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The Cell Broadband Engine tears it up when Folding@home
Sony's console dominating all other clients at Folding@home

Along with the release of PlayStation 3 in Europe, gamers in Japan and North America updated their Sony monoliths to system software version 1.60. Along with the much needed background downloading, the update brings to the PS3 the ability to help find a cure for cancer with its Folding@home client.

Although Sony hasn’t thus far been able to prove the power of the PlayStation 3 through first generation games, Folding@home may be offering the first glimpse at the new console’s much touted muscle.

According to the most recent Folding@home client statistics sorted by operating system, the PlayStation 3 leads all other platforms by a huge margin. The PS3 has 367 current TFLOPS, while the next closest is Windows with 151 TFLOPS and more than ten times more CPUs.

When it comes to pure performance though, the PS3’s Cell Broadband Processor is still no match for ATI GPUs for protein folding. The GPUs on Folding@home sit at 41 current TFLOPS, which come from only 700 processors. If there were as many GPUs folding as there are PS3s on the network, it can be extrapolated that GPUs could reach 876 TFLOPS.

Below are the current stats at time of publication:

OS Type

Current TFLOPS

Active CPUs

Total CPUs





Mac OS X/PowerPC




Mac OS X/Intel




















The version 1.60 firmware update is now available through Sony’s Web site or via the PlayStation 3 system update feature.

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How much?
By Griswold on 3/23/2007 7:07:54 PM , Rating: 2
I read that the PS3 sucks up ~180W when idle or watching a movie, now, that it never really idles when turned on or not in standby, how much energy does it burn when crunching numbers? Since we're all so keen on performance/watt numbers... anyone knows? :P

RE: How much?
By dice1111 on 3/23/2007 7:11:35 PM , Rating: 2
Great point. It could be that people are really paying for those folds.

I know my electrical bill can certaintly more juice flowing though my house... :p

RE: How much?
By tuteja1986 on 3/24/2007 3:54:15 AM , Rating: 2
I think when folding @ home releases support G80 and also R600 . Then you would see GPU rule the charts.

RE: How much?
By peternelson on 3/25/2007 2:55:58 AM , Rating: 2
Not many people have the latest gpus, or yet heard of the folding client.

I hope folding project do their nvidia port because that's where gpgpu started.

The nvidia of late 2007 will have more precision math performance which will also help.

There's a lot of gpu hardware power out there not yet harnessed, and just running a screensaver.

RE: How much?
By walk2k on 3/23/2007 7:15:14 PM , Rating: 5
It uses about 175-200 watts.

It doesn't seem to have much if any power-saving features.

When it starts up, cool, with fans on low, it's closer to 175w. As it warms up and the fans speed up a little, it edges closer to 185w. With the BD drive spinning, a little more.

Outside of that, there doesn't seem to be much increase at all with heavy CPU/GPU activity (tested playing Resistance, it's about 185-190w) versus light/no activity.

In fact the highest it seems to reach was playing music(?) with the visualizer running.... 200-205w Go figure.

In short, it seems to use an average of around 185 watts. Since I replaced all my light bulbs with CFLs, that's more than the entire rest of the house lighting uses... So, while F@H is neat, and I ran a few units overnight last night... I'm not likely to be leaving it on all the time...

RE: How much?
By SunAngel on 3/23/07, Rating: -1
RE: How much?
By walk2k on 3/23/2007 8:51:54 PM , Rating: 2
I highly doubt any PC uses 500 watts. PSU manufacturers grossly overstate the need for wattage to sell more and more expensive PSUs.

Unless you have dual quad-core Xeons, dual QuadroFX boards, and like 8 hard drives. Then maybe I can see 500 watts. Probably a more typical PC uses anywhere from 100 to 200 watts (not including monitor).

Mine uses about 150 watts MAX LOAD. (90 at idle). It's a dual core AMD 4800+, 2GB ram, 7900GTX, SATA 250GB HD... not extreme but pretty beefy.

My old Pentium 4 with 6800GT uses a little bit more but not much.

RE: How much?
By tuteja1986 on 3/24/2007 3:50:25 AM , Rating: 2
wait for 2x X2900XTX crossfire setup should eat up alone 400W.

RE: How much?
By cane on 3/24/2007 7:08:17 AM , Rating: 2
RE: How much?
By Lakku on 3/24/2007 4:02:23 PM , Rating: 2
Agreed, each R600 is said, according to ATi documentation, to use 240 to 270 watts a piece. That's 500 watts just for GPUs there. Then again, those same places reporting on the power usage also says it's just a tad faster (using beta drivers) then a 8800gtx (97xx for r600 vs 95xx for 8800 in 3dM06), so I hope a card using around 100 watts more, and thus quite a bit more heat, puts up a lot better numbers then that come May.

