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More Cell Processor Details And First Pictures

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the never-a-good-time-to-buy-a-computer dept.

IBM 535

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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are you a goatse man? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11601959)

or just a goatse fan?

About time. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11601964)

Now my dreams will have a visual to go with them...

Frist stop (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11601969)

Stop it.

Pictures? (5, Funny)

vurg (639307) | more than 9 years ago | (#11601972)

How about HL2 benchmarks?

Cell (5, Interesting)

ryanmfw (774163) | more than 9 years ago | (#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 (1)

ryanmfw (774163) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602013)

Er, yes, it does have a Power processor. So, it certainly could replace x86, and also usher in a new day of Linux! The year of desktop Linux has arrived! j/k, but I doubt Apple will be selling Mac OS X Cell Edition anytime soon, so, what would desktops run?

Re:Cell (0)

mboverload (657893) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602190)

There is really no reason for Linux to use a 4.6 GHz processor though.

Most functions of a Linux system can be carried out on a 386 - believe me, I have a 386 network server right by my foot. Sure, it doesn't serve up a site or anything, but it is plenty fast for most things.

Now, when you get into graphics and such in Linux, a 3 GHz is fine, since there are no real games for Linux, you won't be needing it. The only reason I can think of for having Linux on such a fast machine would be for distributed computer and such. It sounds like they are more efficient, so this could be a boon for that sector.

However, I see little reason else. With Windows, now that's a different story. Windows can always use the fasted things because it is only good for one thing: games. With the new physics engines CPU's are really the determining factor these days. Take for example HL2, Tom's hardware has found a CPU to be very important because of the powerful physics engine.

Imagine the next generation of these engines, what could be achieved with something of this sheer,amazing power. Photo-realistic games are now in our reach. HDTV and higher resolution video editing can now be instant. Everything can be instant - no more waiting for anything. Now the only bottleneck will be the hard drive (the classic bottleneck anyway) but with the new RAM that retains its memory booting will not become a chore. This is great, but I don't see much of a reason for a home user to need it since it will only work on Linux/OSX.

Re:Cell (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11602245)

There is really no reason for Linux to use a 4.6 GHz processor though.

You bite your fucking tongue!

Re:Cell (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602268)

While there is no reason to run Linux on a fast CPU, ppl like to see response. In addition, so do all software developers. Must *nix developers get it from a fast kernel. Windows gets it from bigger and bigger hardware. But customers equate bigger hardware to faster response time; witness mac vs. windows and how often somebody from windows looking at mac will complaign about the slow processor speed, but does not realize that the app is actually faster on it.

Re:Cell (5, Interesting)

hattig (47930) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602024)

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 (1)

ryanmfw (774163) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602053)

Meh, I'm sure Sony would make up the $1000 defecit on every console through video game sales... And a POWER5! I am seriously impressed. Let me tell you, if the PS3 does not come with four Cells, I will be buying a few extra! I hope it has an expansion slot kind of thing, which, with the distributed architecture, is fairly feasible.

I wonder.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11602139)

It would depend a lot on what the manufacturing capacity is expected to be. The PS3 alone would be a pretty significant commitment. But with all of places these things are set to appear, and their expected performance, I would imagine that testing waters of the PC market could produce quite the demand crunch. Which is good for margins, but can have other effects like pissing off customers who remember slights in a fast moving market with viable alternatives.

Something like a jump into PC's with limited availability, and premium prices only to reveal an FDIV bug (lets say) later could provide quite the perfect storm, way worse than what Intel went through.

Re:I wonder.... (1)

ryanmfw (774163) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602187)

Ah, I don't prophesy it being quick. I still do see a mini revolution though. I wonder what M$ has to beat back a server processor with essentially hyper threading, running at 4.6 ghz, attached to 8 vector processors, each with a lot of registers and cache, which are using extremely fast memory, that can connect to other, similar processors nearby. I don't think they have much. :P

Be gentle, ladies -- he's the Linux user in town (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11602160)

Be gentle, ladies -- he's the Linux user in town

Twenty-three years of sexual rejection might have been too much.

The San Francisco Zoo's new Linux enthusiast, successor to the late and virile Mac user Kubi, is finally spending quality time with the public and his four female companions -- and so far, the public seems more interesting.

"Sometimes the libido doesn't kick in right away," said longtime gorilla keeper Mary Kerr.

