IBM teases on Wii U CPU specs

Supercomputer comparisons kick off.

While confusion still surrounds the exact technical make-up of the new Wii U console, Engadget is citing IBM sources who say the CPU of the new machine "packs the same processor technology found in Watson" - the company's very own supercomputer.

Realistically, the comparison is probably rather flattering for the Wii U. According to IBM Watson has a total of 2880 processor cores backed by 16 terabytes of RAM. The processor architecture itself is based on POWER7, which in its current form occupies a lot of silicon and isn't exactly a perfect fit for a home games console.

The chances are that the Wii U's CPU is a custom design based on something from the current family of IBM CPUs, but it's almost certain that Nintendo would be far more concerned with ensuring Wii backwards compatibility along with easy cross-platform development with existing Xbox 360 and PS3 projects, as opposed to nurturing aspirations of unleashing a cut-down super computer on the console market.

To give some idea of the comparison being mooted, let's take a look at the form Watson takes compared to the new Wii U. Any technological links between the two would be tangential at best.

Other information from the Engadget feature is intriguing, hinting at a 45nm fabrication process (the same that has been used in the PS3 for over a year now) along with a "lot of DRAM". The size of the CPU and GPU chips are very important - typically the larger the fabrication process, the more expensive the chip is to make and the more heat it generates. Bearing in mind that the machine isn't due for another year we would have thought that Nintendo would have gone for a smaller, cost effective die-size.

Details on the graphics chip Nintendo has chosen for the Wii U also remain clouded in mystery, though the rumour-mongers' choice of AMD as the GPU vendor have been confirmed in an official announcement.

If the 45nm story turns out to be true, that puts Wii U on the same fabrication process as the Xbox 360 Slim - a considerably larger unit - so it's fair to say that cooling will be a far greater concern for Nintendo than it was for the Wii...

IBM has now confirmed all the details of the story in an official press release.

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About the author

Richard Leadbetter

Richard Leadbetter

Technology Editor, Digital Foundry  |  digitalfoundry

Rich has been a games journalist since the days of 16-bit and specialises in technical analysis. He's commonly known around Eurogamer as the Blacksmith of the Future.


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