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Jarrod Mawson
22 Sep, 2010

Rumoured Nintendo 3DS hardware information

3DS Rumour | Get clocked.
Today's Nintendo 3DS related gossip comes from IGN, reporting that they have spoken to a developer who revealed the technical specifications of the 3DS at the request of anonymity. These technical details are currently unconfirmed, so take with a grain of salt.




  • Two ARM11 CPUs each clocked at 266MHz.
  • GPU clocked at 133MHz.
  • 4MB of dedicated VRAM.
  • 64MB of RAM.
  • 1.5GB of internal flash storage, expandable with SD cards.

So what does this all mean to the average Joe? Outside of the storage space, not a whole lot. Some comparisons can be made; it has the same amount of RAM as the original Xbox, three times the internal storage as the Wii, and each CPU is faster than the PSP. However, while raw technical details have their importance, its the architecture of the hardware that matters most. The GPU, for example, might be 'weaker' than many console GPUs, but its architecture allows for many current-gen advanced shader techniques such as HDR lighting, normal mapping, depth of field, and motion blur.

We'll likely get full confirmation on the system's hardware abilities at Nintendo's 3DS event at the end of this month.

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22 Comments
3 years ago
Is a 266mhz ARM really more powerful than the PSP's 333mhz thing? Or the iPhone's 1ghz ARM?
If not, why do the game look so much better than PSP/iPhone games?
And only 1.5gb when Iwata strongly hinted at full games going DD?
And 4mb of VRAM!?

I will take this with a massive grain of salt. But on the flip side, if it is true, the 3DS could turn out to be fr more reasonably priced.
3 years ago
The iPhone 4's CPU is much more powerful, but the iPhone is also running an intensive OS at all times as well as applications. This is designed very specifically for game rendering, so with that in mind anybody expecting the 3DS to be an app powerhouse best prepare for disappointment. Plus battery life is a big issue. Grab an iPhone, boot up Epic's Citadel demo, and leave it running. See how long the battery lasts.

The PSP's 333mhz CPU is locked to 222mhz, I think.

1.5gb storage...no idea. Nintendo like to save money, so they probably went on the cheap. Though I dont know of any 1.5gb flash devices, only 2gb, so I suspect it might be 500mb dedicated to firmware/essential system stuff and the remaining 1.5gb free for use. If we can download big games they'll probably need an SD card.

4mb of VRAM is amazing. Amazing amazing.

As for why 3DS games seem to look so good, its all in the GPU. The architecture is more modern than the bloody Wii, on the shader front. We might not be getting the poly and texture quality of anything remotely close to consoles (might even be PSP level), but we're getting tons of modern shaders to really improve the IQ.

Assuming this is all true, of course. It might be all bollocks, though they are pretty believable. Its no powerhouse CPU, the GPU clock is lower than expected, and Nintendo are all about affordability and batter life.
3 years ago
The memory sizes for the main heap and GPU make me laugh. 64 MB? 4 MB? =)

Compared to the DS and PSP it's actually pretty generous though
3 years ago
^It doesn't need any more than 64 MB of ram cause it's designed purely to run one game at any single time. It's not going to be watching videos running background applications sending emails and playing apps and music or whatever. It's designed for gaming. and all it needs to do is run everything the GPU doesn't run. So it doesn't need to be large and increase the price.

1.5 GB of storage seems fine to me. I doubt nintendo will let you save games onto it but its 3 times the amount on the Wii and it managed fine with VC, so that it probably what it will be used for, or at least something akin to that.

