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IBM PlayStation (Games) Hardware

Cell Hits 45nm, PS3 Price Drop Likely to Follow 298

Posted by Zonk
from the tiny-bit-smaller-makes-a-big-difference dept.
Septimus writes "At this weeks ISSCC, IBM announced that the Cell CPU used in the PlayStation 3 will soon make the transition to IBM's next-gen 45nm high-k process. 'The 45nm Cell will use about 40 percent less power than its 65nm predecessor, and its die area will be reduced by 34 percent. The greatly reduced power budget will cut down on the amount of active cooling required by the console, which in turn will make it cheaper to produce and more reliable (this means fewer warrantied returns). Also affecting Sony's per-unit cost is the reduction in overall die size. A smaller die means a smaller, cheaper package; it also means that yields will be better and that each chip will cost less overall.'"
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Cell Hits 45nm, PS3 Price Drop Likely to Follow

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  • by cthulu_mt (1124113) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @05:06PM (#22340036)
    I don't know what it is about measuring things in nanometers and terabytes that gives me such a hardon.

    Thank you IBM.

    PS: Please don't put Skynet online.
    • by Goblez (928516) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @05:50PM (#22340842)
      This same comment in a few years will sound perverted if updated to use larger scales of magnitude.

      "I don't know what it is about measuring things in picometers and petabytes that gives me such a hardon".
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by adpowers (153922)
        The only thing I can think of after reading your comment is Europe's Large Hardon Collider.
  • by noidentity (188756) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @05:06PM (#22340046)

    Cell Hits 45nm, PS3 Price Drop Likely to Follow

    "[...] The greatly reduced power budget will cut down on the amount of active cooling required by the console, which in turn will make it cheaper to produce and more reliable (this means fewer warrantied returns). Also affecting Sony's per-unit cost is the reduction in overall die size. A smaller die means a smaller, cheaper package; it also means that yields will be better and that each chip will cost less overall.'"

    My only question is, will this reduce the cost?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by scubamage (727538)
      For sony, yes. For end buyers? Nope. To sony this just means their profit margin got bigger.
      • Re:Effect on cost (Score:5, Insightful)

        by McNihil (612243) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @05:26PM (#22340446)
        You would be correct if Xbox 360 nor Wii didn't exist. Prices will certainly drop or the units will be packed with more of other kind of technology (PVR) for the same price.
        • What kind of timeframe are we looking at? I'm thinking about buying my first ever PS, would definitely be interested in getting a good deal.
      • Have you even been paying attention? In the UK the 40GB PS3 is way cheaper than the original 60GB that they released, due to them cutting out features which reduced the maufacturing costs. IIRC they also were selling the 60GB versions as a loss leader.
      • Re:Effect on cost (Score:5, Informative)

        by Fozzyuw (950608) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @06:42PM (#22341656)

        To sony this just means their profit margin got bigger.

        You mean their loss margin just got smaller. They're still looking forward to making a profit. [reuters.com]

      • by McFadden (809368)
        yeah, thanks for explaining his joke.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by John Whitley (6067)

        For sony, yes. For end buyers? Nope. To sony this just means their profit margin got bigger.

        BZZT! Shame on you and the mod that +1 Informative'd you. Does the most blatantly obvious bullet point in the Wii's success story escape you completely? Do try to grasp basic economic reasoning: Sony is out to make more money, but what's really likely given the nature of this product (game console hardware) and how they've been beaten up over their high price point? If possible, they'll implement a price cut to increase their market share. More consoles == more people to sell games to == more profit.

    • Re:Effect on cost (Score:5, Informative)

      by hansamurai (907719) <hansamurai@gmail.com> on Thursday February 07, 2008 @05:23PM (#22340390) Homepage Journal
      Of course it will reduce the price of the Playstation 3. Why do you think when consoles are first released they're $200-$300 (last generation for example) and then five years later they're floating around $100 retail? Some of it has to do with the bottom line, but most of it has to do with the falling price of components over time due to exactly what was listed in the summary, exactly what is happening here. This one event might not directly lead to a price drop, but enough of these do.
      • Re:Effect on cost (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Cheeko (165493) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @06:36PM (#22341580) Homepage Journal
        I don't think that anyone is debating whether the price of the PS3 will drop over time.

        I think the general slant of the question was whether the price drops now as a result of this, or does Sony put the saving toward reducing their losses on each system sold.

