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Nintendo 64 technical specifications

The Nintendo 64 technical specifications describe the console's processor, memory, and other components


  • 1 Components
  • 2 Central processing unit
  • 3 Reality Coprocessor
  • 4 Memory
  • 5 Video
  • 6 See also
  • 7 References


See also: Nintendo 64 programming characteristics The Nintendo 64 motherboard, showing CPU, RCP, and RDRAM
  • CPU: 64-bit NEC VR4300 MIPS R4300i with 24 KB L1 cache, running at 9375 MHz
    • Performance: 125 MIPS million instructions per second, 9375 MFLOPS million floating-point operations per second1
  • GPU: 64-bit Reality Coprocessor, running at 625 MHz and over 100 MFLOPS2 It is a microcode-reprogrammable T&L GPU,3 composed of two integrated processors: the Reality Signal Processor RSP and the Reality Display Processor RDP4
    • Video Interface VI reads data from the frame buffer using a fixed time interval, and sends it to the DA digital-to-analog converter video DAC to produce the video output
    • Audio Interface AI reads data from the audio buffer using a fixed time interval, and sends it to the DA digital-to-analog converter audio DAC to produce the sound output
    • Peripheral Interface PI
    • Serial Interface SI
    • Hardware features: Detailed texture mapping with perspective correction, anti-aliasing,4 Z-buffering,2 bilinear filtering,5 trilinear filtering, Gouraud shading, 8-bit alpha blending, level of detail management2
    • Peak fillrate:
      • 3125 megapixels/second texturing, perspective correction, bilinear filtering, translucency, Z-buffering, mipmapping, fog
      • 625 MP/s texturing, perspective correction, bilinear filtering, translucency, Z-buffering
      • 125–250 MP/s fill mode, copy mode5
  • Audio: 16-bit, stereo, CD quality2
    • Number of ADPCM voices: 16–24 channels with pitch-shifting PCM, up to 100 PCM channels possible2
    • Sampling frequency: 441 kHz or 48 kHz, selectable
  • 45 MB RDRAM Rambus DRAM6 on a 9-bit 5625 MB/s bus, upgradable to 8 MB with Expansion Pak
  • ROM cartridge Nintendo 64 Game Pak bus running at 264 MB/s
  • Resolution: 240p 320×240, 288p 384×288, 480i 640×480, 576i 720×576, widescreen via letterboxing and anamorphic compression
  • Color palette: 16,777,216 24-bit color depth, 2,097,152 possible colors 21-bit color on screen2

Central processing unitedit

The Nintendo 64's central processing unit CPU is the NEC VR4300,7 a less expensive derivative of the 64-bit MIPS Technologies R4300i Built by NEC on a 035 µm process, the VR4300 is a RISC 5-stage scalar in-order execution processor, with integrated floating-point unit, internal 24 KB direct-mapped8 L1 cache 16 KB for instructions, 8 KB for data The 46 million transistor CPU is cooled passively by an aluminum heatspreader that makes contact with a steel heat sink abovecitation needed

With a clock rate of 9375 MHz, the N64's VR4300 is said to be the most powerful console CPU of the fifth generation of video game consoles9 Except for its narrower 32-bit system bus, the VR4300 retains the computational abilities of the more powerful 64-bit MIPS R4300i,7 though few titles take advantage of 64-bit data precision operations N64 game titles generally use faster and more compact 32-bit data-operations,10self-published source as these are sufficient to generate 3D scene data for the console's RSP Reality Signal Processor unit In addition, 32-bit code executes faster and requires less storage space, which is at a premium on the N64's vintage cartridges The CPU is challenged by a 250 MB/s bus to the system RAM, and in order to access the RAM, the CPU must go through the Reality Coprocessor RCP, and can not use DMA to do so as the RCP can This challenge is further compounded by the RDRAM's high access latency

Tools that emulate the Nintendo 64 benefit from the scarcity of 64-bit operations in the game's executable code, especially when running with a 32-bit machine architecture as a host Most of these emulators perform most calculations at 32-bit precision and trap the few subroutines that actually make use of 64-bit instructions10self-published source

Reality Coprocessoredit

Main article: Reality Coprocessor

Nintendo 64's graphics and audio duties are performed by the 64-bit SGI coprocessor, named the Reality Coprocessor, or RCP The RCP is a 625 MHz chip split internally into two major components, the Reality Drawing Processor RDP and the Reality Signal Processor RSP Each area communicates with the other by way of a 128-bit internal data bus that provides 10 GB/s of bandwidth The RSP is a MIPS R4000-based 128-bit integer vector processor It is programmable through microcode, allowing the chip's functions to be significantly altered by each software title if necessary, to allow for different types of work, precision, and workloads The RSP performs transform, clipping and lighting calculations, and triangle setup The Reality Display Processor is primarily the Nintendo 64's pixel rasterizer, and also handles the console's Z-buffer compute4

Instead of a discrete sound processor, the RSP frequently performs audio functions, although the CPU can be tasked with this as well It can play back most types of audio dependent on software codecs including uncompressed PCM, MP3, MIDI, and tracker music The RSP is theoretically capable of a maximum of 100 channels of PCM at a time, but only in a case where all system resources are devoted to audio It has a maximum sampling rate of 48 kHz with 16-bit audio In practice, however, storage limitations caused by the ROM cartridge format limit the audio size and thus quality11 Some game titles are designed for higher quality audio when storage expansions are available, as with F-Zero X Expansion Kit1213

