I’ll come straight out with it: I’m running low on material for articles these days. I can’t watch anime fast enough, and I can’t play video games fast enough to make articles about them. I love speculating more than I like rehashing something everyone knows about like the latest game releases. I’m in the middle of writing a “Future of Metroid” article which should be up within the next few days, and I’ll be playing Final Fantasy XV tonight at midnight and I’ll likely have my own impressions/review of it within the next two weeks considering just how much content there is, but for right now, I’m gonna give you another Nintendo Switch speculation article because I just stumbled upon a random translation of what is supposedly a leak about the hardware from someone working at Foxconn, a Chinese manufacturer known to be making Switch units. And also because I know you guys love Switch articles(Seriously, these tend to get more comments than any other article I write and I love comments because I get to discuss these things with people.).
So to explain how I came across this info.... I did some casual google-fu for Nintendo Switch rumors. I do that about once a week to see if anything new crops up. Here’s the page that I found with the information on it(translation courtesy of user wyk126):
You’ll find the pages he translated from at the bottom of his post. Now, is any of this legitimate info? Hell if I know because there really isn’t much in the way of confirming anything that was said, especially based on a translation, but when we are drawing ever closer to the Switch’s March release, you have to expect that this stuff is going to spill out, whether its from insiders at Nintendo, developers who just can’t wait to share stuff with you, or the people actually manufacturing these things and seeing what goes into them and what the tests show. This information is from the latter and is quite detailed. I won’t go into all the specifics of course because there are some things that even I don’t understand, but I will comment on what I do understand and I will lay it out for all of you in my normal format. So here we go, Round #756!
The Switch Dock
For those not keeping up with the Switch, it’s a hybrid device that allows you take console gaming on the go. All of the power is inside the handheld part of the console. To facilitate TV play, you are given a dock. According to the Foxconn insider, the dock is nothing special. It’s cheap, has two USB 2.0 ports on the side(Pictured in the image above.), one USB 3.0 port, and one HDMI port. Supposedly there’s also a hole in the dock that sucks in air and pushes it through the system and out of the top vent, providing extra cooling. This could potentially mean that the system does in fact overclock when docked, thus necessitating extra cooling, or it could just be an extra measure to ensure the system stays cool during prolonged usage.
This is pretty standard information and most of it we already knew like the side USB ports and HDMI output. The USB 3.0 port is new though as is the extra cooling.
The Switch Console
In the past we’ve had rumors of exactly what is powering the Switch. Thus far details have been somewhat shaky due to the custom nature of the Tegra Pascal processor inside of the Switch. You can’t compare it to Shield tablet or any other NVIDIA gaming device that used a Tegra chip because they were based on the Android operating system which doesn’t allow developers to program a game to the metal(Which means they get the most out of the system. Android doesn’t allow that.), and you also can’t really compare it to the Tegra X1 chip itself because that chip was based on the Maxwell architecture which immediately makes the new Pascal version better in all areas including power consumption. But you’re here for the details of this particular system, so lets go over what is said here. This will be a list for convenience since there’s a lot to unpack.
- The screen is multi-touch and is actually a 1080p display, not 720p as previously reported. According to the Foxconn insider, 1080p is what showed up on a software test. Now, from a technical standpoint, 1080p consumes more power than 720p and thus is counter-intuitive for a handheld device which relies on battery power. However, if you take into account that the Switch’s maximum display capability for TV-use is 1080p, Pascal is far more power efficient than Maxwell, and NVIDIA themselves are designing the system from the ground-up rather than just handing a chip to Nintendo like AMD would, it wouldn’t entirely be out of the realm of possibility that the custom and newer tech of the Switch allows it to have a longer battery life in addition to a higher resolution display for the handheld unit. Only time will tell if this is true or not, but it would be nice if the experience on the TV and on the go was identical.