        Essentially the 2 options are 1) go for market share and keep taking a loss or 2) try to get each box profitable, and then worry about lowering the cost to the consumer as future improvements drop the cost further.

        I have a feeling Sony will split the difference and sit on the increased profit margin for as long as their market share stays stable or until they have an exclusive to release. Then they'll pass a portion of the savings on to the customer in line with their eventual goals on margin for the boxes. (pass something like 85% of the savings on when they do drop it down the line a bit)
    • by Xest (935314)
      It seems unlikely, I was under the impression they're not at the point yet where they make a profit on the existing systems, I'd imagine they'd at very least want to keep the current price with the cheaper hardware to recoup some of the cash lost on existing systems.

      Introducing cheaper hardware whilst also lowering cost just means they'll continue to make a loss per console which doesn't seem too great an idea. Sony realised pretty quickly the main barrier to people buying the console was it's initial price
      • It seems unlikely, I was under the impression they're not at the point yet where they make a profit on the existing systems, I'd imagine they'd at very least want to keep the current price with the cheaper hardware to recoup some of the cash lost on existing systems.
        I was under the impression that the margins were only a slight loss now and such a change would drastically improve yields (due to the size of a cell chip yields were very poor at first).
    • My only question is, will this reduce the cost?


      Not so long as the consoles continue to sell at the current price. Sony charges what they think people are willing to pay, no more and no less.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Pulzar (81031)
        Not so long as the consoles continue to sell at the current price. Sony charges what they think people are willing to pay, no more and no less.

        That's a very simplistic view. First, "people" is a collection of persons all willing to pay different prices. So, there's no one price at which "people" will buy, and another at which "people" won't buy.

        A company selling a product will try to maximize the profits. Once the cost of production goes down, the "maximum profit" formula changes -- you will either get more
  • More SPUs? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by zackhugh (127338) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @05:09PM (#22340100)

    This would be a great thing if they allow PS3/Linux users to access 7 of 8 SPUs instead of only six.


    Otherwise, it's nice but not that big a deal...

    • by DrXym (126579)
      I doubt you'll ever see PS3s with 8 SPUs. They probably mask off one of them in the factory even if all 8 were working to start with.
  • Matches rumors (Score:5, Interesting)

    by orclevegam (940336) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @05:09PM (#22340104) Journal
    This fits in well with the rumors of a slim version of the PS3 in the works. See here [slashgear.com] for more details.
    • Nowadays, one of the hottest components in a computer (and consoles) is the GPU.

      Most of the XBox 360 problems come from a very hot GPU situated under the DVD drive.

      I think taht the GPU used in the PlayStation3 is a 90nm derivative from the GeForce 7800 (a quite hungry GPU) (you can see it in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RSX_'Reality_Synthesizer [wikipedia.org]' ). I think that this GPU should be shrink into another process before creating a "Slim & Lite" PS3...
  • Pricedrop? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DrXym (126579) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @05:09PM (#22340106)
    A price drop would be nice (though the PS3 is now competitive), but the more interesting bit is when is the PS3 slim going to appear. All the pieces are in place for a slim. Sony have been aggressively shrinking the motherboard in the PS3, and the chip size has dropped from 90nm, to 65nm and now 45nm. All that means less power (smaller PSU) and less heat (less fans & heatsinks). There have been other announcements such as thinner blu ray reader headers. It can only be a matter of time before a slim and I think it will hit before the holidays this year. I think it will sell by the shitload too when it does appear. The question is will we see a slim 360 to compete with it? I think there must be a lot of empty space in the 360 too.
    • by morari (1080535)
      I can't wait for Nintendo to make a low-cost slim version of the Wii as well. I'm tired of that overpriced, behemoth of a console!
      • by DrXym (126579)
        I can't wait for Nintendo to make a low-cost slim version of the Wii as well. I'm tired of that overpriced, behemoth of a console!

        The 360 and PS3 are considerably more powerful than the Wii. It's no surprise that it can fit in a smaller form factor than the other consoles simply because it is little more advanced than the previous generation of consoles. I doubt that any slim PS3 would get as small as the Wii but there is no denying it is bulky - a new model that was say 2/3 the size would be a very attra

      • I can't wait for Nintendo to make a low-cost slim version of the Wii as well. I'm tired of that overpriced, behemoth of a console!
        I can't wait for Nintendo to make a upscaling version of the Wii as well. I'm tired of the ugly graphics of the console!
    • by Lumpy (12016)
      Optimistic are we?

