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Nintendo Switch Pro: everything we know about the long-rumored 4K Switch

Nintendo Switch Pro (Nintendo Switch 2)
(Image credit: TechRadar)
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Even though a Nintendo Switch Pro never materialized, rumors of a 4K Switch won't go away. The Japanese company launched the Nintendo Switch OLED last October, a pleasing upgrade over the original console that comes with a bigger screen, redesigned kickstand, more internal storage, better speakers, and a striking OLED display. 

But when it comes to power, the Nintendo Switch OLED is exactly the same as the original Nintendo Switch, released in March 2017. The console displays at 1080p when docked, and 720p in handheld mode. By implementing a fancier screen, this essentially became a non-essential update for anyone that primarily uses their Switch when docked. 

That news came as a disappointment to many. The release of the PS5 and Xbox Series X highlighted the performance gap between Nintendo's console, which is approaching its fifth anniversary, and the state of the industry. 4K TVs are now the standard in many homes, too, which makes the Switch's 1080p output look noticeably soft on most modern displays.

Demand for a Nintendo Switch Pro is certainly there, but will we ever see a 4K Switch? What do developers want from a 4K Switch? Could existing hardware hold hints of what's to come? Here's everything you need to know about Nintendo's elusive 4K console.

Nintendo Switch Pro: cut to the chase

  • What is it? A souped-up Nintendo Switch capable of outputting at 4K
  • How much will it cost? TBA
  • When will it release? TBA

Nintendo Switch Pro: release date

Nintendo Switch Lite

Image credit: Nintendo

The Nintendo Switch Pro was rumored to launch instead of the Nintendo Switch OLED, which landed on October 8, 2021. Now, though, the existence of a Pro console has come into question, as the Nintendo Switch OLED includes many of the leaked specs that were said to be included in the Switch Pro.

Bloomberg predicted a Nintendo Switch Pro console would release around September or October in 2021, which surprised many at the time. Instead, that release date belongs to the OLED model. A release date of March 2022 was hinted at too, though this has now come and gone. 

According to Tokyo-based analyst Serkan Toto, a Nintendo Switch Pro could still happen. Toto has suggested that the Switch OLED might be a "dummy upgrade" before a real upgrade arrives next year. Speaking to Bloomberg (opens in new tab), Toto said: "This new Switch looks more like an interim model than a real upgrade to me," Toto told Bloomberg. "This might just be a dummy upgrade until Breath Of The Wild 2 is ready and the component shortage is over next year."

Nintendo Switch Pro: price

Nintendo Switch Pro

Image credit: Nintendo

It goes without saying that redesigns cost money, more so when it involves improved hardware. The Nintendo Switch Pro, with its updated and more powerful hardware, will almost definitely cost more than the current Switch's £279 / $299 / AU$449 pricing.

The Nintendo Switch OLED is already a more premium model and launched at $349.99 / £309 / AU$539. Thankfully this isn't a huge step up from the original Switch's asking price and is less than the $399 price tag that was predicted by some. For comparison, the PS4 Pro was $100 more than the PS4

As a family-focused company, we'd be surprised if the Nintendo Switch Pro came in at the same price as PS5 and Xbox Series X, $499 / £449 / $AU749. Still, we know it'll be more expensive than the Nintendo Switch OLED, nonetheless.

Nintendo Switch Pro: rumored specifications

A Nintendo Switch player using the Joy-Con controllers to play Breath of the Wild on a TV

(Image credit: Shutterstock / Tinxi)

There's been no end of rumors about what a Nintendo Switch Pro could offer, and most suggest it'll support 4K resolutions. A previous report by Bloomberg (opens in new tab) has alleged that Nintendo is asking developers to make their Nintendo Switch games 4K-ready, adding weight to previous rumors that Nintendo has a resolution upgrade up its sleeve with a 4K-ready upgraded Switch console. 

Bloomberg has also claimed that 11 different game studios had access to an official development kit that featured 4K support. Reportedly, the console was apparently shelved due to supply issues caused by the ongoing global semiconductor shortage, though it could still be released.

