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Sony ups anti-SGI box to 64 PlayStation 2 chips

Multiple Emotion Engine box on sale next year

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Sony's assault on SGI's grip on the Hollywood special effects market intensified yesterday when the Japanese giant said it plans to release its high-end PlayStation 2-based graphics workstation sooner than planned.

The machine, the GSCube, is based on the PlayStation 2's Emotion Engine processor. When GSCube was announced earlier this summer, Sony said it would contain 16 processors operating in parallel. The CPU count has now been boosted to 64, and the box will ship next year.

Sony claims that will give the workstation the power to render 4.16 billion polygons per second, leading to frame rates of 60fps at 1980x1080 pixels. The company reckons that's enough to render movie-level effects in real time.

"At present it takes five hours to render one frame," said Kazuyuki Hashimoto, senior CP and CTO of Square, a film production company that co-operated with Sony in the development of GSCube. Square is producing the computer-generated effects for the upcoming Final Fantasy movie.

Sony is certainly ramping up its promotional efforts. The 16-CPU the company unveiled at SIGGRAPH in July was described as little more than a prototype - a 'proof of concept' machine

Not long after, Greg Estes, SGI's VP of telecomms and media, told us: "We don't see this as competitive."

Now Sony's upped the stakes to 64-way processing - though you should note the machine isn't (at least the prototype wasn't) a true SMP box - and started talking about selling the thing, maybe SGI should reconsider. ®

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