Why The Cell Processor Is So Important

Gamers Outlook "When Sony first released the PS3, many people underestimated the power of the console, particularly the processor. In a recent article I stated the cell processor was the PS3's most important feature, and now I'm going to explain why."

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Will-UK2265d ago

Sorry about that link has now been fixed had some issues with the google servers its back up now be sure to subscribe to our RSS and follow me on twitter

zero_cool2264d ago

This is one reason why below...

Also this one of the people who worked on the cell processor youtube channel you could ask him some question if you like....

Also much info depth on cell & xdr dram on how it helps supper charge the cell processor...

P.S..I hope you find this info useful!


TABSF2264d ago (Edited 2264d ago )

@ zero_cool

Get over it, I've already showed you how aged the technology is in the Cell project.

IBM with 3 Cell BE can not Ray Trace above 10FPS
Looks like a slide-show.

Nvidia with 1 Fermi can Ray Trace lag free meaning 24FPS or >

Developers are moving away for CPUs. Intel is the last hope for them with Sandybridge/Ivybridge
Sorry AMD guys but if the leaks of Bulldozer are correct they are slower than i7 950s plus Fusion is not epic as expected.

IBM needs Nvidia and the world 3 fastest supercomputers running off Nvidia it shows why GPGPU is the only future for the time being.

Like I said, developers are making good of terrible choices made by Sony.
Developers saying the hardware is great helps Sony market PS3 to more 3rd parties.
Once PS3 is dead and buried I'm sure a lot of developers will say Sony got lucky with the equally bad decisions Nintendo and Microsoft made with their consoles.

In the end PC is the winner here, Consoles software and hardware designers are coming back to PC and using its tools and technologies to guide consoles into another generation.

TABSF2265d ago (Edited 2265d ago )

Not so much of a big deal really, IBM has all but dropped the Cell project and Sony does not have the resource to developer it.

IBM have developed two different version of the same chip plus done a couple of die shrinks, that's it really, Sony was not the architects/designers in this partnership, they just helped to fund it.

Sony will most likely run with the Cell till PS4 and then there is no guaranty of it being there even for BC.

Not sure of all this hype really about the Cell, developer are just make use of what they have got. The days of the CPU rule has gone since late 2007, its all about parallel processing on the GPU now.

JBaby3432265d ago

Isn't the point of the CELL to offload the GPU as much as possible so it can do more. The more you can spread around the more you can do since CPUs are seldom even close to running at full capacity.

I may be wrong so correct me if I am. An upgraded CELL plus a stronger GPU and more RAM should serve the PS4 pretty well especially since devs have gotten the hang of the CELL architecture and splitting things up to run between the CELL and GPU. It really is the reason the PS3 puts out such noticeable graphical differences versus the 360 despite having a weaker GPU.

Again I don't claim to be an expert or programmer but that was my understanding from what I've read and seen in articles and dev diaries.

Peaceful_Jelly2265d ago

PS3 games look only marginally better than X360 games, the difference isn't as marked as with the PS2 and Xbox. Haven't you seen GeoW3? That game looks easily on par with Uncharted 2 (or maybe even better), is just the fanboys who say otherwise.

the CELL puts up for the weak GPU on the PS3 while the GPU puts up for the weak CPU on the X360.

Persistantthug2265d ago

But you said it yourself, it looks about as good as Uncharted 2....but guess what?

Uncharted 2 is 2 years old now. Uncharted to isn't even the "top dog" on PS3 anymore, and Uncharted 3 is getting ready for it's release.

There's no doubt, at least from the end results that we see, that the PS3 is more powerful overall than the XBOX 360.

Gears 3 looks nice though. :)

iliimaster2265d ago

@peaceful jelly.... noooo gears 3 looks good yes no one is saying otherwise but saying better than uncharted or the same is crazy or you have the wrong tv/cables/ eye vision im god of war 3 to me is the best looking ps3 game... and geow 3 is nothing close to that.. im rockin a 55 LCD samsung 250HRTZ 1080p with hdmi n 7.1 onkyo surroundsound and im a gears addict..

