We had high hopes for a 3DS powered by NVIDIA’s Tegra chipset technology, allowing Nintendo’s upcoming handheld to deliver visuals somewhere in the region of the GameCube and the original Xbox. And whilst that still may be true - with some unconfirmed sources stating that it could be even more powerful, though almost certainly unlikely - the previously rumoured NVIDIA deal has been unofficially ruled out.
Both IGN with their ‘everything we know’ article, and the Eurogamer affiliated Digital Foundry blog are sighting unnamed sources inside the development community as the ones revealing this tantalisingly interesting piece of information.
With NVIDIA out of the equation, the question is who is going to partner with Nintendo on providing the graphics power inside the 3DS?
Apparently they have chosen another Japanese company to deliver the GPU solution inside the new machine. Who, as of yet we don’t know. And no details were forthcoming on how powerful this architecture might be, although I’m still expecting something around GameCube level graphics, but enhanced with proper support for shaders. Somewhere in between the iPhone and the original Xbox sounds pretty accurate to me, given the power usage and manufacturing cost behind higher-end chips.
So, with this in mind we can expect any GPU used to be very energy efficient, and relatively cheap to manufacture, as in the past Nintendo have always sold any new hardware at a profit - unlike Sony and Microsoft, who still continue to follow the ‘loss leader’ business model chosen by Sega for their Saturn console way back in 1994.
To find out more we may well just have to wait until E3, with Nintendo’s press event due to start on 15th June. Hopefully they will divulge at least some of the system’s internal make up, ending months of rumours and speculation.