DigitalFoundry has written a report on the potential of a new chip that could power a Nintendo Switch revision. It’s been effectively ruled out that a Switch revision might use an Nvidia Tegra X2, which they currently sell for devices like self-driving car systems. However, it appears that there is indeed an improved version of the Tegra X1 in the works.
The Tegra X1 that powers the current Switch model is fabricated using TSMC’s 20nm process. While different foundries like TSMC, Intel, Samsung, and GlobalFoundries use different measurements to define a process, in general, the smaller the process, the better. Smaller transistors can operate faster, require less voltage, and therefore require less cooling. A new revision would be fabricated by either one of TSMC’s 16nm processes or possibly a 7nm process. DigitalFoundry speculates that the increases in clock speed would point to a 16nm process, but cannot say for certain as the clock speed is based on engineering samples and not final hardware.
The internal development name for the X1 is Logan, named after the Marvel character Wolverine. In the code for the Switch’s 5.0 software, there were references to a new chip called Mariko, seemingly named after Wolverine’s love interest Mariko Yashida. The Tegra X1 is also used in Nvidia’s Shield TV console, and documentation from Google indicates that there is a planned revision, which makes references to a chip that open source project comments indicate is the same as Mariko. The Logan chip found in the Switch has a maximum Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) clock speed of 921Mhz, but Mariko’s limit is 1.267GHz. There are also indications that Mariko comes with 8GB of RAM, while the current Switch has 4GB. It is possible however that a final hardware release could have 6GB, as current Switch development kits have an extra 2GB of RAM.
The Switch can vary its clock speed based on the developer settings as well as its docked or undocked state. Because battery life isn’t a concern when docked, it can clock higher and lead to better performance or a higher resolution.
DigitalFoundry notes that with all that in mind, Nintendo has a few paths to take for a Nintendo Switch revision. A theoretical Switch Mini could possibly run without having a fan in the unit. A theoretical Switch Pro could have a significant increase in performance for demanding games like Doom or the upcoming Witcher 3 port, but it would not be as large a leap as revisions like the Xbox One X or Playstation 4 Pro because they’re still using the same chip design. You can read the whole report here or watch the video below.