Cell Processor Criticized By Microsoft Engineer

Matt Lee, a Microsoft Game Technology Group engineer, gave his expertise and opinions regarding Sony,s Cell processor and the likelihood of having PS3 and Xbox 360 games being successfully ported to one another. His comments were made to tech website Ars Technical.

Considering that Lee hails from the Microsoft camp, his remarks concerning Sony,s Cell processor were not entirely unexpected. He pointed to the Cell,s inability to utilize key processing functions in order to be used as a successful gaming chip. Lee remarked, “I don’t think the Cell is as well designed for game development as Sony would have you believe. Some aspects of the SPEs (synergistic processing elements), such as the lack of branch prediction, make them particularly unsuited to running most game code, which contains a lot of branches. They appear to be designed more for serialized streaming math code, more common in video codecs and audio processing–the traditional domain of digital signal processing chips.”

It is a common practice for games to be ported from one gaming platform to another. Lee believes that cross-platforming between the Xbox 360 and PS3 will be a challenge. Lee pointed out, “I think porting from Xbox 360 to PS3 will be reasonably difficult, since the Xbox 360 has a lot more general purpose processing power that can be flexibly reallocated, and all of the Xbox 360 CPU cores have equal access to all memory. In terms of performance, I think that the PS3 and the Xbox 360 will essentially be a wash. We ran the numbers a while back and the two systems come up surprisingly close in theoretical peak performance, despite the one year difference in release dates.”

The decision by Sony to incorporate a completely new chip for their new PS3 is a gutsy move. The Cell, which was engineered in a cooperative effort between IBM, Sony and Toshiba, has been heralded in technical journals and magazines for its computing prowess. Nicholas Blackford, a tech expert, said in his report that the “…new Cell processor promises seemingly obscene computing capabilities for what will rapidly become a very low price.”

PC Stats also had an encouraging outlook for the Cell and stated, “Overall, the IBM/Sony/Toshiba Cell processor has a bright future ahead of it, and not just because millions will be sold in Playstation 3 consoles. With the correct compiling tools, Cell-inside PCs could potentially excel at the kind of applications we buy high-end PCs for today: Graphics, video, audio and games.”

The Cell processor, while still an unknown factor in its ability to drive next-gen video games to a new level, will have a life of its own apart from the PS3-it may be the chip that will foster a new industry of “smart” appliances and electronics for consumers.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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