Rumor: No More Cell Processors For PlayStation 4

If this holds true, game developers everywhere can start opening their champagne bottles. After rumors of Sony switching to AMD graphics processors, the speculation machine is in full throttle for Sony’s next generation PlayStation 4. The latest batch of rumors come from Kotaku, stating that Sony plans to abandon the much hyped Cell architecture that was notorious for causing development headaches due to its complex and unorthodox structure.

For those that need a refresher, the Cell Processor found in the current PlayStation 3 is a chip based on IBM PowerPC technology that was originally intended as a form of CPU/GPU hybrid. The Cell sports a single IBM “Power Processing Element” or PPE, along with 8 “Synergistic Processing Elements” or SPEs. The 7th SPE is reserved for the operating system and the 8th was conceived solely to increase manufacturing yields, leaving 6 SPEs for programmers to work with. A notable cousin is the Xbox 360’s own tri-core Xenon processor which sports three PPEs of similar design.

The death of a Cell-based PlayStation would probably bring up more questions than answers, most notably, just what kind of chip does Sony plan to use? An architecture switch to x86/x64 offerings would no doubt make development far simpler from a PC to console standpoint, but it would also create drawbacks in backwards compatibility. Will they stick with IBM’s RISC designs? or would they join the likes of PC enthusiasts with Intel and AMD chips?