So, the Wii U is here, which means the endless speculation about the console’s power is finally at an end. People more knowledgeable about electronics than I have been popping open the new machine and examining the entrails, and have discovered that Nintendo, true to form, has put together a rather wonky machine that excels in some areas, and skimps in others.
So, what’s the Wii U got under the hood? Hit the jump for some pics, specs and educated guesses…
Why, Wii U, your motherboard is showing.
- The machine has 2GB of gDDR3 RAM. Not a bad amount of RAM for a console, but half of it is reserved for the operating system. Peak memory bandwidth (basically how quickly the machine can actually access its RAM) is 12.8GB/s.
By comparison both the PS3 and Xbox 360 have 512 MB of RAM. Their max bandwidth is 25.6GB/s and 22.4GB/s respectively. So, the Wii U has more RAM, but it won’t be able to get at it as quickly. The Wii U’s memory bandwidth is similar to an iPad 3/4.
- The heart of the Wii U is a multi-chip module that contains an AMD GPU (graphics processing unit) and a suspiciously scrawny looking IBM CPU (central processing unit).
The dark green slab in the middle is the multi-chip module. The large silver square in the GPU. The underfed little silver square in the top-left is the CPU.
- Exact specs for the CPU and GPU aren’t out there yet, but here’s what is known/strongly speculated — the console has a tri-core power-based CPU that is based on the Wii’s Broadway CPU. Basically the Wii U CPU is just three Wii CPUs taped together.
- The machine probably has an AMD R700 series GPU that’s been heavily tinkered with. The GPU also comes with 32 MB of embedded RAM. The Wii U will support DirectX 10.1.
So what’s it all mean? Well, here’s my layman’s opinion — the Wii U isn’t particularly impressive in terms of pure processing power, but it does have a solid, fairly modern GPU capable of some cool effects. So in other words, this machine was built to run Nintendo games. What’s Nintendo need with grunt processing power? Most of their characters already looked about as detailed as they’re ever going to look on the Wii. On the other hand, Nintendo does like to play around fancy graphical effects. Basically, the Wii U is going to be able to do really amazing looking, effects-heavy Mario Galaxy-type games, but may struggle to replicate a lot of the more realistic, action heavy games coming from third party developers. So yeah, pretty much exactly what you’d expect from Nintendo.