How powerful is the Nintendo Switch?

In terms of raw power, the Nintendo Switch does not compare favorably to other consoles released in 2017 (namely the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X). Modern gaming smartphones are also far more powerful than the Switch.

Read on below to find out more about how powerful the Nintendo Switch is.

Nintendo Switch hardware specs

The tech specs provided by Nintendo on its official website say that the Switch is powered by a ‘custom’ NVIDIA Tegra processor.

Teardowns shortly after the console was released showed that the processor is in fact a stock NVIDIA Tegra T210

This processor features four ‘big cores’ (fast, powerful Cortex-A57 cores) and four ‘small cores’ (Cortex-A53 – more energy efficient, useful for background processes). 

It’s mounted on a relatively thin, fragile board with no corner bond adhesive which leaves it prone to shifting that can cause the Switch blue screen of death.

The Tegra X1’s max clock speeds are (according to tests conducted by Digital Foundry):

CPU: 1785MHz
GPU: 921MHz
Memory: 1600MHz

The Nintendo Switch doesn’t max out these parameters under normal conditions, but Switch CPU and GPU clock speeds do temporarily increase during the initial booting of games and other periods of intense load.

The Switch is theoretically Nintendo’s first 1-teraflop console but, based on its instruction set, there are few (if any) real-world situations in which it achieves this.

4K HDR output is possible with the Tegra X1’s integrated Maxwell GPU, but the Switch doesn’t use HDMI 2.0 and does not natively support 4K

Finally, the Switch has 4GB RAM (2x 2GB chips) with a 25.6GB memory bandwidth, plus a 32GB internal storage capacity (luckily it’s easy to archive Switch games to avoid running out of storage space).

Is the Switch OLED more powerful?

No. There were rumors prior to its release that the Switch OLED model would feature a faster NVIDIA chip with better graphics and processing, but the OLED model is not more powerful than the base Switch.

The OLED model does, however, offer a number of key improvements on the base Switch:

  • 7.0 inch OLED screen (up from 6.2 inch LCD)
  • LAN port on the dock
  • Improved kickstand
  • 64GB internal storage (up from 32GB on the base model)

Upgrading to the OLED model from the base model is, in my opinion, only worth it if you play mostly in handheld mode and you want colors to pop a bit more and details to be a little crisper. The Switch’s OLED screen also doesn’t suffer from burn-in like some other screens using similar tech.

The caveat to this is if you have a pre-2019 base Switch model: Newer Switch consoles (manufactured from 2019 onwards – sometimes referred to as Switch V2) and the OLED model both benefit from significantly improved battery life compared to the original base Switch.  

How powerful is Nintendo Switch compared to other consoles?

The Nintendo Switch is obviously not as powerful as the ninth-generation home consoles (Xbox Series S|X and Sony PlayStation 5) – nor was it ever intended to be. If you’re looking for ultra-high-quality visual experiences or vast MMORPGs on Switch, prepare to be disappointed (though there are a couple of the latter, to be fair). 

Reduced power was always going to be the trade-off for the Switch’s unique portability and hybrid handheld/docked modes. I mean, even the cases that Switch games ship in are pretty much the same size as the console itself.

But how does it compare to other console versions also released in 2017, namely Sony’s PS4 Pro and Microsoft’s Xbox One X?

Custom ProCasual infographic comparing relative power metrics of nintendo switch, playstation 4 pro and xbox one x

Switch vs. PS4 Pro

PS4 Pro console and game pad.
PS4 Pro

Overall CPU speed: 8x 2.3GHz
GPU processing power: 4.14Tflops
Memory bandwidth: 176GB
Internal storage: 1TB

Some Nintendo Switch concepts speculated that it would outperform the PS4. However, The PS4 Pro knocks the Switch out of the park on performance with more than double the Switch’s overall CPU speed, four times the GPU processing power, and double the RAM.

The PS4 Pro also boasts a memory bandwidth almost seven times larger than the Nintendo Switch plus a massive 1TB of internal storage compared to the Switch’s 32GB.

All this power obviously comes at a cost, and that cost is size and weight. While the hybrid portable Switch weighs in at just 0.65lb (299g), the PS4 Pro is a bulky 7.3lb (3.3kg)

Switch vs. Xbox One X

xbox one x console and controller
Xbox One X

Overall CPU speed: 8x 2.3GHz
GPU processing power: 6Tflops
Memory bandwidth: 326GB
Internal storage: 1TB

The Xbox One X is also far more powerful than the Nintendo Switch and even outperforms the PS4 Pro on several metrics. 

