large but Richard Doherty, director of the computer industry analysts Envisioneering, in San Francisco, says Cell's modular architecture will give it a more substantial edge for many applications.

      "At first b

    • by drmerope (771119) on Monday February 07, 2005 @09:33PM (#11602829)
      Indeed. Even in a slow 0.18um technology, I can easily make an 8 GHz 3-inverter oscillator ring. So what?

      The "chip frequency" is determined by
      1) how fast can the transistors switch
      2) how many FIO4 inverter equivalents (standard measure of logic complexity) there are between the latches.

      #1 is just a process technology attribute

      #2 is where all the magic is because it is "how much work can take place in one cycle"

      #2 is commonly reduced in a technique called pipelining.

      General rule: Pipelining increases throughput at the cost of latency.

      Branches especially, but in other situations as well: latency becomes a limiting factor

      When this happens trading against latency is a bad decision.

      For any given ISA you're likely to reach this break point *somewhere*. The i386 architecture has reached it. This is because of the latency of decoding the _complex_ instructions.

      A simplier instruction set => incurs less latency penalty => can be pipelined further => can achieve higher clock speeds and accrue performance benefits to additional pipelining.

      Intel, though, still has probably the best process technology in the world and as a consequence if Intel were manufacturing these cell processors they'd run even faster.

      But simplier instructions tend to do less work. This means you need more instructions for the same task. More instructions might code to larger memory footprints. Larger memory footprints require faster i/o to memory and larger caches to not incur performance penalties. Thus in the end you might gain nothing.

      You can see this effect within amd64. Running in 64-bit mode gives you more registers, more registers should mean faster programs, but moving around all those 64-bit variables erases the benefit. (at least in compiler run-time benchmarks that I've seen).
  • by LittleGuernica (736577) on Monday February 07, 2005 @07:31PM (#11602023) Homepage
    I believe Sony and IBM and Toshiba are going to produce this thing as a joint venture, calling it "Cyberdyne" also naming the PS3 online game network Skynet, sounds promising...
  • Hot (Score:4, Insightful)

    by porksickle (572842) on Monday February 07, 2005 @07:31PM (#11602026)
    I don't think the final PS3 part will be clocked much higher than 3.5GHz. Otherwise it would probably involve downclocking parts of the CPU to maintain a sane thermal profile, thus making overall performance rather unpredictable. This would especially impact games, where it's all about sustainable framerates at 100% CPU utilization.
  • Ideal Linux chip. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by freemacmini (852263)
    If IBM can produce these things in enough volume this could be the ideal linux platform for the future.

    PS3 is expected to sell very well so the chip production might be soaked up by the game consoles but you never know.

    I bet apple engineers are salivating right now too.

    Promises to be interesting for intel and AMD next year.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 07, 2005 @07:34PM (#11602048)
    http://www.scee.presscentre.com/imagelibrary/detai l.asp?MediaDetailsID=25555
    :

    CELL...bringing supercomputer power to everyday life with latest technology optimized for compute-intensive and broadband rich media applications

    SUMMARY:

    Cell is a breakthrough architectural design -- featuring 8 Synergistic Processing Units (SPU) with Power-based core, with top clock speeds exceeding 4 GHz (as measured during initial laboratory testing).

    Cell is OS neutral - supporting multiple operating systems simultaneously

    Cell is a multicore chip comprising 8 SPUs and a 64-bit Power processor core capable of massive floating point processing

    Special circuit techniques, rules for modularity and reuse, customized clocking structures, and unique power and thermal management concepts were applied to optimize the design

    CELL is a Multi-Core Architecture

    Contains 8 SPUs each containing a 128 entry 128-bit register file and 256KB Local Store

    Contains 64-bit Power ArchitectureTM with VMX that is a dual thread SMT design - views system memory as a 10-way coherent threaded machine

    2.5MB of on Chip memory (512KB L2 and 8 * 256KB)

    234 million transistors

    Prototype die size of 221mm2

    Fabricated with 90nanometer (nm) SOI process technology

    Cell is a modular architecture and floating point calculation capabilities can be adjusted by increasing or reducing the number of SPUs

    CELL is a Broadband Architecture

    Compatible with 64b Power Architecture(TM)

    SPU is a RISC architecture with SIMD organization and Local Store

    128+ concurrent transactions to memory per processor

    High speed internal element interconnect bus performing at 96B/cycle

    CELL is a Real-Time Architecture

    Resource allocation (for Bandwidth Management)

    Locking caches (via Replacement Management Tables)

    Virtualization support with real time response characteristics across multiple operating systems running simultaneously

