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New Nintendo Switch Could Offer 4K Graphics Upgrade in 2021

Image of Nintendo Switch with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

A new, more powerful Nintendo Switch may be on the way in 2021, according to a report from the Taiwanese outlet Economic Daily News (and expanded upon by Bloomberg).

Economic Daily News cited supply chain sources and reported that the new Switch will  offer "better picture quality" and improved forms of interactivity. Bloomberg reported that Nintendo has yet to finalize the specs, but is looking into "more computing power and 4K high-definition graphics." That would be a major bump over the original Switch, which released in 2017 with an Nvidia Tegra X1 system on a chip.

Bloomberg also reported that a "slew" of both first and third-party games could launch alongside the system or within the release window. Nintendo has announced but has yet to release a sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, as well as Metroid Prime 4, while third-party titles like No More Heroes 3 are still awaiting release.

Nintendo released two variants on the Switch since its release: the Nintendo Switch Lite, which can only be played in handheld mode, as well as a quiet update with better battery life. But for 4K resolution graphics, we would need to see a major update in the internal technology. (It is also possible that games may run at higher resolutions when docked, which already occurs with the existing Switch).

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, both the Switch and Switch Lite have been hard to find, and Animal Crossing: New Horizons was hugely popular earlier this year. The game lineup has been a bit thin since then, so it's possible that Nintendo is banking big titles to launch with a more powerful version of the system.

  • King_V
    I'm not entirely clear on this: is the intent to be 4K capable only when docked? That will definitely require beefier hardware, of course, and the space constraints will make thermals a problem.

    Or, do they want to make the handheld screen also 4K, in which case, I have to ask, exasperatedly, "Why??"
    Reply
  • Makaveli
    What is the point of 4k on a screen that small?

    And what will it do to battery life?

    So many questions here!
    Reply
  • g-unit1111
    King_V said:
    I'm not entirely clear on this: is the intent to be 4K capable only when docked? That will definitely require beefier hardware, of course, and the space constraints will make thermals a problem.

    Or, do they want to make the handheld screen also 4K, in which case, I have to ask, exasperatedly, "Why??"

    Yeah I agree, 4K output on a TV is doable and would benefit games like Breath Of The Wild and Mario Odyssey, but 4K on a screen that small would be absolutely ridiculous.
    Reply
  • JarredWaltonGPU
    King_V said:
    I'm not entirely clear on this: is the intent to be 4K capable only when docked? That will definitely require beefier hardware, of course, and the space constraints will make thermals a problem.

    Or, do they want to make the handheld screen also 4K, in which case, I have to ask, exasperatedly, "Why??"
    I feel the same way about 4K laptops, especially in anything less than a 17-inch screen. I actually tried a 4K 17-inch HP Envy. The best way to use it? Drop the resolution to 2560x1440 and it's just about the perfect size for using as a laptop. Even 4K 28-inch desktop displays are a bit too fine for my aging eyesight -- I'd like a 40- to 45-inch display ideally for 4K desktop work to be usable without resorting to DPI scaling or other tricks.
    Reply
  • Kamen Rider Blade
    JarredWaltonGPU said:
    I feel the same way about 4K laptops, especially in anything less than a 17-inch screen. I actually tried a 4K 17-inch HP Envy. The best way to use it? Drop the resolution to 2560x1440 and it's just about the perfect size for using as a laptop. Even 4K 28-inch desktop displays are a bit too fine for my aging eyesight -- I'd like a 40- to 45-inch display ideally for 4K desktop work to be usable without resorting to DPI scaling or other tricks.
    When Apple introduced the "Retina Display" concept where a certain amount of PPI/DPI is all you really need for certain classes of Display's, why didn't the industry follow?


    Every LapTop Display I've spec-ed out if you follow the Retina Design Theory would be ~ 240 DPI which would be "Good Enough" for most people and every single Display Panel I would ever want to design would be easily under 4K except for the my last design:


    The final design would be a specialized 24:9 Cinema Wide Panel for LapTop use that just happens to push slightly past the 4K spec, but by the time you get 23" 24:9 Cinema Wide Panel, your LapTop Chasis will have plenty of internal volume to support top end hardware to drive that display.
    Reply
  • AgentLozen
    There seems to be a lot of confusion here about what Nintendo's intentions are. According to the article:

    "...the new Switch will offer 'better picture quality'..."
    "...(Nintendo) is looking into 'more computing power and 4K high-definition graphics.'"

    I doubt Nintendo plans to make the Switch screen 4K. Like some users in this thread have said, there would be diminishing returns on that high PPI. It's much more reasonable to assume 4K docked output.

