Worklog Wii U R&D Thread

Shank

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Alright boys, No promises. No guarantees. But lets see what we can do.

The Wii U MIGHT be capable of portablization, but there are a lot of caveats. It is going to take a lot of work to get there, assuming it even is possible. Even if possible, the amount of work and complexity to make a Wii U portable will be FAR greater than making a Wii portable, and the results will larger, and generally inferior. If it does become a reality, Wii U portables will not be a common or accessible project for new or even intermediate users.

And with that out of the way...

A few days ago @thedrew posted a picture of his water-damaged Wii U Motherboard.
IMG_20200724_160330.jpg

At first glance, this looks like a pretty normal water damaged Wii U PCB. But I noticed something a little odd.
The Main SOC is WAY smaller than any other Wii U SOC. Prior to this discovery, the only 2 known revisions, the 01 and the 30, were extremely similar. Given the commercial failure of the Wii U, we assumed a substantial redesign was extremely unlikely. But, sure enough, this previously undocumented CPU-50 board has a much smaller SOC package. While we don’t know for sure, this could be a chip that received a die feature shrink. If so, this means the chip would use substantially less power, and run much cooler, similar to the changes from the 6 layer Wii to the 4 layer Wii.

The Plan
So where do we go from here? We’ve done this before for the Wii, so we know the basic procedure. Here’s the current plan:
1: Document all revisions of the Wii U
2: Compare the differences between them, and find the revision(s) most suitable for trimming and portablizing
3: Sand and Scan the preferred revision of the board in a manner where every layer is completely visible in the highest detail possible, in a manner where they all line up
4: Create a compendium using these scans, and map out as much of the circuit board as possible.

Once we have all this information, then we can proceed to the more difficult task of removing components, lifting pins, and sniffing data lines with oscilloscopes/logic-analyzers. From there, we can determine what custom software solutions will need to be developed. This is all quite a ways down the road.

Known Revisions:
01: Documented. Launch model. Larger Chip
30: Documented. Larger chip. Very similar to the 01, with only slight tweaks. No drastic changes noticed so far. Larger Chip.
40: Exists. Undocumented
50: Semi-Documented. Smaller chip.

Revision Identification:
You can use the same method of removing the battery tray and checking the code. You can also peek inside the SD card slot and view it silkscreened onto the circuit board. But the easiest way is by checking the label with the QR code on the bottom of the console below the serial and model number stickers. The last 2 digits of that code are the revision identification number.

Scans and layers:
@YveltalGriffin is currently working on scans of the 01. It is believed to be 6 layers.
He will be sanding down a dead 50 once he gets it in the mail from @thedrew.


Challenges:

Regulators:
We have yet to get the Wii U to boot on custom regulators. It has more voltage rails than the Wii does. (1v, 1.15v, 1.25v, 1.5v, 3.3v, 3.3v standby, 5v, 12v). The power consumption of each of these rails has not been measured, and it is not yet known if there is a difference in power consumption between revisions.

Disc Drive:
For now, the biggest foreseeable challenge is the Disc Drive. Games can be loaded with USB through homebrew, but the console will lock up if you attempt to boot it without the Disc Drive present. This will need to be fixed or resolved somehow, preferably through software.

WiFi Module (Internet):
The WiFi module is required to boot, just like the Wii. It will need to be relocated, unless our pizza lord decides to grace us with a NO WiFi IOSU patch. There are vias to solder to under the SOC.

Bluetooth Module:
Required to boot. 2 wires soldered to 2 traces, just like on the Wii. There are no vias near the APU, so it will need to be soldered to the surface of traces.
Gamepad: The gamepad is required for gameplay. I do not know if there is a patch to change this. The gamepad has its own dedicated chip (U7) on the motherboard, and uses the second wifi module to communicate with the console wireless-ly. I suspect the antennas of the console’s wifi module and the gamepad’s wifi module can be wired directly to each other to avoid interference, similar to wii and wii u dev kits. This will need to be tested.

NANDS:
Yes, NANDs, plural. There are 2 nand chips that will need to be relocated one of which is BGA. There are VIAs underneath the Wii U board. A flex relocation board for the 2 chips is the most likely solution, similar to the wii NAND relocation flex PCB sold in the bitbuilt store.