The RDP performs rasterization, converting images into raster format before output to the display The RCP also provides the CPU's access to main system memory via a 250 MB/s bus Unfortunately, this link does not allow direct memory access for the CPU The RCP, like the CPU, is passively cooled by an aluminum heatspreader that makes contact with a steel heat sink above


We use the cartridge almost like normal RAM So the cartridge technology really saved the day

“ ” — Factor 514

The final major component in the system is the random-access memory, or RAM Following its design heritage in SGI supercomputing, the Nintendo 64 is one of the first modern consoles to implement a unified memory architecture UMA, instead of having separate banks of memory for CPU, audio, and video, for example The RAM itself consists of 4 megabytes of RDRAM, made by Rambus The RAM is expandable to a total of 8 MB with the Expansion Pak The RAM has a 9-bit data bus at 500 MHz providing the system with 5625 MB/s peak bandwidth Rambus was quite new at the time and offered Nintendo a way to provide a large amount of bandwidth for a relatively low cost The narrow bus makes board design easier and cheaper than the higher width data buses required for high bandwidth out of slower-clocked RAM types such as VRAM or EDO DRAM; however, RDRAM, at the time, came with a very high access latency The combination both complements and challenges game developers11 Later models used just a single 4 megabyte RAM chip, earlier models used two 2 megabyte chips

The Nintendo 64 Game Pak ROM cartridges are so much faster than contemporary CD-ROM drives that data can be streamed in real-time from cartridges as if they are additional RAM, thus maximizing the efficiency of the system's RAM15 This was a common practice for developers of many games, such as Nintendo EAD's Super Mario 6416 or Factor 5's Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine17


The system allows for video output in two formats: composite video18 and S-Video This is accomplished through the "MULTI OUT" connector on the rear of the system Although the digital-to-analog converter chip used in early models had such a capability built-in, later editions lacked the pin connections necessary to provide RGB video In most countries the system came bundled with a composite cable AKA Stereo AV cable The composite and S-Video cables are the same proprietary units used with the earlier SNES and later GameCube systems

Available separately is a RF modulator and switch set for connection to older televisions and an official S-Video cable, although the latter was only sold at retail stores in Japan In the US, the official S-Video cable could only be ordered direct from Nintendo of America, and the cable was not officially sold in Europe In the United Kingdom the console shipped with an RF modulator and switch set, but is still fully compatible with the more modern cablescitation needed

The system supports standard-definition resolutions up to 480i 576i for units in the PAL region Few games make use of this mode, and many of those which do also require use of the Expansion Pak RAM upgrade The majority of vintage games instead use the system's low-definition 240p 288p for PAL models modes A number of games also support a video display ratio of up to 16:9 using either anamorphic widescreen or letterboxing However, very few games provide options to use this feature, such as these: Banjo-Tooie, Donkey Kong 64, GoldenEye 007, 007: The World Is Not Enough, Jet Force Gemini, Perfect Dark, Starshot: Space Circus Fever, Turok 2: Seeds of Evil, Turok 3: Shadow of Oblivion, Mission Impossible, Hybrid Heaven, and South Parkcitation needed

See alsoedit

  • Nintendo 64 programming characteristics


  1. ^ MIPS RISC Microprocessors, MIPS Technologies
  2. ^ a b c d e f Next Generation, issue 24 December 1996, page 74
  3. ^ The Nintendo 64 is one of the greatest gaming devices of all time, Kinja
  4. ^ a b c "Is Ultra 64 as Good as Silicon Graphics Claims" Next Generation No 14 Imagine Media February 1996 pp 6–11 
  5. ^ a b RDP Programming, Nintendo 64 Programming Manual, Nintendo of America
  6. ^ "Ultra 64 Tech Specs" Next Generation No 14 Imagine Media February 1996 p 40 
  7. ^ a b "Main specifications of VR4300TM-series" NEC Retrieved May 20, 2006 
  8. ^ "R4300i MICROPROCESSOR" PDF mips Archived from the original PDF on October 30, 2007 Retrieved March 5, 2009 
  9. ^ "Gaming consoles" Archived from the original on March 27, 2010 Retrieved January 11, 2009 
  10. ^ a b "N64, God of all systems" Google Groups July 26, 1997 Retrieved May 20, 2006 
  11. ^ a b "Nintendo 64" Retrieved January 11, 2009 
  12. ^ "Summary history of F-Zero" IGN Retrieved 2008-03-22 
  13. ^ Schneider, Peer 25 August 2003 "Guides: F-Zero GX Guide History" IGN Retrieved 2007-08-08 
  14. ^ "Bringing Indy to N64" IGN November 9, 2000 Retrieved September 24, 2013 
  15. ^ "Nintendo Reveals New Details on 64DD at N64 Developer's Conference" Nintendo of America 1997 Archived from the original on June 6, 1997 Retrieved January 11, 2015 
  16. ^ "Summary of Panel Discussion at Shoshinkai" Nintendo of America Archived from the original on December 22, 1996 Retrieved January 11, 2015 
  17. ^ "Bringing Indy to N64 Infernal Machine" IGN 2000-11-09 Retrieved 2008-03-27 
  18. ^ "Nintendo Support: Nintendo 64 AV to TV Hookup" Nintendo Retrieved February 28, 2010 

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