Rumor: Nintendo Switch has Tegra soc with Maxwell GPU

The Nvidia Tegra-soc in the Nintendo Switch uses a GPU based on the Maxwell architecture. That’s what two anonymous sources say to GamesBeat. The choice for the old architecture would have been made to be able to release the console quickly.

Nintendo didn’t have time to wait for Nvidia to have a Tegra chip with Pascal GPU ready for mobile devices, the sources told VentureBeat’s gaming division. According to them, Nintendo wants to replace the Wii U as soon as possible and not run the risk that competitors have already put a similar hybrid console on the market.

With the announcement of the Nintendo Switch in October, Nvidia announced that it would supply the soc for the hybrid console. However, the company did not specifically say which soc it is, but spoke of a custom Tegra soc with a GPU that is based on the same architecture as the ‘top-performing’ GeForce video cards. That seemed to indicate that the soc used would have a Pascal GPU.

Nintendo Switch devkits, currently used by game developers, are said to feature an Nvidia Tegra X1 soc. That soc is also in the Nvidia Shield Android TV console and in the Google Pixel C tablet. The final Switch hardware would get a modified version of this soc. That was also previously apparent in rumors from Eurogamer, which surfaced before the announcement of the console and proved correct in other areas.

The Tegra X1 has four 64-bit ARM Cortex A57 cores and a GPU based on the Maxwell architecture with 256 cudacores. That’s one third of the number of computing cores on an Nvidia GeForce GTX 950 video card. It is one of the fastest GPUs for mobile devices, and it is also more powerful than the GPUs in the Xbox 360 and the PS3. In terms of computing power, however, the soc has to recognize its superior in the consoles of the current generations. However, with this hardware, the Switch must be able to show better images than the Wii U.

Nvidia Tegra X1 soc

Nvidia’s Maxwell architecture is less efficient than the new Pascal architecture. In mobile use, the Tegra chip would be clocked slower. Rumor has it that developers can choose to run games in 540p resolution, similar to the PlayStation Vita, and upscale that to the screen’s presumed 720p resolution. If the Switch is placed in the dock, the clock speed can be increased and gaming in a higher resolution should be possible.

Nvidia did announce a Tegra chip with Pascal GPU in August, but that would have been too late for Nintendo. That chip is also not yet optimized for mobile applications, but focused on computing power. For example, Nvidia will use a Tegra chip with Pascal GPU in its Drive PX2 platform for autonomous cars.

An advantage of the relatively old GPU architecture may be that the costs of the soc are low. The Switch could therefore be brought to the market for a low price. On January 12, Nintendo will announce more details about the Switch, the console will be released in March.