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Nintendo launches Gamecube

But it'll be 11 months before you can buy one...

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Nintendo today took the wraps off its cube-shaped (sort of) next-generation games console, Gamecube, formerly known as Dolphin - even though it's not going to ship for ages.

The Gamecube features an 405MHz PowerPC processor custom-built by IBM using copper interconnects, fabbed at 0.18 micron and containing 64KB of on-die L1 cache and 256KB of on-die L2.

Click for full-size imageThe console's 3D power comes from ATI, no great surprise, this, since the console was co-developed by ArtX, which was bought by the Canadian graphics company earlier this year. It's not known which ATI core has been used, but the Gamecube's chip, dubbed 'Flipper' contains 2MB on-die frame buffer. Flipper will be fabbed by NEC.

The box contains 40MB SDRAM, split between 24MB of sustainable latency Mosys 1-T SRAM and 16MB of 100MHz DRAM.

Nintendo's box isn't a true cube - it's 6in x 6in x 4.3in - and comes with a carrying handle on the back. It uses a non-standard 3.2in 1.5GB optical disc in place of Nintendo's traditional favourite medium, the ROM cartridge. Whether the drive will also play DVDs isn't yet known, though the device does have digital AV outputs and the graphics chip provides motion compensation, so we suspect it will.

Nintendo appears to be playing it cautious when it comes to Net access too. The Gamecube can be connected to the Internet, but its 56kbps modem - to be followed later by broadband devices - is an optional extra, not a bundled feature. Nintendo also plans to offer a wireless add-in to hook up a radio-enabled game controller, and an adaptor to allow either of the box's two DigiCard slots to take 64MB Secure Digital cards - an nod to the digital music market, presumably.

Gamecube is due to ship in Japan next July - rather later than the "late 2000" originally envisioned. The US roll-out (and presumably the European launch too) will take place in October 2001 - just before Microsoft's X-box is due to ship. Nintendo didn't say how many titles will ship at launch, or how many developers have committed themselves to producing titles for the platform. ®

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