Angels37852265d ago

How can Gears 3 look better than Uncharted 2? Its running on the UNREAL ENGINE which is middleware. Plus EPIC is notorious for bullshots like with Gears 2. 360 games look only marginally better if they are MULTIPLATFORM and that isn't really happening lately. The only FANBOY is the guy who thinks a middleware engine can out compete an engine designed for the PS3's hardware.

zero_cool2264d ago

yes your 100% correct parallel processing is the full processing power of playstation 3 in action.

+ Show (2) more repliesLast reply 2264d ago
joeorc2265d ago (Edited 2265d ago )

"Sony was not the architects/designers in this partnership, they just helped to fund it. "

sorry you are wrong daddy-o

In March 2001, Sony and Toshiba and IBM (STI) announced that they had teamed up to design an architecture for what is termed a system-on-a-chip (SoC) design. Code-named Cell, chips based on the architecture will be able to use ultra high-speed broadband connectivity to interoperate with one another as one complete system, similar to the way neural cells interoperate over the brain's network.

It was not just IBM in the design of the Cell both Toshiba an Sony also along with IBM all were part of the design team on Cell.

An Sony bought back a Cell processor production plant from Toshiba, which by the way Sony sold to Toshiba.

Sony can further develop the Cell if they want but, I think Sony has other plans an that's Arm core processor's anyway which they already produce.

Cell is not dead, it's core technology is still being used, because the trend is Hybrid core chip design which the Cell is , anyway...the Cell is a CPU/GPU which is current trend in Arm Core design Tegra 2, an Tegra 3 is Hybrid CPU/GPU .

So if anything Sony was not just funding it they were infact moving design an production of Chip trends in Computing that everyone was going to move toward anyway. Sony was far from just funding the Project.

Persistantthug2265d ago (Edited 2265d ago )

The only thing they dropped was 1 particular Cell processor, a 32 SPE design.

In fact, Toshiba recently came up with a Cell derivative called a CEVO to put in their new TV's. So if anything Cell Tech is spreading, not declining.

zero_cool2264d ago

from what i heard that sony contracted ibm again to work on a similar architecture design like cell but ibm didn't go into great detail about it.My guess is it's gonna be more powerful,faster,power efficient,programmer friendly & used for a multiple range of sony products such as playstation 4 so take it for what it's worth & decide for yourself!

+ Show (1) more replyLast reply 2264d ago
kaveti66162265d ago (Edited 2265d ago )

"The Cell processor allows most of a games physics and graphics to be rendered on its SPE'S so that less data and calculations is loaded onto the RSX; The RSX mostly adds post-processing effects. This (and Blu-Ray) is the reason PS3 exclusives, like uncharted look so technologically advanced, however some games are not being programmed to take advantage of the Cell's unique architecture. Either they are lazy ports, or the programmers are still learning to optimize their code."


The RSX does most of the graphical work. Developers front-load post-processing to the SPEs.

Uncharted 2 looks good because the developers used hand-drawn surfaces rather than procedural surfaces. This allows the GPU to wrap around pre-fabricated textures to objects with less calculations.

The GPU does the basic graphical work. The SPEs are responsible for post-processing effects (camera motion blur, animation physics, sound, etc). It's all in the video that is conveniently posted in the article. The video contradicts the article very nicely.

Intel and Nvidia are competing currently to develop GPCPUs or GPGPUs that will be powerful enough to eliminate the need for discrete graphics processors or discrete CPUs.

Does this article writer believe that Sony and IBM have already achieved this with the Cell? Because the Cell is really not as good at graphical processing as it is made out to be. It is very good at running calculations that have historically been loaded onto the GPUs by developers.

The Cell does a lot of the work that that in general GPUs do, but nothing too graphics heavy because it is designed to run basic calculations at top speeds. Some of the work that in general GPUs do is basic enough for the SPEs to accomplish. This is the silver lining that the Cell provides.

The 360's conventional tri-core set up is not as exotic as the Cell, but at the same time it is not as tedious to work with and was one of the first setups with hyperthreaded cores. The GPU of the 360 is slightly more powerful than the RSX and is forced to handle the basic calculations of a graphics while the Xenon handles the CPU work.

