Nintendo Switch Specs & Early Hardware Analysis [Video]

By Published January 14, 2017 at 4:00 pm
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The official reveal of the Nintendo Switch left a lot to be desired, particularly in the hardware department. That’s not particularly surprising with Nintendo -- the company isn’t known for being open with its CPU and GPU specifications -- but we already have a Switch on pre-order for tear-down and in-depth performance analysis in the lab.

Regardless, even without further specs from Nintendo, we can still go through the basics and make some assumptions based on fairly credible leaks that are out there.

This content piece is entirely in video form. We’re leaving the written analysis for the tear-down, when we’ll have enough hands-on exposure to really dig into the components and look at the tuning that nVidia & Nintendo have done to the Tegra SOC.

For sake of just providing some sort of written basics, here are the notes that we referenced when going through the above video. These were what we had printed out for table use, so it’s not in paragraph or scripted form. That’ll outline the basics, with the rest to come on March 3, when the console releases fully.

The launch titles are below the hardware notes.

Switch notes

Main device & Dock

  • Rails to mount controllers

  • Dock does: I/O (HDMI, 1x USB Type C, 2x USB2.0 ports on the side, maybe 1x USB3.x on back). Docks into USB Type C connector to handle power & data transfer.

Joycons

  • “HD Rumble”

  • Motion sensor similar to Wiimote Motion plus

  • NFC reader (Amiibos)

  • Capture/share button similar to PS4

  • IR motion camera on bottom of right joycon

  • No D-pad (Nintendo created it, Nintendo can take it away (NES was first))

  • SL and SR buttons when held sideways

Storage & Memory

  • “Internal memory” – it’s storage, not memory, and is 32GB.

  • 32GB internal – likely soldered to the board. Some type of Flash memory.

  • Expandable with SDXC cards. We will test to validate the maximum capacity that Nintendo supports.

  • “GameCards” are proprietary form factor SD-sized cards that mount to the top of the Switch. Normal SD cards connect to the bottom.

Internet

  • 802.11ac wireless (1.3 Gbps theoretical max, but no declared throughput on the Switch).

  • Ethernet support when docked via USB-RJ45 adapter, similar to Wii U.

  • Connect 8 switches locally – maybe create ad hoc network?

  • Paid online service - free trial from March to Fall 2017

Screen

  • 6.2” IPS multi-touch capacitive screen – can display 720p at 60FPS, apparently. Can output to external displays at 1080p via HDMI. We will be intercepting frames to validate this when it’s out.

GPU & CPU Architecture

  • Custom Tegra SOC -- could be Pascal or Maxwell, but it looks very unlikely at this point that the Switch will use Pascal. NVidia’s language made it sound like a Pascal GPU, but it appears they’ve loosely interpreted their own press release to mean Maxwell Gen2. That’s not final, of course, but you’d think we’d hear more about the P1 if it were launching in the Switch. Some leaks claim Tegra X1 Maxwell for Switch, but nVidia’s marketing language leaves some ambiguity that could allow for Pascal at some point in the future.

  • Tegra uses unified memory, so the GPU and CPU will share the memory pool via direct access to the memory bus.

!Assuming! X1:

  • 20nm TSMC process, TDP 15W (but almost certainly customized and lowered for the Switch)

  • LPDDR4 with 64-bit memory bus

  • Tegra X1 uses 4 ARM Cortex A57 cores attached to a 256-core Maxwell GPU. ARM A57 has 2MB L2 Cache.

  • Adaptive scalable texture compression is natively supported by the SOC.

  • According to Digital Foundry: 768MHz GPU when docked (reduction from 1GHz on X1 in the Shield), 307.2MHz when portable.

  • Devs will have to account for frequency switching when programming, which will either be done by extreme LOD scaling and graphics reductions or by coding for a lower clock-rate.

  • Will be well under 1TFLOP compute. The base Tegra X1 at 1GHz has an FP16 arithmetic compute throughput of about 1TFLOP, with FP32 at 512GFLOPs.

  • GFLOPS assumption: clock-rate in GHz * 2FP16 *2FMA * core count gives us something like 786GFLOPS FP16, or around 400GFLOPS FP32. That is assuming Digital Foundry’s numbers are final.

  • NVN API

Battery

  • 2-6 hours advertised.

  • Zelda will last “roughly 3 hours” on one charge.

  • Can power the device via USB Type C battery bank.

Games

We have this great infographic with the Nintendo Switch titles and their release dates. Not sure what the source is for the image -- if someone knows, let us know, we'll add it.

switch-release-games

Launch titles

  • Zelda Beath of the Wild

  • 1-2 Switch

  • Super Bomberman R!?

March 2017

  • Fast RMX

  • SnipperClips

  • Has-Been Heroes

April 28th

  • Mariokart 8 Deluxe

Spring 2017

  • ARMS

  • Disgaea 5

  • Rime

Summer 2017

  • Splatoon

Autumn 2017

  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Holiday 2017

  • Super Mario Odyssey

"2017"

  • Xenoblade Chronicles 2

  • Ultra Street Fighter 2

  • Minecraft

  • Sonic Mania

Editorial: Steve “Lelldorianx” Burke
Video & Additional Reporting: Andrew “ColossalCake” Coleman 

Last modified on January 13, 2017 at 4:00 pm
Steve Burke

Steve started GamersNexus back when it was just a cool name, and now it's grown into an expansive website with an overwhelming amount of features. He recalls his first difficult decision with GN's direction: "I didn't know whether or not I wanted 'Gamers' to have a possessive apostrophe -- I mean, grammatically it should, but I didn't like it in the name. It was ugly. I also had people who were typing apostrophes into the address bar - sigh. It made sense to just leave it as 'Gamers.'"

First world problems, Steve. First world problems.

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