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How the Nintendo 3DS Works


Under the Hood
This is the main circuitboard inside the Nintendo 3DS. You can see the CPU, GPU, accelerometer, gyroscope and other chips the 3DS needs to make 3-D gaming possible.
This is the main circuitboard inside the Nintendo 3DS. You can see the CPU, GPU, accelerometer, gyroscope and other chips the 3DS needs to make 3-D gaming possible.
© HowStuffWorks.com 2011

We decided to take a close look at what makes the Nintendo 3DS tick. Unfortunately, this meant dismantling a device, which meant we immediately voided our warranty. We at HowStuffWorks.com are happy to do this so that you don't have to.

The Nintendo 3DS uses a proprietary ARM processor as the brains behind the device. Sharp manufactures the chips and it's not entirely clear exactly how much power the processor provides. Estimates range from 500 megahertz to 1 gigahertz of processor speed but Nintendo isn't offering clarification.

A Digital Media Professionals Pica 200 chip serves as the graphics processing unit (GPU). This allows the CPU to offload the burden of generating graphics to the GPU. The chip inside the 3DS runs at 400 megahertz.

That's not the only chip inside the 3DS. There's also the Fujitsu MB82M8080-07L chip, which provides 128 megabytes of random access memory (RAM) to the 3DS. A 1-gigabyte flash memory chip from Toshiba provides storage for the 3DS.

Other chips on the motherboard include one from Texas Instruments that controls power management for the device to extend battery life for as long as possible. There's an Invensense chip that gives the Nintendo 3DS its gyroscopic capabilities and an ST chip that acts as an accelerometer. Both of these chips allow Nintendo to design games that require you to move the 3DS around physically to perform tasks within the games themselves.

There's also a Mitsumi DWM-W028 board that provides WiFi capabilities to the 3DS. It incorporates an Atheros AR6014 IC chip. This is what lets the Nintendo 3DS communicate over 802.11 WiFi. There's also an antenna attached to the chip to improve reception.

Toward the back of the motherboard is a chip so tiny it's easy to miss -- the S750 IR control chip. This chip is in charge of the 3DS's infrared transceiver. Presumably, this transceiver will allow Nintendo 3DS owners to have their devices interact with one another in some way.

That's the guts of the 3DS but how does it manage to display 3-D images without requiring special glasses?


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