That's why the PS3 is more powerful in raw power than the 360 is. But over time developers on the 360 have taken a page from Naughty Dog's book and are trending towards hand-drawn textures to ease the GPU. The pooled RAM in the 360 is not as fast as the 256 megs of XDRAM in the PS3. This is another reason why the Cell can handle a ton of basic calculations. It does it much faster.

Nevertheless, both consoles display glaring bottlenecks. The PS3 could have used pooled, uniform RAM, both consoles should have had a gig of RAM to work with, but neither company foresaw or even cared that PC games in 2007 would start relying on more RAM to operate.

Sony's decision to use the Cell was clever at the time because Microsoft didn't know about the XDRAM that Sony would be using. MS just assumed that the Cell was a collection of Digital Signal Processors and thought the PS3 was a fail from the get-go.

But the Cell is no longer important. It's tedious to split data work into multiple SPEs. Gabe Newell expressed his hatred of it for good reason. Valve is a small studio so they were upset that Sony was making them learn difficult architecture. Developers are more at risk of layoffs or shutdowns than corporations, so Valve was upset that SCE didn't have developers in mind when they decided to go with the Cell.

Today, hyperthreaded, multi-core CPUs are better than the Cell, so I believe the Cell is no longer good for traditional processing.

primesuspect2265d ago

Your comment is better than the tripe this links to.

GillHarrison2265d ago (Edited 2265d ago )

I agree completely.

Perkel2265d ago (Edited 2265d ago )

Mostly is good but fact is Cell as today is still Powerfull Hybrid of CPU and CELL can do almost whole job of GPU. In fact PS3 was planned to have TWO Cell processors one as CPU one as GPU.

If you take some i7 4 core from intel it will probably still be faster.

Only Servers architecture can match it.

Hell as i remember Cell could do something like 20 fullhd videos with full surround sound at the same time.

My C2D E7200 OC to 3,9GHz can't do more than 2 or 3.

That is where GPU comes. GPU can easly create more of them.

And general direction in CPU technology says that CPU should be hybrids like Cell. AMD Fusion and Intel LArabree is proof of that.

As of Console vs PC master race One thing is clear Console Hardware could be weaker but it isn't restricted in therms of how Developer can use that and by that Same hardware in console could be stronger even few times than same PC counter part.

Proof of that is Our old PS2.

32 VRam, 299 MHz cpu and 124Mhz Gpu

that hardware created games like God Of War 2, SoTC, Devil may Cry 3, FFXII.

I had one PC that was comparable at the time in therms of pure hardware. PII 400 MMX, 64 Ram, Voodoo2 8 VRAM.

And games back then weren't even comparable in therms of graphic.

kaveti66162265d ago

The Cell cannot render graphics to the standards expected today and still manage to perform all of the tasks of expected from a CPU.

Actually, it cannot even do those things and meet the standards of 5 years ago.

The second video in the article shows the Cell rendering graphics in real-time without the aid of the RSX.

Notice anything about the video?

The framerate is quite low. The scenery is absolutely static. Nothing at all is dynamic about what is being shown. No AI, no moving objects, no real-time shadows. Baked, hard shadows are not impressive.

The Cell simply cannot do what you think it can. The video is not the only evidence for the claim.

Sony decided to stick with a traditional discrete GPU because they discovered that the two-Cell architecture would not be worth the cost and would not perform as well as a discrete GPU.

AMD fusion and Larrabee are not representative of Cell architecture.

There's a big difference in unified multi-core architecture and discrete digital signal processing.

Unified multi-core processing with hyperthreaded technology is the current standard. Multiple cores working together are better than discrete SPEs.

Developers prefer to work with multi-core unified processors because they don't have to manually split up the work. It's too tedious to do so. Multiple Cores can handle the workload together at a faster pace.

NVIDIA is leading the way in making the CPU obsolete with its Fermi chips.

The Cell is a dead end in terms of technology. The alternative is cheaper, faster, and easier to work with.

Think about it for a moment. The very nature of processing chips revolves around the term "integration." The origins of computers goes back to a time when vacuum tubes were used instead of transistors. Then transistors were invented and slowly began to replace vacuum tubes, but they were large and crude and discrete. Then an engineer named Kilby from TI created the first integrated chip, which held multiple transistors. Then new technology led to the etching of thousands of transistors onto increasingly smaller chips. Then millions of transistors, then hundreds of millions of transistors, and I believe we now have a few chips out there that contain a billion or more transistors.

