Hector Martin, he who put together the first open-source driver for Microsoft's Kinect two years ago, now says he's cracked open the Wii U.
He won't say what he did to get the details out of Nintendo's latest console, but he did tweet some juicy (and very, very technical) tidbits about the system:
Wii U codenames worth knowing: system Cafe, CPU Espresso, GPU/SoC/etc. Latte, ARM secure processor Starbuck (we made that one up).— Hector Martin (@marcan42) November 29, 2012
It's worth noting that Espresso is *not* comparable clock per clock to a Xenon or a Cell. Think P4 vs. P3-derived Core series.— Hector Martin (@marcan42) November 29, 2012
The Espresso is an out of order design with a much shorter pipeline. It should win big on IPC on most code, but it has weak SIMD.— Hector Martin (@marcan42) November 29, 2012
No hardware threads. One per core. No new SIMD, just paired singles. But it'sa saner core than the P4esque stuff in 360/PS3.— Hector Martin (@marcan42) November 29, 2012
And I'm sure it's not an "idle" clock speed. 1.24G is exactly in line with what we expected for a 750-based design.— Hector Martin (@marcan42) November 29, 2012
So yes, the Wii U CPU is nothing to write home about, but don't compare it clock per clock with a 360 and claim it's much worse. It isn't.— Hector Martin (@marcan42) November 29, 2012
So what can we make of all this? For starters, it sounds like Kotaku's reporting over the summer—that the Wii U will be a "power orphan" compared to its next-gen competitors—was spot on. As Stephen wrote then:
But one insider who has had access to the machine says that the console's impressive AMD Radeon-based graphics chip is off-set by a CPU that runs at low speeds, can do out-of-order processing but has fewer threads than the 360.
Also worth noting: just last week, one of the developers behind Metro: Last Light said the Wii U has a "horrible, slow CPU." Martin's discoveries seem to match that theory, as well as Digital Foundry's thoughts on how Mass Effect 3 runs on the three different consoles.
We'll be following this story and continuing to talk to developers about the Wii U's power as time goes on.