There is a new report out from Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry analyzing the clock speeds of the Nintendo Switch when it comes to the CPU and GPU. In their article about the specifications based on development kit documentation, the CPU on the Switch runs at 1020Mhz whether docked or not, but the GPU is down-clocked to 307mhz undocked, with a possible 768Mhz available when docked.
According to Eurogamer, they noted that in the development documentation for the Nintendo Switch there was a message from Nintendo that read…
“The information in this table is the final specification for the combinations of performance configurations and performance modes that applications will be able to use at launch.”
Now this doesn’t mean that the launch specs will be identical to the devkit specs, but it does seem like this will be about as final as it gets. There’s always the possibility that the specs in the documentation is actually listed as being lower than what’s actually inside the Nintendo Switch, but Digital Foundry suspects that this is final… or at least until they can get their hands on the hardware and run benchmark tests themselves.
The rest of the article details that the system is likely running on a modified version of the Tegra X1’s Maxwell chipset, but there are lingering suspicions that there could be newer iterations of the Pascal chip present within the Switch. Nintendo and Nvidia only mentioned that the hybrid console is running on a custom chip based on Nvidia’s mobile Tegra line.
The article also notes that CPU speeds will stay consistent whether docked or undocked so game logic doesn’t break, but memory bandwidth can be shaved off by nearly 300Mhz, going from 1600Mhz when docked down to 1331Mhz when undocked.
The reason for halving the hertz or shaving off a fraction of the speeds is to conserve battery power and keep heat consumption to a minimum. A power chip clocked at only a fraction of its power promises a lot of longevity.
Now this isn’t to say that the Switch’s specs from that devkit document are as absolute as it suggests. It’s possible that later into its lifespan Nintendo might reveal there’s some extra bandwidth to utilize or that they severely underclocked the GPU in the documentation to ensure launch titles are properly optimized and there’s actual room in the hardware for slight boosts either with a firmware upgrade or OS update. We’ve seen a similar thing happen with the PS4 and Xbox One receiving minor system upgrades that allowed developers to take advantage of a few extra hertz here and there.
Ultimately we’ll have to wait until physical benchmark tests are run to get a real idea of just how powerful the Nintendo Switch really is. We’ll get another glimpse at the console ahead of release come January 12th.