The One X’s overall CPU speed is the same as the PS4 Pro and its 6 teraflops of raw processing power make the Switch’s theoretical max of 1 teraflop look minuscule. 

This is one reason why there are no football games on Switch (at least no detailed sims like Madden) – I just don’t think the Switch can handle it.

A memory bandwidth of 326GB with 12GB RAM means the One X is the top performer here, too, but it’s heavier than the PS4 Pro at 8.4lb (3.8kg).

Nintendo Switch vs. Wii U 32GB

So, the Nintendo Switch is nowhere near as powerful as the other two main consoles released in 2017. But is it at least a significant upgrade on its predecessor, the Wii U? 

WiiU 32gb premium pack console and game pad
Wii U 32GB

Overall CPU speed: 3x 1.24GHz
GPU processing power: 0.35Tflops
Memory bandwidth: 12.8GB
Internal storage: 32GB

That’s an emphatic yes: More than double the overall CPU speed, almost triple the graphics processing power, double the RAM and double the memory bandwidth

The Switch is a dramatic improvement on the Wii U on all metrics other than the internal storage (which is the same on both consoles). 

How powerful is the Nintendo Switch as a tablet?

At the time of its release in 2017, the Switch’s CPU power was broadly comparable to the top-of-the-range tablets.

For example, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 (released March 2017) featured a 4-core 2150MHz CPU, as did the LG G5 (released 2016).  

However, mobile device technology has come a long way since then and newly released tablets, like the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra are far more powerful than the Switch. That’s one of the reasons why the Switch doesn’t have a web browser.

Given that it is highly optimized for gaming, the Switch was never going to be a good option as a tablet. 

Even if you do manage to exploit your Switch so that it can run Android, it’s unlikely to be worth the trouble compared to just… using a tablet.

Are phones more powerful than Nintendo Switch?

Screenshot of powerful smartphone ASUS ROG Phone 6 Pro from the Asus website
Image credit: Asus/ROG

The latest gaming phones are far more powerful than the Nintendo Switch. 

The Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 is the CPU of choice for many of the most recent Android gaming smartphones to hit the market. 

It features eight cores: one clocking in at 3GHz, three at 2.5GHz each, and a final 1.8GHz core. 

While its GPU clock speed is broadly comparable to the Switch at 970Hz, the Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1’s max memory bandwidth is more than double that of the Switch at a chunky 64GB.

With some new Android phones on the market also packing in up to 18GB RAM (like the ASUS ROG Phone 6 Pro), there’s no question that they’re far more powerful than the Nintendo Switch.

Luckily, the Nintendo store features a huge range of excellent small-size Switch games which the console can handle perfectly well, so having less power than some smartphones really doesn’t limit the Switch too much.

The Switch also doesn’t have the internal storage capacity to support huge resource-heavy games. That’s why the average Switch game size is just 2.8GB.

Will Nintendo make a more powerful Switch?

Despite regular rumors of a Switch 2 or a Switch Pro (or a Super Switch, maybe?) being in the pipeline, Nintendo has yet to provide any evidence that it’s working on a more powerful Switch console

It’s also still pumping out power-hungry new releases like 2022 Game of the Year nominee Xenoblade Chronicles 3 and money-spinning ports like Skyrim: Anniversary Edition (yours for just $70…), so there’s plenty of life left in the old dog yet.

More important than power for some Switch gamers is backward compatibility: Being able to play 3DS games natively on Switch would, for example, mean digital-only 3DS titles like Ace Attorney 4, 5, and 6 would still be accessible despite the fact that the 3DS and WiiU eShop has now permanently closed.

Whether or not it’s a Switch 2, we’re sure to see a significant performance improvement in the next Nintendo console.

How powerful is the Nintendo Switch? Summary

The Nintendo Switch is not very powerful when compared to other consoles released at the same time. It’s also comfortably outperformed by modern gaming smartphones in terms of raw power.

If you’re looking for a hyper-realistic soccer sim on Switch or a super-detailed FPS, you’ll be disappointed. Power was never the Switch’s appeal though: With over 100 million units now sold, it’s clear that sacrificing power for portability was the right choice for Nintendo. 

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