Video:
The Wii U Has the same video options as the Wii, with support for HDMI and 1080p. It has been reported that tthe vWii video quality isn’t as good as the Wii, even through HDMI. As of now VGA (like that used in aurelio’s VGA patch on the Wii) is NOT supported. The video on the gamepad is streamed wirelessly, and the gamepad board directly drives the LCD.


For now, this thread will be a central location to coordinate, consolidate information, and share notes. Hopefully we can make something out of this commercial failure.
 
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Gamecube has a handle, right?
Well, there's definitely a lot more to do, but I will hold out hope.
 

CrashBash

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It's maybe happening!
I made this earlier today, this is a comparison of big ol' cpu versus smol boi.
cpu size.png
 

GingerOfOz

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Got back from vacation today and discovered that one of my U's is a rev50, which is awesome. Funnily enough, I took this U apart a couple years ago to theorycraft some trims, but gave up because mine didn't match the other boards I saw online. I never even noticed the package shrink.

Went ahead and did some measurements on the straight up power consumption of the board with everything attached. Changed a few settings and took some more measurements to see if different variables would result in significant power drops. Here are the results:

Situation: Disc drive attached, 1080p HDMI, no gamepad connected, on the Wii U home screen
15.12v and 1.8 A

Disc drive disconnected, 1080p HDMI, no gamepad, on the Wii U home screen (only stays on home screeen for a few seconds before going to an error screen)
15.12v 1.65 A (dropped to 1.5A on the error screen woohoo)

Disc drive connected, 480i composite, gamepad connected, in a digital download Mario Kart 8 race
15.12v and 1.9A

Disc drive connected, 1080p HDMI, gamepad connected, in a digital download Mario Kart 8 race
15.12v and 2.0A peak (Wii U homescreen was between 1.8 and 1.9A)

These measurements are being taken on the power port of the Wii U, so this is without custom regulators. 30W is a LOT of power for something you want portable, so hopefully Nintendo is using far less efficient regulators than what the Wii U needs. The power consumption doesn't seem to change a whole ton between the various tests.

Cooling is also a bigger concern for me after running these test. Without any form of cooling, the Wii U overheats in less than a minute. 480i Mario Kart 8 overheated in around 5 minutes with the heatsink on and the fan a bit lopsided, though the thermal pad is a bit worn on this U. Regardless, from the perspective of potential portables, creating a cooling system with a small footprint is looking very difficult.

Unfortunately I don't currently have a good power supply, so these are all the power tests I can currently run. Shank has good equipment and a 50 coming in soon, so I'm excited to see what measurements he can get on each individual reg.
 
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Nold

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My Revision 40 Wii-U came in today, but it's super boring. not much difference to the 30 rev. The whole pcb layout seems to be the same, the CPU/GPU is also the same [according to the information on the heatspreader].

The bluetooth module looks a little different and the AV/sensorbar/power plugs are all black now.
 

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Nold

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Here is the pinout of the faceplate connector. Pretty sure it's correct but only the powerbutton & blue led have been tested by me. so use carefully.

Pin NumberPurposeNotes
1GND
2Yellow LED Anode
3Blue LED Anode"Power LED"
4Red LED Anode
5N/CHas a short trace on the mainboard, that's not connected to anything
6Eject ButtonShort to GND to trigger
7Power ButtonShort to GND to trigger
8N/CHas a short trace on the mainboard, that's not connected to anything
9White LED AnodeDiskdrive LED
10GND


Besides that I found a "broken" rev. 50 on ebay, which came in yesterday. I decaped it just to find that there has most likely been no die shrink at all :\ .. The GPU die is just slightly smaller with 12.2x10.9 [rev 50] vs. 12.2x12.5 [rev 30].
DSCF9682.JPG

DSCF9689.JPG
 

Nold

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Here are some current readings from my rev. 40 [hope i got the voltages right]. I checked in Menu and in-game, but most currents seem stable.

