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Toshiba laptop touts 'quad-core' processor

Toshiba's Qosmio G55 laptop uses a quad-core processor--but not the Intel or AMD variety.

Toshiba's 18.4-inch Qosmio G55 laptop uses a quad-core processor--but not the Intel or AMD variety.

Toshiba SpursEngine processor is offered with the Qosmio G55 laptop
Toshiba SpursEngine processor is offered with the Qosmio G55 laptopPhoto by Toshiba

The "Quad-Core HD Processor" used in the Qosmio G55--due mid-July--is based on the SpursEngine which is derived from the Cell Broadband Engine, a multicore chip architecture jointly developed by IBM, Sony, and Toshiba. The Cell architecture, in turn, is derived from IBM's Power Architecture. Today, IBM uses the Cell processor in a line of blade servers.

The four processing elements inside the chip have a clock frequency of 1.5GHz, while boasting a relatively low power envelope of 10 to 20 watts. Typical mobile Intel processors have a power envelope of 35 watts.

The SpursEngine can deliver up to 48 GFlops (billion Floating point operations per second) or 12GFlops per processing element. Every element has 256KB of integrated memory, according to Toshiba. And the processor excels at high-definition video encoding and decoding of MPEG-2 and H.264 (MPEG-4) streams.

Toshiba notebooks
Click photo for gallery on Toshiba's new notebook lineup.Photo by Toshiba

(Update: the Qosmio G55's main processor is an Intel Core 2 Duo--it will be offered with a "Montevina" Centrino 2 processor --while the graphics chip is an Nvidia GeForce 9600M GT. The SpursEngine is a co-processor that accelerates certain multimedia tasks.)

As discussed in an earlier CNET Crave post, Toshiba is touting the Cell processor's special features. The Japanese company says that the processor achieves what many high-end graphics processing units (GPUs) from the likes of Nvidia and AMD now feature: transcoding acceleration. Transcoding, or converting--movies, for example--from one format to another, can be extremely time consuming, sometimes taking hours.

A typical 1GB movie can be converted--or transcoded--in less time with the help of the SpursEngine processor: what might ordinarily take an hour can be done in as little as ten minutes, the company said in a statement. This is a feature that Nvidia is also promoting aggressively on its newest GTX 280 graphics processor announced Monday. In short, offloading multimedia-intensive tasks to a specialized processor (like an Nvidia GPU or Toshiba SpursEngine) can speed up many common tasks dramatically.

Toshiba is touting other uses too. The processor allows the user to pause, fast-forward, and rewind a movie "just by moving your hands." Toshiba calls it "gesture control."

And this is what Toshiba says about a "Face Navigation" feature. "Find that face--or that unforgettable scene in home movies and Hollywood films...The new Toshiba Face Navigation feature captures facial expressions so you can quickly locate the part of the video you want to see."