The Gamecube

Luckily, while over at ATI, we were able to grab a sneak peak at Nintendo's upcoming Gamecube game system. Powered by a "heavily modified" IBM PowerPC processor and an ATI graphics chip with integrated north and south bridge produced by ArtX who ATI purchased about a year ago. We were told that the sample we saw was actually only one of about nine Gamecubes out there. We were not able to play the system, or even see it run a demo, but we were able to get a bit more info on Gamecube as well as a few pictures.

As you can see, the dominate chip on the Gamecube's PCB is the ATI graphics processor with integrated north bridge and south bridge. ArtX, the company ATI acquired to win the Nintendo contract, has been working on this chip for quite some time. Although we were not able to get more specifications other than those already published, it seems that the ATI/ArtX team has done their job, as it appears that the Gamecube has some massive power.

The Gamecube will have a number of features that we currently wish more systems had. First, the Gamecube is able to accept memory cards for both storage of saved games as well as what was hinted at as downloadable demos. The feature that would allow such access would be provided by either a modem or a broad-band solution that snaps onto the bottom of the system.

The memory system on the Gamecube is actually DRAM modified to perform like cache. ATI claims that this memory should provide very low latency, high speed memory transfers for temporary data storage, at a fraction of the cost of conventional SRAM (cache). This is one memory innovation that we hope will move to the PC market soon, as it promises to ease the memory bandwidth limitations we find in the majority of graphics cards today.

Finally, we learned a bit about how Nintendo plans on selling the Gamecube. It seems that there will be two models of the Gamecube, both with the same speed but one with an additional feature: DVD playback. Nintendo wants to make the Gamecube very competitively priced, staying away from the high cost, feature rich systems that we see now, and producing a lower cost system with high performance. For these users, Nintendo will have a lower priced Gamecube system that is only a game system. A higher cost model is also planned, and this one seems to be targeted at the PlayStation 2 market as it contains the same features as the lower end system with the additional ability to play DVD movies as well as Gamecube games.

All in all it seems that the Gamecube will be one powerful gaming system. To bad we still have quite a bit of time before it hits the market.

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