Digital Foundry - Switch Overclocking: How Powerful Is A Fully Unlocked Tegra X1?

Becks'

Member
Dec 7, 2017
5,092
Canada


Summary:
  • Low performance in Switch games is mostly related to memory bandwidth or CPU clocks in docked mode
  • Rich uses a homebrewed Switch to push the max CPU clock (1785 MHz) and max GPU clock (921 MHz)
  • Dragon Quest Builders 2 in user made levels sees an increase from 7-11FPS with base clocks to 10-15 FPS with max CPU clock, GPU clock doesn't make a difference
  • Breath of the Wild's Korok Forest section is a bit better with max CPU clock and GPU clock but it still drops frame rate, probably due to memory bandwidth
  • DOOM 3's performance is completely fixed and locked to 60 FPS with max CPU clock
  • Mortal Kombat 11's performance in some stages have CPU limitations and once those are overcome, GPU becomes the issue, with fully max CPU and GPU, game is locked to 60FPS with minor drops
  • Wolfenstein Youngblood's frame pacing and low frame rate issues are fixed with max CPU clock, the resolution becomes better if you include the max GPU clock
  • DOOM 2016's frame pacing issues still exist with max CPU and GPU clock but they are less intense
  • Saints Row the Third's frame rate is exactly the same between all 3 configurations, memory bandwidth is the issue, switching to mobile profile (reducing the resolution) in docked mode fixes the issue
  • Power draw in Switch increases from 15-16W to 19-20W when overclocked
  • Temperatures peak at 60C in stock clocks, 64C with max CPU clock only and 67C with max CPU and GPU clocks
  • Rich thinks Nintendo is being conservative but for a reason as CPU and GPU overhead is needed for severe conditions
  • Developer units can have a max CPU clock of 1220 MHz which could significantly improve performance if used
  • Handheld overclocked performance analysis is coming in a near future
 
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HugoLiu

Member
Oct 30, 2017
141
Now I really want a homebrew enabled switch after watching the video, and imaging what can be done if people somehow find a way to 'overclock' the new model which suppose to have much more head room.
 

Zedark

Member
Oct 25, 2017
8,393
The Netherlands
Very interesting video here - and the follow-up for portable mode is going to be even more interesting. For MK11, the fact that there is both a GPU and CPU bottleneck is interesting. I would imagine that the CPU one is the hardest one to overcome due to the tasks performed by it, but it shows that games like MK11 are pushing the system.

It really makes you think how Witcher 3 is going to manage the transition: it introduces a large open world in addition to the factors that MK11 is running into, and the Saints Row comparison suggests that memory bandwidth limitations can be in play in a game like that. I wonder if Nintendo have allowed Saber Interactive to access a higher memory bandwidth profile than has currently been available. That would probably give them some breathing room in that regard. I would guess that Witcher 3 is also using the 460 MHz GPU clock. CPU could theoretically get a boost, but it would be the first game to get a boost like that, so that's a very uncertain one to predict.
 

zakatana

Member
Jan 10, 2018
3,415
Tokyo
Those temperature differences ain't really bad. It would be nice if Nintendo allowed for higher clocks in the future. With the increase power draw, we would be looking at a little less than 2 hours of autonomy. I have a powerbank to push this to 5 or 6 hours. I would never play more than that even when flying intercontinental. Do it, Nintendo.
 

newline

The Fallen
Oct 25, 2017
450
London, United Kingdom
I really like the idea of playing low performing docked games using a fully overclocked handheld profile.
I have a hacked switch but I'm yet to play around with clocks... this vid might be the push I need.

Also he's so right, it's crazy to think we have a console in the prime of it's life with this level of hardware access. The switch seems to be the platform that keeps on giving.
 

Gurgelhals

Member
Oct 27, 2017
807
Given these results they really should enable higher performance profiles for the new Mariko Switch – at least in docked mode where it wouldn't impact battery life.
 

Shoichi

Member
Jan 10, 2018
2,893
one of the things I enjoy of having a hacked Switch. The ability to OC to the profiles Nintendo didn't enable is so good.

Personally, I never went above docked CPU/GPU/RAM speeds in portable mode. But it does definitely benefit the system as its only pushing to a 720p screen rather than 1080p. That fan definitely pushes hard though
 

Joey Ravn

Member
Oct 27, 2017
2,650
I would love to try this on my Switch, but sadly the homebrew is not compatible with my CFW. I love being able to use an HDD as external storage, so switching CFW flavor isn't an option right now for me :(
 

Poison Jam

Member
Nov 6, 2017
1,764
Thanks for the summary!

