It’s a big day for Nintendo. Maybe even “big” is an understatement. The announcement of the Nintendo Switch, formerly known as Nintendo NX, has definitely put the company back in the spotlight. Whether that’s a favorable light or not remains to be seen next year. In the meantime, however, NVIDIA will also be basking in that light as well, revealing that, at the very heart of the portable console, is a custom NVIDIA Tegra processor. Aside from confirming the Switch’s nature as a mobile device, it also puts NVIDIA in the gaming console game, vis-a-vis its rival AMD/ATI.
In the past, console makers and their component sources have been mum on the exact hardware use inside the boxes, at least until brave souls have taken them apart. But given the well-known facts about the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, NVIDIA couldn’t help but boast about its presence in the Nintendo Switch.
That’s because those two console giants are powered by custom AMD processors and Radeon graphics chips. That is no small slap in the face for NVIDIA, who boasts a lot about its prowess in gaming. Well, now it can add another badge to its collection.
We’ll reserve judgment on actual performance when the Nintendo Switch actually launches in the market. But from the get go the choice of chip is already something to be somewhat concerned about. It’s a customized NVIDIA Tegra, the chip maker’s mobile system-on-chip that combines both CPU and GPU in one. It’s the very same chip that powers a few Android gaming devices, particularly the NVIDIA SHIELD line.
That has a few implications, both for developers and users. For game developers, it means using a different hardware platform yet again, ARM this time instead of the previous PowerPC of the Wii U. Of course, ARM is now a common architecture, as used in mobile devices. But don’t get your hopes up about cross-platform games just yet. NVIDIA does mention a lot of custom software, APIs, tools, not to mention a custom Nintendo OS, that ensures those games remain locked to the Switch.
For users, it could mean a less graphically intensive experience compared to the PS4 and Xbone, at least in theory. While the NVIDIA Tegra is quite capable, even with 4K output, it will be pitted against desktop-class CPU and GPU inside the bigger consoles. But then again, you can’t take those consoles with you anywhere, so the Nintendo Switch still has an edge.
The Nintendo Switch convertible gaming console/handheld is scheduled to launch March 2017. Provided there are no delays, of course.