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The case for a Nintendo Switch ‘Pro’

January 4th, 2019 | by George Boatfield
The case for a Nintendo Switch ‘Pro’
Gaming
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George Boatfield shares his views on why the Switch deserves a more powerful model

 

With the recent reports of an upgraded Switch console that’s set to release in the summer of 2019, it got me thinking about what I’d like to see from the console moving forward. As some of you may know, I can’t shut up about the Switch most of the time, and as a result, this wish list is long in the making.

 

Let’s start with the upgrade that everyone wants: the graphical capabilities of the system. To those initiated in the cult-like technical community of the Switch, it’s no secret that the hybrid console uses Nvidia’s original Tegra X1 mobile SOC- system on a chip, which contains both the CPU and graphics card on a single piece of silicon.

 

While its use in the Switch has so far served Nintendo, Nvidia and the end-user well up to now, this is 2015 technology and it’s time for a boost.

 

A Switch with beefier graphics would improve the experience on these games

 

Thankfully, there are boosts aplenty in the land of mobile processors. Nvidia already has a Tegra X2 out and in production, which is suspiciously well-adapted to the needs of a Switch-like device. Consider the systems in play on games like Doom and Super Mario Odyssey,  which adjust graphical fidelity based on the available processing power. 

 

This would mean a Switch with beefier graphics would improve the experience on these games with no additional developer input required. Pushing the resolution closer to the 1080p target for TVs and 720p for handheld play would provide a clearer, more polished experience.

 

And that leads on nicely to the chatter surrounding what people want to happen with the console’s screen. The general consensus seems to be that an upgrade to a 1080p display for handheld play would be the best way to go, but I couldn’t disagree more.

 

On a system where resources are limited more significantly than a home console like an Xbox One, these resources must be used creatively. Offering a simple bump up to 1080p when so many games barely reach 720p in handheld on the standard Switch is just unnecessary at this stage.

 

This is 2015 technology and it’s time for a boost

 

It all comes down to how the system runs when comparing between the two modes of play. When the Switch is docked and connected to a TV, battery life or heat output is not a concern; the processor speed increases and so does the fan.

 

However, in handheld mode, the speed of the graphics processor is halved to extend the life of the battery as best as possible and to ensure that the console is not uncomfortable to hold.

 

If the screen maintained a target resolution of 720p when using the more capable Tegra X2 processor in tandem, this could allow for significantly longer battery life in handheld mode. I’d much rather have an extra 3 hours than more pixels on a screen where the difference would be barely discernible.

 

But that’s enough talk about graphics! It’s the gameplay that matters, right? Well, it turns out that audio is quite important too, and yet this is perhaps the worst aspect about the current Switch. It may have a headphone jack on the main console unit which is more than what can be said for most phones nowadays, and yet it’s one of the few portable devices I’ve used in recent memory that doesn’t have Bluetooth headphone support! When e-readers have more modern audio standards than the Switch, something has got to be up.

 

And speaking of headphone jacks, my God is it a mess to set up voice chat on the Switch. One cable stretching across the room from the Switch to an adapter, another going to a smartphone, and you, the victim, are sat there drowning in a sea of cables.

 

This is less of a problem with the Switch itself and more centered on the otherwise-incredible controllers – they all need headphone jacks moving forward. This is an essential feature that PS4 and Xbox One have both had since 2013.

 

When e-readers have more modern audio standards than the Switch, something has got to be up.

 

And last, but certainly not least, there’s that kickstand. While used perfectly (and unrealistically) in all of the adverts, it’s useless in most situations. If you’re a hobbit sat at a regular-sized table, you’re all set. Otherwise, the angle is unusable and its stability is temporary. I know many say that Nintendo is for kids, but the Switch designers went a bit too far in responding to that feedback.

 

But that’s what all this is: feedback. For the first attempt at a truly innovative console design, Nintendo got a lot right. I reckon it’s the best-designed product they’ve ever made, but why should they stop there? After all, the PS5 and Xbox ‘2’ are just around the corner…

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