Nintendo 64 Technical Details and Trivia
- "Game Pak" cartridge slot - top-loading (36-pin)
- "Multi Out" 12-pin A/V connector for composite/S-Video connection, or RF with an external RF modulator
- Four game controller connectors (proprietary 3-pin)
- EXTension port on bottom of console - same number of pins as cartridge slot above it and same data transfer speed - used to connect the Nintendo 64DD disk drive, allowing players to play Nintendo 64 disk-based games, capture images from an external video source, and connect to the now-defunct Japanese Randnet online service.
- DC power socket - 6-pin proprietary socket with two input voltages: 3.3V DC @2.7A, and 12V DC @0.8A
An early revision 1 NTSC N64 motherboard from 1996 (PAL boards are entitled NUS-CPU(P)-xx)
- As with previous Nintendo consoles, the N64 contains a lockout chip, along with a lockout chip in each cartridge, but unlike earlier consoles, the N64's uses a seed value to calculate a checksum of the game's boot code. Five different lockout chips existed to help further discourage the playing of copies games through piggybacking on a real cartridge. During the boot process, and occasionally while the game is running the N64 computes the checksum of the boot code and verifies it with the lockout chip in the game cartridge, failing to boot if the check fails.
- The N64 also comes with physical differences in the cartridge slot between regions, as an attempt to prevent the use of games outside of the console's region being played on it.
- N64 has a 64-bit architecture. Its CPU, a cost-reduced NEC version of the MIPS R4300i, coupled with its graphics and audio coprocessor, called 'Reality Co-Processor' (RCP) were both very advanced. Unfortunately, 64-bit code was rarely used, as 32-bit code ran faster and required less storage space. This was partly due to the narrower 32-bit system bus, which ran at 250 MB/s for accessing system memory. Furthermore, the CPU could not access main memory directly - it had to go through the RCP and could not use DMA to do so.
- The N64 can playback a variety of audio, dependent on software codecs, including PCM, MP3, MIDI and tracker music. It is physically capable of up to 100 channels of PCM at a time with a maximum sampling rate of 48 kHz with 16-bit audio.
- The N64 has a software lockout, but this only applies to NTSC/PAL unlike finer region lockouts today. The reason PAL carts will not work in an NTSC unit is due to the PIF-NUS chip (Peripheral Interface) being different. So if you hypothetically switched these chips (NTSC PIF-NUS into a PAL unit and PAL PIF-NUS into an NTSC unit), they would switch regions. Between the two PIF chips and cartridge slot types (with/without tabs) this creates three regions: US: NTSC code with unique shape, Japan/Korea: NTSC code with world shape, PAL: PAL code with world shape. Now, in the case of playing Japanese imports in an American (NTSC) unit, it's as simple as removing the tabs in the cartridge slot. This is because the American and Japanese consoles share the same PIF-NUS chip, and the only lockout they have is mechanical (the tabs). There are also some passthrough cartridges, such as the N64 Passport or Ultra 64, that allow you to play NTSC games in a PAL unit without the swapping of the PIF-NUS chips, though these do not work on all games.
- NTSC N64s (for USA - serial no. 'NS' and Japan - serial no. 'NUJ') came in nine revisions: NUS-CPU-01 through NUS-CPU-09, followed by a final cost-reduced revision, NUS-CPU-09-1. It is likely NUS-CPU-01 revisions were only released in Japan, and are quite rare.
- PAL N64s (for Europe and Australia, with serial no. 'NUP') came in just two revisions: NUS-CPU(P)-01 and NUS-CPU(P)-02. NUS-CPU(P)-01 boards account for almost all European N64 consoles. The NUS-CPU(P)-02 motherboards are more rare, and only appear to have only been released on models with serial NUP157***** onwards (1999-?), most of which are the 'Color Edition' (transparent) models. These later revision boards appear to be technically similar to the NTSC NUS-CPU-09.
- Another revision exists, possibly for the French market (although it outputs PAL, not SECAM), with motherboard revision NUS-CPU(R)-01. This has a different video encoder chip labelled 'S-RGB-A' which was also used on late-model SNES consoles and outputs amplified RGB.
- Rumour has it that an NUS-CPU(P)-03 revision does exist, as an NUS-CPU(P)-03-1 was found in Australia, manufactured in 2000.