It's always been about integrating everything into one thing. That concept is now applied to what the chips do themselves. Instead of having one chips do this and another do that, engineers want to make one chip powerful enough to do it all. So what makes you think that discrete SPEs are still relevant when they go against the trend of technology. Developers don't want to split up the work into six SPEs. They want to have multiple cores working alongside each other, sharing the workload.

Perkel2265d ago

@ kaveti6616

I agree again but there ae some things not quite right.

"The second video in the article shows the Cell rendering graphics in real-time without the aid of the RSX. "

because it was One Cell at the time, As i said Ps3 should have to units AND graphic card to render it to screen.

As of performance you should consider that it was just only tech demo and it was very very early techdemo. And you should know that dev techniques are progressing with every year.

Sure it had no sound AI, etc etc but you can't know what that tech demo was all about.

" Baked, hard shadows are not impressive. "

How can you know that those shadows are baked ? You can't

"The framerate is quite low."

No it is v good. Looks like locked 30FPS Vsynced with v good AA

Looking again at it i'm impressed even today.

"AMD fusion and Larrabee are not representative of Cell architecture. "

I don't agree. It's about concept. Concept of cell was to deliver CPU that has parts of GPU or can be used as GPU.

That concept is what both technologies are.

"Sony decided to stick with a traditional discrete GPU because they discovered that the two-Cell architecture would not be worth the cost and would not perform as well as a discrete GPU. "

1st part is right The cost was too much. But second part is false. They used NVIDIA card as safe exit. Only because cost of two CELL and one small GPU would be too much. Whole PS3 from the beggining was planed as CELL only structure with low GPU for displaying.

"So what makes you think that discrete SPEs are still relevant when they go against the trend of technology. "

As above i didn't say that and i agreed with you on integration part but you have to agree that CELL does what AMD and INTEL are trying to do.

Unify GPU and CPU in one chip which can effectively be good at both things.

CELL does that.

How they achieve that is irrelevant. Technologies may be diffrent but the target doesn't say only one way is true.

As of "trend of technology" we are in no position to discuss that.

Trends of technology doesn't always dictate good way because trends of technology are sometimes just PR talk. If people should go way where only performance matter no PR or trends we all would have PowerPC processors in our PC's by now.

That is why NVIDIA fermi probably won't be a big deal in near future because all of people should agree that NVIDIA way is good and be a part of people that develops it.

I's like Straight/V engines vs wankel engine.

Wankel engine is clearly better but it is developed by only one firm (mazda) vs whole world with almost 50 years headstart.

As i said i agree with you on most subjects but there are some problems :)

TABSF2264d ago

@ Perkel

Have to disagree, SoC has been on the cards of all processor designers, IBM would of kept it quiet and Intel has been at Larrebee for years, defiantly long enough before everyone even knew Cell excited.

Just because both processors share some traits does not mean that they was inspired by the Cells design.

2 Cells would of failed in any circumstances, the reason for this is that the Cell can not do Pixel shading, Geometry shading plus it does not have Rasterization units or Texture mapping units meaning games would look more like PS2 quality.

Nvidia's way is strongly influencing the industry GeForce is no longer the brand, the focus is Cuda.

Nvidia publicly started Cuda in 2007

GeForce 8 series was the First Gen Cuda
GeForce 9 series was a die shrink of 8 series
GeForce 100 series was for OEM, die shrink - 8/9 series
GeForce 200 series was an Improved First Gen Cuda
GeForce 300 series was for OEM, more die shrinks
GeForce 400 series was the Second Gen Cuda
GeForce 500 series is a improved design of 400 series

Codename Kepler will be the Third Gen Cuda, Looking to be 2-3 times Tesla (200 series) will be released 4Q 2011

Codename Maxewell will be the Four Gen Cuda, looking to be 16 times Tesla (200 series) will be released 2013

Nvidia and AMD have got so far ahead with GPGPU and parallel processing even IBM and Intel have started to used Nvidia based GPU on their top dog servers.