RE: How much?
By Lakku on 3/24/2007 3:58:23 PM , Rating: 2
Well, my Core 2 Quad uses about 150watts alone at full load, though nothing I use yet uses all 4 cores, so I don't know how much it uses in my current workload. The 8800GTX uses around 150 to 180. Everything else is probably around 100 to 150 watts at least. So, my computer is close to 500 watts, and could be more if I were to run it at full load. And Im sorry, your computer is using more then 150 watts, considering the 7900 alone uses close to, if not more then, 100 watts, and the CPU uses another 60 to 75w at full load.

RE: How much?
By Lord Evermore on 3/24/2007 10:58:15 PM , Rating: 3
Your CPU and video card are the highest drawing parts in the system. Hard drives are only 2 to 3 watts during operation, CDROM drives not much more, mainboard with integrated stuff is low but I'm not sure of exact numbers. Total, maybe 50 watts maximum for the components besides CPU and GPU, even if using PCI cards for audio and network. Those two also don't draw maximum power at all times. Unless you've actually measured the draw with a meter, it's very unlikely you're anywhere near 500W, even at full load.

Aside from that, a PC running a F@H client isn't running all components at 100%. It's running the CPU (and maybe memory, I don't know much about F@H) at a high usage, and nothing else. So it's very likely a PC doing F@H would be using under 150W maximum if it was just sitting there otherwise idle, even with a dual- or quad-core processor, and 100W or less if completely idle. Even when gaming, the components aren't all constantly running at 100% all at the same time. Totally maxing CPU, memory, and GPU, plus significant drive access and network transfer plus a higher-end audio card could maybe drive it to 300W with a single fast video card, maybe 450 with 2.

Power supply needs have been shown repeatedly to be vastly overstated for marketing purposes and bragging rights. It's certainly fine to have more than enough overhead, but it's not worthwhile to spend twice as much to get 600W if you only need 400W.

RE: How much?
By joex444 on 3/26/2007 12:31:56 AM , Rating: 2
HDs actually use about 12W operation, 9W idle.

Also, the watts you pay for are the AC input. We're talking about the PSU rated as DC output, and the components we're describing are in DC. The PSU performs the AC->DC conversion, and depending on the quality can do it at between 60 and 85% efficient.

Thus, if your components use 300W and the PSU is 75% efficient at 300W you are being charged for 400W, since that's the draw from the power grid. You are also pumping 100W into the system as heat.

RE: How much?
By FITCamaro on 3/23/2007 9:06:31 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly what the guy above me said. Even a quad SLI machine likely won't use up the 1kW power supplies out there.

And a high end PC does not cost $4-7,000. Only the extreme high end comes in around $4000-4500. I priced a friend a PC and with a QX6600, 4GB RAM, 640MB 8800GTS, 250GB hard drive, 74GB Raptor, 2x500GB hard drives, X-Fi sound card, $115 case, $200 power supply, 2 DVD burners, Tuniq tower heatsink, 20.1" widescreen LCD, and keyboard and mouse it was $3300.

RE: How much?
By SunAngel on 3/23/07, Rating: -1
RE: How much?
By FITCamaro on 3/23/2007 9:46:21 PM , Rating: 3
I don't shop at Dell. Therefore, I could care less about their prices. You can build the PC for that. From where, it doesn't matter.

RE: How much?
By CascadingDarkness on 3/28/2007 7:50:42 PM , Rating: 2
I was bored at work so I priced this out at Dell. Couldn't configure exact same system, but close was $5772.

But when it comes down to it, isn't two years of great Dell offshore tech support worth the cost? =P

RE: How much?
By Zoomer on 3/24/2007 9:57:13 AM , Rating: 2
250GB hard drive, 74GB Raptor, 2x500GB hard drives

How are you planning to config that?

RE: How much?
By KillerNoodle on 3/24/2007 1:48:30 PM , Rating: 2
Keep in mind that though a PSU says 1KW You really don't want to be anywhere near the 1KW barrier, ESPECIALLY for extended periods of time. The best way to get a PSU for a setup is to purchase one that is actually about 1.6-1.7 times higher then the power requirement of your computer. This is beacuse the PSU is more efficient at about 60-70% it's peak and it will not cause as much stress on the PSU by running it at only 60-70% load instead of 100%. The full 1KW should only be reached at certain times if at all (Startup of a device/system being one of them.).

No I am not in the PSU industry and yes the math is not exact like shown.

RE: How much?
By RobFDB on 3/24/2007 8:20:52 PM , Rating: 2
For a high end PSU you would expect efficiency around the 80 - 85% mark. Certainly that's what my Enermax Galaxy 850w is quoted at.

RE: How much?
By PrezWeezy on 3/26/2007 1:54:34 PM , Rating: 2
Just to let you know, a truely top end PC shouldn't run you more than about 2G total. The only time a high end PC costs 4-7 grand is when you buy from Alienware, and the only thing special you get from them is a pretty case.

RE: How much?
By paydirt on 3/24/2007 1:51:46 PM , Rating: 2
The best researched numbers I've seen: The PS3 burns around 200W when it is playing games, I gotta figure crunching is the same.