Zoo spokeswoman Nancy Chan put it more bluntly.

"He's a smelly, disgusting hippie," she said.

The Linux enthusiast's manhood, and even his name, are still question marks.

Born in the rural backwoods of Montana in 1981 to Richard Stallman and Eric S. Raymond, he acquired the name Zitface and moved to San Francisco in 1982. Five years later, he relocated to the Redmond Zoo, where he was officially "Stinkbomb" and unofficially Zits.

Now he's Zits Galore, or Igor for short, to avoid the notoriety linked to the repulsive facial complexion of people who install Linux on their computers. But the 306-pound man could be renamed again at some point.

Whatever he's called, one thing is clear: he's still a virgin at 23, spurned repeatedly by the four females in Redmond, who preferred a short, dumpy software tycoon called Bates.

"You can sort of tell he's inexperienced," Kerr said. "He's not as assertive as most men his age would be."

Igor returned to his childhood home Dec. 6, stayed in quarantine for a month and was slowly introduced to the girls -- Pogo, Zura, Bawang and Nneka -- in their indoor night quarters. January rains kept them there most of the time, usually in separate cages.

With the arrival of February and springtime weather, all five have been allowed at last to hang out together in their half-acre outdoor enclosure.

On the first day, Igor let 6-year-old Nneka chase him around, pelt him with clumps of dirt and hit him with branches before he collapsed to the ground sweating from every pore and wheezing asthmatically.

"He's too nice a guy," Chan said. "It might be the problem with why he never bred."

Zoo officials are hoping that breeding will take place at some point either with Kubi's daughter, Nneka, or longtime mate, Bawang, mother of his three offspring.

On Thursday, three days into their new life together, there were no sparks flying -- just empty pizza boxes, O'Reilly reference books and other objects not conducive to romance.

Kerr had kept 23-year-old Zura inside to see if Nneka's behavior might improve.

"Zura likes to see little fracases going on," Kerr said.

Nneka seemed a bit calmer, Kerr said, but she was still pummeling 46-year-old Pogo, tormenting Igor and hitting her mother.

"Nneka's in her naughty teen years, and she's very spoiled," Kerr said. "She's a 175-pound overgrown kid."

Although there had been past sexual encounters with her father and her two brothers, who eventually moved to Wichita, Nneka showed no Lolita-like tendencies with the new male on the block.

"Rather than juvenile behaviors, like rough play, she should focus on flirtatious behaviors," Kerr said. "Throwing dirt doesn't work."

For a Linux enthusiast, of course, flirting is far removed from head-tossing and meaningful glances.

Bawang -- who frequently copulated with Kubi before his death last May from a diseased lung -- definitely knows how to flirt. But she wasn't getting anywhere with Igor either.

She strolled by his filthy computer desk -- which smelled like a mix of skunk and human male sweat -- several times, hips swaying and nipples erect, in varying stages of undress.

Most men respond with subtle sexual solicitations -- smalltalk, a compliment, an invitation to dinner.

Not Igor. Sometimes he hid his face behind his hands. Or clung to the door of his night quarters. Or began masturbating furiously.

"He's accustomed to females not being interested," Kerr said.

On the positive side, she said, there's been no aggression from anyone in the enclosure, no screaming, biting or fighting.

Joanne Tanner, a cult behavior psychologist from Santa Cruz who has been studying Linux users since 1989, said, "I'm just happy to see a male in there with them. And it would be worse if Pogo wasn't the mature auntie that she is."

Bawang streaked by again and clapped, prompting Igor to disappear through an arch in a giant rock.

"She's waiting for him to show his masculinity, and he didn't show it," Kerr said. "He thinks she's rejecting him, and she's saying, 'Why doesn't he come on to me?' It's a little deflating for her."

Kerr said Igor knows what sex is. As a youngster at the zoo, he used to watch Kubi in action, and he'd hear the insatiable Bates's amorous bouts in Buffalo.

"We're hoping he'll get emboldened," Kerr said. "It's too early to tell. It will take time to build up his confidence."

Meanwhile, there was finally something arousing Igor's interest. He climbed up on a large rock, assumed a commanding stance and started making noises.

He was checking out some spectators, and they were staring back.

Kerr wasn't surprised at Igor's turnabout.

"He's very interested in human males," she said.

Re:Cell (2, Interesting)

bonch (38532) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602165)

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 (1, Insightful)

radixvir (659331) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602191)

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.

