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Handhelds Nintendo Wii Games Hardware

Nintendo Wii U Teardown Reveals Simple Design 276

Posted by timothy
from the to-thine-own-hand-be-true dept.
Vigile writes "Nintendo has never been known to be very aggressive with its gaming console hardware and with today's release (in the U.S.) of the Wii U we are seeing a continuation of that business model. PC Perspective spent several hours last night taking apart a brand new console to reveal a very simplistic board and platform design topped off with the single multi-chip module that holds the IBM PowerPC CPU and the AMD GPU. The system includes 2GB of GDDR3 memory from Samsung and Foxconn/Hon-Hai built wireless controllers for WiFi and streaming video the gamepad. Even though this system is five years newer, many analysts estimate the processing power of Nintendo's Wii U to be just ahead of what you have in the Xbox 360 today."
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Nintendo Wii U Teardown Reveals Simple Design

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  • by ericloewe (2129490) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @05:42PM (#42022377)

    The N64 was definitely cutting edge, but hard to program and limited by its cartridges.

  • Re:PS3 (Score:4, Informative)

    by larry bagina (561269) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @06:01PM (#42022481) Journal
    Depends how you measure it. Graphics are better [arstechnica.com] but the 3-core PowerPC processor is weaker.
  • by im_thatoneguy (819432) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @07:17PM (#42022911)

    The Xbox 360 windows-based-os only uses about 32MB of RAM. That 480MB is after the OS usage and available for games.

    If you want to start one of my game-dev friends on a rant ask them about the PS3 OS's RAM usage. :P

  • by goruka (1721094) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @09:10PM (#42023499)
    Disclaimer: IALD (I am a Licensed Developer)

    Because of NDA I can't really say much, but i'd take developing for WiiU than for 360 or PS3 any day. The Hardware, APIs are much simpler and familiar. The hardware in WiiU is DX10 level, while 360 and PS3 are DX9 level with some extra stuff hacked on.

    Basically that means, besides the more friendly and flexible hardware, implementing most common rendering techniques can be done more efficiently. (OpenGL 3.x features, OpenCL).

    So it's not just about "raw performance". In contrast, DX11 level hardware (what will likely power PS4 or xb720), even if likely to be much faster, won't be that different to program for than WiiU.
  • by im_thatoneguy (819432) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @09:30PM (#42023595)

    You're joking, right? My PC at the time probably cost less than $1,000 and it had a K6-2 450MHz, a Matrox Millennium II and dual Voodoo II cards. I used to play Unreal at maximum settings on that thing. By comparison, the N64 was every bit the toy that it was meant to be.

    Ignoring for the fact that your computer came out years after the Nintendo 64...

    A voodoo 2 card cost $300. You had a Matrox Millenium II and 2x $300 cards which means you somehow managed after $200 for windows to find a barebones system for $200? Pray tell how you accomplished this feat AC.

  • Re:PS3 (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 18, 2012 @09:44PM (#42023663)
    Posting anonymously, just because.

    Speaking as a developer who's worked on the PS3, the Xbox 360 and the WiiU. The CPU on the WiiU has some nice things on it. But its not as powerful as the Xbox360 chip. I think N went to IBM and asked them: 'What's cheap to put on the chip?' and IBM said 'Well we have this sh*t that no-one wants.' and N said 'we'll take it.'. It does have better branch prediction than the PPCs in the PS3 and Xbox360.

    The Espresso chip doesn't have any sort of vector processing. It does have paired singles, but that's a pain, a real pain to use. The floating point registers are 64 bit doubles, so when people talk about paired singles I assumed you split the register in two. No the registers are actually 96 bits wide, its actually a double and a single. To load it you have to load in your single, do a merge operation to move that single to the upper 32 bits, and load in your second one. This makes the stacks explode, because to save a floating point register in the callee takes three operations, and 12 bytes no matter what.

    While the WiiU has 1 gig of RAM available to the game to use, the RAM is slow. The cache on the chip is also slow. We had tested out memory bandwidth between cache and main memory on the xbox360 and the WiiU. The main memory access on the Xbox360 is about 2x-4x times as fast as accesses the cache on the WiiU. Yes I mean that the external to the chip RAM on the Xbox360 is faster than the cache memory on the WiiU. I don't remember the full results but I think we figured out accessing the hard drive on the Xbox360 was faster than the RAM on the WiiU too.

    The optical drive is also slow. I don't know for sure but it feels like the same drive that went into the PS3. And on the PS3 we used the hard drive to cache things to improve load speeds. Without a hard drive on the WiiU we can't do that.

    I won't go into the OS, and the programming environment, but let me just say I hate programming for Windows, and I prefer programming on the Xbox360 to the WiiU.

    While the GPU in the WiiU is better (probably because ATI doesn't make anything worse these days), they don't have the CPU and RAM to back it up. Who knows maybe things will be better from launch, but I'm glad to leave the WiiU behind.
  • by Dahamma (304068) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @11:05PM (#42024025)

    and consoles even require significant portions of many games to be installed to the hard drive first.

