It’s now been five long years since Nintendo released the Switch. And while the modular handheld was underpowered compared to its heavyweight competition, it easily showed them up with its combination of killer games, portability and an all-important dash of Ninty magic.
Yet for almost as long as the Switch has existed, rumours have circulated about a more expensive, more powerful version – known to many as the Switch Pro. As if to stoke the fires of anticipation, Nintendo went the opposite way in 2019, launching the cheaper, non-modular Switch Lite.
So is the elusive Switch Pro actually in the pipeline? And if so, when will we see it – and what will it do? We’ve dug through all of the internet rumours to sift out the most likely story. Here’s everything we know about the Nintendo Switch Pro.
When will the Switch Pro be out?
In short: no-one outside of Nintendo knows for certain. In this very feature last year we shared intel from “reliable sources” that Ninty was gearing up for an autumn launch, just in time for the pre-Christmas rush. Clearly, that didn’t happen. Sorry. Instead, we got the Switch OLED, with its improved stand and superior screen.
Perhaps the more pertinent question is whether the Nintendo Switch Pro was ever going to launch last year. Was it simply conjecture or was the Switch Pro delayed by supply chain difficulties? Nintendo’s official line remains that it has “no plans for launching any other model at this time.”
So the jury is still out. A quick search online will net conclusions on the Switch Pro’s existence ranging from “fanciful” to “cancelled” to “definitely coming in 2022”. So whatever you read should be taken with a pinch of salt big enough to block a Warp Pipe.
Indeed, some of the same sources which were certain that the Switch Pro would hit shelves in 2021 are now reporting that a premium variant won’t be seen until the end of 2022 at the earliest. Others have suggested that the Pro has already been canned completely, in favour of a new next-gen console, due to arrive in 2024. As you can tell, there’s a huge Question Mark Block hovering over the whole thing.
How much will the Nintendo Switch Pro cost?
It’s a tricky task, placing a price tag on a console that may or may not exist. Especially when Nintendo doesn’t have a long history of shipping premium versions of its games consoles. Most analyst reports aren’t too helpful either, with one simply suggesting that it will be “priced higher than the original”.
The first Nintendo Switch cost £280 ($300) when it launched in 2017. Even as it’s aged, its enduring popularity means the Switch has pretty much maintained that price tag since. The Nintendo Switch Lite came in at £200 ($200), while the Switch OLED will set you back £310 ($350).
If – and, as you can probably tell, that’s a big if – the Switch Pro ever arrives, we’d expect it to slot in at around the same price as the Nintendo Switch OLED, if not slightly above it. By what margin can only be a matter of guesswork, especially as some rumours suggest that the Switch Pro would replace the vanilla Switch device in the line-up (meaning it would need to remain broadly accessible).
Will the Nintendo Switch Pro play games in 4K?
Before the arrival of the Nintendo Switch OLED last year, many reports indicated that superior screen tech would be one of the key features of the premium handheld. But since Ninty went ahead and strapped a shiny new display to the existing Switch, that prediction’s been blown out of the water.
So what does that leave for the Switch Pro? Well, it’s likely to adopt broadly the same form factor as the existing Switch. Sure, there might a few physical refinements here and there, but there’s an expectation of familiarity and compatibility with existing accessories.
With the display already upgraded and upsized from 6.2in to 7in with the OLED edition, there’s not too much room left for Ninty to tweak it further. Of course, the resolution remains very low by modern standards at 720p. Yet that’s also a perfect pixel density for most games played on the Switch. Sure, a bump to 1080p might deal with a few of the jagged edges, but the resulting reduction in battery life would have a far bigger impact on the handheld gaming experience – and doubly so if Ninty pushed the pixels to 4K.
Instead, most speculation centres around the ability to play games in 4K on a TV when the Switch Pro is docked. This would make more sense than 4K gaming on the go and significantly improve the living room Switch experience. The Switch OLED’s upgraded dock already ships with a chipset and cable which are believed to support 4K (even though the OLED itself doesn’t), so there’s a good chance that an upgraded console could be dropped straight onto the existing dock for gaming in UltraHD.
How much power will the Nintendo Switch have?
Five years is a long time in terms of gaming hardware, especially for a console that wasn’t at the cutting edge of performance even when new. Nintendo has never been one to make outright power a priority, but we’d expect to see the Switch Pro ship with a beefed up chip. And if Ninty wants to add 4K TV gaming to its repertoire, then it’ll need to.
Multiple reports point towards the Switch Pro shipping with an upgraded version of the Nvidia Tegra X1+ chip which currently powers the Switch and Switch Lite. One suggestion is that Nintendo will stick with the same chip, but enhance its abilities through increased clock speeds and improved cooling.
Yet other rumours indicate that the Tegra X1+ chip is soon to be discontinued by Nvidia altogether, which would leave Nintendo in need of new silicone. Some believe Nvidia’s meatier Tegra Xavier chip could be put to use by the Switch Pro, together with 64GB of solid-state storage.
As above, much of this is pure conjecture. The widespread belief – and hope – is that the Switch Pro will deliver boosted CPU and graphics performance, making it capable of running the same titles playable on the current Switch consoles, but at higher frame rates, sharper resolutions and with slicker visuals all round.
To do this, some sources suggest Nintendo will rely on a version of Nvidia’s Deep Learning Super Sampling smarts – an AI rendering tech which can boost graphics performance by enhancing and upscaling images. Given that it’s currently limited to specific games and hardware, meaningful implementation on the Switch platform would represent a significant – and perhaps unrealistic – expansion of its use.
What else do we want from the Nintendo Switch Pro?
Besides a 1080p display, 4K video output to a TV when docked and beefier graphics hardware, there’s one thing many fans would hope to see from the Switch Pro: stronger battery life. The Switch already received a boost in this regard when Ninty quietly upgraded its cell in 2019. But if the Switch Pro really is to ship with a more powerful processor, the battery might need another increase to match.
Many would also hope to see the Switch Pro offer better DisplayPort support over USB-C. Connecting to gaming monitors has proved something of a sticking point for the original Switch, with reliable video output only guaranteed by connecting via HDMI. Some murmurings suggest that the Switch Pro will address this, allowing output of 4K streams using DisplayPort over USB-C.
What about Bluetooth? The Switch might finally support wireless headphones, but support for other Bluetooth accessories is still pretty bolted down. You still can’t use a Bluetooth mic with the Switch, and connecting headphones limits you to two controllers (an allowance maxed out by the Joy-Cons). We’d hope to see the Switch Pro lift at least some of these restrictions. If it’s real. And it ever arrives. Watch this space.