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Nintendo’s Switch console will be less powerful than the old PS4

Published Dec 15th, 2016 9:02PM EST
Nintendo Switch vs. PS4 vs. Xbox One S
Image: Nintendo

Nintendo is one of the popular gaming companies in town right now. There’s Pokemon Go that Nintendo is a part of, there’s Super Mario Run on the iPhone, and the brand new “old” NES Classic is one of the hottest Christmas gifts this year. On top of that, Nintendo already unveiled its next-gen console, the interesting Switch hybrid meant to compete against the PS4 and the Xbox One in a way Sony and Microsoft may not have seen coming.

A new report detailing the hardware of the Switch indicates that Nintendo’s newest console will not be able to outperform Sony’s three-year old PS4. But that’t not necessarily a bad thing.

Sources familiar with the Switch told VentureBeat that the Switch won’t be more powerful than the PS4. The console will use Nvidia’s last-gen Maxwell graphics chips rather than the new Pascal architecture that Nvidia introduced this year. Pascal may be more powerful, but it won’t be ready in time for the Tegra chip that’s going into the Switch, and Nintendo can’t afford to wait.

The company wants a fast replacement for the Wii U, a console that can’t compete agains the PS4 and the Xbox One. Waiting for the Pascal to arrive to that custom Tegra chip isn’t something Nintendo is willing to do. Nintendo doesn’t want a competitor to come up with a Switch alternative before the Pascal-based Switch actually ships.

Even so, the Switch should offer a great gaming experience, with games such as Skyrim and NBA 2K supposed to run on the console.

“To give you a sense, we expect the Nintendo Switch to be more than 1 teraflop in performance, but far less than the 6 teraflops that Microsoft is promising for Scorpio,” VentureBeat notes. “The PS4 is around 1.8 teraflops, and it has much better memory bandwidth performance as well compared to the Switch.”

But Nintendo isn’t looking to compete against the PS4 and Xbox One on hardware. Instead, the Japanese giant wants to leverage the power of its game franchises that already have millions of fans out there. These games could help Nintendo sell more Switch consoles than a win on hardware performance.

Nintendo also wants to have more developers bring their games to the Switch. By going with older hardware, the company ensures that developers have the support they need to finish their Switch games in time of March, when the console should go on sale.

Not only is Nintendo looking to develop a console that would deliver a great experience both in console and tablet mode, and offer users a great catalog of titles at launch, but the company may also be looking to make the Switch more affordable at launch than a traditional console. The choice of Maxwell chips may help Nintendo come out with a lower price than you’d expect for a brand-new console.

The report also notes that it’s not clear whether the Switch will have a touchscreen display, and what operating system it’ll run. It’s very likely that it won’t be Android.

VentureBeat’s full report, which further explains the differences between Nvidia’s gaming platforms and chips, and the reasons why Nintendo isn’t going to beat the PS4 in a performance war, is available at this link.

Chris Smith
Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he closely follows the events in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises. Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.