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Impress Watch tech writer Hiroshige Goto offers PS4 hints

System to reportedly use Cell processor

 

Impress Watch technology writer Hiroshige Goto has [a href=http://pc.watch.impress.co.jp/docs/2008/0929/kaigai469.htm]posted his latest "Weekly Overseas News"[/a] at the site. The subject for this installment is PlayStation 4.

Without citing sources, Goto states that Sony has started investigating the possibility of using the Cell Broadband Engine, the same CPU that powers the PS3, as a base for the PS4. Currently, Sony is seeking developer feedback.

While it's possible that Sony will move away from the Cell, says Goto, Sony does appear at the moment to be moving towards an upgraded version of the current PS3 chipset as a basis for the next generation system.

The plan to use variants of Cell in future PlayStation iterations was always in place, explains Goto, which is why Sony invested so heavily in the chipset. However, he speculates, Sony's reason for continuing with the current architecture may be different from what it originally was: Sony doesn't have the reserves to create another chipset and build all the requisite development tools above it.

Going with Cell has the benefits of keeping production costs down for the PS4 and also allowing cutting game development costs due to a consistent architecture. Sony would also be able to include a smaller chip size from the start, potentially reducing the system's retail price.

The original article goes into detail on the chip reduction process, complete with plenty of diagrams. Refer to the article for the specifics.

The rest of Goto's article is mostly speculation as the highly respected writer considers how much of a performance increase we can expect from the PS4. According to Goto, Moore's Law suggests that Sony could go about including as many as 32 cores in the system (compared to the current 8, one of which is disabled for production reasons). However, he doesn't think this is likely. Due to cost concerns, he thinks its more possible that Sony will stop with somewhere between 10 and 20 cores along with a small increase in clock rate. Looking at just the CPU, he says, the PS4 would have 2.x times as much power as the PS3.

Goto also feels that an early PS4 launch could be one reason for the reuse of Cell. Assuming Sony wants to launch the PS4 earlier than it did the PS3 in comparison to the competition, going with a new architecture could be tough. According to Goto, it takes at least three years, and more usually four, to go from the start of chip development to an actual product. If Sony wanted a 2011 launch, for instance, they'd have to speed up the process, and one method for that is to use an existing architecture.

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