    CELL is Security Enabled Architecture

    SPUs dynamically configurable as secure processors for flexible security programming

    CELL is a Confluence of New Technologies

    Virtualization techniques to support conventional and real time applications

    Autonomic power management features

    Resource management for real time human interaction

    Smart memory flow controllers (DMA) to sustain bandwidth
    • Oh, great. Future comparisons of computing capability will be based on SPUs. "Hey, I got the new 12-SPU chip in my computer. How much SPU is in your computer?"
    • by Sunspire (784352) on Monday February 07, 2005 @07:48PM (#11602183)
      Warning: Pregnant women, the elderly, and children should avoid prolonged exposure to CELL.
      Caution: CELL may suddenly accelerate to dangerous speeds.
      CELL contains a liquid core, which if exposed due to rupture should not be touched, inhaled, or looked at.
      Do not use CELL on concrete.
      Discontinue use of CELL if any of the following occurs:
      * Itching
      * Vertigo
      * Dizziness
      * Tingling in extremities
      * Loss of balance or coordination
      * Slurred speech
      * Temporary blindness
      * Profuse Sweating
      or
      * Heart palpitations

      If CELL begins to smoke, get away immediately. Seek shelter and cover head.
      CELL may stick to certain types of skin.
      When not in use, CELL should be returned to its special container and kept under refrigeration.
      Failure to do so relieves the makers of CELL, Sony Incorporated of any and all liability.
      Ingredients of CELL include an unknown glowing substance which fell to Earth, presumably from outer space.
      CELL has been shipped to our troops in Saudi Arabia and is also being dropped by our warplanes on Iraq.

      Do not taunt CELL.
      CELL comes with a lifetime guarantee.
      CELL! Accept no substitutes!
    • CELL is a Real-Time Architecture
      CELL is a Confluence of New Technologies

      sounds like someone was playing with their execuspeak magnets
  • This seems good, but what exactly can I do with a cell processor other than play games with better graphics? It seems like the vast majority of people don't use even half of the power their computers have today, and if there are bottlenecks in todays computers it is because of RAM and the OS and not because of the CPU. Other then games, when will I be able to do other than maybe look for aliens faster.
    • Re:I don't get it (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gbulmash (688770) *
      This seems good, but what exactly can I do with a cell processor other than play games with better graphics? It seems like the vast majority of people don't use even half of the power their computers have today, and if there are bottlenecks in todays computers it is because of RAM and the OS and not because of the CPU. Other then games, when will I be able to do other than maybe look for aliens faster.

      "If you build it, he will come."

      If you create a machine so powerful that there's nothing that fully ut

    • OK then, lets stop then, 99% of people are happy, they've got CPUs that do everything they want to do. So lets stop designing new CPUs that run faster, cooler, do more and consume less power... Lets just make do. After all, you don't see people saying "I can't get a fast enough laptop that doesn't eat the battery" and you don't see scientists wanting huge number crunching beasts, and you don't see gamers wanting faster and faster chips.
  • by sH4RD (749216)
    "first version of the chip will run at speeds faster than 4GHz. Engineers were vague on how much faster" But I thought GHz didn't matter?
    • They're vauge becuase they dont want to get into the ghz vs performance aruguement.

      8x64bit FPU's along with a seperate processor that can handle 2 threads at once along with a full speed memory bus may be able to blow the doors off anything in production. Also considering that this memory is cheap enough to put 3 of these in a gaming ocnsole that may retail at 300 dollars points to the fact that Rambus may be able to churn out multi gigabit solid state drives to support these blazing fast speeds.

      If this
    • No, it's MHz that don't matter. GHz... those matter. Just not as much as THz.

  • My PS2 is already unnacceptibly noisy. When playing dramatic games like Silent Hill, the sublte nuances are drowned out by the WHIRRRRR of the PS2 box. I guess I should lock it up in a cabinet or something.

    I can't imagine something this big and fast being quieter.
    • There are devices known as "stereo headphones" that can help with this. They've been out for a while now.
    • mod it. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cgenman (325138)
      Cut an 80x80 hole in the top plastic about the middle of the unit, facing upwards. Mount a lo-flow panaflo [sidewindercomputers.com] over the hole, facing up. Wire the panaflo to an external 9v wall wart. Cut the wire to the original fan. For an added bonus, undervolt the panaflo to 6 volts, and add an undervolted rotary fan into the HDD drive bay. This should be silent overall and have a great airflow.

