Comparing Wii U Graphics

Nintendo’s console has always been de facto considered the lame duck among each generation of consoles, but that hasn’t stopped the company from continuing to see success from its consistently strong IP.

Is there truth to the Wii U’s hardware inferiority complex, or does the system give us more than just a platform for the latest entries to Mario franchise?

All Three Machines Are Basically the Same

When you crack open the guts on the PS4, XBox and Wii, the insides are all very similar. They all use a Radeon-derived chip from AMD for the all-important graphics. The major difference between the Wii U and its competitors is the pipeline feeding into the graphics chip.

  Wii U XBox One PS4
CPU PowerPC AMD Jaguar1 AMG Jaguar
GPU Radeon 550MHz Radeon 853MHz Radeon 800MHz2

(Source except where noted: IGN)

Wii U Missing Important Specs

There you have it – numerical proof that Wii U’s hardware doesn’t match the power of its PlayStation and XBox rivals. But what does that mean? At first glance it would seem like Nintendo is the glue-eating student in the class, but let’s take a look at Watchdogs, a game that won awards for its graphics.

Here’s a video of the Wii U and PlayStation version of the game side by side:

The thing about graphics chips today is they are so far advanced that doubled clock speed (550MHz to 853MHz) don’t make a huge difference – you need an exponential jump for the difference in two competitors to be meaningful. Even so, you need the software and the rest of the system to be equally powerful so it has the bandwidth to full your screen with those photorealistic images.

PS4 Wins the Graphics Race

When you compare the PS4 to the Wii U in the video above, the sharpness and detail in the images produced by the PS4 are clearly superior. While there is more capability in its graphics card, the real difference maker here is the system’s huge amount of fast RAM – the game software is able to larger, sharper textures in memory and display them on screen. We’ve talked before about how huge a win this is for Sony.

Over time we’ll see developers take more advantage of the PS4’s capabilities and when that happens the visuals produced by its titles will dwarf anything the Wii U is capable of.

Movies or Games

Nobody buys a game console because of the awesome (or not) hardware, they buy in order to play games. There will always be a huge group of people who are more interested in the Nintendo IP games and will continue to live in that environment. If, on the other hand, you want to play games that look as realistic as (or more than!) movies, you should already know that a PS4 is for you.

For myself, looking at the Watch Dogs comparison, the visuals produced by the Wii U are more than satisfactory. If I’m playing a game I want it to look smooth and play well, which the Wii delivers on both counts. Picture not as sharp as a PS4? I won’t miss the difference. Release a game that does away with the uncanny valley and I’ll be a customer.

Comments (2)

Looking at DirectX 12 - Couch Lounger

May 6th, 2015 at 1:27 am    

[…] buy consoles to play games. It doesn’t really matter what graphics chipset is running (hint: they are all based on Radeon), what matters is the software running on […]

Ten Nintendo Facts - Couch Lounger

May 7th, 2015 at 1:16 am    

[…] Nintendo has been in operation for over a hundred years, they once produced vacuum cleaners, and their weaker than competition graphics are part of a core business […]

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