Trade Resources Company News Nintendo Switch Vs Wii U: What's The Difference?

Nintendo Switch Vs Wii U: What's The Difference?

Nintendo Switch vs Wii U: What has Nintendo learnt from the Wii U? Read on to find out the biggest differences between the two Japanese titans.

The Nintendo Wii U will probably be remembered for two things. Firstly, for ushering in HD graphics on a Nintendo machine for the very first time, and secondly, for being a bit weird. But whether you thought well or ill of the 2012 console, we can all agree that it’s already feeling long in the tooth.

Enter the Nintendo Switch, Nintendo’s new console offering for 2017. It’s a home console that’s intended to be portable too, and although it bears lots of similarities to the Wii U, it’s also very different.

So what does this mean for the Wii U? Well, Nintendo has previously claimed that it doesn’t want the Switch to outright replace the Wii U. That said, Nintendo has also confirmed that Wii U production will be slowed, and that manufacturing for the Japanese market would be ending in the “near future”. Basically, it's dead.

With the March 3 release date for the Nintendo Switch drawing close, and pre-orders already available, it’s high time you got savvy with the differences between the two consoles.

The Switch is inspired by the Wii U, but it's completely portable

The Wii U came in several pieces. The primary part of the console was the Wii U GamePad, which acts as the main controller. It featured an embedded touchscreen, as well as usual controls such as a joypad, two joysticks, directional buttons and the like.

The GamePad was generally used as a supplement to the main display (i.e. your TV), a bit like the second screen on a Nintendo DS. But some games supported direct play on the GamePad screen, which is likely to have inspired the Nintendo Switch. You were also free to use any Wii accessories you owned, including the Wii Remote.

At a glance, the Nintendo Switch doesn’t look too dissimilar to the GamePad. Its core body is shaped just like a tablet computer, and it has two controller segments attached to the left and right. These controls look largely identical to the ones on the Wii U, although the Switch joysticks are at offset angles, as is the case with an Xbox joypad.

But what’s interesting about the Switch is that the controllers detach, and can be used separately and wirelessly for playing multiplayer games. This seems to be a major marketing point for Nintendo, and is a clear advantage over the Wii U.

What’s also exciting is that the Switch can be used as a standalone portable gaming device, or placed into a dock that connects to your TV for big-screen gaming. This makes it extremely versatile in a way that the Wii U isn’t.

Overall, the Nintendo Switch simply looks nicer than the Wii U. They might both sport roughly the same curved shape, but the Switch looks far more refined and grown-up – a welcome aesthetic shift for Nintendo. We’d be much more content having the Switch in our living rooms, and you won’t look like a complete idiot using it on the bus either.

The Switch is more powerful, but we're not sure how much yet

Compared to modern consoles, the Wii U is significantly underpowered. It uses a custom-built chip produced by AMD, IBM and Renesas that has an ‘Espresso’ CPU, a ‘Latte’ GPU, and a SEEPROM memory chip. The CPU is clocked at 1.24GHz across three cores, with a shared memory cache of 3MB. It's also manufactured on a relatively outdated 45nm node – meaning it’s neither particularly efficient nor powerful compared to more modern chips. The ‘Latte’ GPU uses AMD’s GX2 GPU and comes clocked at 550MHz, with 32MB of eDRAM cache memory.

Probably the easiest metric to measure the computing heft by is GPU performance. The Wii U manages about 360 GFlops – that means it can perform 360 billion 'operations' every second. But that’s poor compared to the PS4 Pro, for instance, which manages 4.2 TFlops – that’s 4.2 trillion operations per second.

The older console has 2GB of RAM overall, half of which is reserved for the operating system. There are two storage options – 8GB or 32GB – with expansion available through SD cards or external hard drives. The maximum video output resolution is Full HD 1080p, and there's support for 802.11/b/g/n Wi-Fi networks, an Ethernet connection, and Bluetooth 4.0 connections.

Unfortunately, we’re still largely in the dark when it comes to the raw specs of the Nintendo Switch.

We know, for instance, that the Switch will use a custom-built Tegra system-on-a-chip designed by Nvidia, and that it will be 'based on the same architecture as the world’s top-performing GeForce gaming graphics cards'. There’s also a custom API that’s called 'NVN', which Nintendo says will 'bring lightweight, fast gaming to the masses'. That makes sense, since you’re basically playing with a tablet that’s expected to compete with the powerful Xbox One S and PS4 Pro.

We do know, however, that the Switch will be able to run games at Full HD 1080p resolution when docked and connected to a TV, via a HDMI port. We also know that it will feature 32GB of built-in storage, which seems a little low given the 500GB, 1TB and 2TB capacities we’re using to seeing from Sony and Microsoft consoles.

A quirk of the new console is that, unlike the Wii U, which uses proprietary optical discs to run games, the Nintendo Switch will use proprietary game cartridges – a bit like the Nintendo 3DS. There won’t be any way to insert discs into the Switch, however, which means it won’t be backwards compatible, unless a digital download software workaround is introduced.

Nintendo has (sort of) learnt from the GamePad battery problems

Battery life was a major sticking point for the Wii U GamePad, so much so that Nintendo eventually added a better battery into the device. It went from a 1,500mAh cell that managed three or more hours, to a 2,550mAh cell that would work for between five and eight hours.

We’re not sure exactly how big the battery will be in the Nintendo Switch, but estimates put the rechargeable cell's life at between 2.5 and 6 hours, depending on how it’s being used. For instance, Nintendo says that you’ll get about three hours of portable gaming when playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, based on a single charge.

Oh, and the Switch will charge over a standard USB-C connector, which is great news. After all, Nintendo has a habit of using proprietary technologies, so the increasingly common USB-C cable will be easy enough to find if you lose or break the bundled one.

Related: Nintendo Switch Games

The Switch's screen is much better than the GamePad's

The Wii U GamePad comes with a 6.2-inch screen with a 854 x 480-pixel resolution – that’s a 158ppi (pixels per inch) density. The aspect ratio, meanwhile, is 16:9. All this isn’t particularly useful, however, as most Wii U owners will have been playing their games on a TV and just using the GamePad as a controller.

By contrast, the Switch – which should often be used as a standalone device – will feature a 6.2-inch display with a 1,280 x 720-pixel resolution. That’s a much more respectable 236ppi pixel density. On that basis alone, it’s clear that the Switch display will look significantly better than the one on the Wii U GamePad – but that isn’t surprising given how the Switch is intended to be used.

Games could still be a problem...

One of the main things that hampered the success of the Wii U’s launch was a dearth of available titles from day one. Since then, however, the console has racked up a respectable roster of games. Some of the more successful titles include Mario Kart 8 (8 million sold), New Super Mario Bros. U (5.45 million), and Nintendo Land (5.13 million). There are also games from other flagship franchises such as the Zelda series, plus offerings from third-party companies like Activision Blizzard, Ubisoft, Capcom and Sega.

But one of the big advantages of the Wii U is that it's backwards compatible with all Wii software, which vastly increases the amount of content available on the console. Unfortunately, it looks like that won’t be the case with the Nintendo Switch, given the change in how games are physically inserted into the console.

We're on the fence about the Switch's games list so far. The game that's received the most publicity by far is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which should launch alongside the Switch, looks great. We’re also expecting new Mario titles, Splatoon 2, and third-party games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Just Dance 2017, Project Sonic 2017, and more.

But, while a bunch of studios have signed up to support the Switch, including Activision, Bethesda, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Square Enix and Sega, actual confirmed games still seem a little thin at this stage. There's time for that to change of course, but it looks like Nintendo's partners are taking a wait and see approach.

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