SNES Hardware In ENGLISH Last updated:
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  • SNES Hardware In ENGLISH

    This page translates the CPU and other chips so you can understand them.
    The Main CPU
    Techincal Terms -
    The main CPU is a 65836, which is 16-bit and runs at 3.78 MHz. This is the same cpu that is used in the Apple ][ GS. It can only use 64k RAM at a time and directly Access 16 Megs of RAM.
    In English -
    Basically, what it is saying is that it is an old CPU, and its SLOW. Thats why you experience slowdown in many of the games. Compared to the Genesis, their CPU was obsolete when it was released.
    The Graphics Chip
    Techincal Terms -
    The Graphics chip is a custom chip made for the sole purpose of this console. It can do many things, such as rotation of the background, scaling, transparency, and "Mode 7." It can display 256 colors at the same time, out of a palette of 32768. It has only 128k of VRAM for displaying the color information. It also has a maximum resoloution of 512x384, but this resolution needs a monitor to display clearly. Most to all games use its default 256x256.
    In English -
    This is where the SNES gets its great looks. Unlike the Genesis, the SNES has the look of a Great IBM PC machine when it came out. This machine had new "keywords" that set it apart from the competition, but They started making up new ones (like the Genesis "blast processing"). It had very good color for its time, and this chip took a lot of the strain off the SNES SLOW CPU.
    The Sound Chip
    Techincal Terms -
    The SNES has a custom chip called the SPC700(12-bit), manufactured in-house by Sony. It can handle 44KHz sound, but only can access 64k (hint-the slow CPU can only access 64k at a time). Most games render the sound at 22KHz or 11KHz to save memory. This chip also has the first wavetable synthesis to ever appear on a console. It uses 16-voices and has a stock set of General MIDI instruements.
    In English -
    This put the radio-quality Genesis sound far, far behind. Its greatest achievement was the inclusion of "sampled" sound. It was the first console to do so. Incendently, Sony manufuctured the sound chip to make their CD-ROM attachment called the "Playstation" {Sound Familar? :)}. But NINTENDO didi not go through with the Sony Cd-ROM, because it wanted to have all the profits from the system. Sony has built the first Playstation out of this setback. It was 16-bit, but it paved way for the PSX as we know it today.
    In-Cart Chips
    Techincal Terms -
    There was a few chips that were made for the SNES that were built into the cart. The most famous was teh SuperFX chip. This chip was a basic 3d-accelerator that hadno texture-mapping features, just gourad-shaded polygons. It can render 30,000 polygons in a second, and rotate and bend the polygons wherever they please. The chip ran at 7.18 MHz. The other well-known chip was the DSP chip. Manufuctured by NEC, this chip optimized calculations and ran faster than the SNES CPU. Capcom also made some chips for its X-line (Mega Man). These were like the Super FX, but were highly optimized for Side Scrollers. It was clalled the C4, and it just optimized the Vector Graphics and Side Scrolling.
    In English -
    This is where the speed finally showed in second generation and third generation games. Still limited by the SLOW SNES CPU, these chips made sure the SNES could handle newer, more colorful games. Incendently, most people didn't use the SuperFX chip because of the cost. One chip was about the price of a good 3d-accelerator today!
    In conclusion, the SNES had many good features, but its SLOW CPU had dug its grave way too early. Nintendo showed some sense when releasing the N64, because unlike the SNES, its main CPU was FAST.