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Nintendo Switch’s CPU, GPU clock speeds revealed

Nintendo Switch’s CPU, GPU clock speeds revealed

Last week, news leaked that Nintendo’s upcoming Switch wasn’t based on Pascal at all. Previously, all Nvidia had stated was that Switch was based on “the same architecture as the world’s top-performing GeForce gaming graphics cards.” Given this statement, some of you doubted reports that the new console would rely on Maxwell-era technology instead of Pascal. The truth may be a bit more complex, since the X1 inside Tegra could have been customized to one degree or another, but the heart of the chip appears to be a 20nm Maxwell GPU.

That’s the news from Eurogamer, which reached out to sources of its own to see what it could find. Eurogamer wasn’t able to find a source willing to say on the record that the Switch is simply a Tegra X1, though the specs Nintendo is apparently using to brief developers do resemble that chip in multiple key areas. But what’s truly surprising are the SoCs CPU and GPU clock speeds — if accurate, the Switch is going to be more handicapped than I thought. Eurogamer reports that the CPU will run at 1020MHz, or 50% of the Tegra X1’s stated maximum clock speed, while the GPU will be locked to 768MHz while docked. The Shield TV, in contrast, runs at 1GHz. In tablet mode, the chip down-clocks to just 307.2MHz, or 40% of its docked clock. Memory clock speeds also drop when the device is undocked, though developers can choose to keep them pegged at full speed (docked clock is 1600MHz, undocked clock is 1331MHz).

Nintendo Switch Console

Now, what does this mean for the handheld’s gaming performance? First, it’s not quite as bad as it looks. If you’ve paid any attention to mobile hardware for the past few years, you’re doubtlessly aware that while mobile SoC manufacturers make big claims about clock speeds, these figures are always “up to” rather than flat clock rates. It’s not unusual to see performance drop sharply once thermal regulation kicks in, and Nintendo looks to be trying to avoid that by specifying a constant level of performance, rather than allowing clock rates to ‘float’ the way SoC manufacturers often do.

Developers can also choose to limit the Switch to 307.2MHz while docked as well, though it’s not clear if they’ll choose to do so. According to Eurogamer’s sources, this data was distributed along with a note telling developers it represents “the final specification for the combinations of performance configurations and performance modes that applications will be able to use at launch.”

But in terms of absolute horsepower, don’t look to Switch to close any gaps with the PS4 or Xbox One. I stand by what I said regarding the Wii U’s visuals — I think there’s plenty of room on these spec sheets for the Switch to offer equal or greater performance, but the gap between even the PS4 / Xbox One from 2013 and the Switch is going to remain significant. This, in turn, suggests that Nintendo isn’t going to switch focus and start courting third-party developers anytime soon.

I suspect Nintendo picked its specifications the way it did so it could position Switch as a strong upgrade to both platforms. When operating on battery life, the Switch’s 720p screen and substantially updated GPU core will make it a far better system than the 3DS. When operating in a docked configuration, the Switch should be substantially stronger than the Wii U. From that perspective, and viewed relative to the rest of Nintendo’s hardware, the Switch should be a unilateral improvement over both of its previous platforms.

One other tidbit: There’s no sign that the Switch encompasses any of the performance-boosting capabilities or modular hardware upgrade options that were theorized might exist based on Nintendo’s own patent applications.

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ExtremeTechGaming – ExtremeTech

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