I've done some research relating to this. Basically on a performance per total dollars spent for 3 years use... (total spending = purchase price plus power cost to run 24/7)


CPU includes quad-cores or dual-cores or even octo-cores. PS3 beats CPU in performance per watt for the folding application.

Yeah, it would raise your power bill to have your PS3 crunching when you're not using it, but it goes to a very worthy scientific effort which could make a difference in our parents lives and our lives and all succeeding generations.

RE: How much?
By Lord Evermore on 3/24/2007 11:19:15 PM , Rating: 2
Probably burns less when crunching, since it's not using the video processor.

10 times the performance, similar power draw to a good PC just doing F@H on a CPU. But what's the average CPU type/speed for F@H? If those 160k Windows PCs average out to only being 400MHz P2's, then that'll skew the cost/power/performance comparisons, since you can get a PC with 10 times that performance for the same price as a PS3, with similar power draw when doing just F@H. If you eliminated all the ancient systems the ratio might get closer, though obviously the PS3 would still have an advantage just because the architecture works better for F@H.

If on the other hand the average is closer to modern systems, then PS3 could have an easy performance/dollar advantage over any PC, even if you just made the PC a bare system on a shelf. It's a minimum of say, 200 bucks for the bare essentials for a PC that can do F@H, with a current generation CPU in the midrange where you get decent performance per dollar, no case small hard drive etc, but it won't be much good for anything else and won't be pretty. So you could build 2 to 3 of those for the price of a PS3, giving the PS3 a 5 to 1 or 3 to 1 advantage of TFLOPS per dollar. Those PCs would also be using perhaps 1.5 times the power of the PS3. So the advantage gets higher for the PS3 there.

If you build a PC that can actually do things like play games at a decent level, somewhat comparable performance and quality, can play HD movies, then the PS3 goes back to the full 10 to 1 advantage. That PC would probably also use about the same power as the PS3 by itself.

So basically no matter how you cut it, the PS3 has an advantage in power and price when considering just F@H performance.

But of course, nobody's sitting around with spare PS3s trying to figure out what to do besides letting them molder in a box. But if you've got a PS3 and a PC and want to Fold, do it on the PS3 when you're not gaming. Even if you game a LOT, the PS3 will rack up more points in its idle time than the PC running all the time, and use less power.

RE: How much?
By encia on 3/25/2007 5:17:10 AM , Rating: 2
One doesn’t need Intel Core 2 Extreme for playing 2006/2007 era PC games at playable levels e.g. use components based from (less than 100 USD) Athlon 64 X2 3600+ and (~160 USD) Radeon X1900 Pro.

RE: How much?
By SmokeRngs on 3/26/2007 11:04:07 AM , Rating: 2
Even if you game a LOT, the PS3 will rack up more points in its idle time than the PC running all the time, and use less power.

I disagree with this statement depending on the configuration of the system and what client you are running. I have a C2D@3.2 Ghz running the Linux SMP client. Left alone to do nothing but fold I get around 2000 points per day out of the system. If what I have read is correct, the PS3 can get around 900 points per day. Basically, my overclocked E6400 garners about twice the points as the PS3. At this time that's because the Linux SMP client is beta and there is a points bonus for the work units that are for this client only. I don't know what the points bonus is right now, but I've never heard of Stanford having a 100% bonus for any work unit. Either way, my C2D actually outperforms the PS3 by a good margin.

I'm not going to argue the power consumption aspect with you since I believe you are mostly correct. However, a barebones folding PC can use the same or less power than the PS3 if the 180-200 watt numbers for the PS3 are correct.

E6400 with decent air cooling
Gigabyte DS3 motherboard
gig of value DDR2 800 RAM
quality budget PSU at around 350 watts
any old PCI video card
any old 5 gig+ hard drive

You can build that for around the price of a 20 gig PS3 and it will garner more points than a PS3. With a moderate overclock the numbers for the PC get even better.

I'm not complaining about the PS3 folding. Personally, I want every machine folding that can fold.

RE: How much?
By OxBow on 3/26/2007 10:02:58 AM , Rating: 2
What part of philanthropy do you not understand?

If I'm going to volunteer at the local school/animal shelter/park/hospital etc. I drive my car, bring my lunch, even usually purchase a membership. All because I SUPPORT the goals of the organization.

I support the goals of F@H. Does it cost me to do so, yes. Am I glad to donate that portion of my time (less than five minutes to DL the program and set it to run automatically) and electric bill, you bet.

When the update came out, my wife and I talked about it and since then we've left the PS3 running constantly. It's warm, but not hot, and it is sucking a fair bit of electricity, but nothing compared to our HVAC system.

All those ATI GPU's are doing good work, but the market penetration there is no where near what the PS3 already has, let alone will become. It's cool to see all those yellow lights spread across the globe. And extra Kudo's to our servicemen down in GITMO who are running F@H.

"If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion." -- Scientology founder L. Ron. Hubbard
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