The Nintendo Switch has been on a roll since its launch and has received some revisions along the way to keep pace with an ever-changing market. Now it seems that Nintendo might be preparing to take things a step further by introducing its most drastic revision in 2021, according to some professional sources. But while many anticipate the arrival of a Switch Pro, it might have already launched without anyone knowing.

Switch Pro Quo explained

For almost three years, several sources have heralded a new model for the Nintendo Switch featuring an incremental upgrade that sets itself apart from the regular model.

Coined the “Switch Pro” by a vocal minority, the new model is said to be capable of rendering 4K resolution on TV and sporting a better screen for on the go functionality.

The idea forming around the buzz suggests that graphics have become such a big concern for Nintendo, the company is willing to reinvent the wheel mid-cycle. Therefore, the company requested its partner Nvidia to build a new model around a more modern version of the Tegra X chip residing in the base model.

One popular theory for this points to the Nvidia Tegra Xavier processor being the most likely candidate as it is more than capable of achieving the level of graphical fidelity for competitiveness in the coming generation.

This theory has been building steam, over the years, and it doesn't appear to be slowing down.

Many believe the Switch will be overshadowed by the more powerful competitors, like the PS5 and Xbox Series X, alluding to the possibility that the gap in graphical performance will grow even wider in 2021. This is why a Switch Pro launching around that time seems more crucial than ever before.

Why it doesn’t make sense

Truthfully, there’s a lot of reasons for Nintendo to be invested in a far more powerful Switch model for today’s market. The extra power will undoubtedly attract more third party support and those newly acquired titles would run more competently. On the flip side, however, the cost to own a more powerful Switch would definitely go up.

If that alone doesn’t divide the market that Nintendo has carved out for itself, there’s also the fact that regular Switch owners could be left behind thanks to the enhanced graphics. Hence, selling a Switch Pro seems only good on paper for Nintendo. Therefore, the company most likely will avoid sabotaging its product in any way especially given how successful it already is.

However, there exists a better way that will benefit both sides of the table and it was hidden in plain sight. The truth is the console might not require such an incremental upgrade after all. This is because it already has what it needs to become Switch Pro-like thanks to some subtle tweaks that were already made to its Nvidia Tegra X line of chips.

Switch Pro-like revisions

Last year, Nintendo rolled out a brand new SKU for the launch model that sported the new chip codenamed Mariko. This chip--also found in the Switch Lite--is a 16nm FinFET variant to the 20nm version found in the original (codenamed Logan) but with a slightly faster clock speed (raised from 1 TFlops to 1.267 TFlops) and less power consumption.

So far, the differences were barely noticeable due to downclocking for the sake of battery life. However, a few updates later and things begin to really pop out. The most noticeable change that the Mariko chip brought with it was the increase in battery life, bumping it from 2.5 to 6.5 hours to 4.5 to 9 hours. Even better, Nintendo and many other groups have been busy overclocking these chips by utilizing a feature called “Boost Mode” to speed up both the CPU and GPU clocks.

So far, the findings by the company and third parties show some promising results. When overclocked, these chips show little overheating and power draw issues when running intensive scenarios. Temperatures rose to a mere 4°C while power rose by 5 watts. As for actual gameplay, most games tend to run smoother on the new chip though slightly; showing small increases in minor details like frame rates and anti-aliasing. However, there are bottlenecks stemming from the CPU and system memory as some games show no change whatsoever.

Despite the minimal details, the main takeaway here is the transition from 20nm to 16nm fabrication makes overclocking the Nintendo Switch a pretty safe process--and that seems to be part of a larger plan moving forward.

Instead of rolling out a more advanced chip for the console, Nintendo and its partner are opting for fine-tuning the Tegra X1 chips for better efficiency throughout its life cycle. This also happens to be the cheapest option for all parties at the table--another good reason it will be the norm moving forward.

Of course, this doesn’t mean both the Nintendo Switch and Switch Lite will be able to climb mountains but it’s a change that could help the console conquer steep hills at least. And it’s only the beginning as Nintendo could opt for a 7nm fabrication of the Tegra X1 chip that will perform significantly better. Additionally, there are other solutions out there that can definitely take things further and what’s great is that most of these are well within reach.

Additional options to consider

One of the options on the table involves artificial intelligence. Tucked within the most recent speculations on the Switch Pro, there were ramblings about the possible use of Nvidia’s ‘Deep Learning Supersampling’ feature or DLSS for short. This brave new technology employs an A.I. to study the frame rates in games running on the company’s RTX line of GPUs and enhances them in real-time. This could definitely be used to upscale the resolutions on the Switch to reach up to 1440p or even 4K.

If that isn’t enough, Nintendo could also rely on cloud technology to provide game streaming much like its competitors have. This is by far the most plausible alternative as it’s already being done for the Nintendo Switch in some capacity.

In Japan, select AAA titles are being made available for streaming via GameCloud, a service provided by Taiwanese cloud company Ubitus. However, the list of titles available are just two so far; Ubisoft’s ‘Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey’ and Capcom’s ‘Resident Evil 7.’

Another streaming option already available is an app called Rainway that allows a Switch owner to stream PC games provided his/her own PC is running in the background. Besides these services, there are also some conventional options that tend to involve jailbreaking the Switch in order to install them. However, the good news is Nintendo can easily rectify this shortcoming with a fully dedicated service and they don’t have to go far to find one.

It so happens that Nvidia, the same company that designed the Switch’s system on a chip, also has its own streaming service with hundreds of titles already available. Nvidia GeForce Now will allow anyone to install PC games they already own on a remote server fitted with the company’s GPU technology for free. The catch is they can only stream for 1-hour sessions or opt into a premium option that provides extended sessions and access to RTX graphics for $5.99 monthly.

If Nintendo was serious, the company would have its partner Nvidia roll out this service for the Switch much as it did with its own console the Nvidia Shield which already shares a lot in common with the former in terms of the system architecture.

Only time will tell.

Conclusion

Nintendo doesn’t necessarily need to roll out a Switch Pro given what the company has already provided to the regular iteration. Now, in its current state, the console seems poised to do what many initially thought it couldn’t and still manages to leave room for more improvements. If a new model is indeed on the way, its design will most likely fall in line with previous revisions and will usher in additional shared features like the ones outlined. That way, all Switch owners will benefit together.

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