I don't know what VRAM is though, would someone be able to explain?
3 years ago
VRAM is video RAM, for the GPU. icon_smile.gif
3 years ago
So I'm guessing even just the existence of VRAM is awesome?
I don't think it'd need to be huge though.

and also
Esposch wrote
Is a 266mhz ARM really more powerful than the PSP's 333mhz thing? Or the iPhone's 1ghz ARM?
There are two of them. There's also limits to the iPhone (namely battery life).
3 years ago
Jarrod wrote
The PSP's 333mhz CPU is locked to 222mhz, I think.
Certain games do have a feature that unlocks the CPU to the full 333mhz (God of War Chains of Olympus and Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep are two I can think of), but normally it's locked down at 222mhz.
3 years ago
plazma wrote
I don't know what VRAM is though, would someone be able to explain?
What Jedi_Amara said, kinda. Lots of different types of RAM. Essentially, VRAM helps store rendered images waiting to be 'read' for display, freeing up resources to render images in advance. So rather than a system waiting for the next image to be rendered it can pull the already rendered image out of the VRAM, while the rest of the system is busy rendering

It has twice the VRAM of the PSP. I suspect the large amount of VRAM is to keep a stable 3D display, since every frame will be rendered twice (from a different angle). I could be wrong though. I often am.
3 years ago
^Thanks.
I think your right about the stable 3D.
3 years ago
I think VRAM is mainly used for storing textures - the skins of the 3D models. The more memory available for that the bigger or more varied textures you can display. Frame buffering for resolutions this size wouldn't take up anywhere near 4 MB.

Plazma: 64 MB is still tiny in comparison to the memory games use in non-portable systems, especially desktop computers. Developers for handheld systems have to put serious time into optimizing then.
3 years ago
grim-one wrote
I think VRAM is mainly used for storing textures - the skins of the 3D models. The more memory available for that the bigger or more varied textures you can display. Frame buffering for resolutions this size wouldn't take up anywhere near 4 MB.

Plazma: 64 MB is still tiny in comparison to the memory games use in non-portable systems, especially desktop computers. Developers for handheld systems have to put serious time into optimizing then.
But if the games were stored on carts or high-ish speed flash memory (like with the 3DS), RAM wouldn't be as important.
3 years ago
^But this is a portable system and in now way anywhere near the power of a PC. Developers have managed so far with handhelds having less, so this shouldn't be too much of a problem.
3 years ago
Esposch wrote
But if the games were stored on carts or high-ish speed flash memory (like with the 3DS), RAM wouldn't be as important.
No because speed is critical.

RAM is much faster than flash memory (which in turn is faster than disc based media) for both reading and writing. Flash memory might be measured in 100s of Mbps in throughput - for reading at least, it's far slower to write. RAM will generally be measured in the Gbps.
3 years ago
grim-one wrote
I think VRAM is mainly used for storing textures - the skins of the 3D models. The more memory available for that the bigger or more varied textures you can display. Frame buffering for resolutions this size wouldn't take up anywhere near 4 MB.

Plazma: 64 MB is still tiny in comparison to the memory games use in non-portable systems, especially desktop computers. Developers for handheld systems have to put serious time into optimizing then.
It's tiny, but so is the system's resolution. If you're going to be pushing 1920x1080 you're gonna need a ton more RAM than 800x240.
3 years ago
Jarrod wrote
grim-one wrote
I think VRAM is mainly used for storing textures - the skins of the 3D models. The more memory available for that the bigger or more varied textures you can display. Frame buffering for resolutions this size wouldn't take up anywhere near 4 MB.

Plazma: 64 MB is still tiny in comparison to the memory games use in non-portable systems, especially desktop computers. Developers for handheld systems have to put serious time into optimizing then.
It's tiny, but so is the system's resolution. If you're going to be pushing 1920x1080 you're gonna need a ton more RAM than 800x240.
Are you talking about general RAM or VRAM?
3 years ago
grim-one wrote
Are you talking about general RAM or VRAM?
A little from column A, a little from column B.

I think...
3 years ago
grim-one wrote
Esposch wrote
But if the games were stored on carts or high-ish speed flash memory (like with the 3DS), RAM wouldn't be as important.
No because speed is critical.

