Nintendo Switch: NVIDIA Maxwell in, Pascal out

Four weeks from today, we'll be finding out more about the Nintendo Switch and (hopefully) the NVIDIA hardware that lies within. Nintendo has scheduled a special event for January 12, and during that livestream from Tokyo, we'll learn of new information such as price, launch titles, and its release date. Ahead of that event, though, a new VentureBeat report is detailing what kind of NVIDIA components we can expect in the Switch.

VentureBeat's write up, which is based on tips from two separate (yet anonymous) sources, claims that the Switch will use a custom NVIDIA Tegra processor based on previous-generation Maxwell architecture. This stands in contrast to the current-gen Pascal architecture NVIDIA is offering now. While these sources say that Maxwell-based graphics should provide plenty of power for Nintendo games, the Switch will end up being less powerful than one of its competitors, the PS4.

Why Maxwell instead of Pascal? There are a few reasons for this. The first, and likely most important, is that development on the Switch was most likely underway when NVIDIA processors with Pascal architecture were introduced. Since Maxwell architecture still makes for wholly capable chips, switching to Pascal was less important.

Lead time for Nintendo's developers is also a concern. Since Maxwell-based chips have been around since 2014, developers will have enjoyed plenty of time to get their games ready for the Switch. If Nintendo had decided to go with Pascal, either those developers wouldn't have had enough lead time or Nintendo would have needed to push the Switch beyond a March 2017 release.

Nintendo wouldn't be willing to delay the launch of the Switch, either. A major part of the reason we only found out about the Switch in October – a mere six months before it's scheduled to launch – is because Nintendo is worried about a competitor developing a system similar to Switch and beating it market. By working with what was available at the time instead of waiting for a Pascal-based Tegra chip, Nintendo can ensure that doesn't happen.

In the end, VentureBeat predicts that the Switch will be capable of around 1 teraflop in power, compared to the PS4's capability of around 1.8 teraflops. That isn't a huge difference, but it should still be noticeable. However, Nintendo has claimed time and time again that it isn't part of the race for increased power that Microsoft and Sony find themselves in, so that disparity in power probably doesn't worry Nintendo all that much.

With the custom NVIDIA chip in the Switch said to increase its clock speed when connected to the dock, it could still end up being powerful enough to make the Switch a contender, even with previous-generation architecture. Going for a Maxwell-based chip instead of a Pascal-based one will decrease cost as well, potentially allowing Nintendo to strike a good balance between price and power.

Keep in mind that this is all just speculation, so for now, take it with a grain of salt. Hopefully Nintendo talks more about the hardware within the Switch during its livestream event on January 12. In the meantime, check out the source link below to read through VentureBeat's full write up.

SOURCE: VentureBeat