      Wii STILL hard to get, it sells out everywhere even NOW! this has happend for over a year now.
      Xbox360 has a crapload more games and a crapload of $19.95 games now. Same as Wii.

      PS3, crappy game selection, overpriced, overpriced games!

      Yeah, they'll sell a crapload. if a crapload is a sad example compared to everyone else.

      PS3 CAN take off.. Price it at $299.00 including a game and 2 controllers.
      Drop all game prices to below $50.00

      until they do that, it will stay as the wannabe console that
      • Re:Pricedrop? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by samkass (174571) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @08:15PM (#22342836) Homepage Journal
        Let's get realistic. Yes, the XBox360 is still beating the PS3, but they're no longer selling twice as many per month, and there are still millions of PS3s out there. And who buys games new anymore? You can get plenty of great used games at any of your mall stores these days.

        The place where I think Sony screwed up is in limiting backwards compatibility with the PS2 games. New PS2 games are STILL coming out, and the PS2 is still selling very well. Sony could capitalize on that better if they'd kept backwards compatibility.

        A $300 console with one controller and no games could probably sell pretty well if it could play most popular PS2 games.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by h3 (27424)
          And who buys games new anymore? You can get plenty of great used games at any of your mall stores these days.

          Umm....
  • by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Thursday February 07, 2008 @05:09PM (#22340110) Homepage Journal
    The article mentions the cost savings to Sony (maybe they'll be passed on to the consumer...two or three years from now), but the real kicker is at the bottom where IBM apparently had to maintain cycle compatibility with the old chip to make sure they don't break any games. They didn't use the die shrink to optimize or enhance any parts of the chip like you normally would. The supercomputer folks might end up losing out a bit in an effort to keep the game console folks happy.
  • by exley (221867) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @05:09PM (#22340112) Homepage
    Which is another important factor in bringing the price down. Percentage-wise with more die per wafer yields may go up as well; but in the end yields will be dependent on other things such as how good IBM is with its 45nm process.
  • by wowbagger (69688) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @05:11PM (#22340154) Homepage Journal
    It would be really great that they are moving to a smaller process, (/me takes deep breath)

    IF THEY WOULD SELL YOU THE DAMN THINGS!

    Where I work, we approached them to try to buy Cell processors for our equipment: the SPUs would make dandy DSP replacements, and we really could use the closer coupling of the processors instead of having a bunch of DSPs and spending all our time schlepping data around.

    IBM wouldn't sell us any modules, wouldn't let us design our own CPU board, nothing. They seem supremely uninterested in actually getting these out into the hands of anybody other than their own divisions and Sony.

    HEY IBM! How about you guys release these in a MicroTCA formfactor, or as a module that can be integrated into a MicroTCA?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by mikearthur (888766)
      You can get them in IBM Blades or from a company called Mercury that will sell you a Cell BE on a PCI-E accelerator board.
      • by wowbagger (69688)
        And if you noticed, I needed the CBEs in a MicroTCA form factor, not a PCI-E or blade form factor.
  • by TubeSteak (669689) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @05:14PM (#22340202) Journal
    Is the fact they've dropped hardware PS2 emulation.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Software emulation too, now.

      Best Buy has already stopped selling the 80GB PS3 - the remaining 40GB PS3 has no PS2 software emulation.

      They've stopped selling the 80GB version as well - if you find it in a store, that's remaining stock. They won't be replacing it, either.

      So if you want a PS3 with PS2 support, you're stuck blowing $500. The new, cheaper PS3s won't have it.

      Not that it really matters in any case - the Xbox 360 has proven to be effectively a superior console. Reviews are starting to come in co
  • by jmichaelg (148257) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @05:17PM (#22340274) Journal
    If' they're dropping cooling components due to lower heat output, I wonder if that means this picture is for real. [pcworld.com]
    • by Mex (191941)
      No, it's not real. It's a mockup sent by a reader. =/

      Plus, it looks extra crappy.
  • From the article: "So IBM may have suckered Sony into buying a supercomputing coprocessor disguised as a gaming chip, but it looks like Sony could get the last laugh." Why would they? IBM is selling more than ever.
    • by MightyYar (622222)
      It refers to IBM's blade line suffering an artificial handicap so that the PS3 can benefit.
  • Sony is already losing money on the cost of production vs. the sale price of each Playstation 3 (sale of a PS3 averages around a 35% loss of profit per unit).