- On the early NTSC N64's (motherboard revisions NUS-CPU-01 to NUS-CPU-04) the Video DAC and Video Encoder chip are separate. the Video DAC is labelled 'VDC-NUS' (or 'VDC-NUS A') and takes the digital video data directly from the RCP and outputs RGB. This RGB is then sent to the separate 'ENC-NUS' Video Encoder chip where it's encoded into Composite and S-Video. It is possible to perform an RGB mod on these consoles because you can tap the RGB signals from inbetween these two chips. The AVDC-NUS (NUS-CPU-05 motherboard revision) combines the DAC and the Video Encoder together into one chip (It actually also combines the Audio DAC as well, which was separate in the earlier revisions, and labelled BU9480F) which means that it converts to RGB internally and then encodes directly into Composite and S-Video - so there is no way to modify the board to tap into the RGB signals on this revision.
- The early PAL revision boards had a combined Video DAC and Video Encoder labelled 'DENC-NUS', but had a separate Audio DAC (BU9480F)..
- Later revisions (from NUS-CPU-05-1 onwards (up to -09 at least (around 1997-1999)) for NTSC and NUS-CPU(P)-02 for PAL) had all three chips combined (Video DAC, Video Encoder, and Audio DAC), labelled 'MAV-NUS'.
This results in the following graphics/audio chip revisions:NTSC N64's
NUS-CPU-01 = VDC-NUS + ENC-NUS
NUS-CPU-02 = VDC-NUS + ENC-NUS
NUS-CPU-03 = VDC-NUS or VDC-NUS A + ENC-NUS
NUS-CPU-04 = VDC-NUS A + ENC-NUS
NUS-CPU-05 = AVDC-NUS or MAV-NUS
NUS-CPU-05-1 = MAV-NUS
NUS-CPU-06 = MAV-NUS
NUS-CPU-07 = MAV-NUS
NUS-CPU-08 = MAV-NUS
NUS-CPU-08-1 = MAV-NUS
NUS-CPU-09 = MAV-NUS
NUS-CPU-09-1 = MAV-NUS
NUS-CPU(P)-01 = DENC-NUS
NUS-CPU(P)-02 = MAV-NUS
NUS-CPU(P)-03 = MAV-NUS
NUS-CPU(P)-03-1 = MAV-NUS
- NTSC motherboard revision 9 (around year 2000) included stamped aluminium heatsinks on the main chips - this was the final and most cost-reduced revision produced.
- There is evidence that the vast majority of 'Funtastic'/'Colour Edition'/'Pikachu'/'Gold' N64s produce a sharper video output (like increasing sharpness level on your TV) than earlier models. For those that have one of these but don't get the better video, it's likely Nintendo put an older revision motherboard into a newer case.
- Several N64 titles have been released on Wii's Virtual Console, and are playable either using the Classic Controller or Nintendo GameCube controller. Whilst these games often run in a higher resolution and at a more consistent frame rate than their original N64 versions, RumblePak functionality is not supported.
- The N64's Multi Out port and its DAC chip were capable of RGB output, but the N64 had several pins removed from the Multi Out port that would have made this possible. The one exception to this is the French model and some earlier NTSC models, which have RGB connected.
- The N64 is able to output Standard Definition resolutions up to 480i for NTSC or 576i for PAL, although few games made use of this 'high' resolution. Most opting for the 240p/288p modes. A number of games also support 16:9 display ratio using either anamorphic widescreen or letterboxing.
- Some owners managed to overclock their N64s, but be warned - it is NOT effective enough to speed up slow-running games at all (even if advertised to give 2x performance), simply allowing some games to not lag quite as badly. There are other negatives to overclocking too, aside from running your console under more stress, such as cut scenes going past more quickly and audio/video becoming disjointed.
- Nintendo appear to have tried to 'region lock' the N64's video cables, i.e. the video cables have different components inside the plugs depending on the region you bought it from. So there are:-
- NTSC N64 Composite Video cables
- NTSC N64 S-Video cables
- PAL N64 Composite Video cables
There isnt any such thing as PAL N64 S-Video cables. In addition, PAL GameCube cables have different components again, so even though they fit the N64 (same connector) the picture may be different.