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Video cards running PS3's Cell chip coming soon

Toshiba's SpursEngine chip processes HD video

The first add-in video cards based on Toshiba's SpursEngine video chip will soon hit the market, as the company looks to tap growing user interest in high-definition video.

Based on the same Cell processor architecture as the chip used in Sony's PlayStation (PS3) 3 console, the SpursEngine was released earlier this year. Designed to process high-definition video, the SpursEngine chip has four Cell cores. The first computers to include the chip, Toshiba's Qosmio G50 and F40 laptops, were unveiled in June.

Leadtek and Thomson both plan to introduce add-in video cards based on SpursEngine in the coming weeks. Leadtek's card will arrive later this month, and will cost around ¥30,000 (£160). Thomson's cards will arrive in November, and are expected to cost from ¥40,000 to ¥50,000.

SpursEngine is capable of encoding or decoding high-definition video thanks to hardware MPEG2 and H.264 codecs and can upscale standard-definition video to high-definition on the fly, without tying up the computer's microprocessor.

Card makers hope SpursEngine cards will find a home in PCs based on low-cost processors, such as Intel's Celeron line, to offer high-end video capabilities.

Leadtek showed off its card, the Winfast PxVC 1100, at the Ceatec exhibition in Chiba, Japan. The PCI Express card, which has 128MB of high-performance XDR memory, fits easily into a small form-factor desktop and needed only a small heatsink and fan to keep it cool.

A Leadtek representative manning the booth said the company hopes to use passive cooling for the cards instead of a fan when they are released, but that has yet to be finalised.

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