      The default internal fan is a 6v 50mm screamer, narrow and loud. Ultimately it moves less air than any undervolted panaflo.
  • by lazzaro (29860) on Monday February 07, 2005 @07:38PM (#11602084) Homepage
    They zoomed in on this [ibm.com] press photo of an engineer holding a die.
  • by Laconian (578463) on Monday February 07, 2005 @07:41PM (#11602116)
    Remember how the Emotion Engine worked us all into a lather five years ago? And when it came out, it was just merely competitive with contemporary processors? Sony is great at churning out nerd fetish tech, but they have a terrible track record of living up to their promises. Let's hope it's different this time.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    My friend just called me from the ISSCC. He got a couple more bits of info, including that STI plan to recoup their R&D expenses largely from other consumer multimedia devices and NOT from selling Cell processors or Cell processor based computers, meaning they will be surprisingly inexpensive. Yeah!!!
    • Unlikely. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by katharsis83 (581371) on Monday February 07, 2005 @08:04PM (#11602352)
      "plan to recoup their R&D expenses largely from other consumer multimedia devices and NOT from selling Cell processors or Cell processor based computers, meaning they will be surprisingly inexpensive. Yeah!!!"

      However, from the press release:
      Prototype die size of 221mm2

      When it comes to chip manufacturing, the cost of a chip is basically a direct function of the area. A 221 mm^2 chip size is pretty damn big; this thing isn't going to be cheap. Even considering IBM's extensive fabrication experience, Sony will probably have to sell this at a significant loss to make the PS3 palatable to gamers.

      Granted, this is a prototype, so they can probably shrink it further by production, but it still won't be something cheap. Don't count on being able to buy these cheaply to make your own parallel supercomputer.
  • windows.. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mottie (807927)
    with IBM is pushing linux, I can't see microsoft ditching their good buddy Intel, and throwing money at IBM by porting windows to run on the Cell processor. I would guess that this would allow Intel to retain their market share, even if the Cell is infact a far superior processor.
  • Conspiracy Theory (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Sophrosyne (630428) on Monday February 07, 2005 @07:50PM (#11602204) Homepage
    fact #1 Apple and Sony have been awfully close for the past few years- with some dialogue between the two CEOs.
    fact #2 Apple has signed up to display at E3 this year- but hasn't published any official info on their site.
    fact #3 The Mac is somewhat deficient when it comes to gaming when compared to the Windows PC.
    So my speculation is that it is possible that Apple intends to build a new Mac aimed at the gaming market that will be compatible and play Sony's PS3 games- Apple in turn could publish games for the PS3.
    • by Queer Boy (451309)

      So my speculation is that it is possible that Apple intends to build a new Mac aimed at the gaming market that will be compatible and play Sony's PS3 games- Apple in turn could publish games for the PS3.

      Or it's possible that Apple is writing the OS for the PlayStation3.

      The overwhelming majority of people do not play games on computers nor do they want to. The living room is where entertainment is king. The sheer horde of developers for consoles compared to the paltry handful for PCs should be a clue a

  • Power consumption (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 07, 2005 @07:50PM (#11602208)
    For those of you wondering about the power consumption of this thing, perhaps you should note that Sony just licensed LongRun2 from Transmeta. It is a dynamic solution for power consumption and leakage that will probably end up in the 65nm versions coming out next year. google transmeta sony for more.

    Once touted as the Intel killer, perhaps Transmeta will finally have its day.
  • Sounds a lot like their Emotion Engine, which could "render Toy Story like animation in real time".

    Too bad it couldn't come close to living up to the hype.

    With all this talk about the Cell being 4x as fast as a dual core Opteron, I'm willing to bet that when the chip comes out its actual speed will be similar to a low/mid range P4/Athlon.

    It won't kill AMD or Intel, it won't dominate the processor market, it won't take the computing world by storm, and it won't even take the performance lead.

    The only thi
  • they say this cpu has 234 million transistors!

    is it just me that has a bad memory, or is that around 5 times more than any other cpus on the market right now? this is just plain SICK

    hope they got some pretty nifty technology to prevent this baby from going up in smoke, because i am NOT attaching a huge A/C to that thing! i find my p150 is noisy, and the p4 laptop unbearable. can't imagine what this will be like
    • Re:what's funny is.. (Score:3, Informative)

      by be-fan (61476)
      Prescott has 125M transistors, while the GeForce 6800 has 222M transistors. And on a tangent: this is typical Slashdot. IBM and Sony announce a 256 gigaflop chip, and Slashdotters' first reaction is to bitch about how hot and noisy it will be! Where are the real nerds in the audience?
  • Missing the point (Score:5, Informative)

    by egrinake (308662) <erikg@cod[ ]et.no ['epo' in gap]> on Monday February 07, 2005 @09:04PM (#11602645)

    There seems to be alot of confusion surrounding the Cell chip. This is not "just another processor", and it certainly has little to do with clock frequencies - the Cell is a whole new architecture, which might just be a glimpse into the future of computing.

