[Tech Breakdown] Why do you lot think the leaked Switch specs are underpowered? It’s about 2.5x WiiU’s. Or, relatively close to an XB1.

I posted on this a couple of months back, when the initial leak regarding the Switch was posted. People are pretty used to reading "clock speed", and making an immediate power assumption based off that. While of course, a lot can be gauged from clock speed, it is extremely far from the full story.

CPU Architecture & Clock Speed

Firstly, the CPU Clock. I posted last month that I expected a clock speed of around 1.8GHz. The Switch instead has a functional clock of 2GHz, with an operational clock of 1GHz. Again, as I noted previously, devices running on Tegra chipsets tend to have all the heavy lifting done on the GPU. The CPU is, for all intents and purposes, simply there to feed the GPU. As I stated in the past, I assumed Nintendo would opt for RISC-based ARM processors. Low TDP, and engines such as Unity3D/UE4 can compile natively for them now. This was a good option, in my opinion.

RAM & Transfer Rate

Annoyingly, I was wrong on the memory transfer rate. I predicted it opening up for 50GB/s, but it's opted for the downscaled rate of 25.6GB/s. This would signal to me that Nintendo are aware that they'll be targeting resolutions between 720p and 1080p ala XB1/PS4, rather than setting a 1080p standard, or pushing for 1440p+ resolutions. While somewhat disappointing, it's far from a crushing blow. However, I did predict that 4GB Shared Memory did sound about right here.

GPU Pixel & Fill Rates

Pixel and Fill rate came in spot-on with the predictions, which I'm happy about. As I noted previously, the WiiU had a 4.5pixel/cycle fill rate, while it sat at around 8pixel/cycle when it came to the texture fill rate. So, we're looking at 3x the fill/cycle rate, and 2x the texture/cycle rate. The WiiU had a maximum clock speed of around 1.2GHz, but the functional clock speed was never revealed. All we can really read from this is that the Switch has a maximum clock speed of 2Ghz, and is running at 1GHz.

GPU Brawn and Comparisons

The barebones Tegra X1 hits 1TFlop/s when handling FP16 data. For comparison, the WiiU hit around 360GFlop/s (0.36Tflop/s). For a further comparison, the XB1 can hit 1.3TFlop/s. Floating point operations per second should never be taken as the de-facto measure of a console's power (as with the CPU speed mentioned above), but it's a good base point. For a direct GPU comparison, the GTX750Ti peaked at 1.3TFlop/s. The base GTX750 clocks in at almost exactly 1TFlop/s.

Comparable performances

Firstly, we need to note that the Tegra X1 is not identical to the GTX750. It's almost identical in floating point 16 performance, but there are differences. For a start, the X1 has access to around 4x the available Shared RAM than the 750. However, the 750 has twice the amount of texture units available. In short, it's not a 1:1 comparison. Performance will be similar, but not identical.

Shadow Of Mordor, 1080p/30fps, Medium Settings

Star Wars Battlefront, 1080p/60fps (with dips), Medium Settings

Project Cars, 900p/60fps, Medium Settings

The Witcher 3, 900p/60fps, Medium Settings

Rise of The Tomb Raider, 720p/30fps, High Settings

On General Performance

If you were looking for excellent graphical fidelity, in short, you wouldn't be buying any console. The only difference between the XB1/PS4 and PC is that with the former, you pay more money for an inferior experience, and then get slapped with a monthly fee to play online.

On a Nintendo console, you generally tend to get something unique. Something that actually makes the system worth purchasing – rather than it just being a knock-off PC with gated walls.

The specs it's launching with places the console close to XB1 territory. While for third party developers, this may lend to a knock in graphical quality, it's important to remember what Nintendo themselves have achieved with their own hardware in the past. The N64 had no business running Majora's Mask. Metroid Prime was practically an impossibility on the Gamecube. Skyward Sword and Super Mario Galaxy (1 & 2) made the Wii take Gamecube power and make it look like a modern system. Even Sega jumped on that bandwagon with Sonic Colors, which looked abnormally good on the Wii. Then on the WiiU, Starfox Zero (not my favorite game in the series, but either way..) looked fantastic.

Conclusion

In general, there isn't any Nintendo console known for being the most powerful on the market. The SNES came very close due to it releasing so late in the 16-bit era, but only Nintendo's in-house, and third party studios have been the ones to push graphical fidelity on their own systems.

If you're looking for 1080p/Ultra, or 4K/60 gaming, then no console is for you. Get a PC, and put a GTX1070 into it. If you just want a 720p-1080p PC knockoff, pick up an XB1/PS4 in the January sales. If you want a 1080p/60 PC knockoff, pick up a P4 Neo/Project Scorpio console when they drop.

If you want a Nintendo console with, to be honest, slightly more power than I was expecting, then the Switch is for you. Nintendo consoles are devices which 90% of the time, are purely for running Nintendo games. In terms of quality gaming, and unique fun-factor entertainment, it's rare that Nintendo actually get beaten. It's why Nintendo consoles are the only ones I play, while my PS4 and XB1 sat there and gathered dust since release day.

It's something different for me to play on. I've already got a device for VR, Maxing out games, twitch shooting etc. It's more affordable, and has far better content than the PS4 and XB1. If I'm to purchase a Switch, again, it'd be for something different. And in knowing Nintendo, even if it were to just re-release the WiiU but swap out the tablet for the Switch controller & dock, they'd still be able to make games look good and run sharp on it.

Discussion started at here by lleti

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