The Cell Broadband Engine is uber powerful at folding proteins
PlayStation 3's Cell Broadband Engine is better at folding proteins than the Xbox 360's triple-core CPU

The PlayStation 3 has recently flexed its floating point muscles by leading all processors at Folding@home. Sony’s game machine has been performing more work than any other system on helping to understanding protein folding, misfolding and related diseases such as Alzheimer’s and cancer.

A topic up for debate between the console circles is how the PlayStation 3’s arch-nemesis, Microsoft’s Xbox 360, would perform on Folding@home. While there is no Folding@home client for the Xbox 360, Vijay Pande, Associate Professor of Chemistry at Stanford University and Folding@home program lead, told Pro-G that the CPU inside Microsoft console would definitely lag behind the PS3’s Cell Broadband Engine.

“We are simulating key processes in protein folding and misfolding in Alzheimer's Disease. PS3's are performing aspects of these simulations, and doing so about 20 times faster than a typical PC,” Pande said. When asked if the Xbox 360 could be of use to the Folding@home program, he answered, “Possibly, although the cell processor in the PS3 is much more powerful for our calculations than the CPU in the Xbox 360.”

Mind you, the comparison may only be strictly between the two CPU architectures of each console. The Xbox 360 uses a custom triple-core PowerPC-based CPU, while the PlayStation 3 uses the Cell Broadband Engine composed of seven processor elements.

While the Xbox 360 CPU may not be tops in terms of Folding@home, its ATI-developed GPU could be much better. ATI Radeon GPUs running Folding@home are outperforming the PlayStation 3 on a per capita basis. Though whether or not the Xbox 360 will ever get its crack at helping to cure a disease remains to be seen.

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