Rumor: Nintendo Switch Runs at More Than 1 teraflop, Features Maxwell Architecture

So far every rumor we have heard about the Nintendo Switch pegs the archecture as running under NVidia’s newer stuff called pascal. We now have a new “report” stating that it actually runs on Maxwell, which is what the Tegra X1 ran on. Performance wise, this doesn’t necessarily mean much in terms of overall power, as Venture Beat is stating the chip runs at over 1 teraflop. That means it’s not at the PlayStation 4 level of performance, but could very much be close if not hard to distinguish from an Xbox One.

The differences between Maxwell and Pascal typically deal with more performance for less power, with smaller chip sizes. That means if the console is using Maxwell over Pascal at over 1TFLOP, that same performance on Pascal would give us a longer battery life. There is some nitty gritty differences as well, but in terms of our direct comparison to pure gaming application, they really don’t apply. Thus, whether it is Pascal or Maxwell isn’t necessarily indicative of anything in terms of the console’s overall performance, outside of battery life.

This all comes from the aforementioned Venture Beat, though it’s note worthy the reporter himself doesn’t seem to be too knowledgeable about the tech he is talking about, as pointed out by a NeoGAF user named Thraktor who broke down the article as follows:

I have a few immediate thoughts after reading through the article:

  • Firstly, it’s worth noting the difference between Maxwell and Pascal is almost entirely down to the manufacturing process. Maxwell was made on 28nm (and in the case of the TX1, 20nm) whereas Pascal is made on 16nm. The actual architectural difference between the two is minimal, and aside from improved color buffer compression, largely irrelevant for a device like the Switch.
  • Despite that, the article never makes any mention of the manufacturing process. I find that extremely strange, as it’s obviously the defining difference between the two sets of GPUs.
  • In fact, the article gets the difference between the two completely the wrong way around, saying “Nintendo’s box is relatively small, and so it has to fit into the heat profile of a portable device, rather than a set-top box. That’s another reason that explains the older Maxwell technology, as opposed to the Pascal’s state-of-the-art tech.” Pascal is literally a more power efficient version of Maxwell, so the incentive would be the other way around.
  • The author says “we expect the Nintendo Switch to be more than 1 teraflop in performance”, which is notably higher than even those of us who were expecting Pascal were considering (I literally posted earlier today with a 500-750 Gflop estimate). If this is a Maxwell chip, then that would mean at least 4 SMs (512 “CUDA cores”) at 1GHz, as they’re not going to be able to push much past that on 28/20nm. This is a much larger GPU than most people would have been expecting.

I see a few different scenarios here:

  1. The Switch SoC uses Maxwell at 20nm, and simply has a much larger GPU than anticipated to account for the performance.

  2. Nintendo looked at the feature-set planned for Pascal when design started, realised that the new features were largely irrelevant, and decided that they would save time and just use a straight-forward die shrink of Maxwell to 16nm instead. That would technically be a Maxwell GPU, but would be almost completely indistinguishable from Pascal in terms of performance.

  3. The sources are wrong about Maxwell, the 1 Tflop performance, or both.

What do you think?

Source: Venture Beat

Nathanial Rumphol-Janc

A veteran in the video game media sphere, Nathanial co-founded Gamnesia, founded, ran the news the segment on the Zelda Universe Podcast, found and ran Zelda Domain from 1998 to 2006, and built Zelda Informer as the Editor-in-Chief from 2008 to 2017. He now owns and operates Nintendo Prime. You can follow him on twitter @NateJanc, otherwise just stay tuned at Nintendo Prime for more of his work.

  • I want one!

  • Jacob Rush

    I don’t believe Venture Beat. They’re a click bait website, and they’ve been wrong with several predictions. Why are we giving someone the time of day that has two conveniently anonymous sources?

    After reading the source article, here’s my opinion.

    Of course it’s less powerful than the PS4, anyone who thought otherwise doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Which is also the case with GamesBeat’s article which is just full of errors and nonsense.

    They’re saying that “Nintendo’s box is relatively small, and so it has to fit into the heat profile of a portable device” which according to them is a good reason to go with Maxwell. Which is straight up bullshit because Pascal is literally just a more power efficient version of Maxwell, so the logical thing would be going with that instead of Maxwell if it had to “fit into the heat profile of a portable device.” GamesBeat doesn’t seem to know the difference between Maxwell and Pascal at all.

    Which isn’t too surprising cause this is also the very same guy who claimed that the Switch would have an AMD processor so I’d hardly call him all that trustworthy. Especially when this rumour goes directly against everything Nvidia themselves have said which is that the GPU they’ve build for the Switch is “based on the same architecture as the world’s top-performing GeForce gaming graphics cards”. Which is Pascal, not Maxwell.

    In other words, I’m calling clickbait nonsense on this report.

  • ExSiegfried

    I think the best we can do for now is wait until january for nintendo stream.

    But if a i remember well i read in some sites that actually switch uses pascal. Only time will tell.