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Exclusive - Inside the PS3

7 April 2006

Over the past couple of months we have been hearing reports from a couple of our sources who wish to remain anonymous.  The following information has been validated by multiple sources that are involved in early PS3 development.  While we strongly believe the following information to be correct, Sony is still in a position where they could change some of the specifics.  These are not 100% set in stone, but are close to being so.

That being said, we will first start with some background information concerning Sony's PlayStation 3 competition that is known as the Xbox 360.

One of the first things that one notices when they utilize the Xbox 360 is that it has an operating system running constantly in the background, even while playing games.  This is a new feature as far as dedicated Game Console hardware is concerned.
The operating system running in the background enables,

-    Custom Music in all games
-     Simplifying development of Online games
-    Seamless updating of games when the Xbox360 is connected to the Internet
-    Voice Chat across all games, even outside of the games own UI
-    Notifications and messaging to be sent between users regardless of the games they are playing

As one would deduce, this does not come without its own costs in terms of power, including,

-    32mb of the 512mb of available GDDR3 RAM
-    3% CPU time on Core 1 and Core 2 (nothing is reserved on Core 0)

Everything that one wants to do involving software on a game console, specifically while the user is playing games, comes at a cost.  In the case of the Xbox 360, this cost is approximately 2% of total CPU time and 6.25% of the Xbox 360's total available RAM.  Balancing these out, one could argue that MS has removed a total of 4% of the Xbox 360's total available system power in order to provide these features and more which were not mentioned.  They also left room, CPU and RAM wise, for future features.  In other words, they are not using all of the CPU time and RAM that they have reserved to date.

This brings us to the information we have concerning the PS3.  As some gamers have heard, Sony revealed at GDC this year that they will be constantly reserving 1 of the 7 available SPEs on the Cell Processor for their OS.  This, we have discovered, is just the tip of the iceberg. 

As was witnessed in their demonstrations at GDC, Sony is planning to have an Operating System running constantly in the background, just like one witnesses when using the Xbox 360 OS (aka Dashboard).  They plan to have a "Blade" like pane that can appear out of the right hand side of the screen for viewing and participating in activities that the OS enables.

This includes but is not limited to;

-    Multi-User Voice Chat across all games, even outside of the games own UI
-    Multi-User Video Chat across all games, even outside of the games own UI
-    Notifications and messaging to be sent between users regardless of the games they are playing

Like the Xbox 360, these come at a cost and our sources have told us that these features use approximately:

-    64mb of the 256mb of available XDR memory off the Cell CPU
-    32mb of the 256mb of available GDDR3 memory off the RSX chip
-    1 SPE of 7 constantly reserved
-    1 SPE of 7 able to be "taken" by the OS at a moments notice (games have to give it up if requested)

In the case of the PS3 this equates to 12.5% of the available Cores on the CPU always reserved, an additional 12.5% sometimes taken by the OS, 12.5% of the available RSX memory and 25% of XDR Cell memory.  Balancing these out, one could argue that Sony has removed up to 25% of the available CPU power and 18.75% of RAM for these features as well as others that are not mentioned here or will be added in future updates to the PS3 Operation System.

The 1 SPE that can be taken away, by the system, from the games at a moments notice could be for the purposes of rendering the Blade and decoding and presenting the multiple video sources and other content onto the Blade when it appears to the user.  This will have minimal to no impact on the ability of single player games to utilize the SPE, though it will likely add complications during development of games for the system.  The main impact would be in Online Multiplayer games that do not have a pause option available and thus will have increased difficulty in relinquishing the SPE.
We do not claim to be technical specialists so we will reserve comment on the technical implications of this new information.   We look forward to community feedback regarding this information.

In addition, we did not include any of the information concerning their plans for usage of the PPE core as well as information around the Blu-Ray drive being used in the PS3.  We are currently following up and getting additional clarification regarding both of these.


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