New Switch Model Processor Could Be Behind Mini and Pro Rumors

Nvidia's Mariko chip could provide a range of improvements in keeping with the Switch Pro rumors we've heard so far.

Nvidia's Mariko chip could provide a range of improvements in keeping with the Switch Pro rumors we've heard so far.

Digital Foundry Tech Editor, Rich Leadbetter, recently examined the Tegra X1 t214 chip and speculated on whether it could be the driving force behind one of the new, rumored Switch consoles. 

The current version of the Nintendo Switch uses the Tegra X1 t210, and while it’s certainly functional, it does come with a few problems, including a massive hole in its security that can let hackers run essentially whatever code they want on the system.

The t214 would close that hole, Leadbetter says, making it a good candidate for a Switch upgrade, should one be in the works.

There’s another reason the Tegra X1 t214 could be the foundation of a Switch Mini or Switch Pro. It’s not a massive upgrade from the Switch’s existing core chip and, instead, functions more like a streamlined partner device. According to Leadbetter, the chips’ code names offer a clue in that regard.

Tegra’s code names are borrowed from the world of superheroes. The  X1 was named Erista, after the son of Wolverine, while the t214 is nicknamed Mariko, one of Logan’s lovers. The wordplay here is that instead of being a new generation, the t214 is a partner to the existing X1.

That the Switch’s 5.0 firmware update provided support for the t214 only adds to the likelihood that, at some point, Nintendo plans on using the X1 upgrade in its hybrid system.

Leadbetter also examines what sort of enhancements the Mariko chip would provide for the Switch, should it be used in an upgraded system.

Chief among them is heat output and battery life. Leadbetter estimates Mariko is made with the 16-nanometer process instead of the current chip’s 20-nanometer process. Though only a slight difference, the smaller size is enough to significantly reduce the heat the Switch generates, thanks to using less voltage, and would also extend the battery life somewhat.

However, being a “partner” chip, Mariko wouldn’t offer any huge visual upgrades for the system. It could smooth out framerates and result in better visuals on the whole, but Leadbetter claims the change would be less drastic even than the change from 3DS to New 3DS.

That also fits with the rumors we reported on earlier in the year that the Switch Pro wouldn’t make the base system obsolete. Moreover, it makes good sense. Nintendo does its own thing, but it surely knows not many consumers would be happy about buying a new, modern console only to find it’s outdated in less than three years or can’t play the hottest new games.

Those wondering why Leadbetter should be taken seriously might be interested to know he speculated about The Witcher 3 running on the Switch earlier this year — just before it was announced during Nintendo’s E3 presentation

You can hear what Leadbetter has to say in the header image above, which comes from Digital Foundry via Nintendo Life

About the author

Josh Broadwell

Josh Broadwell started gaming in the early '90s. But it wasn't until 2017 he started writing about them, after finishing two history degrees and deciding a career in academia just wasn't the best way forward. You'll usually find him playing RPGs, strategy games, or platformers, but he's up for almost anything that seems interesting.