Nintendo just announced a smaller, cheaper version of the Switch today, but the Switch Lite may not be the only trick up Nintendo’s sleeves — the original Nintendo Switch is also getting a new processor and new flash storage chips, according to filings with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The new chips could mean fewer slowdowns, faster load times, longer battery life, less heat… or perhaps none of these things.
Nintendo submitted what’s called a “Class II Permission Change” to the FCC, effectively a request to tweak an existing gadget without having to get the whole thing recertified for sale in the United States. And there, it vaguely lays out the changes:
In case you’re unaware, “SoC” refers to the Switch’s system-on-chip, aka the Nvidia Tegra processor that contains its CPU and graphics, while “NAND memory” is more commonly known as the flash storage you find inside a solid-state drive.
You should know that we’re not talking about the rumored Switch Pro successor to the Nintendo Switch, the one that would supposedly accompany the Switch Lite announced today. This is very clearly an update to the original model (right down to the same model number) and Nintendo probably won’t say a thing, because it doesn’t want people to worry whether they’re buying the Switch with the slightly newer processor when they’re picking one up at retail.
The video game industry has a long history of quietly swapping out components like this, by the way — and often just to cut costs because newer chips are generally smaller and easier to produce. But video game message boards often get pretty excited about opening up consoles and looking for new silicon because sometimes it makes a noticeable difference. The most famous example is perhaps when the Xbox 360 tended to overheat and succumb to the “red ring of death,” but models with newer chips were far better at resisting the issue. (My Jasper is still going strong.)
With the Switch, it wouldn’t take much of an improvement to make a difference, given how the Switch’s four-year-old Tegra X1 processor is barely enough to churn through some of the system’s existing titles. But there’s no telling until someone gets their hands on the new model and does a comparison.
That said, Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry coincidentally has a wonderfully geeky article about a new Nvidia chip that could be the one featured here. For what it’s worth, Nintendo told us the new Switch Lite will have a more power-efficient chip layout with “slightly” improved battery life, so it might simply be that Nintendo’s standardizing by also using those chips in the larger original model.