Another day, another ‘Nintendo Switch Pro’ rumour – but with supposed listings on the website of French retailer Boulanger and repeated claims of components already being in production, this time there may be more to internet rumblings than a round of wishful thinking.
Rumours of a ‘Pro’ version of Nintendo Switch have surrounded the hit console since it launched back in 2017. With the Switch’s release sandwiched between the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, both of which offered significant power boosts over their respective baseline consoles, some have perceived the Switch as underpowered from day one.
It was a 1080p console that arrived as its competitors were stepping into the dazzling world of 4K HDR experiences, with a measly 32GB of storage compared to an impressive 1TB drive on its rivals, all centred on a glorified smartphone processor. Surely, Nintendo was kneecapping itself at the starting line.
There’s a touch of naiveté to that view, though. Historically, Nintendo has never played the numbers game when it comes to tech specs, with the company preferring to focus on quality of experience and software that is uniquely rooted on its hardware. To a great extent, it doesn’t care what its competitors are doing, and often that pays out – by hybridising at-home and on-the-go gaming experiences into one device with both phenomenal motion controls and the option for touchscreen input, the Switch has attracted a host of developers and sold just shy of 70m units, with the Switch Lite adding a further 14.7m sales to Nintendo’s ledger. “Underpowered” or not, the hardware has been an undeniable success for Nintendo.
However, the Switch is starting to show its limits. Some newer or higher end games, such as Hitman III or Control, are only playable on the console via cloud streaming, while others offer lower performance than their Xbox, PC, or PlayStation releases. If Nintendo wants to keep enjoying the level of third-party support that the Switch has attracted, the platform needs an upgrade.
What would that look like though? While speculation of an imminent reveal at E3 mounts, here’s what we think the much-mythologised Switch Pro needs to succeed.
If it ain’t broke…
First of all, there’s still a lot to love about the Switch as it is. We’d expect any mid-gen upgrade to keep what works best, meaning it needs to stay a hybrid console that can be played on the go, then docked at home to continue your gaming sessions on the big screen. Similarly, it needs to retain the versatility of play, with the removable motion-sensing Joy-Con controllers usable in a variety of configurations – attached to the console as a handheld, micro-controllers for multiple players, waved about as motion input, or clipped onto the ‘Grip’ controller brace for TV play – alongside touchscreen controls and the existing Pro controller.
Or at least more power. The current Nvidia Tegra X1 SOC that powers the Switch has served it well, and even exceeded many expectations, but it’s nowhere close to cutting edge, especially four years on from release. A revised model, the Tegra X1+, has been used in Switch and Switch Lite consoles produced since 2019, offering slightly improved performance and increased battery life, but we’d hope for a bit more oomph still if the Switch Pro is to have any hope of bringing some of those cloud games offline.
A better, more powerful core will also help deliver 4K visuals. This is, in fact, one of the most common of Switch Pro rumours – that it will be capable of outputting 4K content when docked. While we can’t see the likes of Splatoon really benefitting much from a resolution boost – although it would, of course, be nice – the thought of playing the Breath of the Wild sequel in 4K HDR is scintillating.