Editor's note: We'll be updating this guide with news of a potential Switch 'Pro' variant as it occurs.
Nintendo is no stranger to updating and iterating its hardware. Ever since the days of the NES, the company has seen the value in refreshing its consoles to maintain consumer interest, introduce new features and bring down the cost of manufacture, and that approach hasn't changed in over 30 years.
Therefore, reports that Nintendo is working on new Switch models should come as absolutely no surprise. We've already seen the release of the portable-only Nintendo Switch Lite, but given that the Kyoto veteran is yet to formally announce a more powerful system, there's obviously a lot of speculation and rumour floating around right now.
In July 2021, Nintendo officially lifted the lid on the next Switch hardware revision: the Nintendo Switch OLED Model. While it seems like some of the reports relating to the Switch Pro were, in fact, talking about this slightly less extreme upgrade, we have documented the past rumours below regardless. Could Nintendo still have plans for a more powerful model? Let's dig through what's been said so far...
Nintendo Switch Pro - What We Know So Far
Much of the early reporting on the Switch Pro was tied up with that of the 'Switch Mini', the system revealed as the Switch Lite and essentially a replacement for the outgoing 3DS. Hints that Nintendo was working on revised Switch hardware came as early as October 2018, with The Wall Street Journal claiming that a new Switch SKU was on the way. At the time, it was said that Nintendo was still "undecided" on how it would upgrade the new model, but the plans were clearly already in place.
Then, in January 2019, analysts predicted that we'd see not one but two new models – a Switch Pro and a Switch Lite – would be going into production. Of course, these were just predictions made by people who closely watch the industry, but given Nintendo's track record of updating its systems, it was a fair assessment of the situation – although Nintendo President Shuntaro Furukawa was quick to dismiss any rumours.
In 2019, Nintendo rolled out a 'silent' update of the standard Switch hardware which reportedly uses the same improved Tegra X1 chip found in the Switch Lite. With better power efficiency and less energy consumption, it enabled the shrinking of the case for the Switch Lite and also offers substantially improved battery life in the updated standard model.
In June 2019, The Wall Street Journal reported that Nintendo was moving production out of China "to limit the impact of possible U.S. tariffs on Chinese-made electronics", according to "people who work on Nintendo’s supply chain". As part of this report, it was revealed that three Switch models will be produced at the new site in Southeast Asia – which would suggest that the current model, a Lite version and a 'Pro' version are all being made. Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa explicitly stated that Nintendo has "no plans" to introduce a new Switch model in 2020, and that was indeed the case.
While the 2019 revision of the original Switch does not constitute a 'Pro' model, the improved chip has the potential to be pushed harder than either of the current models do, and could even offer modest improvements over standard performance. Nvidia stated that it expected to have a bumper year, and some have joined the dots and connected this positivity with increased demand for components from Nintendo for not just the standard console and Switch Lite, but also perhaps a Switch Pro.
In January 2020, reports of an updated model once again bubbled up, this time with Taiwanese website DigiTimes claiming that Nintendo has plans to release a new Switch model in the middle of 2020, with production beginning in Q1. Details on the supposed new model were thin on the ground, although a magnesium alloy body and improved CPU were mentioned.
As for what improvements the Pro will offer over the existing machine, an improved Tegra X1 would only be able to offer so much. Those expecting a massive leap in performance between this model and the existing Switch may be disappointed; even a comparison with the 3DS / New 3DS might be off the mark, as Digital Foundry believes that the 'Pro' revision is more about making the chip more efficient and not about boosting power, as we've seen with the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro. To offer something substantially more powerful would require shifting to a different chip (which could cause issues with compatibility with current Switch games), or potentially adding computing power to the Switch's dock (which obviously wouldn't help in handheld mode).
In January 2020, another rumour appeared which suggested that Nintendo would not use the Tegra X1 chip as previously believed. Instead, it will make use of new "custom" Nvidia processors – with the GPU supposedly based on Volta architecture. Despite this change, any serious performance improvements and other extras like 4K support were apparently not expected, with production not believed to have started – meaning a release before the end of 2020 was "unlikely". Again, this proved to be the case.
And then again in late August 2020, Taiwanese newspaper United Daily News reported that Nintendo could be set to launch a brand new Switch model early in 2021. The report cited hardware manufacturers involved in the production of current Switch models as its source, with production of this rumoured new Switch console supposedly set to begin as soon as Q4 2020, with a launch planned for Q1 2021. Early translations of the article suggested that the console will benefit from improved 'interactivity' and display quality.
In October 2020, a report suggested that Nintendo may be investigating Mini-LED displays courtesy of Taiwanese panel manufacturer Innolux Corporation. This screen tech could potentially provide contrast and brightness to rival that of an OLED screen, as well as improved battery life thanks to its more localised illumination of pixels.