    To begin with, it might be useful with some background on the ps2 architecture - there are a couple of really great in-depth articles at Ars Technica [arstechnica.com]; Sound and Vision: A Technical Overview of the Emotion Engine [arstechnica.com] and The PlayStation2 vs. the PC: a system-level comparison of two 3D platforms [arstechnica.com].

    What made the ps2 so awesome was that it was custom-built specifically for multimedia-processing, which requires completely different processing environments than general-purpose computing. Normal PCs are made for computing where you have a large number of instructions working on a small data-set (such as a spreadsheet) - this requires large data-caches close to the CPU, while instructions are streamed continually from RAM. Media-processing is the other way around; you have "simple" operations (like doing the calculations for a single pixel), which are run on a large set of data - so you wouldn't really need any data-caches. The ps2 did exactly this; it removed almost all the caches (only a few tiny ones were left), but it had a totally insane bus bandwidth. To borrow an analogy from the mentioned Ars Technica article:

    "Here's a goofy example to help you visualize what I'm talking about: imagine a series of large buckets, connected by pipes to a main tank, with a cow lapping water out of each bucket. Since cows don't drink too fast, the pipes don't have to be too large to keep the buckets full and the cows happy. Now imagine that same setup, except with elephants on the other end instead of cows. The elephants are sucking water out so fast that you've got to do something drastic to keep them happy. One option would be to enlarge the pipes just a little (*cough* AGP *cough*), and stick insanely large buckets on the ends of them (*cough* 64MB GeForce *cough*). You then fill the buckets up to the top every morning, leave the water on all day, and pray to God that the elephants don't get too thirsty. This only works to a certain extent though, because a really thirsty elephant would still end up draining the bucket faster than you can fill it. And what happens when the elephants have kids, and the kids are even thirstier? You're only delaying the inevitable with this solution, because the problem isn't with the buckets, it's with the pipes (assuming an infinite supply of water). A better approach would be to just ditch the buckets altogether and make the pipes really, really large. You'd also want to stick some pans on the ends of the pipes as a place to collect the water before it gets consumed, but the pans don't have to be that big because the water isn't staying in them very long."

    So, what does this have to do with the Cell? The Cell takes this concept even further. Cell systems are made up of multiple processors, called APUs (Attached Processing Units), which are connected using an insanely fast data bus. Each APU can be programmed to handle one specific task, and then pass the data on to the next APU for a different task. By doing this, you can just put in more processors to increase the throughput of the system. This works especially good for multimedia processing, which can be pipelined like this pretty easily. Here are a couple of snippets from the Wikipedia entry [wikipedia.org]:

    "While the Cell chip can have a number of different configurations, the workstation and PlayStation 3 version of Cell consists of one "Processing Element" ("PE"), and eight "Attached Processing Units" ("APU"). The PE is based on the POWER Architecture, basis of their existing POWER line and related to the PowerPC used by Apple

    • by X (1235)
      I'm not sure that this makes for the "extreme goodness" that people are envisioning. It should be truly awesome for SIMD type operations, such as video encoding/decoding and 3D rendering. But I don't see much of a break through here in more general compute tasks. If you've worked with an Itanium, you know the parallelism limits you hit with VLIW instruction sets and having a bunch of VLIW processing units is just going to make it worse.

      All in all, this thing strikes me as more of a next-generation DSP rath
  • by vandan (151516) on Monday February 07, 2005 @09:55PM (#11602956) Homepage
    We are very reluctant to adopt architectures like this because they take compatibility and throw it out the window.

    You mean like the Itanic? Shoe's on the other foot now, eh?
  • context switching (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ArbitraryConstant (763964) on Monday February 07, 2005 @10:32PM (#11603184) Homepage
    As I understand it, the APUs can act semi-independantly but the controlling processor has overall control. If that's true, if the processor wanted to (say) switch to some other process would it have to save all that state to somewhere else before continuing, just as standard processors do now?

    As all the APUs have lots of big registers and significant amounts of private memory, wouldn't that be painful?
  • by eremitic (831609) <chris&eremiticdesign,org> on Monday February 07, 2005 @11:03PM (#11603375) Homepage
    and I bet it still wouldn't be able to run Longhorn.

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