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Toshiba, a consumer electronics company and a co-developer of the Cell processor, recently demonstrated how a Cell chip can simultaneously decode 48 SDTV format MPEG 2 streams, loads more than typical microprocessors used in consumer electronics can do. The company also said its operating system (OS) for its Cell-based products will be an easy one to develop applications for as the OS allocates resources to different units of the processor itself.

During the demonstration, 48 MPEG-2 streams stored on a HDD were read, decoded and projected onto a 1920 x 1080 resolution display divided into 8 x 6 cells, each of which showed a different video in each cell, reports TechOn web-site. Of the eight synergistic processor elements (SPE) used in the Cell, six are used for decoding 48 MPEG 2 streams and one is used for scaling the screen. The remaining SPE can be used for a completely different processing function.

Toshiba anticipates the technology to be used to display thumbnails for a video list.

The company specifically noted that it used an operating system developed by itself during the demonstration. Among the key features of the OS the developers noted that application software developers will not have to allocate a particular synergistic processing unit in a Cell processor to a particular thread, which eases the development process.

The prototype Cell microprocessor produced using 90nm process technology incorporates one dual-threaded PowerPC core and eight so-called synergistic processing units (SPEs) intended for floating-point calculations, the most demanding tasks in entertainment, workstation and server systems. The PowerPC core is projected to have 32KB L1 cache and 512KB L2 cache, while each of the SPEs will have 256KB of cache.

The processor code-named Cell has built-in Rambus XDR memory interface, capable of data rates of 3.20GHz to 8.0GHz. The chip also uses FlexIO processor buses, formerly codenamed Redwood that are capable of running up to 6.40GHz data rates providing bandwidth more than four times faster than best-of-class processor buses available today. Sony and IBM claim their Cell processor will be able to run at speeds exceeding 4.0GHz, even at 90nm process technology, while Intel Corp. is expected to push its dual-core central processing units to 3.20GHz this year.

IBM, Sony Group and Toshiba expect to promote Cell-based products including a broad range of industry-wide applications, from digital televisions to home servers to supercomputers. Sony’s highly-anticipated PlayStation 3 console is projected to use Cell microprocessor.

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