Some people are tech savvy enough to spend countless days or months trying to crack a game system open and learn all the juicy secrets hidden within its code. And apparently, as of the recent 5.0 update to the Nintendo Switch, there’s code referencing a new SoC(System-on-Chip. All home consoles and handhelds use SoC’s.) codenamed “Mariko.”
Honestly, it should come as no surprise to anyone that Nintendo is working on a hardware revision for the Nintendo Switch. There are some technical faults that could be fixed with a hardware revision, and NVIDIA does have new tech that they could slip into a revised Switch. Way back in November of 2016, leaks came out suggesting the existence of a beefier Switch system alongside the one we eventually got. However, this stronger Switch never materialized in any form outside of an apparent dev kit or prototype. There were also rumors of a Dock 2.0 that would enhance the home console experience when the Switch was docked. However, this new information suggests that this is not a Dock 2.0, but instead a new version of the Switch tablet itself.
While it definitely seems a tad soon for a Switch 2.0, it clearly exists even if Nintendo claims its focus is on peripherals(Which I feel is a big mistake.). So what exactly could they do for a Switch 2.0?
1) Fix the Warping Problem
Probably the biggest hardware issue plaguing the Nintendo Switch, it has a tendency to warp from the heat the system generates while docked. I have yet to hear of this having any kind of effect on the systems performance, but it can be a tad disconcerting when the system apparently can’t withstand the heat that it generates.
Keep in mind that this really only occurs if you play primarily in docked mode for extended periods of time. The system downclocks when in handheld mode and as a result doesn’t tend to warp from use in that way since it generates less heat.
I imagine this would be a big focus for Nintendo and NVIDIA when designing a Switch revision. Making it strong enough to not warp like this, and potentially giving it better cooling.
2) Upgrading to a Tegra Parker/Pascal or Tegra Xavier/Volta Chip
The Nintendo Switch uses the 2015 revision of the Tegra X1 chip which is based on NVIDIA’s Maxwell series of graphics cards that were introduced in the GeForce 700 series and revised for the 900 series before being replaced by the Pascal architecture introduced in the 10 series. It’s entirely likely that Nintendo went for this particular chip because it was older and thus cheaper. Buy it in bulk and maybe get a discount. And of course, NVIDIA probably had a whole stockpile of the things so sure, why not give them to Nintendo?
Now that the Switch is a proven success, NVIDIA and Nintendo have more reason to produce a brand new chip specially designed for the Switch. Both the existing Tegra X2 and X3 were not made for gaming like the X1 was, and thus in their current forms would not be suitable for use in a Switch 2.0. This would necessitate the need for a custom chip based on one of them. Since the X3, the latest in the line and based off of NVIDIA’s latest architecture, it would make sense to jump up to that one. However, since the only GPU release for the Volta architecture has been the Titan V, with the rest of the Volta-series seemingly delayed to Summer 2018 and possibly under a completely different name(Rumor is Turing.), it’s hard to tell if NVIDIA would be willing to put the time in to make the X3 work for gaming while trimming the fat when they don’t even have desktop GPU’s ready. Which means that there is a chance that a Switch 2.0 would use the Parker/Pascal chip as a starting point. Performance would be increased over the base Switch, but not by a huge leap like the X3 would possibly grant.
This is, of course, in addition to possible upgrades to the CPU as well, which would likely see it’s four A53 cores replaced by at least two of NVIDIA’s Denver cores in addition to the remaining four A57 cores. It’s also possible that the RAM could be bumped up to 6GB, giving the Switch close to the same amount of usable RAM as the PS4 Pro(Note that this does not equate to speed or power. Merely stating that the PS4 Pro has 5.5GB of usable GDDR5 RAM. The Switch 1.0 has 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM, 3GB of which is usable. Going by those numbers, a Switch 2.0 with 6GB of LPDDR4 RAM would likely have 5GB available for games.)
3) A Bigger Battery
One aspect of the Switch that most people were not happy about was the relatively short battery life. The Nintendo 3DS’ battery lasts at least 6 hours, but the Switch, a more powerful device mind you, lasts only 3 hours if you’re playing Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I have no idea if it’s possible to fit a bigger battery in this thing on top of a new SoC and possibly beefier cooling, but I’m fairly certain many Switch owners would welcome the longer life without the need for third party accessories.
4) Analog Triggers
Some people may not realize this, but the last Nintendo controller to have analog triggers was the GameCube controller. Since then, Nintendo has used digital triggers. What is the difference you ask? Analog triggers allow more precision when pressing the button in. It doesn’t just click in like a digital trigger. Say you’re playing a racing game, a digital trigger will just let you put on the gas or brake, that’s it. But an analog trigger allows for more than that. Press the trigger lightly, and you’ll give it some gas, but not a lot. Keeping pressing it in bit by bit and you pick up speed more and more until it’s fully pressed in and you’re going full speed.
In the case of Luigi’s Mansion, a game that is being remade(Or is it more of a demake than a remake?) for the 3DS, on the GameCube you could control the power of the Poltergust using the analog triggers and that played into some of the puzzles. But with those triggers, now it just goes from 0 to 100 in an instant.
In interviews last year, Nintendo didn’t say they hadn’t considered releasing new versions of the Joy-Cons with analog triggers or some other controller that had them. So it isn’t out of the question that a Switch revision would reintroduce them and pave the way for GameCube virtual console games.
5) A cross-shaped D-Pad
I’ve never really understood why having a cross-shaped D-pad means so much to people, but a lot of people want it over the Switch’s current split D-pad which was likely done for the sake of symmetry when playing two-player games. Personally, I don’t mind the current D-pad, but to each their own. Nintendo could just as easily introduce a standalone Joy-Con that has the traditional Nintendo D-pad for consumers to purchase, though of course it could come bundled with the Switch 2.0.
Keep in mind that “Mariko” likely won’t hit shelves for a while. The Switch 1.0 only just turned a year old a few weeks ago. Releasing a hardware revision only two years into the consoles life doesn’t sound like the greatest idea. I’d honestly wager that it’s more likely to drop in late 2019 or early 2020, similar to how the New Nintendo 3DS was introduced 3 years after the original model.
According to a post on ResetEra, the successor to NeoGAF if you hadn’t heard, which is being updated as more info on “Mariko” is being discovered, it would appear that this hardware revision for the Nintendo Switch may in fact have double the RAM of the current model. If true, this new Switch model would have 8GB of presumably LPDDR4 RAM. More RAM is always better.
In addition to that, “Mariko” will definitely be using a new version of the Tegra chip, currently labeled ast the Tegra 214. For reference, the X1 model used in current model is the Tegra 210. Exactly how much of a difference there will be between the T214 and T210 is up for debate, as the close numbers don’t exactly mean much when the Tegra X3's number is T194 and the older, weaker Tegra X2 is T186. Wrap your head around that numbering scheme. What that tells me is that T214 is likely to use the T210 as a base and nothing more. That doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t a custom chip that pushes the power higher than one would expect. Hopefully it won’t be long until we learn what “Mariko” really is.