    Some users have claimed that Nintendo would face engineering problems making a Switch powerful enough to fit the description in this article. It's unclear exactly what Nintendo is targeting for a "4K Switch". They might mean all games will render at 3840x2160 in docked mode (on the performance extreme) or they might mean that the Switch will support HDMI 2.0 and will natively output a 4K signal (on the vague, underwhelming extreme). We don't know. It's common for the Switch to dynamically downscale its games to less than 1080p docked or 720p undocked right now. It might retain that behavior even outputting 4K.

    The harddware exists for a Switch upgrade right now. Nintendo could replace the Maxwell based Tegra SoC with a Volta based SoC and see tremendous efficiency benefits. They could further tune the clock speed and cooling of the graphics chip for better performance. It's also possible that Nintendo could implement DLSS with Volta's AI processors for better image quality.

    We don't know much about Nintendo's plans but it's exciting to hear that a new, more powerful Switch could be on the way. Thank you for this article Tom's.
    Reply
  • atomicWAR
    I think for those hung up on the 4K Switch screens not making sense have it all wrong or are blind to what is in my opinion is fairly obvious. The 4K part of this rumor is strictly for docked mode. I would guess we might see a 1080P or even maybe 1440P screen on the device but certainly 4K would be counter productive for all the reasons mentioned in the above posts like battery life, visual fidelity plateauing do to the diminishing returns of increasing the DPI, etc.

    We'll get the same setup we have now with the Switch with higher resolutions dependent on mode. On the next gen Switch, docked we'll get 4K or something very close while in portable mode we'll see some like 1080P/1440P native with games coming in at or close to this resolution. I have also heard rumors floating around that they may have a TV only version coming this go round. Which if you ask me would be smart. Sell it for a good click less then the portable version do to lack of screen, battery and all that jazz. Nintendo learned having a unified games eco-system was a win in the public's eye with the switch. Notice we never saw a new portable only line like the 3ds, and no the Switch lite doesn't count as it still plays everything every other Switch plays. My guess is the days of Nintendo producing a portable and a home console that has a different games libraries/eco-systems is dead for now maybe even for good.

    At the end of the day this move was expected. We know Nintendo signed a deal with Nvidia a while back to produce their next few console's. With the utter success of the Switch it is no surprise Nintendo is doubling down on this strategy. And with Nvidia DLSS finally maturing enough as a feature that actually can increase visual fidelity instead of just looking like someone spread Vaseline all over your monitor, the next switch will truly be a marvel. While not a fan of DLSS at launch do to its' poor execution, seriously it was horrid, I can now say it may be one of the most important achievements in 3D gaming tech history next to only unified shaders and hardware accelerated ray-tracing. It seriously has long term implications in gaming, particularly in the mobile and VR markets if you ask me.

    When I first heard the crazy that ended up being the Switch I was disappointed. I am primarily a PC gamer and I tend to have a very powerful GPU at all times in my rig. So I missed Nintendo competing for the console graphics crown, seriously the N64 and Game Cube were glorious contenders back in the day. Fast forward to the present and I love my Switch dearly. Present me would happily crack the younger me over the head to knock some sense into it. Beyond the goodness that is Nintendo 1st party games like Zelda BOTW, Super Mario Odyssey and 3rd party stuff like Doom 2016. Playing games I love from PC on the go (no cloud computing for me thank you) is a real delight. Especially in games like Witcher 3 where I can transfer my progress from PC to Switch and back again. If Nintendo really wanted to drop a bombshell they would release a few different variants of the next gen Switch. A TV only console, a hybrid, a portable only and a phone version possibly pulling double duty doing VR maybe much like Samsung has done. If Nintendo did that, I think MS and Sony would lose the next round of the console wars no question. I also think Samsung and Apple would have something to get nervous about as well...I know a lot of people who would go nutz if Nintendo made a phone!

    (If someone from Nintendo is reading this, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, release a phone. My cash is yours...and the toilet is the new home of my Galaxy Note Eleventeenth ++++ extra Bloatware edition)
    Reply
  • King_V
    Generally I agree. It should, in theory, be obvious that they don't mean 4K for the Switch undocked. It's ridiculous to have 4K resolution on a screen that small.

    In theory. Well, I mean, it's still ridiculous, but anyone planning to make a small 4K screen like that should only be some crazy "in theory" thing, right?

    The highest resolution available in the smartphone market is the whopping 806 PPI of the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium, which packs a full 4K image (2160 x 3840 pixels) onto a 5.5” screen. There are several phones with 1440 x 2960 pixels or thereabouts on 5.5-6.0 inch screens, for upwards of 550 PPI.

    Now, if you'll all excuse me, I have some serious face-palming and exasperated cries of "but WHY??!" to do right now.
    Reply
  • adamboy64
    As others have said, I'd be assuming the 4K is referring to a 4K output, rather than being able to render in 4K.
    I don't think an updated switch is going to match the PS5/XSX.
    Reply
  • Mandark
    Yep just keep buying those devices just the way they planned no thanks Nintendo never again

    Enjoy your one Mario game
    Reply