Report: Wii U graphics based on Radeon HD 4870


— 9:35 AM on June 15, 2011

Slowly but surely, more details are emerging about Nintendo's upcoming Wii U console. We knew the system had an AMD graphics chip, and now we have a little more detail on its origins. According to Japanese site Game Watch, the console's graphics chip is similar to the RV770 GPU that powers the Radeon HD 4870.

Although the Radeon HD 4000 series is getting on two years old now, it's still miles ahead of the ancient GPUs in current-generation consoles from Microsoft and Sony. The Xbox 360's Xenos GPU bears some similarities to the Radeon X1900, which is straight outta 2006. The GeForce 7800-class GPU that underpins the PlayStation 3's RSX graphics chip can be traced all the way back to 2005.

Of course, both of those consoles are capable of playing optical discs—the PlayStation can do DVDs and Blu-ray movies, while the Xbox 360 can at least handle DVD playback. Despite the fact that the Wii U has an optical drive, it won't do either. Nintendo chief Satoru Iwata explains:

The reason for that is that we feel that enough people already have devices that are capable of playing DVDs and Blu-ray, such that it didn't warrant the cost involved to build that functionality into the Wii U console because of the patents related to those technologies.

Nintendo hasn't been keen on selling consoles at a loss and making up the difference with game sales, and I suspect the company will follow a similar strategy with the Wii U. Let's hope it can at least stream video playback through services like Netflix.

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