    Simply put, they reduce the cost of production, they lose less money on each one they sell. Considering the Playstation 3 is slowly gaining market share at it's current price, they have no need to drop the price right away.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Cheeko (165493)
      Since when is PS3 gaining market share? every months NPD numbers that I've seen show a fairly consistant ratio of PS3360wii, with the ratio within any given month fluctuating based on game releases. 360 had big Sept, November, wii and 360 had a big december, etc.

      While the PS3 is selling more units year over year so are its competitors. I'm pretty sure its market share is within a few percentage points (at best) of where it was at 6 months ago. Maybe gained a little from the price drop, but since the pri
      • Since when is PS3 gaining market share? every months NPD numbers that I've seen show a fairly consistant ratio of PS3360wii, with the ratio within any given month fluctuating based on game releases. 360 had big Sept, November, wii and 360 had a big december, etc.
        For one thing, NPD is US non-major chain only. Media create (japans version of NPD) shows a distinct upswing in the last while.
  • Does anyone have insider or otherwise info on how much more rulesets does the 45nm t ech have, compared to the 65nm?
  • I remember the biggest problem with the PS3's availability and cost was the blue laser (as it has low yields and is expensive to make). Sony was already taking a hit on cost, since a stand-alone Blu Ray player in November actually cost about the same or more.

    It's nice that the cell processor is lowering in cost, but I'm not sure that it ever was a significant enough percentage of the unit cost to see a drop of more then a few tens of dollars.
    • by ivan256 (17499) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @05:42PM (#22340714)
      That's ancient news. Since then, the blue laser shortage has ended, and Sony has gotten the costs of PS3 manufacture down to under $400 [businessweek.com].
      • If it's true that the blue laser's cost is negligible now, which your linked article does not mention at all, then I still don't expect to see a price drop because of this:

        Analysts Applaud Efforts to Shrink PS3 Chips

        Stringer's promise to raise Sony's overall margins to 5% by the Mar. 31 fiscal yearend appears easily within reach. And margins should continue to improve as Sony's video-game division, Sony Computer Entertainment, trims the console's manufacturing costs and revs up output.

        Sony's about improvin

        • by EvilIdler (21087)
          After April, I'd say, because I expect them to ride the Grand Theft Auto IV wave.
          Here's a desirable, system-selling game. They would probably milk it as usual :)
  • CBE Performance (Score:4, Informative)

    by shadowofwind (1209890) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @05:46PM (#22340776)
    Relevance of CBE beyond PS3 of course depends in large degree on its computing performance. For the applications I've looked at, I haven't been very impressed. They say it does 204GFLOPS, but approaching that requires being able to use all multiply-add instructions, which count as two operations. (Some sources say the two operations per clock cycle per SPU is due to there being two pipelines, however, only one of the pipelines handles arithmentic operations and the other is exclusively for load, store, control, and a few shift operations.) Also, it seems to take a lot of select, shift, and shuffle instructions to make efficient use of the quadword (SIMD) instructions. With Xeon and Opteron, use of the quadword instructions seems to require far fewer other additional cycles. And this is with floats, with instruction related stalls completely eliminated on CBE through careful loop unrolling and other methods. (The quadword instructions have 6 cycle latencies.) I can only get performance comparable to 2 quad-core Xeons, which doesn't seem that good considering what is advertized, and considering the 4x difference in the peak performance specs. And CBE does much worse where double precision is necessary, with 6 cycle stalls being unaviodable on every instruction. It seems overblown. Comments?
  • Now that blu-ray has won the format wars and a PS3 gives you a gaming console AND a blu-ray player in one bundle, why would Sony lower costs? Wouldn't they just e happy with the higher profits?
  • They gave away too much info. Now we will expect an affordable, reliable game console.
  • by ZombieRoboNinja (905329) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @06:32PM (#22341510)
    Last I heard, Sony was still losing a ton of money on every PS3 they sold. So even if this upgrade makes it significantly cheaper to manufacture PS3s, I don't see why that would lead to a drop in retail price.

    If anything, I'd guess Sony wants to keep the PS3 at its current price, now that they've basically won the next-gen DVD skirmish. Plenty of people who want Blu-Ray players probably already see the PS3 as a good choice (just like I bought a PS2 to play DVDs back in the days of yore).
  • Anyone know what the die size of the XBox 360's IBM cpu is? Wouldn't be surprised if it's the same, of course.
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @07:30PM (#22342302) Homepage Journal

    A smaller die means a smaller, cheaper package; it also means that yields will be better and that each chip will cost less overall.