- The system does not get very hot and has no frame drops after running for 8 days straight. The demo used to test this was not a game, but it reportedly featured millions of fish. This could mean one of two things: Either A) the cooling in the handheld is just that good on its own that it can keep the system from getting overly hot and preventing framerate drops as a result, OR B) the demo was just not intensive enough to push the system to its limits. I highly doubt it would be the latter as there would be no point in using it for a stress test if it wasn’t pushing the capabilities of the system. So if this is all true(and I will reiterate this as many times as I need too.), then this means you can play for a really long time and not scald your hands and have a stable experience.
- The screen is not the brightest. The wording of the translation makes this part a little hard to grasp as it isn’t entirely clear if the insider is outside looking inside at the device, or if they’re outside with the device looking at it in direct sunlight. Obviously brightness is an issue a lot of handheld owners concern themselves with because if the screen isn’t bright enough when outside, it gets overpowered by lights and the sun. I know this all too well from owning many handhelds in the past. I hated when I’d go outside and hardly be able to see my game on the screen because the screen itself isn’t bright enough. I’m going to go with the latter explanation of the translation because that makes more sense considering this person clearly works with the models they manufacture, so there’d be no need to spy on someone else using the device. I guess we’ll still have the problem of a not so bright screen, but obviously brighter and higher resolution than past screens. I guess that’s a consolation.
- Seen during tests, the core is a 10x10 core, the CPU clocks in at 1785mhz, the GPU clocks in at 921mhz, the EMC(Electromagnetic Compatibility, according to google-fu, might be wrong.) clocks in at 1600mhz. This is where my knowledge of computer tech gets a little fuzzy. As far as I’m concerned, high numbers mean great performance. Now, to put this in some context, the PS4 CPU clock speed is 1.6Ghz. According to a converter I used, the Switch’s CPU actually has a FASTER clock speed than the PS4(Just for clarification we’re using the base model from 2013.), coming in at 1.785Ghz. Looking at it now I shouldn’t have needed a converter to tell me that, but hey, its a confirmed conversion. Obviously that will probably be rounded up to 1.8Ghz. So great! Now what about the GPU? According to official specs, compared against this rumored information, the Switch’s GPU is actually FASTER than both the PS4(800Mhz) and the Xbox One(853Mhz). Now obviously, if you know anything about the console wars of this generation, clock speed don’t mean shit. The PS4 is more powerful than the Xbox One. So this doesn’t really tell us much about the Switch other than the fact that its GPU works faster. And I won’t comment on the EMC clock speed because I can’t. I know nothing about EMC and I can’t find any information on the Xbox One and PS4's EMC clock speeds to compare it too. So lets just move on.
- The processor is speculated to be an ARM A73 Pascal chip, and is “much more powerful” than the Tegra X1. It reportedly shows up as ARM_V8 structure on tests. Last I checked, current ARM structures, at least, with regards to my phone(S7 Edge) was I believe ARM_V7, which mean that this is indeed a newer ARM chip than whats been used in even this years devices. If anyone can provide some form of clarification to all this, feel free to share because I’m new to mobile tech.
- Confirmed USB-C charging. I’ve heard this before, I’ve shared it before, so this doesn’t surprise me at all. It means faster charging basically. So even if you have to stop while on the go to charge the device, it won’t take as long as, say, your 3DS.
- Heating fan is not loud. Yay for quiet fans!
- There is a 4G version... oh boy... I remember that the Vita had a 3G version and look how well that went down.
- The insider tested the battery for over 11,250 minutes. That converts to 187.5 hours. Yeah, that’s not how long the battery lasts. That’s just how long he had it running, likely with the charging cable plugged in. He notes that there were no frame drops and is still running stably.