However, still on the topic of displays, another report in March 2021 stated that Samsung would be providing the OLED panel for the 'new' Switch, which would sport smaller bezels than the current model's screen. This was backed up by the fact that Universal Display Corp – the company from which Samsung (and many other firms) licence OLED tech – mentioned Switch Pro during its Q1 investors call.
Further details supporting the existence of a new Switch model came with a report that Nvidia is ceasing production of its Tegra X1 Mariko chip — the SOC (system on a chip) that powers current Switch models — in 2021.
Another rumour from industry 'insider' NareDrake suggests that this new Switch hardware may have "select exclusives" — games that will only run on a Switch 'Pro' and not on currently available models.
In May 2021, reports came in that the Switch Pro would offer a Microsoft Surface-style kickstand and a LAN port on the dock – both of which are included in the Switch OLED Model. These feature could, of course, make their way onto any 'Pro' model that Nintendo is working on.
Also in May 2021, yet another rumour surfaced which suggested that the Switch Pro would be revealed before E3 2021 and could hit store shelves as early as September. Guess what? That didn't happen, although the Switch OLED Model was revealed shortly after E3 2021.
Then, in September 2021, Bloomberg issued a report which stated that it had talked to multiple developers about the fact that they had been working on 4K Switch software using tools provided by Nintendo. Nintendo immediately issued a statement that branded the reports false.
However, the very next day, a patent was made public that suggests that Nintendo is working on its own upscaling technology. Alexandre Delattre, a co-founder of Nintendo European Research and Development, is named on the document, which was actually applied for in March 2020.
Early in October 2021, it was revealed that the dock which ships alongside the Switch OLED is capable of outputting 4K 60fps, which hints that Nintendo has 'future proofed' the dock for use with more powerful hardware.
Nintendo Switch Pro - Will It Offer 4K Visuals?
One of the more common rumours regarding the Switch Pro is that the system will offer 4K visuals – a seemingly outlandish claim given that the current model often struggles to hit 1080p with some titles, and is limited to just 720p in handheld mode.
However, a report from September 2020 claims that Nintendo is asking developers to make their titles 4K-ready, which would suggest the Switch Pro will indeed have 4K – although not in quite the way many people have assumed.
It is speculated that Nintendo will seek to leverage Nvidia's Nvidia’s DLSS AI upscaling techniques, rather than pure 4K output. This process – which grants high-resolution visuals with little in the way of a performance hit – is used in Nvidia's Shield hardware, which is based on the same internal architecture as Switch. However, it seems that Nintendo is working on its own upscaling tech.
In March 2021, a report stated that the new Switch model would offer 4K visuals when in docked mode. The dock which comes with the Switch OLED supports 4K 60fps, so it could be that the same dock will be used with a more powerful Switch console.
Nintendo Switch Pro - Release Date
Given how little we've heard about the Pro and how many of the details were tied up with the Switch Lite or the 'silent' standard SKU revision, any guess at a date is pure speculation. There are plenty of rumours doing the rounds, with analysts predicting a Switch 'Pro' is incoming this year.
However, Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa explicitly stated while presented the company's financial results at the end of January 2020 that Nintendo has "no plans" to introduce a new Switch model in 2020, and given the production headaches the global COVID-19 pandemic caused, the company didn't alter those plans. One year later in January 2021, a similar statement was made saying Nintendo won't be announcing a new Switch model "any time soon" — a notably less concrete statement that leaves the door open for a launch later in the year.
Bloomberg reported that we could see the Switch Pro as early as September 2021 – unlikely in the light that the Switch OLED Model arrives a month later. The report suggested that a pre-E3 reveal of new Switch hardware was imminent and that the console would potentially launch in September or October after starting manufacturing full-time in July. This also didn't happen, with the OLED Model being shadow-dropped in July.
Some journalists, including Jeff Grubb, have stated that they've heard the Pro model is coming in 2022.
Nintendo Switch OLED Model - The Real 'Switch Pro'?
In July 2021, Nintendo officially lifted the lid on the next Switch hardware revision – but it falls short of being the 'Switch Pro' many were expecting. The Nintendo Switch OLED Model will feature a larger 7-inch OLED screen (the standard console has a 6.2-inch LCD screen), a new wider kick stand, enhanced audio through new in-built speakers, a LAN port in the dock, and 64GB of internal storage (double the 32GB of the standard model).
Could it be that this revised model isn't the Switch Pro that has been rumoured for months? Or is this a case of expectations outstripping reality, and this is indeed the 'Pro' model insiders have been talking about all this time?
Nintendo is, of course, working on new hardware all of the time, and it might be the case that the Switch Pro rumours are linked to other product development work, which will be revealed in due course. Or, Nintendo might have delayed the Switch Pro in the light of recent events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the shortage of components. It may even have shelved plans for a Switch Pro entirely – although, as Grubb points out, this is the company that released six variants of the 3DS, so it seems highly likely that we'll see at least one more 'enhanced' model in the fullness of time.