Earlier this year, we heard rumors of two new Switches that Nintendo would supposedly launch. The Switch Lite was recently announced, which confirmed both its own existence. Now, Nintendo has unveiled a second Switch update. The new model has drastically improved battery life and no other differences and will sell for the same $ 299 base price.
Note: The fact that Nintendo isn’t claiming other differences doesn’t mean there couldn’t be a few. It does, however, mean that they’ll likely be small and incidental.
The old Switch had an estimated battery life of 2.5 – 6.5 hours. The new Switch has an estimated battery life of 4.5 – 9 hours. Do the math, and that works out to a 1.8x increase at the low end and a 1.4x increase at the top. Even if the exact figures are wrong, the new Switch should live much longer than the old one on the same charge.
We already know, thanks to FCC filings, that Nintendo applied to put a new SoC and storage in the Switch, but it’d be obvious they had, even if we didn’t have that information. There are only three ways to improve battery life by 1.4x – 1.8x:
- Dramatically increase battery size and weight.
- Fix whatever broken software is wrecking overall power consumption
- Build a more power-efficient SoC, most likely on a lower process node.
The original Switch still uses Nvidia’s Tegra X1, a 2015-era processor built on TSMC’s 20nm node. Data suggest that both the Switch Lite and the upgraded Switch use a T214 chip from Nvidia, codenamed Mariko. Mariko may be a die-shrunk version of Tegra X1 with backported security updates and support for LPDDR4x as opposed to LPDDR4. We don’t know the process node Mariko is built on, but there’s some evidence it may be capable of a higher clock speed than its predecessor. This also points to a node shrink, though we don’t know which process node Nvidia might have used (and there are plenty to choose from). A node shrink and the DRAM change would account for the improved power consumption.
If you want to pick up one of the new units, look for Switches with serial numbers starting with XKW; the model number is HAC-001(-01). We don’t have an exact date when the devices will launch in the US, but Nintendo has said to expect mid-August availability.
Will We See A Switch Pro?
The fact that Nintendo is putting a new SoC in a non-refreshed Switch makes it seem a lot less likely that we’ll see an upgraded Switch Pro in the near future. The simplest explanation for this is that Nintendo decided to spend the benefits of a new node entirely on extending battery life because that was the feature Switch gamers wanted most. Just improving battery life, however, may not have been enough of an upgrade for the company to feel like an entirely new higher-end product was warranted.
The rumors around an upgraded Switch have always been vague. One possibility in all this is that Nintendo keeps the Switch as-is for now, but rolls out its own upgrade in 9-12 months, to better compete against the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Next. The goal, in this case, wouldn’t be direct competition — Nintendo is playing its own game on that front — but to make sure Switch stayed relevant in the overall hardware conversation, and that Nintendo demonstrated its own ability to deliver better hardware on a cadence. The degree of interest the company has in this step likely hinges on the degree to which it sees itself in competition with Sony and Microsoft in the first place.
There are rumors that the new Switch’s GPU might be clocked at a higher default frequency, which would improve performance in games that aren’t memory bandwidth-limited, but we won’t know if the console delivers many performance improvements until it’s actually available.