Wii U hardware dissected, next-gen capabilities 'ruled out'

Nintendo has yet to reveal specs of the Wii U. And although the hardware has been out in the wild for quite some time now, few could decipher the actual capabilities of Nintendo's "next-generation" hardware.

Chipworks released ultra-magnified images of Wii U internals to NeoGAF, allowing the community to decipher what hardware is actually being used. Digital Foundry put up their own findings, which "finally rule out any next-gen pretensions for the Wii U."

According to their report, it appears the Wii U GPU is a "close match" to the Radeon 4650/4670, "albeit with a deficit in the number of texture-mapping units and a lower clock speed--550MHz." Compared to the rumored specs of both Orbis and Durango, it's clear that Sony and Microsoft's next-gen hardware is "in a completely different league."

Wii U does have the potential to produce visuals that best Xbox 360, however. By Digital Foundry's estimates, Wii U can have about 1.5 times the "raw shader power" of Microsoft's current-gen system. However, given 1080p resolution requires 2.5x the power of 720p, "it's highly unlikely that we'll be seeing any complex 3D titles running at 1080p," the site concludes.

Once again, it appears that Wii U's CPU remains the main bottleneck for the system. Equipped with a 1.2GHz CPU that's derivative of the Gamecube's Gekko processor, the underpowered CPU could be to blame for some of the lackluster multiplatform games that debuted at the Wii U launch. However, Nintendo's Genyo Takeda defended the company's hardware decision at a recent investor's call. "In my view, Wii U is a console with low power consumption and has fairly high performance. Regarding your comment that we focus on the GPU and that the CPU is a little poor, we have a different view. It depends on how to evaluate a processing unit. In terms of die size (area a chip occupies), the GPU certainly occupies a much larger space than the CPU. As you can see CPUs used for the latest PCs and servers, however, it is usual for current CPUs that the logic part for actual calculations is really small and that the cache memory called SRAM around it covers a large area. From this angle, we don't think that the performance of the Wii U's CPU is worse than that of the GPU. In other words, we have taken a so-called 'memory-intensified' design approach for the Wii U hardware."