Next PlayStation sports supercomputer speed

Sony's gaming unit has outlined plans for a follow-on to its popular PlayStation video game console and said the new machine will use a processor three times faster than Intel's Pentium III.

The Sony machine, tentatively called PlayStation 2, runs on a 300MHz processor co-developed with Toshiba and based on the MIPS RISC (reduced instruction set computer) architecture from MIPS Technologies, a Silicon Graphics affiliate in Mountain View, California, according to a statement from Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE).

The next-generation PlayStation will ship from the first half of next year in Japan and overseas in the second half of the year, SCE said. Sony did not announce pricing for the game but reports today said Sony will offer the game for below 50,000 yen (US$420).

The PlayStation 2 is a souped-up entertainment console that can support motion picture-like graphics, sound processing and has raw computing power that Sony said surpasses today's workstations and "approaches" the performance of supercomputers.

The machine will include a DVD-ROM drive and a Sony-developed graphics engine that can process 75 million polygons per second, the company said.

The machine will offer backward compatibility with current PlayStation games. Sony estimates there are 3,000 PlayStation titles available. It has shipped about 50 million PlayStation consoles worldwide since it first began selling the machine in 1994, it said.

The co-developed 128-bit processor is a so-called large scale integrated circuit and incorporates high performance functions, including image processing and memory, on a single piece of silicon.

Dubbed "Emotion Engine," or EE, it houses two processing units that perform floating point calculations, which are needed for processing 3D graphics. The chip can handle 6.2GigaFLOPS per second (floating-point operations per second), which Sony said is equal to the performance of high-end workstations used in computer graphics production for motion pictures.

The EE incorporates 32MB Direct Rambus DRAM, which uses high speed bus technology from Mountain View, California-based Rambus.

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