A few months ago, a hacker revealed the tech specs of the Wii U CPU and GPU, and tech experts have been discussing and analyzing the numbers ever since. However, there's one thing everyone seems to have overlooked: the differences between the tech specs of the Wii U and the Xbox 360 appear to mirror those of the Wii and the original Xbox.
For comparison, here are the tech specs of all four consoles. I would like to point out that Nintendo has not confirmed the figures for either of their consoles, but they are generally accepted as accurate.
-32-bit PowerPC-based Broadway processor
-clocked at 729 MHz
-ATI Hollywood GPU
-reportedly clocked at 243 MHz
-88 MB main memory (24 MB internal 1T-SRAM integrated into graphics package, 64 MB external GDDR3 SDRAM)
-3 MB embedded GPU texture memory and framebuffer
-32-bit custom Intel Pentium III Coppermine-based processor
-clocked at 733 MHz
-"NV2A" ASIC. Co-developed by Microsoft and Nvidia.
-clocked at 233 MHz
64 MB of DDR SDRAM @ 200 MHz
As you can see, the Wii CPU is clocked 4MHz slower than that of the original Xbox. However, the Wii GPU is clocked slightly faster than the Xbox GPU, and it has considerably more RAM. And now, let's take a look at the tech specs for the Wii U and Xbox 360.
-3 PowerPC 750 type cores (similar to Wii's Broadway, but more cache.)
-2 GB of DDR3 RAM
-1 GB reserved for the operating system
-1 GB for games
-512 MB of GDDR3 RAM clocked at 700 MHz
-32 MB reserved for the operation system
-480 MB for games
If these figures are correct, the Wii U CPU is clocked slower than the CPU of the Xbox 360 (although the hacker who revealed the specs says the difference isn't as pronounced as it appears to be). And once again, the GPU is slightly faster. The big difference, of course, is the amount of memory, with Nintendo's console having 1 whole gigabyte available for games, more than double the RAM that 360 games have to work with.
Wii vs. original Xbox
CPU - slower
GPU - faster
RAM - more
Wii U vs. Xbox 360
CPU - slower
GPU - faster
RAM - more
When it comes to console wars, power is overrated
Ever since the tech specs of the Wii U CPU and GPU were finally revealed, there has been no shortage of critics saying "it's not a true next-gen console," "it's too expensive for the specs," and "it's doomed." Some developers have questioned whether the console is even as powerful as Microsoft and Sony's current gen systems. When the next Xbox and PlayStation arrive, they will undoubtedly be far more powerful than Nintendo's console.
When the Wii launched, it was also a generation behind the competition in terms of processing power, and gamers questioned if it was even as powerful as Microsoft's first home console. While the opinions of lay people can be easily dismissed, the views of actual developers carry more weight. Tim Tschirner, producer of FIFA 08, had this to say about the Wii:
It's about as powerful as the original Xbox. The video hardware unfortunately is not as powerful. There's just a couple of key things that you can do on Xbox like shaders which you just cannot do on the Wii. It's unfortunate in the sense that for a lot of things we can actually use some of the current-gen code, and other solutions that already exist in the building, where people have already come up with, for example, a shader for the pitch; we kind of have to re-implement this now, but can't use shaders and have to find a different way to make it work. Overall though it's pretty much what the original Xbox was.
-Tim Schirner, producer of FIFA 08
Schirner was not alone in his assessment, and when other developers made similar comments, critics reacted with statements like "the Wii is not a true next-gen console," "it's too expensive for the specs," and naturally, "it's doomed." As we all know, the Wii outsold both of its competitors and completely dominated the sales charts.
The success of Nintendo's weaker system caught many by surprise, but historically the weaker systems have often come out on top. It just goes to show that tech specs alone don't make or break a console.
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