Sources have told Bloomberg all about the new console. That includes details on its screen, which is said to be bigger than that of the existing switch and OLED to boot, plus a possible release date and some of its capabilities.
So should Sony and Microsoft be worried? What can we expect from a new Switch? And when might you be able to buy one? We've rounded up all the rumours below.
OLED Nintendo Switch: screen
First things first: the screen. This is said to be the headline feature of the new console, and a real step up on what's currently on offer.
For starters, it's bigger than the current model. According to Bloomberg, the new Switch will have a 7-inch display, which would be bigger than the current Switch's 6.2-inch screen, and the Switch Lite's 5.5-inch display.
But not only will it be bigger, it should be a lot better, too. That's because it will use OLED technology, instead of the LCD used in the current Switch. OLED stands for organic light-emitting diode, and is used in some of the best TVs around – see our round-up of the best OLED TVs to see how stunning the tech can be. It makes for true black levels, because each individual pixel can turned off instead of emitting an approximation of black as with LCD screens (which usually look closer to grey). Add stunningly bright whites and that makes for superb contrast levels.
OLED screens are also more energy efficient, which could result in longer battery life. That will be a really big draw for a console that doubles as a portable.
Sources say that Samsung will manufacture the OLED screen. Samsung already supplies OLED displays to high-end smartphones such as the Apple iPhone 12 and Samsung Galaxy S21, but the new Switch's will be a bit different. Instead of being slightly flexible like those smartphone screens, the one used in the new Switch will be rigid. Samsung is thought to be starting mass production of the 7-inch panels in June, with initial supply put at a million a month. They will start shipping to assemblers around July.
OLED Nintendo Switch: 4K and HDR
According to the report, the next Switch will also be capable of 4K resolution. That doesn't mean the screen itself will be 4K (reportedly it will be 720p HD), but that you can hook it up to a 4K TV and play games in Ultra HD resolution.
That would be a big boon for developers and games alike. The former – and probably some of the latter – have expressed frustration at the huge difference between the picture quality on the portable screen and that blown up to the size of a big-screen TV.
Will games be true native 4K though? That seems unlikely. It's more likely that Nintendo will take the more efficient path and render games in HD – these could then be upscaled when outputted to a 4K TV.
According to another recent Bloomberg report, the new console will use a new Nvidia chip with 4K upscaling. This will allow for something called DLSS (Deep Learning Super Sampling), which is a cutting-edge way of upscaling graphics to look better than they are. This would let games look practically 4K on a TV screen without having ridiculously large file sizes (which would be overkill when viewed on the Switch's small OLED screen).
DLSS uses an artificial intelligence technology called deep learning neural networks to boost frame rates and generally tidy up graphics.
The original Switch console used an Nvidia chip, which certainly lends this rumour some credence.
But putting 4K aside for a second, perhaps the greater potential lies in HDR. This stands for high dynamic range – it's a technology borrowed from photography, which increases the difference between the light and dark parts of the picture, with more gradual steps in between. It results in a punchier and more lifelike image with more depth and better colours.
The vast majority of OLED displays have HDR, and the new Switch's could well count itself among them. That would make games look more engaging and exciting.
And it might not just be new games that benefit from this. Older titles could get some kind of upconversion similar to the Xbox Series X's Auto HDR. This uses machine learning to add HDR to games that were designed with only standard dynamic range in mind. So the new Switch could breathe some new life into your current games library. Fingers crossed.
OLED Nintendo Switch: other possible features
So what other features could Nintendo add to a new Switch?
The PS5 and Xbox Series X have HDMI 2.1, which brings more advanced features such as 4K@120Hz, Auto Low-latency Mode (ALLM) and Variable Refresh Rate (VRR), but we don't expect the Nintendo Switch 2 to follow suit. 4K@120Hz and VRR are technically tricky features that feel unnecessary for the kind of games produced for Nintendo consoles, and the simpler ALLM could be added without the need for an expensive HDMI 2.1 socket.
As previously mentioned, HDR is very likely to make an appearance, seeing how common it is on OLED screen and what a striking difference it would make for games in terms of looks.
