IBM to move Cell processor to 45nm

Sony’s PlayStation 3 game console may play host to a smaller and leaner version of its trademark processor before long. As Ars Technica relates, IBM has revealed at the ongoing International Solid State Circuits Conference that it is working on a version of the Cell Broadband Engine CPU based on its 45nm high-k process technology.

Compared to the Cell chip that sits in today’s PS3s, which is manufactured using IBM’s 65nm silicon-on-insulator process, IBM says the 45nm Cell will cut power draw by 40%. As a result, Sony should be able to reduce the amount of cooling capacity in the PS3, which could translate into a quieter console. The new Cell chip should cost less to produce, as well, since the shrink will reduce its die area by 34%. What you won’t find on the list of new features for the 45nm Cell is a clock frequency increase, since IBM felt it was vital to keep the Cell chip operating identically to its predecessor in order to avoid any compatibility snags on the PS3.

All in all, the new Cell should help Sony make a cheaper-to-produce, cooler-running, and possibly quieter console. As Ars points out, however, the Japanese consumer electronics titan giant may not pass these savings onto the consumer immediately. As console makers traditionally do, Sony is selling the PS3 at a loss, so it’s probably in no hurry to introduce price cuts.

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