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 – and we plan to cover all of the solid leads here.
Much of the reporting on the topic 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, 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 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 Switch Pro - What We Know So Far
There's little solid info floating around about the Nintendo Switch 'Pro'. Last summer 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.
While this internal upgrade to the standard 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 this year 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 are thin on the ground, although a magnesium alloy body and improved CPU have been 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 believe 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 an 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).
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. From a purely business perspective, giving Switch Lite time to breath before discussing further iterations of the console was sensible, but now we're several months on and new hardware from both Sony and Microsoft is looming at the end of the year. Switch is selling in huge quantities right now, but there's wisdom in the idea of putting out new SKU this year - something shiny that Nintendo can point to when the company's asked about competing hardware. The standard Switch is nearly three years old and Nintendo fans with launch models who weren't interested in Switch Lite might be looking to pull the trigger on some new hardware.
Watch this space.