Posted on November 01 2016 by Nathanial Rumphol-Janc
Someone in Japan may have just leaked some final specs for the NVidia architecture inside Nintendo Switch. It wasn’t too long ago that we got a supposed Dev kit leak about the current specs in those units at that time that has had some outside confirmations, but now we have something that appears on the surface to be a much more tantalizing prospect towards the final spec sheet. According to Nishikawa Zenji, who apparently is a really famous Japanese journalist who knew about the PlayStation 4 Pro long before it was unveiled and simply just in the planning stages, the Nintendo Switch will likely be based upon the Pascal “Parker” architecture.
For those unfamiliar with those terms, Pascal is the actual architecture used in the 1050+ range of GPU cards (their latest GPUs, and would line up with NVidia’s own press release) and the fact “Parker” is mentioned is a reference to the yet to be released Tegra X2. So, what we can infer (while having no exact specs) is that this is a custom Tegra X2 chip feature Pascal architecture. While this doesn’t really give us a full hint at what that means, here is what is currently known about the Tegra X2:
Parker delivers 50 to 100 percent higher multi-core CPU performance than other mobile processors(2). This is thanks to its CPU architecture consisting of two next-generation 64-bit Denver CPU cores (Denver 2.0) paired with four 64-bit ARM Cortex A57 CPUs. These all work together in a fully coherent heterogeneous multi-processor configuration.
The Denver 2.0 CPU is a seven-way superscalar processor supporting the ARM v8 instruction set and implements an improved dynamic code optimization algorithm and additional low-power retention states for better energy efficiency. The two Denver cores and the Cortex A57 CPU complex are interconnected through a proprietary coherent interconnect fabric.
A new 256-core Pascal GPU in Parker delivers the performance needed to run advanced deep learning inference algorithms for self-driving capabilities. And it offers the raw graphics performance and features to power multiple high-resolution displays, such as cockpit instrument displays and in-vehicle infotainment panels.
It’s notable this comes out to about 1.5 TFLOPS of performance, which is more than the Xbox One but less than the PlayStation 4. However, the journalist notes that it is likely the performance will be knocked down to 1 TFLOP in order to have a longer battery life when taken on the go. This would also be the first real suggestion we have had that performance is gimped purposefully to make the device mobile, though it may still be possible to increase performance when docked to support the 1080p resolution natively, ramping up an internal fan for cooling. Even still, at 1 TFLOP that makes the difference between the Nintendo Switch and the Xbox One about the same as the the difference between the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4.
That means it would still be not quite at Xbox One levels, but it would be close enough to where porting current generation games shouldn’t be a huge hangup, especially when the portable side is likely sporting a 720p resolution (which will save on resource management). It is also notable that Tegra X2 has been purposefully designed for use in cars, which explains why it would be a fully custom chip based on that current technology rather than a straight X2. Thus, it’s possible the overall performance is slightly higher or slightly lower in the final build. Either way, if true, this paints a much rosier path for the Switch.
The journalist also notes this could pave way for future Switch hardware that, like the Pro or Xbox One S, could see updated releases as Tegra technology advances forward every three years.
Personally, I hope this is all true. Even with the Pro and Scorpio on the horizon, the original Xbox One and PlayStation 4 will still be getting a vast majority of the big AAA titles making the possibility of those titles coming to Switch far more likely. The fact there is also a clear upgrade path down the line bodes well for Nintendo not falling behind too much, as even with Scorpio boasting anywhere from 6 to 8 TFLOPS, with the Switch being a success it’s not inconceivable that advancements in Tegra tech could make the Next Switch come really close as well (if there is next), which may be behind what the PlayStation 5 or Xbox Two does, but close enough to still be there.
Essentially, if true, this is making the Switch viable for all the big AAA third party games, even if they won’t be the very best resolution or fps on the market. The bottom line is that this speaks well for anyone looking into buying a Switch next year.