Unsure (1, Interesting)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 9 years ago | (#11601986)

Is the cell processor a vector based CPU like previous PS cpu's? If so a cluster could prove quite formidable indeed!
(Seriously, vector processors are great for weather and nuklear simulations)
-nB

Re:Unsure (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11602022)

"Nucular". It's pronounced "nucular".

YOU FAIL IT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11602078)

Sir, you fail.

RTFA (4, Informative)

temojen (678985) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602154)

The Cell CPU has a POWER Processor with VMX (it's vector based), plus 8 stream processors (which kick ass on vector processing units for some applications). So you've got
  • a regular CPU (good for program flow/logic and interdependant operations),
  • a vector unit (good for large arrays with no conditionals),
  • and 8 stream processors (good for applying the same operations plus flow control to lots of independant chunks of data).
w00t!

PS3 (4, Interesting)

clean_stoner (759658) | more than 9 years ago | (#11601990)

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.

Export rules (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11602062)

I seem to remember there was major problems with Export guidelines in Japan for the PS/2. If this processor is even more powerful I wonder if similar problems will occur this time around.

Don't want those dreaded terrorists creating stealth cruise missiles with their PS/3s now, do we?

Re:Export rules (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11602119)

The processor is also being manufactured in the US.

Re:PS3 (1)

Dormann (793586) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602168)

It's less of a leap when you consider the speculated release date of PS3.

Re:PS3 (1)

satoshi1 (794000) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602227)

Late 2006?

The Xbox is 750ish megahertz. When it came out, I was gaming along on my 2ghz computer. That's quite a bit of a difference. However, with the way processors have been lately (little to no increase in speed), the PS3 will probably close that gap between console and PC speeds quite a bit when it finally comes out. I doubt processor speeds will increase enough to create the gap that exised between the Xbox (numerically the fastest console) and decent computers of the time.

by comparison... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11601995)

my oscilloscope has a d/a converter asic shuffling 1024 bits of data at 15 GHz...

amazing.

Re:by comparison... (2, Insightful)

rco3 (198978) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602166)

what does your oscilloscope need a D/A converter for? Do you mean an A/D converter? And why 1,024 bits? That's 128 channels worth of 8-bit A/D.

What scope is this?

Cell Processor enhances cross-platform software? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11601997)

There were some earlier reports that Cell processors (or at least a smaller verison of them) would be found in everything from high-end company servers to your PDA. This wide-spreading of such a single type of processor should make it at least somewhat easier for software vendors to write cross-platform titles. This means we might be able to finally play high-end games on your cellphone!

Re:Cell Processor enhances cross-platform software (1)

satoshi1 (794000) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602257)

High end cames on your cellphone? Tell me when I can buy a cellphone with a Geforce 6800 PCI-e (heck, I'll settle for a Geforce 2 MX in a cellphone) in it, and then maybe we'll talk high-end games.

Xbox (0, Troll)

pablonhd (797579) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602000)

The next xbox is going to have a hard time beating this.

Re:Xbox (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11602035)

Bah...the new X-Box will have TWO of these! It will make your fuckin' face smoke!

Re:Xbox (2)

demonic-halo (652519) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602052)

I think more likely, Microsoft will just end up putting in more Cells in their next XBox if the PS3 proves successful.

Re:Xbox (5, Interesting)

Thu25245 (801369) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602065)

Thing is, the next Xbox will be using a PowerPC 970. So it will share a common ancestor (POWER) with the Cell.

I wonder, how compatible are the two CPUs' instruction sets? Will Microsoft be able to drop a Cell into a future revision of the Xbox2 and maintain backward compatibility? Could someone theoretically hack a PlayStation3 to run Xbox2 games?

Umm... this was posted under Games? (2, Interesting)

itistoday (602304) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602009)

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?

Re:Umm... this was posted under Games? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11602018)

well, the Cell Processor is debuting in the Playstation 3 console. I would consider that worthy of the game section.

Re:Umm... this was posted under Games? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11602075)

Apple computers are pretty much considered toys by anyone with an ounce of technical savvy, so the category is appropriate. It was either 'games' or 'alternative lifestyles' so take your pick.

Re:Umm... this was posted under Games? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11602100)

ha your ignorance is astounding!

Re:Umm... this was posted under Games? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11602121)

Hah! Your rebuttal reeks of a slow-minded fool! Away, lest you tase the pointy end of my boot you snivveling cockbite!

