Is PlayStation 3's Cell Processor Still More Powerful Than Modern Desktop Chips?

723
United States
Spring Hill, FL
K_E_87th
I would have to say that the PlayStation 3 is the last "interesting" console before the two giants (who aren't named Nintendo) went with the x86 architecture. The Cell CPU was so strong in processing power that most (if not all) of the Gran Turismo games offload graphics computing onto it, because the RSX GPU was not enough by itself to keep up with the demands that were required by the games; I need to find the article that cites this information where I read it and update my post accordingly, or if someone else can find it, I'd appreciate it.

While the console had eight SPEs (Synergistic Processing Elements), Sony deliberately disabled one of them to get a better yield out of the chips they had manufactured. It's actually possible to unlock the eighth SPE, but at the risk of the console's stability of course. I find the PS3's hardware so very interesting, because in order to get the best of the console, you need to work in tandem with the CPU to get it to push out as much raw power as possible.

I think the Gran Turismo games are a very fine example on what the console can do at its utmost potential. There's been some other impressive titles such as Namco's fighting game franchises (Tekken and Soul Calibur) that keep the frame rate locked at 60 FPS while sparing little to no expense for detail, especially Soul Calibur V which still looks gorgeous even today on what most would call dated hardware. Grand Theft Auto V is another feat; a game as detailed and as complex as that, I would have never imagined it would be possible on the PS3, but the developers wrangled their talent to make it happen, and I'm sure the Cell CPU proved to be invaluable with its strength to make it happen as well.

There's also the Uncharted series, which was initially developed by ICE Team (now known today as Naughty Dog) who was basically a first-party low-level development team that knew how to master the PS3 hardware with their development techniques simply because they helped create both the hardware and the software development kits that other developers would use later on; with the release of The Last of Us in 2013, they went onward to solidify their proof of mastery with probably one of the most (if not THE most) impressive-looking titles on the console.

I doubt that the level of detail achieved by any of the aforementioned titles was obtained by solely relying on the RSX GPU alone. There's a lot of other great examples, but that'd be too big of a list to include in a post as small as this!
 
126
United States
United States
Marius789
I’ve always read that the power in the PS3 was unmatched, but it would’ve been nice to see more developers utilize it. Shows how most of these 3rd party developers are lazy in optimization and still shows today.

That reminds me, my old OG PS3 is in dire need of some new thermal paste and a clean out. As potent as the Cell can be it does run toasty!

What thermal paste do you use? I recommend Arctic MX-4.
 
5,216
United Kingdom
London but living in Mendoza, Argentina
HammyMansell1980
I'm hoping to pick up a PS3 Slim within the next few weeks, I sold my previous one years ago for the PS4...........I want to play some of yesterday's games again, and free PSN too, woo hoo lol!
 

cjr3559

Premium
2,518
United States
Ohio
cjr3559
Coincidence that this YT video popped up in my suggested video list the other day. Learned a lot about the PS3.

Still my favorite PS console even with all of the angst and mixed feelings surrounding it.

 
1,925
Brazil
Brazil
The PS3 is like a drag car made to race in a circuit full of corners

I still think one of the reasons GT5 and GT6 were such uneven games is because of the cell architecture.
 

GTV0819

(Banned)
6,084
Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea
The cell architecture is also the reason why there weren't a lot of game developers interested in producing numbers of games for the console, unlike the PS4. And this was cited as one of the reasons why the PS5 isn't backwards compatible with the PS3 games, something which saddens me.
 
The Cell separated the software engineers from the content producers, that's for sure. And neither are much good without solid game design.

There's always an argument of games as technical excellence vs. compelling experiences, but I will always maintain that the technology paves the way for the experiences once the whizz kids get their hands on it. Moreover, an understanding of the technology allows for a much more finely tuned experience - so simpler technology is an advantage in that regard (think the crisp response of old arcade games). But it's only ever a matter of time and practice to get more complex machinery really singing.


I think the main thing Sony learned from the PS3 was to properly support developers with sufficient material to help them get their heads around the platform.

AMD have learned that the world of software still isn't ready for proper heterogeneous computing - when it finally is, we'll look back on the Cell and, indeed, wonder what should have been, sooner.
 

dice1998

Yo Mamma.
Premium
6,798
United States
Vero Beach, FL
dice1998
I doubt that the level of detail achieved by any of the aforementioned titles was obtained by solely relying on the RSX GPU alone. There's a lot of other great examples, but that'd be too big of a list to include in a post as small as this!

I definitely agree it wasn't. There was this video I found a while back that, allegedly, shows that CELL alone can render graphics on a decent scale:


It makes me wonder what would have been if Sony continued to support CELL and use that in the PS4 instead of a custom AMD Jaguar architecture while still having the other specs the car currently has (8GB GDDR5, etc.). Then again, maybe it was more cost-effective to do what Sony did than to modify CELL to handle what developers wanted in the PS4..
 

GTV0819

(Banned)
6,084
Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea
Because of the cell, the lifetime sales of the PS3 weren't even on par with the sales of its successor. Well, I guess it's not surprising for us anymore. The sales of the PS4 really made it a game changer.
 
1
United States
United States
IBM may have abandoned the architecture but sony is using it on their new tempest engine they just arent calling it CELL. The Tempest engine is a 8 core DMA chip almost identical in design to CELL. Cerny even states in the deep dive it does more than just audio saying "developers can use the extra speed to take care of CPU intensive algorithms..." I think the importance of this feature has purposefully been downplayed as a Ace in the hole feature!
 
1
Egypt
Egypt
but sony is using it on their new tempest engine they just arent calling it CELL. The Tempest engine is a 8 core DMA chip almost identical in design to CELL.

I heard about this but that would make the PS5 have PS3 SOC (system on a chip) on the board... Wouldn’t that make the PS5 capable of having PS3 backwards compatibility? I mean it’s right there, I don’t get why people keep on saying that PS3 backwards compatibility is impossible on the PS5 when the tempest engine which is, for the most part, basically CELL is right there on the board. Like to me it seems like all what’s needed for it to be a thing is there, it just needs a little bit more work. Unless I’m mistaken? I’m open to hear why it’s not possible
 
Last edited:
Although the party piece of the CELL BE was its stream processors (SPUs), and the Tempest is a stripped down AMD GPU (also just a bunch of stream processors), the data structures that flow through each are utterly incompatible.

This means anything designed to run on the SPUs won't run on Tempest, and you're also missing the PowerPC cores that fed and scheduled the SPUs, too.