Gamers obsession with power and performance goes back to the days of playing games from cassettes and perhaps more memorably the battles between Nintendo and Sega. In recent years it’s seemed that Nintendo has refused to take part in the Performance battle and one could argue that they have paid a hefty price, what with the WiiU failing to take off. Whilst Nintendo have finally revealed the Nintendo Switch they haven’t really given any numbers on what their innovative machine is capable of. A new report seems to reconfirm earlier rumours surrounding the machines capabilities and core components.
Earlier this year we learnt that the Nintendo Switch would ditch AMD components and make the “switch” over to Nvidia. The rumour at the time was that the Nintendo switch would utilise either an Nvidia Tegra X1 or their new Tegra X2 chip. Nvidia itself claimed that the custom processor in the Nintendo Switch is based on ‘the same architecture as the world’s top-performing GeForce gaming graphics cards’, which pretty much made us think that Pascal, which can be found in the most powerful GPUs that were on the market at the time the statement was made, would be in the chip and therefore be the newer Tegra X2.
It does seem people may have jumped the gun a bit though as some of the same architecture in Pascal can actually be found in the Tegra X1 and that chip is what we will find inside the Nintendo Switch. It seems the timings just weren’t right for Nintendo to get the newer chip in their console and would have had to delay the machines launch if they wanted to include it. In essence what this means in terms of Power is that we are looking at a console with less power than the PlayStation 4.
Nintendo probably foresaw this moment which is probably why they included clips of Skyrim and an NBA 2k game in the consoles reveal trailer. This was obviously meant to signify 3rd party support but also show that the console was capable and not dragging it’s feet.
So what does all this mean? Well we know that the Nintendo Switch has only one CPU and one GPU and that the docking station merely charges the unit and provides it with power. When docked with the base unit the Nintendo Switch is able to run at it’s full potential and output games at 1080p since there is no concern about battery life. Whilst undocked the Nintendo switch has to conserve power and so performance drops by 40%. Now this may seem alarming at first and some parts of the media seem to be suggesting that this is disastrous, but it isn’t. For starters we still don’t know everything about the components inside the Nintendo Switch. The chip has been customised specifically for the Switch but we don’t know how and what it means in terms of performance. There’s still too many unknowns to make a guess at what the Switch is really capable of.
Lets take a look at the decision to run with the older Tegra X1. If Nintendo had waited and used the newer Tegra X2 chip they would have risked a competitor releasing a device that takes a chunk out of their market share, which has happened before. Secondly and perhaps more importantly, cooling. The newer more powerful chip would have required more cooling and more power from the unit and therefore would massively impact on battery life when the Nintendo Switch was mobile and not tucked up in it’s docking station. The Tegra X1 will give them some flexibility and the familiar architecture should hopefully help 3rd party developers when building games for the console.
These days I feel we obsess over resolution too much and forget that gameplay should be a gamers biggest concern. The Nintendo Switch may not have the newer chip housed within it but for one reason that I haven’t mentioned yet, you will be happy. Cost. The Nintendo Switch hasn’t been officially priced yet but expect it to be much lower than you would typically expect to pay for a new console.
So should we be disappointed? Not even for a moment. Nintendo will be bringing us an affordable brand new console which we will be able to play the best line up of first party games even when we aren’t at home. The lower resolution tablet part should give us crisp visuals whilst prolonging battery life. Nintendo don’t need to compete with Sony and Microsoft in terms of power because whilst those two companies continue their power race Nintendo can offer us Zelda, Mario, Splatoon, Yoshi, Donkey Kong, Pokémon and many many more ip’s that the other two companies just can’t compete with them on that front.
We’ve seen the new Zelda game running on the switch and it is stunning. We saw it transfer flawlessly on the handheld and it still looked beautiful and smooth to play. With Nintendo seemingly paying attention to battery life there is a lot of hope that we will soon be able to play the strongest first party line up whilst on a train or a plane. My advice is to try not to get drawn into this murkey world of resolution when it comes to the Nintendo Switch and instead wait for Nintendo’s event in January when they will shower us with more details. Personally I’m very excited to get my hands on the Nintendo switch and think it’s shaping up to be an excellent console.