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Could the Rumored Switch Mini be More Powerful than OG Switch?

UPDATE 7/10/19: So, in an unexpected turn of events, Nintendo officially announced the Nintendo Switch Lite. Not the Switch Mini, not the Switch 2 Mini, but the Switch Lite. Same concept really. So how does it stack up to the rumors on which this article, written only a day ago, were based? Poorly, quite poorly. The Switch Lite does NOT have a 1080p screen(Keeping it 720p at that size is perfectly.), it does have a new chip, but it doesn’t change much about the systems power. From what little we know, the power of the Switch Lite, as it was originally believed to be and not what this rumor suggested, is equivalent to that of the original Switch’s handheld mode, and the battery life is almost equial, but they’ve been able to extend it by an additional hour on average.

So what else is different? Well, as rumored, the Joy-Cons have been attached to the main body with HD Rumble and the IR Sensor removed. The Switch Lite is incapable of displaying to a television. Due to its attached controllers, if you wish to play a game that requires detached controllers, you will need to purchase them separately. This effectively means that games such as 1-2-Switch and Super Mario Party are completely incompatible with the Switch Lite as it is out of the box. On the plus side, you get a full D-Pad instead of the buttons found on the original. That pesky bezel still surrounds the screen though, except now instead of being black, it’s whatever color your Switch Lite is. And of course the two things most people actually care about: Yes, it is cheaper. The Switch Lite is $200, $100 cheaper than the normal Switch. And yes, it is more compact and thus easier to take with you. The difference is only about an inch, but an inch can make a huge difference when trying to fit something in your pocket.


So all in all, the rumor was almost a complete bust, which tends to happen. Nintendo also commented on whether or not the normal Switch would received a hardware revision. Nintendo stated that the Switch Lite is the only new system they have planned for the 2019 holiday season. In other words, they didn’t deny the existence of such a device, only confirmed that it will not be launching in 2019. Most rumors suggested that it would, only a few months after the Switch Lite was intended to launch. However, one rumor was uncertain, saying it was planned for 2019, but could fall back to 2020, and another outright stated 2020. In the meantime, the original Switch itself is being revised as Nintendo has filed to edit the patent pertaining to the Switch, namely it’s System-on-Chip. It’s not entirely known exactly what they’re changing, but it’s expected to be the same chip as used in the Switch Lite in order to give the current system a slight boost and better efficiency. If you already own a Switch, you obviously will not benefit from this and it’s not really worth going out and replacing your Switch with the revised model. Besides, Switch has a Boost Mode now, so you can already squeeze some extra performance out of the system in exchange for more heat and shorter battery life.

Original Story 7/9/19: Over the past week a new rumor cropped up regarding the power of the Switch Mini. As anyone who follows me will know by now, I love reporting on this stuff because I love to speculate, I love to discuss, and this is perfect for that. Now, granted, this rumor was actually not the main focus of the Forbes article from which it originated. That article was focused on Google Stadia before a single paragraph goes on about how the Switch Mini benefits from two generations of die shrinks, resulting in longer battery life and better power efficiency, a 1080p screen, and that the joy-cons are now permanently attached. So lets dive into that.

It’s been known since Switch Update 5.0 that Nintendo and NVIDIA have been working on a new Tegra System-on-Chip codenamed “Mariko.” Recently there were refences to Tegra chips referred to as the T210-B and the T214. What is known about these chips is that some of their specs are consistent with a die shrink and that it’s likely to be used in a new NVIDIA Shield releasing later this year. Similarly, with the original Switch, it used the same Tegra X1 chip that was used in NVIDIA’s 2017 Shield model. There is precedent here, making it believable that this new T214 chip will be used in the rumored Switch Pro. But what other rumors have suggested is that the rumored Switch Mini will also use this chip.

