back to article Toshiba samples Cell-based HD GPU

Toshiba has begun sampling the graphics chip it hopes will beat Nvidia and AMD at the GPU game: the Cell-derived SpursEngine SE1000. Toshiba SpursEngine SE1000 Toshiba's SpursEngine SE1000: Oddly named it may be, but the SpursEngine packs in four of Cell's Synergistic Processing Element (SPE) cores. Cell has up to eight …


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  1. Moo

    Go Toshiba!

    I'd very much like such a product coming into endless Nvidia-Amd behemoths of GPUs race.

  2. Ru

    1x PCIe?

    This sounds like it is a device intended to compete with mid to high end graphics cards, doing lots of fancy 3D graphics, yes?

    Then why doesn't it use the same x16 high bandwidth connection that such cards generally use? I'm reasonably certain that it isn't just there as a marketing ruse.

  3. Mike

    What a shame

    Could've been a world-beater, but I'll never know as I can't bring myself to buy anything with "Spurs" in it's name.

    The claret and blue shirt with "Barry" on the back, please.

  4. Brian
    Thumb Up

    DVR possibility?

    Sounds like this would work well in a DVR PC. At any rate, some more variety in the graphics card market couldn't hurt.

  5. Tom Simnett

    Re: 1x PCIe?

    If you bothered to read the article, you'd notice it specifically says:

    "Toshiba also said the chip is capable of MPEG 2 and H.264 encoding and decoding at 1080p full HD resolution, and those are the applications it's pitching the product at rather than 3D graphics."

    So.... no it's not aiming at all that fancy 3D stuff, but more at video encoding/decoding applications that require intense graphics processing but maybe not the bandwidth that 3D requires. There is a wide range in what is considered mid-high end graphics cards, both in quality and in purpose.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: 1x PCIe

    It's only a REFERENCE design! There's nothing to stop more PCI channels being added.

    Good grief!...

  7. alan lovedog

    No longer needed

    a couple of years ago H264 1080p decoding would have been much appreciated.

    nowadays a dual core can decode it without breaking a sweat so who needs such a card now ?

  8. Imr Ahm


    This is not going to be another ageia physics processor type board.

  9. Justin Clift

    Seems pretty useless.. :(

    Can't see the use of this in a modern PC. Perhaps it's for older PC's?

    What *could* be a lot more interesting, is putting a 8 (or more) of those chips (32+ cores) on a card, with 2G of ram, and a very fast bandwidth bus.

    Extreme performance for the specialist crowd. And Folding@Home people. :)

  10. Lennart Sorensen

    Re: No longer needed

    Well perhaps anyone wanting to do other stuff at the same time as decoding 1080p, or wanting to do it with 10W rather than 75W on the main CPU. For a PVR heat matters. Or perhaps you want to view multiple videos at once.

  11. Steve Todd

    @alan lovedog - No longer needed

    You are joking right? Basic profile H264 @640x480 (iPod video to you) encoding maxes out both cores of a Core 2 Duo @2Ghz and still doesn't hit real time speeds (i.e. faster than 25 fps). Decoding is much less CPU intensive, but 1080p is still a fair amount of stress on a modern CPU. Offloading both to a low power external coprocessor is definitely a good idea.

  12. Highlander

    Toshiba might want to consider repurposing

    According to Intel - at least - real time ray tracing is the way to go on graphics. The Cell chip is a monster for ray tracing as IBM has shown previously with it's tech demos. I'm just wondering whether this card with the aid of a well optimized ray tracing library and perhaps a second Spurs chip on board might make a heck of a ray tracing engine for PCs?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As an Encoder I would love it.

    There are other decoder chipsets out there that could much more easily assist a low powered PC, but encoding is not a trivial matter even for the high end consumer machines. If it can accelerate encoding to real time 1080p .h264, and let you do some minor tasks at the same time it would be totally awesome for a DVR.

    I don't really see this as a particularly high volume item though if it is only made for the PC. It could be useful for specialized media boxes, HD-DVR, and commercial on demand re-encoders

  14. Michael Sanders

    Cell ya later

    One of the most disappointing things about the Cell was it's slow access to external memory. A crippling thing considering it's architecture is highly dependent on feeding SPE's Well anyway this card and incarnation of the Cell technology it contains is faster with memory. Within it's limitations this card could be reprogrammed to do just about anything. Instead of just being a video or physics card. There's nothing to stop people from using more than one either. It could be interesting as the only thing that can save the Cell is getting a code base.

  15. popper
    Thumb Up

    shame its not the Cell PPC with Altivec on a card

    as stated its a shame it's not got the PowerPC-based core or Altivec onboard.

    rather than take the lower bin (ps3 failed cores)PPC/Altivec based Cell yealds and use them in this space, this spursengine totally removed the PPC and Altivec as found on the PS3 so no using the exising (linux)PPC codebase for lots of fun and thats a real shame.

    however, lets be clear , this chip has been demoed to be able to do some really clever playback DECODING of many DH video streams at the same time.

    and more than that ENCODING is fast on them, so you can hopefully soon get a DVB-* card that can then feed its input to one of these spurs and encode the whole transport stream inside to 4.1 grade AVC perhaps in realtime and then push it out your LAN as a multicast stream, to be selectively played back on any conected device.

    thats the 'whole stream at once' (on average 3to5 channels), not mearly one single DVB channel if you will.

  16. Highlander

    Slow memory access?

    Say what now? Cell as implemented in the PS3 has something like 23GB/s bandwidth. How is that slow exactly?

  17. Anonymous Coward

    @Michael Sanders

    please tell us how the PS3 Cell's 23GB/s bandwidth is slow. We are waiting...

    Or have you got your coat already?

  18. Iain

    Cell bandwidth?

    Methinks Michael Sanders is confused over the legendarily slow read speed the Cell has on the RSX's memory pool.

    Not that it matters anyway, as the RSX itself has really fast write speed to the Cell's main memory pool, where it can obviously read at the 23GB/s mentioned by others.

    This strikes me as very handy for media PC boxes, but then if a 1080p Cell-based media player is what you want, a PS3 is pretty reasonable already.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Re: 1x PCIe

    Well, the SpursEngine was originally stated to be used in low power applications like TVs and laptops.

    But, I'm quite interested in this particular board as it looks fairly sparsely populated. If that chip can indeed be passively cooled with a thin heat sink, wouldn't it be neat if they packaged it down to fit in a mini-PCIe slot for use in laptops? Finally, a piece of tech to use in my laptop's spare mini-PCIe slot next to the WiFi card.

    Alternatively, perhaps they could fit it into an ExpressCard form factor and use the PCIe x1 connection there.

    Though after thinking about it, they probably can't do it any time soon with that power envelope of 10-20 watts. It might be doable with a lower voltage, lower clock speed variant in a smaller manufacturing process in the near future, though.

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