    That's just not true. All Xbox 360 DVD-based games are required to run with minimal installation (and minimal patch size - though DLC is different, of course), so they will run even on systems with 4GB flash instead of an HDD. More recently they MS added support for installing the full game to HDD (which does make a big difference in load times) but it it's definitely not *required*.

    As for EEPROM-based cartridges, it's about cost. Materials for 9GB DVD is under $0.30. Manufacturing an 8GB cart would be somewhere between $5-10 to make (given 4GB 3DS carts are estimated at $3-5). That is a HUGE difference in margin when you sell a couple million of them. Even Nintendo gave up on the carts for the GC an Wii since it would be insane to leave that money on the table.

    Do you know (no matter what Nintendo tells people) what the *biggest* advantage to carts was over CDs/DVDs? Lack of piracy. But eventually Nintendo realized the cost of piracy was well under the cost difference from switching to optical media, so they did.

  • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @11:19PM (#42024075)
    So you're saying a magazine called "Nintendo Power" may have been slightly biased in favor of Nintendo?
  • by zakkudo (2638939) on Monday November 19, 2012 @04:47AM (#42025273)

    I would hope that the initial DualShock controller would be an impovement on the N64s initial designs, after all it came out 2 years later. If you would like to read at similar stories, please research the six-axis controller and the Playstation Move.

    The N64 as a whole wasn't as durable of a system as I would have liked. But meh.

  • by wertigon (1204486) on Monday November 19, 2012 @05:16AM (#42025381)

    Controller: Give you that one, they sucked harder than a vietnamese prostitute. In the seventies :P

    Vibration pack: Oh come ON. Nintendo introduced vibrating controllers to the console market (for PC "Force Feedback" had been available for a loooooong time). Then Sony improved it (Rumble released April 1997, Dual Shock released November 30th 1997 - 6 months after Nintendo).

    One analog stick: Nintendo introduced the concept to consoles and gamepads. Before there had been joysticks but never on a controller like this. Yeah, compared to PS1 Dual Analog (and later Dual Shock) it sucked, but do remember that Nintendo had developed this already in 1995 (though the console itself turned up 1996), and Sony had the Dual Analog ready a whole year after that - well into the lifetime of the PS1, so it wasn't on every PS1 the way the N64 controller was.

    Cooling: Never happened to my N64, despite having it on for 24-hour marathons of DK64. Might've been a problem with your specific unit or a specific game? Not saying it didn't happen, just that it probably wasn't a general fault.

    Cartridges: Aye, they crap out when kids do that, but it's not NEARLY as bad as scratched discs. You seen the kids' DVD collection at your average family? Yeah, they would have been equally scratched in your family.

    From what I remember the N64 was more powerful hardware-wise but suffered from the cartridge memory restrictions and the fact that it was hard to develop for and therefore max the performance. When you had the option of having a buttload of textures and CD-quality music on the PS1 vs few-and-compressed textures and synthesized music on the N64, the choice was rather clear. It got better with the GameCube, but 1.5GB vs 4GB again turned out to be a really painful limitation...

  • by Waccoon (1186667) on Monday November 19, 2012 @07:56AM (#42025897)

    The bad developers had atrocious load times. Filling 2MB of memory from a CD image doesn't take that long.

    Driver on the PS1 had load times in excess of 30 seconds between scenes. There was more loading than actual driving. With Spyro the Dragon, load times were hardly a problem.

    I remember being amazed at Gran Turismo having such short load times -- literally 2 seconds from menu to race in some cases. Then the PS3 came out, and Gran Turismo 5, with its 10+ GB HD install, has load times so long you can make a sandwich.

  • by tgibbs (83782) on Monday November 19, 2012 @09:14AM (#42026377)

    Depends on how you measure speed. Both had extremely advanced graphics hardware that handled the most computationally intensive stuff in hardware separately from the cpu, so they could accomplish tasks that competing systems lacked the power to achieve, and did not require particularly fast cpu's (although the cpu's were quite capable. The 65816 in the SNES was essentially an early RISC-like processor, and highly cycle efficient--it was what made it possible for the Apple II gs to implement a full Mac-like GUI of much higher quality than Intel based PCs with nominally faster hardware could handle.) The SNES could handle large 2D sprites in hardware and could scale and rotate bitmaps, which made it possible to reproduce the graphical appearance of arcade games that ran on hardware that cost thousands of dollars, and could produce graphical effects that competing systems could not manage. The N64 was the only machine of its generation that could do true perspective graphics, with antialiasing and correct 3D perspective scaling of textures. The competing systems of the time (the PS1 and Saturn) lacked the power to do this at all--both of them "cheated" by scaling texture bitmaps in 2-dimensions, producing a variety of graphical artifacts including textures that shifted bizarrely as the perspective changed.

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