So how does that work, how would the Switch Mini, a condensed version of the Switch, work with a brand new chip, the same one used in the more powerful Switch said to coming a little bit later? Well the trick is in the shrunken die. For those that don’t know what that is, all CPU’s and GPU’s come in the forms of dies, and every generation see’s that die shrunken down in terms of nanometers. As an example, Intel’s next-generation CPU’s are 10nm, AMD’s brand new Zen 2 CPU’s are 7nm and their new Navi GPU’s are also 7nm, while NVIDIA is using their 14nm++ node currently. That measurement is the distance between transistors on the chip. The smaller the distance, the less time stuff times and the more power efficient it is(Though from what I’ve been told, getting below 7nm or 5nm is currently extremely difficult and may not happen for quite some time. Likewise, 1nm is unfeasible because it just straight up would never work.). Being more power efficient, means you can hit the same performance targets as something else, while using less power to do it. And that’s how the Switch Mini benefits. The actual chip itself may not be any smaller than the 20nm chip in the current Nintendo Switch, but because it’s more efficient, the Switch Mini could hit the power of the regular docked Switch using less power, thus resulting in longer battery life as well. It will also generate less heat. A 1080p screen also becomes more feasible than it was before, because if a regular docked Switch can do 1080p, then a portable Switch Mini with the same power should be able to do 1080p on the go rather than the old Switch’s 720p.


Now, to a question some might raise: If the chip inside the Switch isn’t actually any smaller, then how do you shrink the Switch to make it a “Mini Switch?” Well, if you attach the Joy-Con’s permanently, you eliminate that gap between the controllers and the main body of the console, plus all the innards required for that. If the screen stays the same size, but with a higher pixel density, you could remove the black bezel around the edge, gaining you even more space(As long as there was nothing important behind that or that couldn’t be made smaller in some way. Odds are the Switch Mini will not be significantly smaller than the current Switch, but shrinking it’s size even by an inch would make it more portable. Of course, the question would need to be asked: Can it still be docked? Well, if the controllers are permanently attached, then I’d guess that it can’t be docked because how would you play? You would need a second set of normal Joy-Con’s paired to the system or a pro controller, which costs extra, which is counter to the point of the Mini which is to be cheaper. Or perhaps it can be docked for the purposes of charging, but not display to the TV. There’s a lot we don’t know. This device clearly exists in some capacity, but details are scarce.


Now, what about a point I brought earlier, that the Switch Pro and the Switch Mini are using the exact same Tegra X1 chip. What does this mean for the Switch Pro(Or Super Nintendo Switch as I like to call it.)? Well, if the Switch Mini is achieving original docked Switch levels of power, with less power and longer battery life, then that means Nintendo and NVIDIA can push that same chip even farther for the Switch Pro. When the Nintendo Switch was original unveiled, many were hoping that it would be more powerful than it actually ended up being, to be closer to the Xbox One at the very least. That wasn’t possible on the old Tegra X1. It managed to beat the Wii U in docked mode, but it still fell way behind the Xbox One. But now we have a Switch Mini that is supposedly that powerful, but using less power, and a significantly extended battery life. If Nintendo can manage to make a Switch Pro, that’s as powerful as the original Switch when portable, and close to, equal to, or surpassing the Xbox One when docked, then they’ll have created the Switch that people were expecting two and a half years ago.

Also, one last fun fact. Lately a lot of accessory manufacturers have been leaking products relating to a Switch Mini, which more or less confirms that the product does exist, otherwise how would you design the accessories? If you design an accessory and produce it for something that doesn’t exist, now you’ve got stock you can’t sell. And if you design it for a device that ends up not looking like what you thought it did, it don’t work. So they’d have to have official information from Nintendo themselves to produce these accessories, and one manufacturer pointed to a September release for the device and the accessories. One curious point of the accessories was the placeholder box art. In one of the corners it says “Switch Mini.” Or rather, it says “Switch 2 Mini.” The only reason to call it that is if #1) The Switch Pro does exist and is actually called the Switch 2. And #2) The Switch Mini is not a more condensed original Switch, but a more condensed Switch 2, which leads me to believe that the original Switch will actually be phased out entirely, as its existence kind of becomes redundant when the Switch 2 Mini is just as powerful when on the go and has more battery life on top of it. The only advantage the OG Switch has(And this is, again, speculation on my part.) is that it can be docked while the Switch Mini potentially can’t be docked or does not have a docked mode.


The only other information pertaining to the new Tegra X1 chip being utilized by these devices is that it likely supports asynchronous compute, a feature present in the Wii U and the other eighth generation platforms, but not the OG Switch, that it has features backported from the Tegra X2(The X2 was developed for cars, as a result there is no gaming oriented version of the chip.), and that it may support the latest Wifi and Bluetooth standards.

Anyway, feel free to leave a comment below whether you disagree or agree with anything written here and of course thanks for reading.

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