The Wii CPU


The bare specs of the Wii CPU won't seem impressive to any computer geek. At 729MHz it hardly compares to contemporary processors for PCs and Macs. But that seemingly low number is not quite so weak as it appears. The Broadway CPU, as it's known, is based on the IBM PowerPC design that powers some of that company's most powerful 64-bit mid-sized computers.

It's true that Xbox and Playstation offer higher clock rates, and those processors do help give those systems some advantages. But given that the Nintendo Wii is designed for a single purpose, the lower speed is not so bad as it seems. The system is a dedicated, single application computer, after all.

It's also true that there are other specs that, while more technical and harder for the average buyer to evaluate, are still reasonably good. The system's L2 cache, for example, can deliver 5.8 GB/sec, the equal of its DMA controller. Those relatively obscure geeky components mean in essence that transfers from memory to the processor take place at lightning speeds.

There are other aspects of CPU design, like the number of bus lines going into the processor and out to memory chips, how 'wide' they are, and more that influence overall performance. Those are, rightly, incomprehensible and of no interest even to most avid gamers, even many that are interested in hardware. But their presence give the 'Broadway' CPU fine overall punch.

And, there is more to a CPU than its specs. There is a cost tradeoff. Gamers who purchase the Wii system benefit from that because the somewhat slower, less powerful unit is considerably less expensive than other CPUs. If it delivers performance that makes the games you will actually play look realistic and interesting, the internal electronics matters only up to a point.

And the Wii CPU, and the system as a whole, certainly deliver on that score.

Scan the Wii and gaming forums and note what you do not see. You don't see comments from those who have actually bought and used one complaining about slow action, weak visuals, or a generally dull gaming experience. Quite the opposite. That tells you that the system delivers what counts most, whatever the numbers inside may be.

Part of that is explained by the fact that clock speed is only one aspect of CPU performance. There are lots of attributes that would interest only the most hard-core of hardware fans, as we saw.

What counts is the total gaming experience. In that arena, the Nintendo Wii competes on a level playing field with any other system on the market.


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