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The original 90nm Cell/B.E. package as found in the PlayStation 3  (Source: DailyTech)
PlayStation 3 CPU soon smaller, cooler, cheaper

In the continuing effort to advance production of the Cell Broadband Engine, IBM revealed yesterday at the International Solid State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) in San Francisco plans to migrate the processor to the 45nm high-k process.

The Cell Broadband Engine chip currently found in the latest PlayStation 3 hardware is manufactured on IBM’s 65nm SOI process, which was quietly introduced into the market with the 40GB PS3. The power consumption drop from the original launch model, which used a 90nm Cell/B.E., to the 40GB model made users take notice of the shift in manufacturing process.

The further shrink of the Cell/B.E. to 45nm will reduce power consumption by another 40 percent and die size by 34 percent, helping to cut costs. Current analyst estimates put the cost of manufacture per PlayStation 3 console at around $400, close to the MSRP of the entry-level 40GB console.

Even with the shift to 45nm, Sony may not immediately pass the cost savings onto the consumer. The PlayStation division finally turned a profit for the first time since the PS3 debut, a trend the company likely wishes to continue. In the long run, however, cheaper components pave the way for eventual price drops.

The upcoming 45nm Cell/B.E. benefits not only the PlayStation 3, as the chip in also used IBM Blade servers for industrial applications, such as medical imaging. Toshiba has also adapted the Cell/B.E. technology, which it calls the SpursEngine, for mobile graphical applications.

According to Ars Technica, IBM’s effort in shrinking the Cell/B.E. is done solely with Sony in mind. As the PlayStation 3 is the largest application of Cell/B.E. technology, IBM apparently tailored the smaller chip for cooler and cheaper consoles, rather than for increased performance and functionality. Such is hinted at an IBM document, stating, “To guarantee the proper operation of existing gaming software, the exact cycle-by-cycle machine behavior, including operating frequency, must be preserved.”

Such considerations for Sony by its partners are important for the console maker, as the company itself is getting out of the chip business. On April 1, Sony will be officially handing over control of Cell/B.E. manufacturing facilities to Toshiba. Sony also stated that it will cease R&D efforts on future 32nm chip processes, though it will remain active with Toshiba and IBM on future iterations of the Cell/B.E.



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By Carl B on 2/8/2008 10:28:07 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
It doesnt makes sense preserving the exact performance characteristcs from 90nm to 65nm to 45 nm even though its a customized chip for PS3/Sony.
Why sacrifice performance gains if you can get it in the process shrink-anyway you are paying,so take the maximum out of it.
Sony can then use it from consoles to laptops giving it even a greater cost advantage/profit maregins.
Performance & price being the determining factor in both console & laptop markets,for marketshare/profitmargins etc.


Again, 'performance gains' are very much there; the chip runs a lot cooler, and it can run a lot faster. As far as IBM's purposes go, it has been improved. And in terms of architectural improvement, they have the HPC DP/RAM-heavy branch of the architecture they're working on as well.

But it is just so obvious that 100% performance parity must be maintained between all 'mainline' versions of Cell, as their primary target is the PS3. I don't see the drama here at all; the 45nm Cell can reach 6GHz at 1.15v, and 4GHz for wattage use under the original 90nm chips. To me, there's plenty of performance improvement headroom there for anyone that needs it.


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