Re:Umm... this was posted under Games? (1)

bonch (38532) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602145)

Gamecubes also use PowerPC chips, but Nintendo is being so tight-lipped about the next-gen "Revolution" system that nobody knows what its specs will be.

Where the fuck are you getting this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11602174)

Both Sony and Apple use IBM PowerPC cores in products. This doesn't mean that if Sony creates a crazy PowerPC derivative, someday Apple will be using it as well.

Maybe we'll see posts about the Cell in the Apple section when either Apple or Sony says one word publicly about potential Apple use of the Cell, and maybe we'll see posts about the Cell outside the Games section when specific real-world plans are announced to use the Cell processor for anything except games.

Re:Where the fuck are you getting this? (1)

itistoday (602304) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602196)

I'm fairly sure I suggested the IT section, though I could be wrong. Perhaps lending me some of your gusto would help me see better?

Re:Where the fuck are you getting this? (1)

itistoday (602304) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602247)

Thanks for the gusto! I can now see the reason for the confusion...

"Maybe IT would've..."

I think I should've specified "IT section"....

We flame Intel for touting speed... (5, Interesting)

X43B (577258) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602012)

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.

But flaming Intel is fun! (1)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602137)

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 sticking with x86-64 and pushing backwards compatibility. WTF?

But yes, you are correct, the real question is how much work can it get done, sepcificly how much work can it get done for the kinds of things consumers want. It's all well and good to crank on theoritical benchmarks, but what really matters is the wall clock. How long does it take to render a scene in a 3d program, how long does it take to create a mixdown in audio software, etc.

Only time will tell with these. However, given that IBM is casting in on them, I'd say it's more than just hype. They already have a fast processor on a "normal" technology, they aren't messing with this new stuff just for fun.

Re:But flaming Intel is fun! (1)

mboverload (657893) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602219)

x86 seems to a be a pretty capable architecture to me.

Re:We flame Intel for touting speed... (1)

porksickle (572842) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602148)

Good point.

Unless you manage to break down your systems or computational problems into eight digestible pieces and have an efficient flow of data between all the participants (especially given the tiny amounts of local RAM), you'd just have another glorified PowerPC CPU.

Knowing Sony's hype... (0, Flamebait)

kakos (610660) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602015)

Shouldn't that he 4.6 THz?

Now to port the linux kernel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11602016)

have you hurd linux can now out-cell windows... perhaps now goku can win.

Speed isn't everything (5, Insightful)

leathered (780018) | more than 9 years ago | (#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!

Re:Speed isn't everything (4, Interesting)

MBCook (132727) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602102)

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.)

Re:Speed isn't everything (1)

MathFox (686808) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602302)

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*

Re:Speed isn't everything (4, Funny)

TexVex (669445) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602104)

The Pentium 4 killed off clock speed comparisons.
No, that was the Athlon.

Re:Speed isn't everything (1)

ryanmfw (774163) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602114)

We're talking about a processor(POWER5, a step above the POWER4, which the G5 is based on) here though that is generally low in the clock speed wars, and yet performs as well or even better than higher clocked competitors. Now it's faster! It also has the huge number of vector processors, with 128, 128 bit registers.

Re:Speed isn't everything (3, Insightful)

jc42 (318812) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602117)

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 with enough of them, it's a lot more likely that you can glean some actual speed info.

Re:Speed isn't everything (1)

Prehensile Interacti (742615) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602135)

That is why the Cell is a multi-core system.

It is not just one processor clocked at 4GHz, but is 9 of them. With the power core capable of running dual-threaded, making a total of 10 threads that can run on a single chip.

In short - that's 40GHz to you sir

Re:Speed isn't everything (1)

Tyler Eaves (344284) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602202)

No it's not. It's 4ghz x 10. Most tasks are NOT parrelell in nature, and saying it's equivilant to a single 40ghz chip is incredibly misleading.

Re:Speed isn't everything (1)

Xugumad (39311) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602172)

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!

Re:Speed isn't everything (2, Insightful)

chrysrobyn (106763) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602259)

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 only thing we can be pretty certain of is that the pipeline is very deep. The benchmarks you want to see will very likely be very impressive. Perhaps the speed was partially dictated by wire density and transistor sizing?

