Skip to main content

Forget PS5 and Xbox Series X — Nintendo Switch Pro could arrive this year

Nintendo Switch 2 concept design
(Image credit: Katarzyna Penar at Lightframes)

While both the PS5 or the Xbox Series are stupidly difficult to buy at the moment, a third new game console could enter the fray this year in the form of the Nintendo Switch Pro sometime this year.

At least that's according to industry analysts speaking to GamesIndustry.biz, who predict an upgraded Nintendo Switch is coming in 2021. While the Nintendo Switch 2 - a full sequel to Nintendo's stellar hybrid console - looks to be a way off, a Pro version could bring a boost in power and resolution. 

Dr. Serkan Toto of Kantan Games is anticipating that this year Nintendo will be launching a “beefed-up 4K device.” 

Rumors of this have been around for some time. But given reports that Nintendo has been asking game developers to support 4K TVs in docked mode, we may expect to hear something more concrete in the near future.

Ampere Analysis’ Piers Harding-Rolls further added credence to this rumor by noting: “Last year I was unconvinced there would be a new flagship model Switch in 2020, but it makes more commercial sense to release an updated version in 2021." 

In a recent interview with Polygon, Doug Bowser, the president of Nintendo of America, said that the Nintendo Switch is “at the midpoint of this life cycle” and that the company is in no immediate rush to replace it. 

However, a Switch Pro wouldn't necessarily be a replacement for the current Switch, but more a higher-end version for people who want more out of the console; think of it on the opposite scale to the Nintendo Switch Lite

Nonetheless, if the Switch Pro rumors are true, then it’s highly likely that we can expect the newer console to feature some quality of life changes beyond just a specs boost, including updated hardware and improved battery life. 

Onc recent speculation suggested that it may also get a Mini-LED display. And at a push, the Switch Pro could even sport a dual-screen design akin to the Nintendo 3DS, but that's more likely to be a feature of the Switch 2. 

Could Nintendo Switch Pro feature 4K graphics and an OLED display?

Some speculation has hit the internet regarding prominent data miner SciresM (@SciresM), who supposedly made a post on 4chan claiming that he had uncovered new information regarding the Switch Pro. In the 4chan post, it claimed that an upcoming revision, codenamed Aula, would feature an OLED display and 4K capable graphics. The unit would use the same Nvidia Tegra X1 (codenamed Mariko) processor, but would be overclocked with better cooling to help achieve 4K gameplay. 

In a Twitter thread between SciresM and the site Centro Pokemon, the data miner was annoyed by certain phrasing used in regards to the leak. SciresM contends that Centro Pokemon was taking his speculation out of context and claiming it to be fact. Centro Pokemon has since amended its Twitter posts to be less authoritative. 

Tom's Guide has reached out to SciresM for clarification, but hasn't received a reply by time of publishing. This story will be updated if we hear from him. 

Based on our analysis, it's hard to fathom that a simple upclock on the Nvidia Tegra X1 chip will allow the Switch to jump from 1080p gameplay to 4K. The jump in resolution between the two is massive, and will likely require significantly more power. As it stands, the current Nintendo Switch runs games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild at 900p. It might be possible for an upclocked chip to run games at 1440p, which too is a big jump, and use checkerboard upscaling to output a 4K image.

There's also speculation that Nvidia's DLSS technology could come into play, using artificial intelligence to interpret lower resolution frames and output images in 4K. 

As for an OLED display, that too is a possibility. But Nintendo has never been too interested in display tech. Its 3DS line was plagued with mismatched screens based on whichever supplier in China could provide displays. Often, 3DS units would use lower quality TN panels, or sometimes would have a high quality IPS display for the top screen, and a TN panel for the bottom screen. Rarely, users could find a 3DS unit with two IPS displays. This has become the holy grail for 3DS collectors and fans. 

Switching to OLED would be more expensive than sticking to LCD for Nintendo. So while it's not outside of the realm of possibility for Nintendo to go with an inky-black OLED, it definitely would be uncharacteristic. 

Nintendo Switch family could outsell PS5 and Xbox Series X in 2021

Nintendo Switch

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Currently finding where to buy the Xbox Series X, as well as the PS5, is a thankless task. But uncovering where to buy the Nintendo Switch online, is an easier one. 

As such, analysts are predicting a bumper year for the Nintendo Switch family. And if a Switch Pro does indeed arrive in 2021, then it could further propel the success of Nintendo's games console. 

“Everybody expecting the Switch to run out of steam in 2021 is in for a bitter disappointment,” said Toto. “The Switch will be the best-selling console this year as well, driven by more first-party games, a hardware refresh (see above), and the device having developed into a lifestyle product for the mass market over the course of 2020.”

Harding-Rolls believes that this year will be no different, especially if a Switch Pro launches: “Nintendo’s Switch family of devices to be the best-selling consoles again in 2021. I currently have an updated version of the Switch in my forecasts for 2021.”

NPD’s Mat Piscatella supports this, noting that “it will be the Nintendo Switch that ends up selling the most units of console hardware in 2021,” despite the recent launch of the PS5 and Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S

Naturally, time will tell if these predictions come to fruition. But 2021 is set to be another interesting year for gaming, especially for the Nintendo Switch. 

Denise Primbet

Denise is a news writer at Tom’s Guide covering consumer tech news, deals, streaming, gaming and more. When she’s not playing horror games, she’s a part-time piano enthusiast and experimenting in the kitchen. You can reach her at denise.primbet@futurenet.com.