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PS3 Cell Processor 'Broken'? 417

Posted by Zonk
from the it's-drinking dept.
D-Fly writes "Charlie Demerijian at the Inquirer got a look at some insider specs on the PS3, and says, Sony screwed up big time with the Cell processor; the memory read speed on the current Devkits is something like 3 orders of magnitude slower than the write speed; and is unlikely to improve much before the ship date. The slide from Sony pictured in the article is priceless: 'Local Memory Read Speed ~16Mbps, No this isn't a Typo.' Demerjian says when the PS3 comes out a full year after the XBox360, it's still going to be inferior: 'Someone screwed up so badly it looks like it will relegate the console to second place behind the 360.'" This is the Inquirer, so take with a grain of salt. Just the same, doesn't sound too good for Sony or IBM.
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PS3 Cell Processor 'Broken'?

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  • Go Sony, go! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by timecop (16217) * on Monday June 05, 2006 @07:28AM (#15471410) Homepage
    What is this 'local memory'? On-die cache? How the fuck can you screw that up to make it 16Mbit?

    PS3 is way overkill for a console anyway. What are they thinking? Not everyone needs a console with 1GB of memory, huge HDD, which also doubles as a DVD Player/Entertainment center/Memory stick player (you betcha sony is already adding THAT feature), oh and can also play some games.

    I'm all for Nintendo's new console. Its cheap, it will have amazing games AND they're not trying to make it the center of your digital home.
  • Re:Go Sony, go! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ford Prefect (8777) on Monday June 05, 2006 @07:39AM (#15471458) Homepage
    Is it memory local to the graphics subsystem, or something?

    If so, then presumably getting the graphics chip to copy stuff out into main memory for the central processor to read would be the sensible workaround. But still, 16MB/s seems more like a throwback to the age of my old Atari ST. I think that could manage a few megabytes a second...
  • Re:Go Sony, go! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ClamIAm (926466) on Monday June 05, 2006 @07:41AM (#15471470)
    What is this 'local memory'? On-die cache? How the fuck can you screw that up to make it 16Mbit?

    I'm wondering the same thing. I simply cannot believe that the cache in this processor would be this slow (at least for read ops). I'm betting on this having something to do with the Cell architecture that got lost in translation.

  • Why should I care? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by buffer-overflowed (588867) on Monday June 05, 2006 @08:10AM (#15471632) Journal
    It's a dev kit, first off, second off it's the inquirer, which was formed from register rejects and doesn't have BOFH, and third off, I saw a UC Berkeley benchmark with an emulated cell that would seem to indicate this is a production problem, not a design problem.

    But seriously, WTF should I care? I really don't care which console wins the virtual pissing match in the "ooooh shiny" department, if I was one of the people that did, the PS3 is already into the realm where $500 video card purchases begin to look slightly reasonable.

    I'll judge it by the games, when they're released or playable.
  • Yay! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rAiNsT0rm (877553) on Monday June 05, 2006 @08:18AM (#15471680) Homepage
    About two years ago I decided to leave my post as a reviewer/tester for Sony. I had close ties with them for over 4 years and I began to have major misgivings on the direction and quality (lack thereof) that was being pumped out. I have been around the gaming industry long enough to know the beginnings of massive problems and they began a few years back.

    Everyone close to me in the industry said I was crazy and that this would all smooth out and Sony would easily retain its market share if not grow more. I wasn't buying it and stuck to my guns, I'm pretty happy about my decision almost daily since day 1 of E3 this year.

    I was against UMD from the beginning, yet everyone claimed that the sales were stellar. Looks like they weren't and they are proprietary, expensive, unwieldy little discs that no one wants to deal with. The "cell" processor was without a dobt my turning point, I have ZERO faith in it or the architecture and it will not become this ubiquitous omnipresent processor as so many claim, even IBM has major problems with it and designing compilers and dev software for their own product. Control schemes have been radically changed from initial proposals, and too quickly to be properly tested... that is a bomb yet to go off. System price and dev costs that are just too high for our current economic situation as well as for widespread adoption. There are more issues, but top it all off with a new unproven media that is also expensive and offers no real consumer advantages and you have the high risk of a catastrophic failure that could hurt Sony and IBM even more than they are already hurting.

    The best that can happen is that companies finally lose the DRM/proprietary/Closed nature of their consumer electronics. Stop treating customers as criminals and start to offer them affordable and accessible entertainment that is convenient. I'd actually prefer consoles to standardize and become built into consumer electronics so that developers and consumers can really get to work on a stable and long lasting platform. Imagine the possibilities. There is a lot to be said for standards.
  • Re:Go Sony, go! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Monkelectric (546685) <slashdot AT monkelectric DOT com> on Monday June 05, 2006 @08:20AM (#15471694)
    I'd just like to remind everyone that there was the *EXACT* same type of rumors about the PS2 when it launched. People were saying it didn't have NEARLY enough texture ram and "experts" were pouring over the specs and shaking their heads ...

    And it turned out to be one fo the most successful consoles ever.

  • Re:dev kits (Score:4, Interesting)

    by masklinn (823351) <slashdot.org @ m a s k l i nn.net> on Monday June 05, 2006 @08:26AM (#15471736)
    Actually no, the reports I've seen by devs on dev kits placed the Xbox360 as the best dev kits, the Wii dev kits as good with bonus points for being extremely close to GC's devkits (which means that adaptation is extremely fast for the teams which had previously worked on GC games) and that PS3 devkits were utterly and completely shitty and not helped by the inherently complex architecture of the PS3 (read: PS3 is already complex enough that the devs wouldn't want a devkit making it even harder to dev on it)
  • by rAiNsT0rm (877553) on Monday June 05, 2006 @08:37AM (#15471808) Homepage
    It was true of the PS2 and still is... it is a bear to work on. There was a nother console in history that parallels the PS3, the Saturn. It failed miserably due to development issues.