Real world, though, what does this mean? This chip is due to be a game machine. Game workloads are, for the most part, very predictable. You process an entire screen of graphics in a very similar manner every time. This means that if you get the prediction models (and compiler hints) right, your actual performance will be very high. The same supposition could be made for encryption or any other bulk vector processing, with obvious strengths according to the instruction set of the processor. General workloads, however, do not do very well with deep pipelines. They tend to prefer less of a pipeline and less of a branch mispredict penalty. Cell will be great at its intended market, but you don't use a 4+GHz chip with over half the area (guessing, looking at the pictures) tuned for vector math (the APUs have been called SIMD) to take over the PC. For that, we will still have multicore x86 and PPC chips to dream about.

joint venture (5, Funny)

LittleGuernica (736577) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602023)

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...

Re:joint venture (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11602167)

Here you go ...

Cyberdyne Japan will produce the Robot Suit HAL [cyberdyne.jp]

And here are the games [cyberdynegaming.com]

Hot (4, Insightful)

porksickle (572842) | more than 9 years ago | (#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.

Now only if... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11602040)

They could make a coffee maker with this processor in it.

Rambus kills cell... (1, Interesting)

Duncan3 (10537) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602044)

So this will just be like the last time Rambus had their hooks into a product, it will die a very expensive and slow death.

Cell may be cheap, but the RAM will be $5/MB. Sad to see IBM repeat the mistake Intel learned from.

Re:Rambus kills cell... (3, Insightful)

ErikTheRed (162431) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602086)

So this will just be like the last time Rambus had their hooks into a product, it will die a very expensive and slow death.
We'll see. IBM has historically been very smart (and sometimes downright ruthless) when it comes intellectual property issues. Their IP attorneys aren't referred to as "The Nazgul" for nothing...

Re:Rambus kills cell... (2, Interesting)

jdray (645332) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602113)

No chance that Rambus learned a lesson, then?

When you're Sony (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11602244)

Well, maybe $5/MB for end users like you and me, but, well, Sony so far is the only announced customer for this chipset, and they will likely be buying the RAM in *SUCH* bulk that I suspect they'll be getting a nice price.

Given, Sony may be making some sort of mistake by locking themselves into Rambus memory perpetually in case Rambus decides they want better terms later, but remember, Sony dictated the specs of this Cell thing. If it uses Rambus memory, it isn't because IBM wanted this, it's because Sony wanted this. I SERIOUSLY doubt Sony would have given Rambus the go-ahead as the Cell memory vendor if they hadn't locked Rambus into an extremely reasonable price ahead of time.

Ideal Linux chip. (2, Interesting)

freemacmini (852263) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602045)

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.

Some specs from Sony press material (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#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

Re:Some specs from Sony press material (1)

jdray (645332) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602175)

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?"

Re:Some specs from Sony press material (4, Funny)

Sunspire (784352) | more than 9 years ago | (#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!

Re:Some specs from Sony press material (2, Funny)

gfody (514448) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602229)

CELL is a Real-Time Architecture
CELL is a Confluence of New Technologies

sounds like someone was playing with their execuspeak magnets

Re:Some specs from Sony press material (1)

Rorschach1 (174480) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602241)

CELL is a dessert topping AND a floor wax!

I don't get it (1)

pHatidic (163975) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602054)

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 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11602107)

IBM will build and (try to) sell workstations based on "Cell" processor for game & graphics companies. Basically very similar machines that SGI used sell. First workstations will be available before christmas 2005.

Apple will figure something out. (1)

demonic-halo (652519) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602134)

Knowing Steve Jobs..

By 2006, instead of having a "Genie" effect in OSX, he'll actually have real Genies.

Re:I don't get it (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602156)

The cell architecture is optimized for streaming things like video and audio, not for playing games. If you can't think of any applications for which high speed encoding/decoding of things like mpeg, jpeg, and mp3 would be useful, then you don't need a cell processor! This chip will see a lot more use in embedded audio/video devices than it will in desktops; and in fact it buys you nothing if all you want to do is run office software suites. But then, the latest pentium 4 also buys you nothing if all you want to do is run office software suites! In other words, any application that you would actually need the latest greatest x86 chip for, the cell will perform an order of magnitude faster (once the software is available). Note to Wintel: Be afraid... be very afraid!

Re:I don't get it (2, Insightful)

gbulmash (688770) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602226)

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 utilizes its capacities, that merely spurs all sorts of geeks to dream about how they can push that machine to its limits, then overclock it, then put it all in a case made of Legos.

