PlayStation 4 Ditching The Cell Processor?

The PlayStation 4 will not use Sony's Cell processor nor any possible successor to the vaunted chipset that was introduced to the world through the PlayStation 3, gaming industry sources tell Kotaku.

What we're hearing from sources follow a Forbes rumour last week that chip-maker AMD would make the graphics chip for a PS4, a shift from the PS3's use of a graphics chip from AMD rival Nvidia.

The abandonment of the Cell architecture would thrill the many game developers who have struggled with the complex chipset, but it could also be viewed as the admission of a mistake.

Cell was the pet project of PlayStation creator Ken Kutaragi, who dreamed that the chip — a "Power Processing Element" married to eight "Synergistic Processing Elements" — would make the PS3 the most impressive gaming console ever. He spoke of a home equipped with multiple devices that were powered by Cell, all of them linking to each other to increase the computational power driving any of the devices.

Cell was not the revolution Sony hoped and hyped that it would be. It also never managed to make the PS3 appear to be significantly more powerful than the year-older Xbox 360. That could have been the Cell's fault or simply the result of development decisions that compelled game creators to make their games run on both the PS3 and the generally more popular Xbox 360.

But with no Cell or Cell successor in the PS4, what would Sony do? Here's where the reporting turns to speculation. One theory I've heard is that AMD will provide both the CPU and GPU for the PS4, meaning that AMD, not Sony, would engineer the main processing and graphics chips for the machine. Should AMD be doing that, they could go with the AMD Fusion architecture, which puts CPU and GPU on the same chip. AMD has already been putting chips like this out (one was considered for the MacBook Air), which would enable Sony to turn to developers and say: you could be working with the PS4 architecture right now; just work on an AMD Llano chip or something. Would developers like that? They'd have to prefer it to Cell and — what do you know — here's one of gaming history's best programmers, id's John Carmack, saying in an interview with PC Perspective last year that AMD Fusion-style chip architecture is "almost a forgone conclusion" for the future of computing.

A Sony rep declined to comment on this story, citing the company's policy not to comment on rumours and speculation.

Sony hasn't even acknowledged the existence of the PlayStation 4 let alone detailed the guts within it. But we're beginning to hear trickles of information about Sony's next gen. It's all vaguer than the talk for next Xbox, code-named Durango, which Microsoft has been showing to publisher and developer partners.

The lack of chatter on PS4 would suggest that Sony will once again put its next console out after Microsoft. But if the chipset for the PS4 is actually one that already exists, then aspiring PS4 developers might find themselves capable of ramping up for this new machine faster than expected. And if that happens, the code-named Durango, probable for 2013, might have a sparring partner from Sony sooner than we thought.

Top photo: The Cell Processor circa 2005, in the hands of IBM's then-director of Cell Technology, Jim Kahle, Paul Sakuma, AP


    eh I just want a Play-Box 480 with Steam on it.

      Excellent idea.

      Valve, you need to license a SteamBox. A gaming box that anyone can put together, with minimum specs, whose sole purpose is to run Steam games.

      It HAS to play nice with TVs and lounge rooms though. None of this keyboard-and-mouse in the lounge room crap.

    'Tis a shame, I tried to program that chip once only to find the SDK was on the way out and only just managed to get the packages before they were pulled.

    I till think the Cell processor is a good chip, but it is marred by a few factors:
    * Possibly far to ahead of its time (like many other console ideas)
    * Required a completely different way of thinking and development from all the other platforms (thus upping the cost and development time for that platform)
    * Finally, Sony simply over looked the need for a mature development environment for third party developers. A far as I am aware, most had to build their own tools and often had to write in Assembler first before finally getting to write in C.

    I personally hope there is a successor as the idea is sound and I like how one can reside tasks to specific core thus creating a pipeline in the processor for carrying out tasks.

      I would have thought the problem with PS3 development was more to do with the lack of unified memory - You can always learn to leverage the Cell processor, but you can't get around the separated video and system memory without performance penalties.. or so I've heard anyway

        *Cell processor's abilities and strengths

        Memory is a problem for any platform - console or PC.

        But yes, consoles often have special memory archtiectures so depsite the low clock speeds, etc, they are still able to churn out surprising results.

    I thought Sony sold off their stake the whole Cell thing quite a while back? So they don't really have any reason to go with it again.

    I think a cheaper, off-the-shelf option would probably be more likely next time around just to keep the price down. The price was the thing that held the PS3 back in the early days, and it's unlikely Sony will make that mistake again.

      Unlikely they would make the same mistake again? ummm have you seen the price of a Vita?

        3DS was launched at the same price as VIta with worse technology. Games wise, Sony console games tends to be cheaper over time compare to Nintendo games.

        PSV itself is great, my only grief with PSV is it doesn't accept Memory Stick or SD card.

