One of the few details Nintendo has revealed about its upcoming Switch console/handheld hybrid is that it’s powered by a custom Tegra mobile processor from Nvidia. It was thought that the GPU maker’s Pascal architecture would make its way into the chip, but this reportedly won’t be the case; instead, the Switch will use the last-gen Maxwell graphics architecture.
The news comes from Gamesbeat, which cites two anonymous sources familiar with the system. It reports that going with Maxwell means the Switch should offer around one teraflop of performance, making it almost half as powerful as the 1.8 teraflop PlayStation 4.
It seems that Nintendo just didn’t have time to wait for Pascal technology - built using the 16nm fabrication process - to be ready for integration into the Switch’s all-in-one Tegra chip. The company is in a hurry to bring out a machine that can replace the increasingly unpopular Wii U, and wants the Switch on the market before any competitors release a similar device.
Additionally, using Maxwell architecture, which was first introduced in 2014, in the ARM-based 20nm Tegra chip means Nintendo can keep the cost of the Switch down. Retailers have reported that the console’s base price will be around $250.
Fans may be disappointed with the news that Nintendo has opted for the less powerful choice, but the company isn’t advertising graphical fidelity as the Switch’s big selling point. Besides which, it’s still likely to be able to handle many modern games, especially when docked, and the rumored 720p resolution of the 6.2-inch screen shouldn't require much graphical power, particularly if developers drop the resolution to 540p and upscale to 720p.
"I don’t see Nintendo’s strategy as a risk," said Jon Peddie, analyst at market researcher Jon Peddie Research. "Too many pundits and fan boys and investors make a serious mistake when they try to compare and contrast Nintendo with Sony and Microsoft. Nintendo has a niche in the affordable, accessible product, and performance is never a leading criteria for them. It is gameplay and immersion. They are never a technology pioneer. Trying to compare Nintendo to Sony is like comparing a Volkswagen to a Corvette. It’s a facetious and fallacious analogy and a discredit to fans who love Nintendo."
We’ll discover more about the Switch during a livestream event in Tokyo on January 12, which will be followed by a hands-on presentation in New York the next day.