- According to him, and speculated at that, it has 4GB of RAM. The type of RAM is not specified nor is its frequency or other associated specs. I’ve had this discussion before, and multiple tech savvy people have confirmed to me that 4GB of RAM, as compared to the PS4 and Xbox One’s 8GB, does not mean as much as you think it means, at least not in the case of the Switch. There are three reasons: 1) The Switch uses cartridges rather than discs which act like solid state drives, information reads and loads a ton faster than a disc. So a lot of information does not have to temporarily be stored on RAM because its read right off the cartridge. 2) The Switch likely uses an SD Card for storage, which is basically the same function as the cartridge. It’s the equivalent of a SSD and thus will be read a ton faster with less needing to be stored on the RAM. And lastly, 3) the operating system will likely use significantly less RAM than Microsoft and Sony’s systems. Their systems have 8GB of RAM, but 4GB of that is reserved for the OS and background applications, but mostly the OS. Over time, optimizations have allowed them to free up a bit more RAM, but nothing past, like, 500MB. The PS4 Pro is 5.5GB for games, still has 8GB of RAM with an additional 1GB of some other kind of RAM which is what allows them to get 1.5 more gigs of RAM for use. In Nintendo’s case, they’ve typically been able to heavily optimize their proprietary OS before the consoles launch and it helps that its focused entirely on gaming. At most it’ll use 1GB of RAM. But due to the other two reasons stated above, losing that 1GB doesn’t make nearly as much of a difference as it would on the other two systems which really entirely on their 4 gigs.
- The console is lighter than the insider believed. According to him, a digital scale clocked it at 300g, while he thought it was somewhere around 1000g. That is not including the Joy-Cons though.
I’m skipping the Joy-Cons because there’s not much information there. Just weight and complexity, and a mention of how expensive each Joy-Con is as well as the fact they have one shoulder button each, no mention of triggers. And the production section is also really short, where the insider notes that his particular facility is NOT running at capacity. The whole factory can produce 20,000 units per day, they are actually producing 2100 units per day. The insider chalks this up to quality control and says not to worry about the quality of the system.
The Dev-Kit? Or Perhaps Something More...
The image you see above leaked the night before the Switch’s reveal. One of the usual Nintendo insiders(Can’t recall if it was Emily Rodgers or Laura Kate Dale) attempted to discredit the image. However, unlike most things they tend to discredit, many people did not believe them on this one due to the sheer fact that it bares an uncanny resemblance to the consumer Switch, and was leaked just the night before. Supposedly this is one of the dev kits, and as you can see, its bulkier than the consumer Switch due to the fact that the HDMI, ethernet, and power ports are built into the handheld device itself in the absence of the dock, which I guess wasn’t included with the dev kits.
Now why am I telling you this? Well, because the last bit of information given out by the insider pertains to a second(Or third, I guess, considering the 4G model.) Switch model. At first he didn’t know what it was, but he then confirmed it was a dev kit and Nintendo was coming to look at it that day. This model had 8GB’s of RAM, a lot of extra ports, was bulkier/heavier, uncomfortable to hold, the core is 12x18, and supposedly outperforms the PS4 Pro. At the moment they’re only running off 2000 units as compared to the base Switch’s 2100 units. Whether or not this model becomes a consumer model(Obviously without all the ports.) is up for debate, but it exists as a dev kit at least. I can imagine this sucker would retail at a far higher price point than the base Switch’s rumored USD$249.99, probably $399.99 if not a bit more. In this day and age, its no surprise that Nintendo is considering a more powerful, more expensive, enthusiast version of the Switch, while still offering a powerful, and less expensive version for those without or not willing to shell out the extra cash. We’ll know soon enough if this is just a dev kit with extra power, or an indication of a third, more powerful Switch model. In the past we’ve gotten rumors that suggested there would be a second, more expensive model, but that is likely the 4G variant, as the Vita had the Wifi model for $250 and the 3G model for $300. It’s likely the same here.
Now obviously, take all of this with a grain of salt. There’s no way to confirm that this person does in fact work at a Foxconn manufacturing facility. He didn’t post on 4Chan, Reddit, or NeoGAF. If it were the latter of the three, then there are steps in place to verify the legitimacy of such claims, but that isn’t the case here. Obviously a lot of people, myself included, are anxious for more information on the Switch, which is something we won’t officially get until January. So we pick up whatever scraps we can and speculate to hell and back. At least we know that the Joy-Cons have motion controls in them thanks to GameStop(Which is probably why the insider thinks they’re so expensive.).
Thanks for reading everyone and please, feel free to leave comments down below providing your own thoughts on all of this.