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The new Nintendo Switch isn’t 4K, to almost everyone’s surprise

The Switch OLED model is a modest upgrade

A photo of the Nintendo Switch (OLED model) in white on a wooden table Photo: Nintendo
Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Nintendo announced a new Switch model on Tuesday, an upgrade that was widely and thoroughly reported but a surprise nonetheless for some. That’s because the latest revision of Nintendo’s wildly successful Switch won’t introduce a graphics boost to 4K resolution, according to Nintendo’s technical specifications.

Instead, the Nintendo Switch (OLED Model), Nintendo’s official name for the revised console-handheld hybrid, will output a maximum 1080p image when hooked up to a TV — — the same as the 4-year-old launch model. That detail runs contrary to early reporting on the device from Bloomberg, which said the next Nintendo Switch model would support “4K ultra-high definition graphics” when docked.

Bloomberg reported in March that Nintendo’s new Switch model would achieve its 4K graphics boost thanks to new technology from chipmaker Nvidia. Nintendo reportedly planned to add an upgraded Nvidia chip and support for Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS), the proprietary technology that uses AI to accelerate graphics rendering through image reconstruction, maintaining high image quality while delivering improved frame rates.

Instead, the new Nintendo Switch OLED model will feature less dramatic upgrades: a slightly larger OLED screen, a revised dock with a wired LAN port, improved built-in speakers, and a better kickstand. Nintendo tells The Verge that the new system “does not have a new CPU, or more RAM, from previous Nintendo Switch models.”

Even the system’s strange name, “Nintendo Switch (OLED Model),” does not imply a major upgrade for Nintendo Switch owners. The “New Nintendo Switch Pro XL” this is not.

That makes the extra cost — the OLED model will cost $349.99, $50 more than the standard Nintendo Switch — a questionable value. The new system does not appear to address shortcomings with the prone-to-failure Joy-Con controllers or soup up the internals for better frame rates in games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Chip supplier Nvidia’s ongoing semiconductor shortage — a squeeze on microprocessors is affecting many industries — may be partially to blame for the disparity between what was reported about the new Switch and what the reality will be when the system is released this October. Nvidia said in April that it expects demand for new chips to exceed supply for much of this year. Nintendo, which has a habit of releasing new gaming hardware almost every year and may not want to wait for Nvidia to catch up, can still spur renewed interest in the Switch with this fall’s modest upgrade.

Of course, we may still see that 4K upgrade some day. Nintendo of America president Doug Bowser told Polygon in December that the Switch is “at the midpoint of [its] life cycle,” implying that we have about four more years of Nintendo Switch revisions still to come. After all, Nintendo released six models of its popular Nintendo 3DS over the course of a decade, boosting screen sizes, adding buttons, and bolstering processing power.

Plus, on a long enough timeline, some Nintendo rumors eventually do come true.

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