Are you a true hardware geek? Are your really? Do you honestly care about the size of the individual silicon features on the chips that power your gadgets and gaming toys? If so IBM have a few tasty morsels for you on the CPU that will form the beating heart of Nintendo’s Wii U.
If you did not already know you may have found out from our earlier Wii U hardware post that IBM are behind the processors that powered both Nintendo’s GameCube and Wii. Therefore it was no surprise to find out via Nintendo that IBM were behind the design and manufacture of the Wii U’s CPU.
The processor will be built using IBM’s silicon-on-insulator (SOI) technology which is again hardly surprising as the same technology in used in the CPUs for both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 which IBM also had a hand in to varying degrees. As a result IBM will still have been involved in all the home games consoles’ CPUs and they will all continue to be a part of IBM’s Power family of devices.
The Wii U’s CPU will also share the same 45nm-sized features as the 360’s Xenon processor in the 360 S and the PS3’s Cell since the launch of the PS3 Slim. Does there ever come a point where you wonder whether the games are the only difference?
The IBM-design CPU for the Wii U does do something different though, it will feature IBM’s embedded DRAM (eDRAM) on-chip meaning that the multi-core processor is unlikely to find itself starved of data due to bandwidth limitations.
How much eDRAM we do not know. Speaking to Engadget IBM apparently said “a lot” but gave no figure. Before you get too excited though remember that “a lot” in this instance may not be as much as you are imagining. Chips tend to have only a few tens of megabytes (MB) of embedded memory at most, not the gigabytes (GB) your imagination has run away with.
It also will not be the first eDRAM to star as a key feature in a games console. The 360’s ATI-developed Xenos GPU has 10MB of eDRAM onboard; something that developers have put to great use in 360 games.
IBM claim that their embedded DRAM technology allows them to “triple the amount of memory contained on a single chip” which in their own words makes “for extreme game play”. Guys, respect and all, but technology is just the enabler it’s up to the devs to see what they can do with it.
What we do know is that the Wii U will be packing a custom-designed IBM Power Architecture-based CPU built on 45nm SOI technology, that it will feature “a lot” of eDRAM onboard and be manufactured at IBM’s East Fishkill fab. Cool huh?
Have you ever wondered what eDRAM actually looks like? No? Then you should have given up after I asked that first question. The pictures below are of a test chip IBM produced while developing their eDRAM technology. The first is the full chip, the second is a close-up (actually just not shrunk) view of the diamond in the top left of the first. Pretty. Want one.