Other next-gen consoles have extra audio-visual features such as Dolby Atmos and/or DTS:X, but it's unlikely Nintendo will add these to the new Switch. From reports so far, it sounds like more of a refresh than a full-blown overhaul of the console, so we expect that 5.1 sound is going to be the best available. Fingers crossed Nintendo at least adds Dolby Digital 5.1 support on top of the standard PCM format of the original Switch, as this increases compatibility with soundbars and the like.
OLED Nintendo Switch: release date
The OLED-toting Nintendo Switch is rumoured to launch "in time for the holidays". That usually means autumn/fall time, to give plenty of time to build awareness before the manic Christmas shopping season gets into full swing.
According to GameReactor, Nvidia will stop production of the chip used in the current model of Nintendo Switch. The Tegra X1 Mariko System-on-Chip – the processor in both the Switch and Switch Lite – will reportedly cease production at some point this year. While there's no mention of a successor console, it certainly fans the rumour flames, and suggests a launch will happen before 2021 draws to a close. And if Bloomberg's recent report is to be believed, Nintendo will continue the partnership by using a new Nvidia chip in the OLED Switch.
OLED Nintendo Switch: name
What will the next Switch be called? At four years old, the original Nintendo Switch is around the middle of its life cycle, so calling the new version the Nintendo Switch 2 would seem a bit hasty. Rather, odds are that Nintendo will opt for something that sells the upgraded abilities without positioning it as a completely new proposition. Nintendo Switch Pro, maybe.
Pro is a popular moniker in the worlds of smartphones, tablets and laptops, used by the likes of Apple and Samsung to indicate more power than the standard version. So it's very possible that Nintendo will adopt the same tack.
OLED Nintendo Switch: the experts speak
As you can imagine, rumours of a new Nintendo console have been big news in the gaming and business worlds. The Switch is now four years old, and its successor, the Switch Lite, is getting on for two years old now. Industry watchers weren't expecting a new Nintendo console this year, but given the demand for Sony and Microsoft's new games machines, a new Switch makes perfect sense.
Bloomberg quoted one expert who spelled out the benefits of OLED tech for Nintendo.
“The OLED panel will consume less battery, offer higher contrast and possibly faster response time when compared to the Switch’s current liquid-crystal display,” said Yoshio Tamura, co-founder of display consultancy DSCC.
Bloomberg's own analysts said the new console could prolong the lifespan of the current Switch considerably.
"The release of a more premium version of Nintendo’s Switch console with an OLED display and support for 4K graphics for the holiday 2021 selling season could drive the company’s sales above consensus for the fiscal year ending March 2022 and extend the life cycle of the Switch platform for many more years," said analysts Matthew Kanterman and Nathan Naidu.
Other experts agreed with the rumoured launch date. "If they're making the products from June – we're hearing they're going to start shipping in July, that even a September launch should be possible," Ross Young, co-founder and CEO of Display Supply Chain Consultants, told Tom's Guide. "Given the time lag from panel shipment to device production, and then device production to retail, it could be September, October."
OLED Nintendo Switch vs PS5 and Xbox Series X
With the launch of the PS5 and Xbox Series X at the end of last year, Nintendo has a fight on its hands. Both consoles are much more powerful than the Switch. So does Nintendo stand a chance?
Yes indeed. Its consoles have never been about pure power, more about fun and innovative ways to play. And the sales reflect this. To date, the Switch and Switch Lite have sold over 79 million units. That makes Switch the second-best-selling console in Nintendo history, beaten only by the original Wii. It also compares well with sales of the PS4 and Xbox One, which stand at 114 million and 48 million respectively. The Switch only launched in 2017, remember, whereas Sony and Microsoft's previous consoles landed four years earlier, in 2013.
A new Switch won't beat the new PlayStation or Xbox in terms of graphics or processing power, and chances are it won't be a better one-stop shop for all your streaming and media needs. But the crucial thing is, it won't try to. As ever, Nintendo is playing its own game. And it seems to be doing pretty well so far.
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