    The redundancy of the Cell's 8 SPUs (DSP coprocessors) is the main point of the Cell's design. Defective SPUs (nearly always from dust particles in the nearly - but not quite - perfect "clean rooms" in which they're manufactured) can be tested and turned off as they roll off the assembly line. The shut down SPUs are even physically disconnected from power by hard fuses, so they don't cost any performance in operation. The perfect Cells with 8 SPUs cost the most, in high-end IBM RS/6000 workstations (and some blade servers). 7 SPUs go into PS3s. The rest of the yield, supposedly down to a single SPU (but even 0 SPUs still have a 3.2GHz PPC and superfast IO), go into HDTVs and other consumer electronics. All of the yield gets sold, instead of a fraction in older manufacturing processes.

    So smaller dies don't really affect Cell yields. Smaller dies just mean smaller parts of the wafer that would get spoiled by a single defect, which is already taken care of with the redundant SPUs.

    In fact, smaller dies mean multiple defects are less likely to land on a single die. Which means that more Cells would turn into low-SPU, cheaper Cells. While larger dies would concentrate multiple defects into a single dies, by landing on a single die more often, leaving more perfect Cells getting the highest prices.

    45nm does mean more Cells, at any defect rate, per wafer. Which means, for the same number of defects per wafer, more dies per wafer. So there is a yield increase, but not for the same reasons as traditional ones. And of course 45nm has so many other valuable benefits, like speed, and more transistors if they keep the same die size, that the move is very valuable overall.
  • Cell PC, Already? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @07:43PM (#22342458) Homepage Journal
    The PS3 is interesting because it's so much power in such a cheap box, but it's subsidized by Sony. I think Sony will be lowering prices less while reducing the subsidy more.

    But where are the Cell PCs already? The PS3 is cute, but it's locked down with a Sony hypervisor, it's got no PCI or other expansion, only a single SATA connector, and a puny 512MB hardwired RAM (its Cell can rip through 512MB, peforming 64bit floating point math on it all, in under 0.0025s). Its RSX video chip is locked out from Linux, so no HW acceleration (and no addon videocard is possible).

    IBM is now cranking out these chips. It lost Apple, its biggest CPU (PPC) customer, to Intel. Where's a PC built on a Cell that includes PCI-e, expandible XDR RAM, Gb-e networking, and a more open nVidia graphics card (or two)? Since the Cell is cheap due to its higher yields, a $1000 Cell PC could make a $1000 Intel PC (Mac or Windows/Linux/etc) look like a 286 with its extremely high speeds. Sony has proven it can be mass manufactured with mostly commodity parts for under $750.

    Since Ubuntu already runs on Cell [psubuntu.com], a cheap Windows killer could take the Cell architecture to the top of the CPU stakes in record time from release. It would be a much easier/cheaper/faster target for porting PS3 games than Intel PCs. Apple, which supposedly dropped PPC for Intel because of heat:performance limitations, would have to look seriously at a return to PPC, especially since 45nm Cell with only a few SPUs could be a perfect fit for an iPhone successor. If not from Apple, then from someone smart enough to use Cell in the biggest market of all.
  • by mowph (642278) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @11:00PM (#22344276)
    A 40% drop in heat will make a huge difference in the suitability for business application of the PS3. (Before you say that business use of a PS3 is contradictory, please consider the accommodation industry.)

    The instant they can get a PS3 (or an Xbox) that does not spew heat and use fans akin to a Boeing, it will have a place in the entertainment centers in luxury accommodation suites around the world. The region free PS3 game discs will seal the deal. Surfing internet on the TV and being able to show photos straight from your memory card is also a plus.

    Late last year, we tried rolling the current model of PS3s into some guest suites. In the end there was no way to accomplish this without a major retooling of the entertainment centers, costing hundreds of dollars extra per unit. In one case the excess heat generated by the PS3 caused the TV to overheat!!

    The drop in power bills will also be a big plus, as guests will generally never be bothered to switch off an appliance. I had thought that the PS3s were supposed to automatically regulate the amount of processor power needed. But they seem to run as many fans even when idling at the top menu.

    For business use the maintainability and operation costs are a much bigger factor than the original cost per unit. If they can actually get the heat under control, Sony will break into a huge new market of corporate clients.

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