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Cell Processor officially revealed


Kain rising
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This is cool news, but it will of course be wait-and-see until we know how the PS3 will incorporate it.

 

Does anyone remember the rumors back when PS2 was first released about trying to block sales of the system to Iraq because it was classified as a "supercomputer" capable of running nuclear warhead guidance systems? lmfao.gif

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...described a chip that could provide ten times the performance of the latest PC chips and churn through many tasks at once...

...Inside the chip' date=' eight processing units will churn through data at speeds above 4 gigahertz, or billions of cycles per second, ahead of even the fastest chips from Intel.[/quote']

At first I was all excited, then I realized that at "nearly a quarter of a billion transistors" it's probably just one CPU with an eight-stage pipeline, which is nothing new (other than the >4GHz clock speed). Good way to make it sound more interesting though.

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Gamespot has posted some more info on the chip as well. You can take a read here:

 

The Cell

 

? 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.

 

? Cell can process 256 billion calculations per second (256 gigaflops), falling a wee bit short of marketing hyperbole calling it a "supercomputer on a chip." The slowest machine on the current list of the Top 500 supercomputers can do 851 gigaflops.

 

? The chip will have 2.5MB of on-chip memory and can shuttle data to and from off-chip memory at speeds up to 100 gigabytes per second, using XDR and FlexIO interface technology licensed from Rambus. "One of the key messages you hear from the architects of next-generation chips is that their performance is being limited by off-chip bandwidth," said Rich Warmke, Rambus, product marketing manager. "We've really licked that with Cell. 100GB per second is really unprecedented in the industry."

 

? The chip will have 234 million transistors, measure 221mm square and be produced using advanced 90-nanometer chipmaking processes.

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There's some more info over in the Slashdot article. Turns out I was wrong, it's not one CPU with an 8-stage pipeline, but rather 8 SPEs/SPUs ("Synergistic Processing Elements/Units"), each of which has a 2-stage pipeline, it's own 256KB of L1 cache, and 128 GPR's which are 128 bits each. While this is interesting information, it makes me a bit skeptical that what they've shown off will be close to what makes it into the final PS3. With 8 SPE's, you're looking at 2MB of L1 cache, and over 128KB in registers alone, which would have to have a manufacturing cost that would be absolutely obscene. On-chip cache costs silly amounts of money (and produces silly amounts of heat)...even at the slower L2 or L3 levels. For example, look at the P4 "Extreme" processors, whose claim to fame is having 2MB of L3 cache. It has a similar die size (237mm^2 compared to the announced Cell's 221mm^2, 178M transistors compared to the Cell's 234M), and at the lowest clock speed you'll be paying about $600 more for the privilege of the added cache compared to it's non-Extreme brethren. This information also can't help but make me ponder if they're claiming >4GHz speeds by clocking lower and multiplying by 8 (i.e. "It has 8 SPEs running at 575MHz each, that's just like 4.6GHz!"). We shall see. Edit: although with the number of Gflops they're claiming, this strategy seems unlikely now that I think about it.

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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.

I wouldn't place much emphasize on clock speeds due to different chip designs. When the Pentium 4 was released, clock for clock, it was actually slower than the Pentium 3 (which is why it was released at higher clock speeds then the P3). This is also why AMD moved away using their actual speed on Athlons to using a number system that corresponded with P4's speed; it was faster clock for clock as well.

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