VoltageCurrent
12v0.06A [only disk drive PCB connected]
5v0.05A [without fan]
3v3 [not standby]0.35A
2v650.25A
1v50.8 ~ 1.1A
1v155.35A
1v>10A [my multimeter only goes up to 10A :facepalm: ... ]

All in all that's about 20W. :rothink: I also started sanding down my rev. 30. After taking a look at the traces I'm pretty sure the wii u could have some nice trimming potential. But we will need to relocate quite a lot.. but i'm hyped & will continue my research on this meme B|
 

Shank

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Nold

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Thats amazing. How did you perform these measurements?
I unsolderd the big inductors from the pcb & hooked my multimeter in between. [hope that's the right way to do it?!]
 
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This is really cool is there anyway i can help?

PS, what is required for the Wii U to success boot?

EDIT (9/9/2020): One of my family members frequently travels to china (not at the moment due to current world event). He imports stevia, a sugar alternative into my country and normally goes to Beijing, Shanghai or Shenzhen when he is in China. I personally know he would be happy to pick up and custom PCB’s or anything like that (i know this because he has done this for me before multiple times). Could this be of any help. (I have asked him about this and he said it was fine).

Edit 2 (10/9/2020): I made a quick mockup of what a portable Wii U could look like. Enjoy!
B527248F-67D1-41B2-92D9-9E87457D2DEE.png
 
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Stitches

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This is really cool is there anyway i can help?

PS, what is required for the Wii U to success boot?

EDIT (9/9/2020): One of my family members frequently travels to china (not at the moment due to current world event). He imports stevia, a sugar alternative into my country and normally goes to Beijing, Shanghai or Shenzhen when he is in China. I personally know he would be happy to pick up and custom PCB’s or anything like that (i know this because he has done this for me before multiple times). Could this be of any help. (I have asked him about this and he said it was fine).

Edit 2 (10/9/2020): I made a quick mockup of what a portable Wii U could look like. Enjoy!
View attachment 14037
1599715703065.png
 

CrashBash

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what is required for the Wii U to success boot?
That's what we need to figure out. And if needed how to patch some of those things out.
 

Stitches

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I bought an old U set for $120 dollarydoos for the Gamepad, so I'll have a board to donate/sacrifice to the research effort. No clue what revision it is yet.
 
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Folks in the Discord are probably aware of all this, but I should post what work I did for posterity.

I started sanding down a spare WUP-01 back in July, and it's a 6-layer PCB. Stackup seems to be run-of-the-mill with two internal GND planes and two internal power plane/signal layers. Unfortunately, the stackup is also super tight (as in, thin copper and thin prepreg.) So my quick and dirty hand sanding marred the internal copper, and the scans of the first internal GND plane and first power plane came out quite shitty. It's actually not that bad, because the only marring is on the GND plane and on internally-routed RAM buses, but there are critical traces on the other internal layers that I don't want to mar. I have a new sanding setup that'll allow me to apply even pressure and avoid marring, but I can't devote much time to this during the semester. Hopefully @Nold has more time on his hands. :P

stackup_downscale.png


The I2C for the SMC and SPI for the RTC seem to be routed on the internal signal layer on the other side of the PCB. Assuming the DD could be patched out, or at least the daughterboard relocated with trace scratching, the SMC and RTC would need to rewired to vias under the multi-chip module. Tracing the internal signals is obviously the best way to do that, but you could also just use a meter and brute force it.

I think the whole section of board with the SMC and RTC could be cut out and the various serial lines reconnected. It's all low speed stuff like the Wii's MX chip, so it should be easy, assuming the SMC doesn't monitor the onboard regs too closely, or do any other annoying low-level housekeeping. Which, it probably does. >:D

rtc-smc.png


Drew sent me his WUP-50 a while back, but as Nold posted earlier, decapping revealed there was no die-shrink on the MCM, only a substrate change. The PCB is almost certainly still 6 layers, so if U trimming is ever undertaken, there's probably no reason to go for the 50s over the way more common revs.
 

Stitches

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I wonder if hand wiring the BGA NAND would work.......
 
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If this is any indication, then yes, definitely. The eMMC uses basic 4-bit mode just like SD cards (hence why you can dump it with an SD card reader) so it shouldn't be finicky.

Flex PCB aside, you could just cut out the section of board with the NAND and eMMC. Nintendo provided handy dummy pads for all the data lines on the TSOP NAND, and you can grab the eMMC signals from the nearby series resistors. Either way, the NANDs are like the one thing on the mobo that should be a piece of cake.

nand.png
emmc.png
 
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