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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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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.

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