Besides Playstation 3 users, who know that the Cell BE CPU is powering their favorite gaming console, the number of users aware of the existence of this CPU is limited. Still, the computing performance of this Cell BE CPU is not to be taken lightly, especially as it can be optimized for a number of applications.
As reported in the media, a couple of journalists were lucky enough to assist to a Cell BE demonstration, held last week during the Computex trade show. They visited Corel's suite at the Grand Hyatt hotel, where they were able to see a third-party demonstration of Toshiba's SpursEngine 1000 (SE1000), an accelerator board designed for the Cell BE processor. Apparently, the demonstration included a trimmed down chip, which was capable of offering an impressive performance potential.
In Corel's demonstration of the SE1000, the Cell-optimized version of its DVD MovieFactory application was capable of transcoding 1080p H.264 video to a smaller resolution, such as 480p. Compared with the Cell CPU found on the PS3 gaming console, this unit actually has half the resources. The technical specs included a core clock of 1.5GHz, four active SPE units and only 128 MB of XDR DRAM memory.
Apparently, the SE1000 accelerator board was capable of achieving better results in the demonstration than an Intel Core 2 Quad CPU, running at 3GHz. However, because of the fact that the application was specialized for SE1000, the comparison is rather arguable. But it does prove that an accelerator, which consumes only 10 to 20 watts, can admirably handle a custom application like the DVD MovieFactory.
There's no word on pricing for Toshiba's board yet, but the company has mentioned that the product is targeted at consumer electronics applications. Still, after Sony announced, back in February, that they were working on a 45nm version of the Cell BE chip, we should expect to see impressive performances from a smaller chip.