Nintendo revealed their next console, the Nintendo Switch, in October this year. From what Nintendo showed, the Switch looked innovative and remarkable; it is something that hasn’t been done before, allowing players to switch from a home console setup to an on-the-go mobile device all while continuing to play their favorite games.
The reveal didn’t give any clarity to what specifications the Switch would have, but we do know that unlike the PS4 and Xbox One (which uses AMD GPUs) then Switch will use an NVIDIA-based configuration. Now, according to a spec analysis report by Eurogamer, some of the specifications for the Switch has been revealed, and it is less powerful than you might have thought.
Under the hood
Let’s get straight into the technical specifications, which Digital Foundry reports they can confirm as the same specifications Nintendo recently briefed developers on, apart from the 4K30 part under Video Output, which has been leaked by an independent source:
- "CPU: Four ARM Cortex A57 cores, max 2GHz
- GPU: 256 CUDA cores, maximum 1GHz
- Architecture: Nvidia second generation Maxwell
- Texture: 16 pixels/cycle
- Fill: 14.4 pixels/cycle
- Memory: 4GB
- Memory Bandwidth: 25.6GB/s
- VRAM: shared
- System memory: 32GB, max transfer rate: 400MB/s
- USB: USB 2.0/3.0
- Video output: 1080p60/4K30
- Display: 6.2-inch IPS LCD, 1280x720 pixels, 10-point multi-touch support" - Source
As you can see from the above specifications, the GPU is said to have a maximum clock speed of 1GHz and the CPU a maximum of 2GHz. However, as reported by Digital Foundry, the GPU clock speed has been confirmed to be locked at 768/307.2MHz. You might have noticed two different MHz totals. Well, that’s because the Nintendo Switch, for the lack of a better term, switches GPU clock speeds depending of if the device is docked or in portable mode. Simply put, the Switch is MUCH more powerful when docked, almost double the power in fact.
Digital Foundry explains the technical details about the Switch’s CPU and GPU while docked as well as in portable mode:
“Where Switch remains consistent is in CPU power - the cores run at 1020MHz regardless of whether the machine is docked or undocked. This ensures that running game logic won't be compromised while gaming on the go: the game simulation itself will remain entirely consistent. The machine's embedded memory controller runs at 1600MHz while docked (on par with a standard Tegra X1), but the default power mode undocked sees this drop to 1331MHz. However, developers can opt to retain full memory bandwidth in their titles should they choose to do so.
As things stand, CPU clocks are halved compared to the standard Tegra X1, but it's the GPU aspect of the equation that will prove more controversial. Even while docked, Switch doesn't run at Tegra X1's full potential. Clock-speeds are locked here at 768MHz, considerably lower than the 1GHz found in Shield Android TV, but the big surprise from our perspective was the extent to which Nintendo has down-clocked the GPU to hit its thermal and battery life targets. That's not a typo: it really is 307.2MHz - meaning that in portable mode, Switch runs at exactly 40 per cent of the clock-speed of the fully docked device. And yes, the table below does indeed confirm that developers can choose to hobble Switch performance when plugged in to match the handheld profile should they so choose.” - Source
Watch Digital Foundry explain the Nintendo Switch’s tech specs, including clock speeds for both the CPU and GPU, docked difference and memory controller below.
What all this tech talk and findings basically comes down to is that the Nintendo Switch is less powerful than the standard PlayStation 4 (PS4) or Xbox One and therefore obviously not nearly as powerful as the PS4 Pro and Microsoft’s upcoming Xbox One Scorpio. The Nintendo Switch should be more powerful than the Wii-U and certainly still worth the upgrade for Nintendo fans. However, it all depends on the games and how the developers opt to use the available GPU speed increase while docked and we should see a performance differential in certain titles depending on said docked speed usage.
All in all, the Nintendo switch is still a remarkable device and what’s under the hood shouldn’t put anyone off if they games run well. With that in mind, you should check out the first direct feed gameplay footage of a game, Season of Heaven, running on the Nintendo Switch embedded below.
Nintendo will unveil more about the Switch in a live-stream from Tokyo on 13 January 2017 at 06:00am SA time, which you will be able to watch on the Nintendo Switch website here. I would suggest holding off judgement on the Switch until such time at the very least.
What do you think about the Nintendo Switch’s reported power and do you think there is any reason to be concerned? Let us know in the comment section below.
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