        The Vita isn't overpriced.

        If you think $350 is too much for portable equipment with those specs then you probably need to find a cheaper hobby.

      So they don’t really have any reason to go with it again.

      Wasn't the point of Cell that it was going to be the standard for the Playstation range for decades to come? So not only would it make the switch from PS3, to PS4, to PS5 very easy for experienced Cell developers it'd also mean great backwards compatibilitiy.
      It's been pretty obvious they'd have to sort out some kinks in the thing since way back when people first started talking about PS3 development, but I didn't think they'd made any sort of decsion on whether they've chosen to replace the thing rather than improve SDKs and help developers.

      The price was the thing that held the PS3 back in the early days, and it’s unlikely Sony will make that mistake again.

      I know a lot of people who soured on the PS3 because of the lack of games which was at least in part thanks to the Cell processor. Price was also a factor there but I know most of them were anticipating a high price and planning to pay it.
      'Exclusive' prices seemed to be almost a selling point on Sony products pre-PS3. The PS3 ruined the 'high price = high quality' mindset of Sony fans but I think Sony will still try and sell the PS4 as the luxury console.
      Whether that pays off without an insanely popular console like the Playstation or PS2 behind it is anyones guess.

    Cell was a beast to work on :< Still is, good riddance

    What is with Kutaragi's use of the word 'element'?

    He wants a CPU with 8 cores in the next PS device. Is it really that hard to say?

    "a shift from the PS3′s use of a graphics chip from AMD rival Nvidia."

    Uhhh, hate to break this to you but ATI are in competition with Nvidia, not AMD. AMD compete with Intel.

      Hate to break it too you but AMD bought out ATI. No one has call them ATI for years. It's AMD vs Nvidia, he was right.

        Heh, AMD only started labeling the GPU's at AMD last year.. I will always know them as ATi anyway.

        lol, Micahel, thats what you get for your arrogance

          More to the point; if you actually consider AMD processors at the moment "Competing" with Intel, you've got your head up your arse.

    I am currently thinking I will end up with a PS4 for next-gen, purely based on PS3 seeming to have a bit more longevity to it and assuming that specs differences are similar. I am pretty happy with my Xbox but this year it seems like it’s being left behind, especially considering that next-gen consoles will definitely be built to last even longer.

    If their smart they would be looking at this

    "multiple devices that were powered by Cell, all of them linking to each other to increase the computational power driving any of the devices."

    In the wake of Mass Effect 3's release, all i saw there was CRAP! SONY'S MAKING GETH!

    I would have thought it was pretty obvious that they wouldn't continue to use Cell. Given that IBM and Toshiba seem to have pulled back on continuing development of the platform, it'd seem crazy for Sony to continue alone.

    An AMD CPU core is one option. Another would be to stick with the POWER architecture and base the CPU on one of IBM's more modern multicore chips (perhaps with an AMD graphics core embedded on the same die).

    I would just hope they'd allow PS3 games to be run on it to some capacity but I assume if they move away from cell that won't happen unless they repackage the games and sell them via PSN.

    They should have picked cell or blu ray(or neither) for the PS3. Having both cost them billions of dollars and market share.

      Yeah but having BLU-RAY in the PS3 helped win the HD format war.

    Is looking like the Xbox and PS will have basically the same CPU and GPU.

    If Sony drop Cell say bye bye to PS3 backwards compatability, and bye to the only thing keeping me on their platform. I'm not rebuying $1500 worth of games again to play on PS4, and I'm not keeping 3 lumps of incompatible plastic in my house. I only bought PS3 because I figured 4 would aim for backwards compat with games from 1/2/3. There's no point to buying a PS4 if they drop Cell support. I'll just go back to PCs and emulation. At least on PC you can keep your games library from 5 years ago running. Sony should use the 12-core CEll that IBM has in their high end workstations, with lowered floating point precision to drop costs. Interestingly the rumors are only speculating on the GPU at this stage. The Cell isn't a GPU. The nvidia RSX geforce 7xxx series derived GPU is in the PS3. The Cell chip did help process a lot of vector functions, but it wasn't the core GPU component.

    I don't believe Sony is going to ditch cell, unless they want to maintain BC by have an additional cell chip on ps4 like they do in early days in ps3, which will again boost the price to 600+.

    The issue in my view with ps3 is the crappy gpu. Only first party and few thirdparty master the art to use the cell to aid video processing, hence we got that 20-30 ish good exclusive, and most of rest equal or less impressive compare to 360 as developers is stuck with crappy gpu

    I'd hope Sony get ps4 an average improvement on the cell, but put some serious money in the gpu, so that hell a lot more game devs can happily make their cross platform games, while the first parties can still pumping out exclusive utilizing the cell.

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