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Is the Cell Processor Hindering the PS3?
game: Playstation 3
posted by: Aaron Stanton
publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
developer: Sony Computer Entertainment
view related website
date posted: 11:36 AM Wed Jul 19th, 2006
last revision: 11:36 AM Wed Jul 19th, 2006

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Click to read.TGDaily.com recently published an extremely interesting article on the difficulties of manufacturing the Cell processor, and how that difficulty might impact Sony. According to the article, IBM Vice President of Semiconductor and Technology Services Tom Reeves pointed out that using multiple cores means that Sony might have to throw out more than half of every chip they manufacture for the PS3.

During the production of a tradition single core chip, the failure rate is around 5%, meaning that 95 out of every 100 chips manufactured are suitable for actual use. As you begin putting more cores on a single chip, that number applies to each core individually. Considering that the PS3 will use 8 such cores, Reeves claims that only about 40% of the manufactured chips are actually usable in the PS3.

The Cell processor was developed in a joint effort by Sony, IBM, and Toshiba.

The Cell processor has seen a great deal of publicity since it began development in 2001. Its ability to utilize multiple cores makes it extremely flexible, though the technology remains unproven. And though it is generally watched with great anticipation by the industry, the technology isn\'t without its detractors. According to The New York Times, Steve Jobs of Apple Computer didn\'t care for the Cell Processor when he considered it for use in Apple computers, reportedly saying, \"...that he was disappointed with the Cell design, which he believes will be even less effective than the PowerPC.\"

According to Reeves, the Cell Processor\'s manufacturing process yields a low usable output, an issue that is compounded by the use of multiple cores. Ultimately, Reeves suggests that only 10 to 20% of units produced for the PS3 will be without defects.

This isn\'t entirely unexpected. Sony has instructed developers to use only 7 out of the PS3\'s 8 SPEs (basically, cores) on the assumption that one of the 8 will be either bad or needed to help compensate for manufacturing errors. It\'s this method which allows for the 40% usability, even though a very small number of units will actually be error free.

Of course, this is how the Cell processor is designed to operate, and shouldn\'t impact the consumer at all in terms of gameplay. There\'s some question about how such numbers might impact availability, since Sony will have a more difficult time meeting demand. It\'s interesting to see the amount of resources Sony is putting into their Cell technology on the assumption that production will become more efficient over time.

It\'ll be even more interesting to see if the Cell potential is fulfilled, producing a console that\'s as far ahead of the Xbox 360 as Sony claims.

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