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Nintendo Switch Pro: The story so far

Nintendo Switch OLED held between two hands with one of the JoyCons being slid off
(Image credit: Nintendo)

As far as we know, the Nintendo Switch Pro exists as only a rumor or wishful thinking. That's because Nintendo has said there's no Switch Pro coming and it recently released the Nintendo Switch OLED

But we still feel there could be an upgraded take of the Nintendo Switch on the cards, as the current hardware isn't the most modern and some games are becoming more demanding.

And with that in mind, a new Switch could come in the form of the Nintendo Switch 2. As such, here's what we know so far and would like to see from the Nintendo Switch Pro, even if it's just fanciful thinking. 

Latest Nintendo Switch Pro news (updated January 10)

Nintendo Switch Pro release date and price speculation

Last year, Nintendo has basically hammered home that the'res not going to be a Switch Pro. Yet the Japanese gaming giant has stopped short of 100%, copper-bottom denying that there's some work going on around an upgraded Switch console. 

And apparently, developer kits for an upgraded Switch console were given out at some point. But there's a chance these could be for a second-generation Switch or Nintendo console. As it stands, there's basically no hard evidence that a Switch Pro is coming; equally, it's difficult to pour water on these smoldering rumors that keep popping up. 

Nintendo Switch Pro rumored specs 

Nintendo Switch Pro rumors

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Sources seem to offer different reports of what sort of specs we can expect to see in the Switch Pro. The majority of them appear to agree that we’re likely to see support for 4K resolutions in docked mode, as well as better battery life. 

Currently, the Nintendo Switch features a custom Nvidia Tegra X1 processor, a 720p LCD display and 32GB of storage. The most recent refresh of the Nintendo Switch happened in August 2019, which bumped up the battery life, taking it from 6.5 hours to 9 hours of game time. When we tested the battery life upgrade using Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, we found that the amount of game time we were able to fit in before it needed to be recharged doubled.

According to a notable data miner, @SciresM, details found in a recent firmware update for the Nintendo Switch seems to indicate that the Pro model will feature the same processor as the 2019 Switch base model and the Lite: the Tegra X1+ chipset. The leak uncovered a project titled “Aula," which indicates that the chipset will offer higher performances by being pushed to higher clocking speeds supported by an improved cooling system. SciresM also hinted that the console will receive a substantial visual upgrade, with an OLED display and 4K capabilities in docked mode, powered by a RealTek chip.

How legitimate the above information remains questionable, as are a lot of Nintendo Switch Pro rumors. But a report from Bloomberg, citing insider information, also has the Switch Pro tipped to offer a 4K output in some form of docked mode. Likely when docked the Switch Pro will have some form of co-processor to upmix a 1080p video feed into a 4K output. 

Furthermore, a newer probe into Switch firmware has revealed the line  “4kdp_preferred_over_usb30” that could indicate the potential for a 4K output over DisplayPort over USB 3.0.

Bloomberg has also reported that 11 developers are in possession of 4K toolkits supplied by Nintendo. This would strongly imply that Nintendo is at least thinking about releasing a Switch that can output in 4K. Although, Nintendo did quickly release a statement denying the accuracy of the reporting. 

While Economic Daily News in Taiwan claimed that instead of an OLED display, the Nintendo Switch Pro would feature Mini-LED technology as a more affordable alternative, our sources say otherwise. Right now all intelligence is pointing to Samsung providing rigid OLED panels to Nintendo. 

In an exclusive interview with Ross Young, co-founder and CEO of Display Supply Chain Consultants, discussed with us the potential for the Switch Pro to have an OLED display and what advantages and shortcomings the tech could provide. 

“LCDs use a maximum brightness, whether it's a white or black image. And OLEDs don't,” said Young. “Their power consumption varies with the content. So it's going to depend on the type of content that you're playing. If it's video, OLEDs have a big advantage. But if it's a bright video game with a lot of white, then OLEDs may consume more power.”

Some rumors seem to suggest that the Switch Pro might have some more controversial features, too. In a now-deleted 4Chan post (via Inverse), user Xhyll alleged that according to a "former employee of Nintendo," the Switch Pro will feature significant hardware improvements, including a custom Nvidia Tegra Xavier processor, 64GB SSD storage and 4K support. 

The obvious downside here is that the post also suggested that the new console will be a TV-only system aimed primarily at users who are in the market for a more traditional console experience. Considering that some Switch gamers spend the majority of their time in handheld mode, this seems somewhat unlikely.

What we want from the Nintendo Switch Pro 

If Nintendo were to make a Switch Pro then here are the features we’d love to see make their way to the premium console. 

  • Improved 1080p handheld display: Considering the ongoing rumor mill, a display upgrade seems likely. At the moment, using the Switch in handheld mode restricts you to a 6.2-inch 720p display, so many users would welcome a better visual experience when gaming on the go (please, Nintendo).
  • Sturdier build quality: One of the biggest reasons some Switch owners prefer the Lite to the base model is due to the sturdiness of the console in handheld mode. Since the Joy-Cons of the original Switch are detachable, playing on the go can feel somewhat flimsy, and this is something that we’d like to see improved in the Pro version. A more ergonomic Joy-Con design would go a long way too.
  • 4K support in docked mode: The 4K console gaming community is growing by the day, and you can partially thank the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series for that. Unfortunately, comparisons with new-gen consoles don’t do the Switch any favors - Nintendo’s flagship console no longer provides the visuals gamers want. As we recently discussed, introducing 4K support and a more powerful dock with higher resolution capabilities would considerably improve Nintendo’s offering.
  • Bluetooth support for third-party accessories: Although the Switch currently features Bluetooth 4.1, this is reserved exclusively for wirelessly connecting Joy-Cons and Pro controllers. This means that in order to connect accessories like headphones, you need an adapter, which is admittedly annoying.

Why would we want the Nintendo Switch Pro 

Where to start? The Nintendo Switch has been a revelation of a console, and it’s been backed up by some of the most exciting games we’ve seen in the past four years, from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and the ridiculously addictive Animal Crossing: New Horizon. However, we think any fan of the console can agree that a hardware upgrade wouldn't go amiss for the Switch. 

As it stands, the main reason to purchase a Switch is to, well, play Nintendo games. As reported by multiple Reddit users, several third-party games such as Pillars of Eternity, Wasteland 2 and WWE 2K18 have had less-than-stellar Switch ports. With crashes, bugs and frame drops, at the moment the Switch’s hardware simply isn’t built to provide a good experience for third-party franchises.

The Nintendo Switch isn’t meant to compete with the PS5 and Xbox Series X in terms of power to begin with. However, with a collection of new graphically demanding games coming to PC and next-gen consoles in 2021, we’d love to see whether a more powerful version of the Switch could pique third-party franchise fans' interest. 

Denise Primbet

Denise is a news writer at Tom’s Guide covering all things tech, gaming software/hardware, streaming, and more. She regularly produces short-form news articles as well as long-form content, including reviews, buying guides, how-tos, and features. When she's not live-streaming horror games on Twitch, she can be found exploring East London while playing Pokemon Go. She’s also a part-time piano enthusiast and regularly experiments in the kitchen. You can reach her at denise.primbet@futurenet.com.