Nintendo, however, moved swiftly to deny these claims. In a post on Twitter, Nintendo said that Bloomberg's report "falsely claims that Nintendo is supply tools to drive game developers for a Nintendo Switch with 4K support", the company went on to say "we have no plans for any new model other than Nintendo Switch OLED Model"

It's worth noting though that Bloomberg's report most notably corresponds with a recent reports from the Economic Daily News (opens in new tab), which cited various hardware manufacturers responsible for the Switch’s flash storage and Joy-Con controllers, and claimed that a more powerful Nintendo Switch console with upgraded interactivity and improved display quality could go into production.

Some rumors suggested we may see a mini-LED display replace the current LCD screen. According to a report from Taiwan’s Economic Daily News (opens in new tab), the still-rumored Switch Pro model could sport mini-LED screens supplied by Innolux, a well-known manufacturer in the field. The original Switch and Switch Lite consoles use an HD (720p) LCD screen, though the Switch OLED naturally uses an OLED option. If a new Switch console did have 4K capability, we imagine it'd be in docked mode, with handheld mode offering a slightly-boosted Full HD (1080p) display. 

Elsewhere, a data miner known as SciresM has claimed (via Wccftech (opens in new tab)) that they have found reference to a new Nintendo Switch model within the Switch’s latest firmware update, codenamed 'Aula'. Reportedly, this hardware uses the same chip as the Nintendo Switch Lite and 2019 Switch model, the Mariko (Tegra X1+) SoC. However, SciresM also claims that there are references to support for a Realtek chip which is a “4K UHD multimedia SoC”. 

Rather than being within the Switch tablet, they think that it “might be inside a new dock and not inside the tablet, though, there’s no way to tell from the firmware code yet.” They also say that the tablet itself will have an improved OLED screen, though what resolution it’ll offer is still unclear. The claims of some kind of 4K support do line up with the many other reports from the past year which claim that an upgraded Switch capable of 4K is on the horizon. 

Of course, there’s been no confirmation from Nintendo itself that a new Switch is on the cards and, in fact, Doug Bowser has made comments very recently that suggest there might not be for some time. With that in mind, we're still taking all of this with a pinch of salt.

Nintendo Switch Pro: news and rumors

Nintendo Switch Pro

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Don't expect new Nintendo hardware this fiscal year

Japanese financial newspaper Nikkei has reported that Nintendo will not release any new hardware this fiscal year. Spotted by Bloomberg journalist Takashi Mochizuki on Twitter (opens in new tab), he advised that it's unclear if Nintendo President Shuntaro Furukawa was being interviewed or Nikkei’s own reporting. If true, that means we shouldn't expect a Nintendo Switch Pro or a Nintendo Switch 2 before March 2023.

Nintendo Switch OLED holds 4K secrets

With the Switch OLED's launch, some of the changes from previous consoles have started up speculation that 4K capability could be hidden right under our noses. For one, the console ships with an HDMI 2.0 cable – instead of the 1.4 standard used by the regular Switch – which should enable 4K passthrough from the dock, or even HDR.

The Switch OLED dock, contains a Realtek chip that could be 4K capable, which is new to this console – though it could be tied to other features like improved audio or Ethernet capability instead. While this isn't a 4K console just yet, it's possible that the dock could be used in some minimal upscaling capacity down the line, or for a 4K Switch Pro when it eventually launches.

Close-up of Joy-Con controller

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Standalone Joy-Con patent
A newly discovered patent (via VGC) suggests that some standalone Joy-Con controllers have been considered by Nintendo. 

A newly-discovered Nintendo patent suggests that the company may be planning to release a new form of Joy-Con style controller.

Originally filed in May 2018 and registered in April 2020, the patent shows a controller that’s highly similar in shape and layout to the existing Joy-Con found on the original Switch. However, it is slightly updated and rather than being designed to slide onto a screen like the current Joy-Con, this controller appears to be a standalone device, with no rails for sliding in sight. 

While there isn’t much need for standalone Joy-Con on the original Switch, they could be useful with the more recent Nintendo Switch Lite, which has its controls permanently attached, as it would allow for easier multiplayer gaming. Given the recent rumors around the Nintendo Switch Pro, though, it’s also worth considering that the standalone Joy-Con has been designed with this new console in mind.  

