Wii U Has Last-Gen Graphics Chip, Next-Gen Console Graphic Processing

As I walked out of the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles last week, following Nintendo’s yearly E3 press conference, I was a bit confused. Sure, the demonstrations of the company’s new Wii U controller looked really interesting, but where in the world was the actual console unit? Nintendo focused so much on their touch-screen peripheral, yet announced next to nothing about the hardware specifications. Luckily, it seems as though details on the little white box are slowly starting to trickle out.

Nintendo did make it clear that the Wii U would output a 1080p HD signal. Of course, HD output doesn’t necessarily translate to high-end graphic processing, but according to a report at Game Watch, the new console is actually sporting some decent (albeit last-gen) graphics hardware.

Wii U is apparently outfitted with an AMD chipset – basically the RV770 – similar to those found in the ATI Radeon HD 4000 series. Granted, most PC gaming rigs have moved on to the Radeon HD 5000 series of graphic cards – or 6000, if you’re Captain Moneybags – but that’s not to say that this chip is less than capable of outputting some gorgeous visuals. While newer PC chips are utilizing Direct X 11, the Wii U will run up to Direct X 10.1. Comparatively, the five-year old Xbox 360 GPU stops at Direct X 9.

While the Wii U likely won’t be able to match the graphics processing of whatever Microsoft or Sony have coming down the pipeline with their next consoles, it’s still light-years ahead of the old Wii. The new system is obviously more than capable of handling a wide-range of third-party titles, but I’m most excited to see some old first-party Nintendo characters make their way into the HD age.

Maybe we’ll be able to see Mario’s individual mustache whiskers flapping in the wind. OK, maybe we don’t need that.