RAM is much faster than flash memory (which in turn is faster than disc based media) for both reading and writing. Flash memory might be measured in 100s of Mbps in throughput - for reading at least, it's far slower to write. RAM will generally be measured in the Gbps.
Yes, but you can load/unload RAM much quicker from flash based stuff. Compare load times on the SNES and PS1 versions of Chrono Trigger/Final Fantasy VI. Even though the SNES had less RAM, it was faster because it used flash rather than disc.
3 years ago
Jarrod wrote
grim-one wrote
Are you talking about general RAM or VRAM?
A little from column A, a little from column B.
=)

Well general RAM doesn't have much to do with screen resolutions. It's more about holding the game world, AI state and 3D models (granted the models can be simpler for the lower resolution).

Frame buffers wouldn't take up much more than about 1.4 MB for 4 spare frames at ~18 bits of color (DS uses this many at least, 3DS might have more?).

Esposch wrote
grim-one wrote
Esposch wrote
But if the games were stored on carts or high-ish speed flash memory (like with the 3DS), RAM wouldn't be as important.
No because speed is critical.

RAM is much faster than flash memory (which in turn is faster than disc based media) for both reading and writing. Flash memory might be measured in 100s of Mbps in throughput - for reading at least, it's far slower to write. RAM will generally be measured in the Gbps.
Yes, but you can load/unload RAM much quicker from flash based stuff. Compare load times on the SNES and PS1 versions of Chrono Trigger/Final Fantasy VI. Even though the SNES had less RAM, it was faster because it used flash rather than disc.
You're not really taking the amount of information they had to load into account. SNES carts were at most 6 MB (48 Mbit) of data but could only hold 128 KB at a time. PS1 had CDs with what up to 650 MB of data on them and had a few MB of RAM. But yes CDs are slow - not sure how that is relevant to the 3DS though =P
3 years ago
IIRC, the original XBox had only 64Mb of RAM and it managed fine even with the use of CDs. So I think anymore than that would be unnecessary and add too much to the price.

The PSP 2000 and up also has 64Mb of RAM. However the orignal PSP managed fine on 32Mb of RAM.
3 years ago
grim-one wrote
=)

Well general RAM doesn't have much to do with screen resolutions. It's more about holding the game world, AI state and 3D models (granted the models can be simpler for the lower resolution).
Yeah, but you're not going to need high resolution textures or super detailed models due to the screen size and resolution. That's really the backbone of optimisation for a portible platform, not making your assets unneccessarily detailed for the display, and I'm guessing the reason they chose a GPU capible of modern shaders is to spruce up the otherwise lower details in geometry and textures.

I think 64MB is absolutely fine for a portible gaming device. It pretty much confirms it wont be a portible media hub or anything like that though. 128MB wouldn't really be overly useful unless there was a fancy OS running, web browser, etc etc. Modern phones and the like need that extra RAM for a reason.

I can see that being an annoying point for some though; the 3DS will probably have a shitty OS/HUB and wont be very versatile for anything other than gaming. Pretty standard Nintendo.
3 years ago
I think the large amount of VRAM is essential for the 3DS (even if it is a tad overkill). Allows for developers to be ambitious with their graphics budgets, while dodging the bullet that would be what unstable framerates/dropped frames would do to the 3D effect.

Would have liked to see higher clock speeds on the CPU/GPU, the latter seems a bit under-utilised. I don't imagine heat dissipation is an issue at this scale, so maybe it could be a power consumption thing. I've read that developers have been forced to sign NDAs regarding 3DS hardware, so hoping they'll shed some more light on this at the event next week.
3 years ago
Power consumption definitely. Unlike a home console, you're going to need to find a balance of power and battery life, and Nintendo's attitude is always conservative in power if it means longer battery. Sure, they could cut the battery life down to 3 hours and have a super beefy system, but it's not their style maaan.

I think the architecture of the GPU is their way of getting past the lower clock speed. Poly counts and texture quality I'm guessing will be pretty meh, but we're getting a pretty damn extensive list of modern shaders that will be used to polish the IQ.

Its pretty embarrassing really. We're getting a handheld that wont touch the resolution, texture size and quality, and triangle counts of the Wii, yet a GPU that supports shaders the Wii does not.

Nintendo you are so weird.
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