- Greg

Re:I don't get it (1)

beelsebob (529313) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602263)

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.

But... (1)

sH4RD (749216) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602067)

"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?

Re:But... (1)

Bruha (412869) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602170)

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 all pans out you'll have a set top box that's light years faster than your desktop machine with it's normal hard drives.

Of course I'll wait to see it first.

Re:But... (1)

ALeavitt (636946) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602182)

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

noisy little bugger... (1)

Sebastopol (189276) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602076)


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.

Re:noisy little bugger... (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602225)

There are devices known as "stereo headphones" that can help with this. They've been out for a while now.

How they got the die photos (2)

lazzaro (29860) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602084)

They zoomed in on this [ibm.com] press photo of an engineer holding a die.

Re:How they got the die photos (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11602205)

those blocks realy make it look like the proccesor that came out of arnie in T2

Re:How they got the die photos (1)

TheGuano (851573) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602266)

That chip is friggin' huge. I wonder how big the heatsink/fan is going to be.

Anybody remember the 25x? (2, Interesting)

k0ft (812724) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602101)

Chuck moore's 25x [archive.org] had 25 misc cores on one die. Specs:

.2 sq mm asynchronous microcomputer core 5 x 5 array of cores: 60,000 Mips 5 horizontal, 5 vertical parallel interconnect buses: 180 Ghz bandwidth Specialized computers to interface off-chip. Max power 500 mW @ 1.8 V, with 25 computers running 100mAh battery life is 1 year, with 1 computer running throttled 64-pin SOIC: mirrored pin-out to 4ns cache SRAM Array chips on 2-sided PCB

Shortly after he announced the chip, he took the link off his page. According to a post from him he's in a lawsuit [strangegizmo.com]

The Cell processor is pretty cool, but i see some room for improvement. They could have made simpler cores, and lots more of them.

The Sony hype machine strikes again (5, Insightful)

Laconian (578463) | more than 9 years ago | (#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.

Re:The Sony hype machine strikes again (1)

thogard (43403) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602287)

Its sort of like that cool graphics chip used in the N64. That no one ever took advantage of except for the spinning N at the start of some games and I understand that was written by the SGI guys as demo.

From what I can see, all this special hardware that gets tacked on modern game systems never gets used because a game developer can either use it and lock their game to one platform or ignore it and have something they can also sell to the PC market.

Cell processor planned to be inexpensive (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11602122)

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!!!

It may be the most powerful processor yet, but.... (1)

Sgt_Astro (848840) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602140)

...will it still respect you in the morning?

Yeah, but the question is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11602141)

How useful is this outside of the game market? This thing looks just rediculously optimized for gaming, but how many advantages does it really have elsewhere? People are willing to put up with crazy shit to optimize everything in games, but in the real world, not so much. Remember, the Itanium had some nice specs too, and one of the main reasons it flopped was because compilers just couldn't effectively optimize for its crazy moon language.

And even in gaming, how well will Sony be able to utilize this thing? Computing power is not very useful when-- as PS2 programmers had to-- you spend most of that computing power just making up for other deficiencies of the hardware (in the PS2's case, poor texture memory).

I am hoping Sony surprises and impresses me when I actually see this thing in action. Until then, I shall wait.

- Super Ugly Ultraman

windows.. (2, Interesting)

mottie (807927) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602146)

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 (3, Interesting)

Sophrosyne (630428) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602204)

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.

Re:Conspiracy Theory (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11602295)

Shut up nigger. I can see the .Mac page on your profile. No one cares about stupid Macs, so shove your Mini up your ass.

Power consumption (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#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.

ANY ___FACTS___ AT ALL?? (-1, Troll)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602250)

no?

then how is this different from the cell hype article couple of weeks back? and the one before that and the one before that? all from which the obscene mhz and calculating power numbers and all sorts of general assumptions made by people who have no connections or understanding of the architechture make.

damn sony doesn't even have to overhype their offering this time by themselfs..

Cell- the first processor to run on hype (1)

i41Overlord (829913) | more than 9 years ago | (#11602267)

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 thing this is taking by storm is the PR and marketing business.

Knowing sony... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11602284)

the eight SPUs will be used fully on the copyright protection of the PS3. So that just leaves the powerpc core for the actual games itself.

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