The Big Zabowski wrote:
8 DIFFERENT PROCESSORS ON A SINGLE BOARD!? Wow, that's just a WTF thing right there ... Now I think I know where that 600 dollar price tag is coming from.. It's a damned supercomputer/mini-computer..
It's really not... This is just the direction processors are moving.
Game consoles have already had multiple processors for years now. CPU + GPU, for starters, and you've got two. Then maybe you've got a CPU specifically for certain vectorized operations (I believe PS2 had that) and, in the case of the PS2, you've also got the PS1's processor which is typically used by PS2 games to handle audio.
But as for real, symmetric multi-cores, CPUs are, as I said, going in that direction. The problem of making processors faster is rather difficult, and so one of the things they do to address that is to parallelize. Let's say you have a single program with three instructions in series:
Test value of A, maybe jump to another location
The thing here is, the first and second instructions are totally independent of each other. That means, if you have some redundant hardware on your chip, you can do both instructions at the same time. The third instruction complicates things a bit, since it interacts with the first - but even that one can be run in parallel with the second. So if you hit the limit in how fast you can make your processor's logic run, you can still make it faster by making it more parallel.
But what happened next, as I understand it, is they started hitting practical limits in terms of how much parallelization they could do without the application being written for it. So multi-core processors basically take roughly the same degree of redundancy, but use it to run multiple program threads instead of dividing up a single thread. Putting this burden on the software author (the burden of using the parallelism effectively) also allows the CPU to claim better overall performance, just by making the CPU bigger
but not significantly more complex.
In the case of game consoles, however, for a lot of tasks a general-purpose CPU isn't what you need. You're better off with specialized processors for handling specific tasks like particle effects, physics calculations, and so on - because these processors are more specialized, they lend themselves rather well to parallelization.
You have to be careful about the hype that comes out with these new game consoles. In actuality, their processing power is maybe on par with a decent PC, though how that power is used is likely more tuned toward gaming (that is, with an emphasis on GPU and specialized computation units, etc.) - PS2 also carried a lot of pre-release hype about the might of its CPU, but due to various architectual issues and the complexity of developing for the system, it was harder to exploit that power than on other consoles. I'm a bit concerned that the PS3 will suffer similar problems, but we'll see.