The Cell Broadband Processor, jointly developed by Sony,
Toshiba and IBM, is the driving force behind the PlayStation 3 and high-end blade
servers. While the chip is mainly used as a CPU in existing applications,
Toshiba is planning to extend the Cell Brodband Engine’s base technology into graphics.
Toshiba’s specialized version of the technology, dubbed “SpursEngine,”
will utilize similar Synergistic Processing Element (SPE) cores as found in the
The SpursEngine will only include four SPE cores, rather
than the full eight cores of the Cell/B.E. chip. New to Toshiba’s own chip will
be dedicated hardware for decoding and encoding MPEG-2 and H.264 video.
“By combining the high level, real time processing software
of the SPEs with the hardware video codecs, the SpursEngine realizes an
optimized balance of processing flexibility and low power consumption,” Toshiba
wrote in its press release.
The prototype of SpursEngine operates at a clock frequency
of 1.5GHz and consumes power at 10 to 20 watts. In contrast, the Cell/B.E.
processor found inside every PlayStation 3 operates at 3.2GHz. Like the
PlayStation 3, however, the SpursEngine will also make use of Rambus XDR DRAM as
In its announcement, Toshiba said that it would demonstrate at
the CEATEC JAPAN 2007 conference its new chip in action inside notebook PC,
showing off “the processor's capabilities in 3D image processing and
manipulation: real-time transformations of hair styles and makeup that
instantaneously recognize and process changes in position, angle, and facial
expression, and render them as computer graphics.”
Toshiba’s decidedly lower-cost take on the existing
Cell/B.E. hint that the SpursEngine will find into more than just PCs. Toshiba
may one day use its SpursEngine way in its mainstream consumer electronics
devices, such as its HD DVD players.