    I'm no fan of the PS3, but I am also no fanboy of any other system in the game, the Xbox360 is expensive and laborious to work on as well. The Wii is the system I am holding out all hopes of becoming a runaway success and causing a major shakedown of the industry. Before this industry becomes any more Hollywood-like and loses all sense of fun and innovation, it needs to happen.

    Sony is shooting itself in the foot, I believe with the PS3, and Microsoft is not doing any better with their announcement that they are giving up on backwards compatibility for the Xbox/massive declining sales in Japan/and EA cutting prices to try to move product. Nintendo is in a great position to sweep up, and dare I say maybe a new entrant to step in as well and shut Sony and MS out for good. (no, not the phantom ;)
  • by BenBenBen (249969) on Monday June 05, 2006 @09:14AM (#15472030)
    The Inq does seem to have a somewhat poor reputation on this site and elsewhere; any chance anyone could tell me why? Are there documented cases of the Inq lying, or being deceitful? Of overly shoddy journalism?

    The Register doesn't have this rep, yet they share common DNA and I've seen at least one case [boingboing.net] where they have actually had their integrity called into question.

    As for TFA, we all heard many moons ago that the PS3 was a bitch to program for (the comparison I've seen most often on this very site is to the Saturn, which iirc had 2 cpus), and Sony aren't exactly filling the marketplace with confidence on this one. If the slow speed of this "local memory" to Cell access is irrelevant to any conceivable operation, as most people here seem to be saying, then why is it even mentioned on this slideshow?

    Seems to me there's a good mix of Shooting the Messenger, Ignoring Inconvenient Facts from the TFA and maybe even just a hint of Fanboyism here.

  • by MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) on Monday June 05, 2006 @10:33AM (#15472628)
    "The Inq does seem to have a somewhat poor reputation on this site and elsewhere; any chance anyone could tell me why? Are there documented cases of the Inq lying, or being deceitful? Of overly shoddy journalism?"

    I can share with you why I don't go to their site anymore. Check out this page:

    http://www.theinquirer.net/?article=11159 [theinquirer.net]

    This is back in 2003, not long after the Blaster worm hit. The Inquirer requested people send in photos of Windows not working in places such as airports. As a result, they took this photo and told the little story like this:

    WE'RE GRATEFUL to reader Ralph G, who snapped the shot below at Calgary (Alberta) International Airport, and shows that using Internet Explorer on big arrival and departure screens sometimes has its perils.


    My beef with this? It's quite clear from this image that IE is reporting that it cannot find the page. This isn't an IE problem. This is a problem with either the network connection on that computer or the server feeding the page. In other words, niether Mozilla, Netscape, or Opera would have rectified this difficulty. I sent them an email about it, but it went unresponded. (That wouldn't have surprised me except they had responded rather quickly to another enquiry I made that didn't point out their journalistic silliness...)

    I don't know if this is a problem most people would care about. The way I understood it, they were trying to give Microsoft a hard time over serious quality issues of Microsoft's software. That, in and of itself, I don't have a problem with. But this little story basically told me that they weren't serious about being correct about the news they were reporting as long as it fit their agenda. It was then that I stopped bothering to visit their site.

    In the interests of being fair, though, I should point out that this story is three years old, and a lot can happen in that time. It is not my intention to convince you that they are currently behaving this way. Rather I'm just answering your question about their negative rep.
  • by gabebear (251933) on Monday June 05, 2006 @10:46AM (#15472766) Homepage Journal
    They have no credibility because of articles exactly like this.

    They latch on to a fact and twist it. The Cell reads from the graphics card's memory at glacial speeds, so they run the headline "PS3 hardware slow and broken" and fail to point out the fact that you would almost never want to do this in a game.

    A respectable article would have pointed out that this doesn't have any impact on games, but will effect applications. The 256MB of RAM connected to the video card is really only good for vertex data and textures, so you are only left with 256MB to run the executables in. The practical implications of this information means that Linux will only be able to use 256MB of RAM. The RSX(graphics card) can render out of it's own local memory or main memory(almost as fast as local mem), anything that needs to be modified by the Cell must stay in main memory because of this bandwidth issue.

    Luckily, games contain a lot of static models and static textures that will easily fill up the 256MB of local mem on the RSX; stuff that the Cell would never read from....
  • by be-fan (61476) on Monday June 05, 2006 @12:07PM (#15473452)
    Thank you for that!

    This article takes the statement completely out of context, and the Slashdot reaction to it is just ridiculous.

    Anybody who didn't know reads from GPU memory are slow turn in your geek card right now! On a PC, even with a 4GB/sec AGP connection, reading from the framebuffer can be as slow as 75MB/sec. This has been true for a very long time --- GPU's don't like anybody else directly touching their framebuffer. That's why Microsoft took direct framebuffer access out of "DirectX". It's a performance killer on modern systems. Sony's "work around" for the situation, using the GPU to handle texture uploads/downloads, isn't news --- it's common knowledge to anybody who has done any graphics programming on modern hardware.
  • Re:Yay! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Sinistar2k (225578) on Monday June 05, 2006 @01:57PM (#15474351)

    I'd actually prefer consoles to standardize and become built into consumer electronics so that developers and consumers can really get to work on a stable and long lasting platform. Imagine the possibilities. There is a lot to be said for standards.

    You might want ot look into a little something called "3DO" - it was a standardized console that was licensed out to multiple hardware manufacturers so that possibilities could be imagined.

    It failed miserably.

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