The Nintendo Switch is long overdue for an upgrade. It’s nearly four years old and has fallen behind even similar devices on the market. Fortunately, rumors of a supposed Switch Pro model, a more powerful iteration have persisted till this day. But there are varying details to sift through. As things begin to heat up, it's time to take a deep dive into the sea of info to find this elusive treasure.

Throughout its life cycle, Nintendo’s hybrid console remains untested with an unwavering sales momentum. As such, the hybrid console isn’t retiring anytime soon. In fact, Nintendo of America CEO, Doug Bowser stated recently that the console is only midway into its life cycle.

However, that could also mean it can’t remain in its usual form if Nintendo wants it to maintain its momentum if not stay ahead of the competition.

In fact, the Switch has already undergone a couple of necessary revisions that have improved its users’ experiences to some degree. However, the hybrid console still lacks a noticeable amount of essential features and graphical power in today’s market. If Nintendo does plan to roll out a more powerful model soon, it would need to bring those advantages to bear.

Optimistically, the rumors that have been doing the rounds lately seem to point to a technological breakthrough for Switch owners. Although it’s somewhat vague, one can still put enough pieces together to figure out its internal architecture at least.

Switch Pro rumors

Before diving into the Switch Pro’s specifications, it’s necessary to remind everyone those invested in them that everything being speculated here remains unconfirmed albeit how highly reliable its sources have been.

The Switch Pro rumor mill is a collection of supposed industry leaks on an upgraded model for the regular Switch that acts as a mid-cycle refresh.

It was popularized by the Wall Street Journal which had provided information from a handful of sources. In fact, there’s a scintilla of information regarding the supposed model but many seem to point to three key upgrades; one made to the system-on-chip (SoC), another to its display, and the last to the dock.

In terms of the SoC, its custom Tegra X1 chip will receive a die shrink (potentially, a 7nm FinFET process) to increase performance and battery life.

This has already been done with the Switch V2 and Switch Lite models whereas both designs have transitioned from the launch model’s ‘Logan’ chip (20nm) to the new ‘Mariko’ chip (16nm).

This has significantly raised the GPU clock speed from 1 GHz to 1.267 GHz and the full battery life from 7 hrs to 9 hrs. This has also reduced power consumption from 14 watts to 9 watts and lowered the heat. Another die shrink could aim for a 14nm or 12nm FinFET process that would alter the performance even more.

As for the display, many analysts have put their money on a Mini-LED type. Not to be confused with Micro-LED, this type of LED provides image quality comparable to OLED but with actual black lighting to boot. While its pixel quality pales in comparison to Micro-LED for rendering 4K visuals, this would be unrealistic since the human eye can’t make out that much quality from a tiny screen anyway.

But it’ll undoubtedly increase resolutions to 1080p, save energy and reduce costs. If all else, it would be an OLED screen.

Then there’s the dock. One source claimed that the dock would have its own SoC for full stand-alone gaming functionality. Essentially, this would turn the dock into a home console for those who aren't interested in the undocked mode/mobile gaming aspect. And since the tablet and dock are sold separately, some have come to believe this hypothesis.

Rumor update

Recently, a Switch firmware leak got caught in the wind and not only was it carrying similar details but an extra surprise with it. According to the data, the new model will indeed have a Mariko chip with a die shrink for better cooling and power management. The display is also getting an upgrade but details were not fully disclosed.

But the newest and most shocking detail revealed was a 4K UHD multimedia chipset installed in the dock.

This latest upgrade is the most significant of them all and for three obvious reasons. Firstly, it offers a simpler and cheaper way of achieving 4K gaming in docked mode. That seems realistic considering Nintendo isn’t willing to sell its console at a loss yet is showing more willingness to provide third parties with reliable hardware this generation.

Secondly, the newly reworked dock would render the original obsolete. Word on the street is Nintendo could be planning to discontinue the original dock. Therefore, the plan for this new dock would be to have it phase out the original. And third, this extra chipset will likely come with its own system memory.

In fact, it’s possible that all the extra memory could reside in the dock. However, one shouldn’t expect 1440p/4K games to run without some or many compromises.

The pricing

When it comes to incrementally upgraded consoles, the only caveat that seems to come to mind is the overall pricing. However, analysts believe that the next model’s pricing would be comparable to that of its original when it was launched ($399). That’s likely because certain components including those that have been refined in production will have costs less as a result. The die shrink for the Tegra is a fine example.

As such, this pricing might not change even when the upgraded dock is factored in. In comparison, the regular Switch is going for $299 while its Lite counterpart is $199, currently.

But thanks to subtle tweaks for upgrades combined with the refinement in production, the added cost of the new model could be kept well within the $50 - $100 range.

Updated specs sheet

Now that the latest information has been skimmed through, it’s time to take what’s been learnt so far and put it all together. By comparing all of the information collected to date and eliminating what doesn’t fit, it’s easy to hypothesize the most relevant specs sheet for the Switch Pro. Again, nothing here is quite definitive but the recurring information has led to the following specs outlined:

FEATURES

Tablet:

  • Dimensions: 4 x 9.4 x 0.6 inches (or larger)
  • Weight: 14.1 ounces
  • SoC: Nvidia Tegra X1+, (theoretically 14nm or 12nm FinFET)
  • CPU: ARM Cortex-A57 quad-core (theoretically 2 GHz MAX)
  • GPU: 256 Maxwell-based CUDA Cores (theoretically 1.4 GHz MAX)
  • Display: 6.2-inch OLED, 1280 x 720 (or larger)
  • Memory: 4 GB - 8 GB LPDDR4 1333/1600 MHz
  • Storage: 32 GB - 256 GB microSD/microSDHC/microSDXC (upgradable up to 2 TB cards)
  • Expansion Slot: Nintendo Switch Game Card slot
  • Connectors: USB Type-C
  • Sensors: Accelerometer, Ambient Light sensor, Gyro sensor
  • WiFi: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.1
  • Battery: Lithium-ion 4310 mAh (theoretically 12 hr-battery life MAX)
  • Undocked Output: 720p/1080p
  • Docked Output: 1080p/1440p/4K UHD

Dock:

  • Dimensions: 4.1 x 6.8 x 2.2 inches
  • Weight: Hypothetically 12 ounces
  • CPU/GPU: Unnamed unit, Realtek compatible, 4K UHD multimedia
  • Memory: Unspecified
  • Connectors: 2 USB 2.0/3.0 Ports, System connector, AC Adaptor Ports, HDMI

Conclusion

Overall, this in-depth analysis into the Switch Pro makes it sound a little more relevant and competitive in the market.

It also offers the most plausible outcome with its clever tweaks and overhauls as speculated, though it could still remain graphically impotent in comparison.

Still, these hypothesized specifications are probably the most sound to date as all of the necessary check boxes have been ticked: Suitable hardware, market trends and cost control. All that’s left to do now is to wait on Nintendo.

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