If you've been convinced of the awesomeness of the Cell processor as used in the PS3, I've got some good news: soon you'll be able to add Cell goodness to your PC in the form of a discrete graphics card add-on.
According to PC World
, the SpursEngine – based around four Cell Broadband Engines – developed by Toshiba and featured in several laptops from the company has been sold to video card manufacturers Thomson and Leadtek for them to base products around. Due, allegedly, in the next few weeks and hitting a price point of around £150-£250 the cards aren't aimed at your average gamer.
Thanks to the SpursEngine's somewhat specialised design, it's perfect for high-definition encoding and decoding of both MPEG2 and H.264 video with nary a hint of strain on the part of the host system's CPU. Leadtek's first card to be based on the chip, the Winfast PxVC 1100, demonstrates where the company believes this tech is heading: with a scant 128MB of XDR memory, the card is a half-height PCIe unit designed to fit in a small-form factor system such as a home theatre computer and provide all the grunt required for high-definition goodness – and, if the company gets its way, all cooled completely passively, although the current revision of the card requires a small fan.
With Leadtek hoping to capture the lower end of the market – aiming specifically at low-powered systems not capable of decoding high-definition footage in real-time – Thomson appears to be heading for the higher end. While details are scarce, the company's expected retail prices of nearly double that of Leadtek show that Thomson's products are most certainly aimed at the semi-professional video producer who needs to accelerate the creation of high-definition content.
With the cards expected towards the end of this month and the start of November – in Japan, at least – we won't have long to wait to see what the Cell system can do when coupled with a high-end PC.
Tempted to give your CPU a break when watching high-definition content, or is the SpursEngine a solution looking for a problem? Share your thoughts over in the forums