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The Nintendo Switch Reportedly Runs Much Faster When Docked


One of the big question marks hanging over the Nintendo Switch is just how powerful it can actually be. As a hybrid console that has to straddle the divide between home and portable gaming, it’s a fascinating prospect, but that pitch in and of itself demands that certain compromises be made.

Would you believe it, but details of the console leaked yet again late last week, with VentureBeat confirming some of the previous suspicions surrounding the console’s chipset, which Digital Foundry have further analysed today alongside their own sources. In particular, it’s that the chipset is a modified version of Nvidia’s Tegra X1, with the GPU being based on their last generation Maxwell GPU design, as opposed to Pascal which is to appear in the Tegra X2. There is a degree of common ground between the two, but how much of Pascal has filtered through, if anything, isn’t yet known.

What is now fairly certain is that the chip is dramatically under-clocked compared to a standard X1. The CPU’s eight cores now top out at 1020Mhz, roughly half of the standard X1, while the GPU drops to just 40% of the designed speed when in portable mode. To be fair, Digital Foundry speculate that this is more than enough to match or better the Wii U, and has been done specifically to meet Nintendo’s targets for performance and battery life.

That said, when docked the Switch GPU steps up to full capacity, offering 2.5x the performance which should be able to handle the jump up to 1080p. In some ways it parallels the way in which developers now have to consider the PS4 and PS4 Pro, or the Xbox One and upcoming Scorpio, with the same game running in two different configurations.

In either configuration it won’t be as powerful as the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, but Nintendo have always had a knack for getting the very best out of their own hardware, so I’m very eager to see what’s in store when the console is shown publicly in mid-January.

Source: Digital Foundry, VentureBeat

  1. ron_mcphatty
    Since: Sep 2008

    That seems fair, as the little screen is unlikely to be 1080p but you’d obviously want that resolution for displaying on the telly. I don’t think being underpowered is going to be a problem as long as it’s easier enough for devs to scale down their AAA games, I guess we’ll just have to see if that happens.

    There’s been rumours of a VR headset for the console too, saw some patent drawings on NeoGaf this morning it looks like the sort of thing you pop your phone into. Exciting stuff, can’t wait to see more in January.

    Comment posted on 19/12/2016 at 16:42.
    • Tuffcub
      On the naughty step.
      Since: Dec 2008

      Ninty have said they aint doing VR

      Comment posted on 19/12/2016 at 17:37.
      • ron_mcphatty
        Since: Sep 2008

        Ah really? That’s a shame, I know it’d probably only be a gimmick but it would be a good one.

        Comment posted on 19/12/2016 at 19:18.
    • Kennykazey
      Since: Mar 2010

      The screen is supposed to be 720p. Offering both a higher resolution and pixel density than the Vita.

      The GPU clock difference seems to indicate that games will target 720p portable and 1080p on the telly.

      Comment posted on 20/12/2016 at 11:28.
  2. TheShepanator
    Since: Nov 2009

    A Snapdragon 820’s CPU is roughly twice as fast as that in the switch, and GPU about the same speed as the Switch when docked.
    That processor was in most flagship 2015 phones.

    If Nintendo can’t get third parties on board it will be a disaster.

    Comment posted on 19/12/2016 at 20:17.
  3. Kennykazey
    Since: Mar 2010

    It’s interesting how if you look at the Switch as a replacement for the 3DS it’s outstanding, but as a replacement for the Wii U it’s a bit disappointing.

    Switch should be at least twice as capable as the Wii U though, in every category. And considering what has been achieved on that, I’m not too worried.

    Comment posted on 20/12/2016 at 11:31.