These Chips range from 8 Cuda cores to 512 Cuda cores

Remember people GeForce, Tesla and Quadro all use the same chips, they just have some features disabled in them so they fin the correct target volumes.

Nvidia Tesla C2050 - 6GB GDDR5
Nvidia Quadro 6000 - 6GB GDDR5
Nvidia GeForce GTX 470 - 1.2GB GDDR5

These 3 Video Cards all have the Chip (GF100 - Fermi) the difference is in PCB, RAM and display outputs, like I stated before they can disable features on the chips.

Cueil2265d ago

Wow... I guess I spend so much time on the sister site that I'm not use to intellegent post. Brovo

joeorc2264d ago

That well thought out response ,in this case your opinion.
while it is valid from your perspective,an who knows you may have
other people that will agree with you.

I will happen to take the Opinion an Experience of those who made designed the chip,An their Experience with the software tool chains
that offer what the cell processor is capable of.
as dr. hoffstee stated do not fall into the trap that the Cell processors SPE is just a co-processor sub controlled by the PPE because,you are falling for a misconception about the Cell.

N4SIR2264d ago

The cell is revolution... not evolution!

it's always the mavericks that make change happen!

ghandi stood up and rebelled against oppression!

thats what the cell is doing!

its rebelling against the oppressive nature of the 'trend of technology'

all technology progresses in the same way... until someone steps up and shakes up the system!

the cell is doing that...

the cell... it only does... REVOLUTION!

skrug2264d ago

what do you mean by "hand-drawn textures"? Because as far as i know all textures are hand drawn.

Trroy2264d ago (Edited 2264d ago )

Kaveti6616 brings up some good points, but honestly they seem written from the perspective of someone who has never had hands-on experience with the Cell, and doesn't fully understand it.

The Cell is not a capable GPU replacement -- I agree wholeheartedly with that comment. However, the Cell design is FAR more powerful a concept than existing CPU architectures, even of today. The only CPUs capable of competing with the Cell, when it comes to what the Cell is good at, have 3x the transitor count. Triple the cores and cache on the Cell, and you'd have a monster, unmatched CPU.

Many knock the SPUs as being only useful for intense, vector math or similar processes. This is blatently untrue. They are full-fledged cores, with a *huge* advantage over traditional architecture cores: they never, ever suffer from a L2 cache miss, since the localstore is, in terms of latency, a L2 cache, and everything the SPE works on is always present.

Let the weight of that concept sink in for a moment, and then you might begin to appreciate just how powerful the Cell architecure is, when considering the horrid memory latency issues of the modern day, with traditional architectures.

Every process on a SPU is blazingly fast, unless the author of said process is incredibly uninformed. Most decently written programs spend approximately 80-90% of their time waiting on L2 misses, on modern CPUs like the i7. Since the localstore is managed manually by the programmer, and by extremely fast DMAs, algorithms written to utilize it can work on large tracts of data very efficiently -- often with no downtime waiting on DMAs (which you might consider to be the equivalent of a "manual cache miss") at all.

For the informed programmer, the Cell architecture is unbeatable -- at least by the automated cache mechanism architectures it competes with. None of the SPUs share localstore either, so there is never any cache thrashing, which is also a problem on multicore CPUs -- particularly hyperthreaded cores.

The big advantage of other designs, is primarily that they exist in mass, and are easy, for the uninformed, to utilize. I will agree that's a big advantage from an economic standpoint, since the kinds of engineers you hire to write Cell apps are usually paid much higher than the kind you might hire to write apps on other types of architectures.

...that's also the reason you see so many uninformed lectures on the Cell, as well. Uninformed programmers who are usually too inexperienced to think outside the box. =(

JBaby3432260d ago

Everyone is posting some excellent stuff. Thank you to all.

+ Show (4) more repliesLast reply 2260d ago
primesuspect2265d ago

This is a terrible article. Seriously. Let me tl;dr it for you:

"It's cool because it's powerful. And.. it does sound stuff? Here'a video about Uncharted 2."

GrumpyVeteran2265d ago

DNA Computers (Biochips) are the future.

TABSF2264d ago

Yep Quantum Processors will most likely be the last step, then who knows the end of the digital revolution?

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