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Big Blue talks up 45nm PlayStation 3 processor possibilities

Higher clock speeds or a smaller power drain, Sony?

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It's no great surprise, perhaps, but Cell Broadband Engine chip co-developer IBM will produce a 45nm version of the processor, paving the way for smaller, cooler-running PlayStation 3 consoles.

Originally produced using a 90nm process, Cell is currently being punched out at 65nm. That version debuted with the 40GB PS3. The 45nm version is expected to consume just a third of the power that the 90nm Cell did and less than half of that drawn by the 65nm chip, IBM indicated.

Those measurements assume all three are running at 4GHz. Alternatively, Sony could use the new power characteristics to boost the clock speed at the expense of power draw. That could see the chip clock to 6-7GHz yet operate in the same power envelope as today's PS3s provide.

There's also the opportunity to use the process shrink to redesign the core to add more processing cores and local memory.

More likely, Sony would use the 45nm Call as an opportunity to shrink the console's cooling system, making for a leaner machine. Such a product was recently rumoured to be in the pipeline, but since it's common Sony practice to reduce the size of its consoles, that's no great revelation.

The 45nm Cell has an area of 114.5mm² - about half the space taken up by the 90nm die. It has a PowerPC based processing core on board, along with up to eight Synergistic Processing Engines (SPEs) - essentially vector-data maths processors. The die has 512KB of L2 cache for the main core, while each SPE has 256KB cache of its own. The die incorporates a memory controller that connects it to Rambus XDR high-speed memory.

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