After three years of co-development between industry giants IBM, Sony and Toshiba the fruit of their labours has finally been detailed to the public. The Cell processor, which among other things will power Sony’s PlayStation 3 games console, is a multicore chip that its designers boast has the potential to run 10 times faster than current PC chips.
Exact clock speed details were not revealed by the trio at last night’s International Solid State Circuits Conference in San Francisco, instead they would only indicate it will run over 4GHz, which is surely a veiled jab at CPU leader Intel whose processors currently max out at 3.8GHz.
Speaking about the technology behind such claims, the three companies explained that the Cell processor generates its increased speeds by using multiple computing engines (or cores) on a single chip. There will be eight processing centres in all which can carry out 10 instruction sequences simultaneously delivering 256 billion calculations per second. Backing this up will be 2.5MB of on-chip memory and a theoretically data transfer rate of 100 gigabytes per second from the new chip which has a total of 234 million transistors.
In what looks to be an exciting time in the processor market it was also revealed that Cell will be “OS neutral”, something that leaves the door open for potential use with all major operating systems, including Microsoft Windows.
The first hardware to incorporate the Cell processor will arrive later this year when IBM releases a workstation based on the new technology. More exciting, however, will be the first mass market use of the chip in 2006 with the launch of the PlayStation 3.