Codenames
Dataminers have been coursing through Nintendo's firmware version 10.0.0 for information on new Switch consoles and have apparently identified codenames for the upcoming devices.

According to JershJopstin on Resetera (opens in new tab), there are five identified codenames for Nintendo Switch models: Icosa, Copper, Hoag, Iowa, and Calcio. Here's a breakdown of what we know about their codenames so far (thanks TweakTown (opens in new tab)):

  • Icosa - Switch released at launch - nx-abca2 - 20nm Tegra X1 - 
  • Iowa - revised Switch -  nx-abca2 - 16nm Tegra X1 and 'Mariko' chip
  • Hoag - the Switch Lite - nx-abcc - 16nm Tegra X1 and Mariko chip
  • Copper - unconfirmed- nx-abcb
  • Calcio - unconfirmed - nx-abcb - 16nm Tegra X1 and Mariko chip

While Iow, Hoag and Icosa have already released, Copper and Calcio have not been confirmed to be in development. 

According to JershJopstin, Copper appears to be a non-mobile device due to its lack of battery and charging services, and the HDMI services it appears to have which would typically be handled by a Switch docking station. Meanwhile, according to another rumor, Calcio will apparently be a docked-only, more traditional console.

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In addition, JershJopstin has suggested that this Calcio console could be digital-only due to its apparent lack of support for game cards and new naming form factor. However these rumors should be treated with a healthy dose of skepticism until we get confirmation from Nintendo.

Nintendo isn't worried about the next console generation
2020 wasn't the year of a new Nintendo Switch console, but it was the year that Sony and Microsoft launch the next generation of consoles: the PS5 and Xbox Series X. Nintendo, however, isn't worried about catching up.

Talking to investors during a Japanese Q&A (via VGC), Nintendo's president Shuntaro Furukawa said that while the gaming landscape will change, the company doesn't think the release of these next-gen consoles will have a big impact on its own fortunes.

“We do not believe that the business trends of other companies will have a significant impact on our business,” Furukawa told investors, explaining that the reason Nintendo is so confident that the PS5 and Xbox Series X won't pose huge competition is because the Nintendo Switch targets a different audience.

While this doesn't tell us a whole lot about any specific new console plans Nintendo has, it does suggest that the company isn't feeling any great hurry or pressure from its supposed competitors to release, or even announce, a Nintendo Switch Pro in the immediate future.

Nintendo Switch Lite

Image credit: Nintendo (Image credit: Nintendo)

AR and VR support
VR and AR support for the Switch never looked likely, with the MD of Nintendo France (opens in new tab) citing a lack of mainstream appeal for the technology back in 2018, but the Labo VR Kit shows Nintendo has changed its mind about the viability of VR.

The Switch doesn't have the high resolution of most VR gaming rigs, so we could see an advanced model with 2K or 4K resolution to improve those close-up VR experiences. However, given the VR Kit is still focused mainly on children, we'd be surprised to see a visual overhaul simply for this one peripheral.

Could it support 4K?
While Sony and Microsoft push at the 4K market, there isn’t really any big reason for Nintendo, the company that staunchly sets itself apart from other hardware producers, to follow suit.

In the same interview (opens in new tab) where he dismissed VR, Nintendo France General Manager Philippe Lavoué also brushed off 4K saying that the technology has “not been adopted by the majority” and it would, therefore, be too early for Nintendo to jump in.

Nintendo didn’t enter the HD console market until 2012 when it released the Wii U. This was around four years after Sony and Microsoft and at the point when more than 75% of US households actually had HD displays in their home. Miyamoto (opens in new tab) however has said he wished Nintendo had done the jump to HD sooner than this, saying that the display technology became popular around three years before Nintendo expected it to.

Vic Hood
Associate Editor, TechRadar Gaming

Vic is TechRadar Gaming's Associate Editor. An award-winning games journalist, Vic brings experience from IGN, Eurogamer and more to the TechRadar table. You may have even heard her on the radio or speaking on a panel. Not only is Vic passionate about games, but she's also an avid mental health advocate who has appeared on both panels and podcasts to discuss mental health awareness. Make sure to follow her on Twitter for more.