Sounds like Nintendo is being very conservative with docked clockspeeds as that increase in temp and powerdraw is surprisingly low.

The bandwidth being a limitation has basically been known since launch though, and is obvious when you look at how things like alpha effects are handled in most games. Would love to see what a Switch could do if you doubled it.
 

Gurgelhals

Member
Oct 27, 2017
807
I have zero idea but If you play with OCed Switch... It can break or it's just less battery.. ?
The Tegra X1 can handle higher clock rates than those used in the Switch (which is 1Ghz for the CPU and 768Mhz for the GPU in docked mode). Its maximum frequency is 1.9Ghz for the CPU and 1Ghz for the GPU, so technically it should be perfectly safe to run it at these frequencies *if* the cooling system is able to handle the additional heat.

It's perfectly understandable that Nintendo decided to play it safe wrt clock rates though. The last thing you want in a mass-market consumer device is a RRoD-like situation.

I don't know Jack about this so honest question : does the Memory bandwith only relate to the kind of ram used ? Or are there other factors ?
Memory bandwidth is determined by the type of memory used and the width of the memory interface between the RAM and the SoC. In the case of the Switch the latter is fixed at 64bits and the RAM is running at its maximum clock frequency already (1.6Ghz). Also, RAM usually doesn't respond well to overclocking at all, so this is pretty much a hard limit.

Now the memory modules used in the revised Switch actually have a higher maximum frequency (2.1Ghz), so Nintendo could increase the available bandwidth of those devices if they wanted to (and if the memory interface of the Tegra is actually able to clock above 1.6Ghz). Which doesn't mean that they will, of course...
 
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-shadow-

Member
Oct 25, 2017
3,830
Would be interesting if Nintendo added a option for higher clock speeds, but I'm not seeing that happen. The difference in some games, like DOOM³, is pretty impressive.
 

ShadowFox08

Member
Nov 25, 2017
1,843
I haven't watched the video, but it would be really interesting to see DF do a follow up video, IF Nintendo(or via hacking)to increases the clockspeeds of GPU, CPU, and bandwidth for the v2 switch in a future update with the new profiles released. Like 30-50% for GPU and CPU, and have the bandwidth 33% at least (certainly doable with DDR4x having a natural 33% increase from 25.6 to 34GB/s vs DDR4).

Perhaps even have that already existing 1.785GHz for CPU and 1-1.2GHz on GPU with 34GB/s bandwidth, and also see the power draw. being tested .. Would be nice to see the performance, battery time, and power draw for handheld mode using current switch docked speeds as well and if it's the same as the first switch model in handheld mode(for battery and power draw)

Can't wait to watch the video at home though
 

riq

Member
Feb 21, 2019
178
IMO it is understandable why Nintendo would limit the thing on handheld mode. But I think docked they could give the option of going full 1700 MHz. Third party games tend to look awful docked, and the ability to play both ways is a core concept of the system (something something Switch Lite).

Also, speaking of hacked units, the Retroarch Switch port supports overclocking in app, which is neat. Most stuff doesn't need it though, I'm able to get stable performance on Mario 64 and Ocarina at 720p (3X native res).
 

Tron1

Member
Dec 23, 2017
4,852
Well good. Hopefully this can dispel people saying max clocks won’t have much benefits. either way looks like we are waiting until next year.
 

Onix555

Member
Apr 23, 2019
339
UK
they should have just used Tegra X2 from the beginning. double the memory bandwidth and 16nm so less power hungry and runs cooler/can be clocked higher.
How much would that have cost us at retail? I presume the X2 costs much more than the X1. Also doubling the memory bandwidth would’ve added to the cost.
The major issue wasn't price.
The issue was that the X2 released to clients after the Switch itself had launched.
Switch began development in 2014, with early X1 development kits going out in late 2015.
Developers need over a year to prepare games for console platforms, as such using an X2 would require waiting till 2017 to produce the first dev kits; with a product launch at the earliest of mid 2018.
 

jedivulcan

The Fallen
Oct 25, 2017
870
Digital Foundry should take it the other way and see what the bare minimum is for some of these games to run. It's not practical but it's interesting to see the kind of overhead a particular game demands. Mario Odyssey, for instance, will run at lower clock speeds and do next to everything to keep the 60fps lock by sacrificing resolution.
 

KimonoNoNo

Member
Oct 26, 2017
347
I've got a launch Switch and have been tempted to go down the CFW rabit hole.

It's a pity these Mariko Switches are going to be locked down tighter than a drum.
 

Shoichi

Member
Jan 10, 2018
2,893
I've got a launch Switch and have been tempted to go down the CFW rabit hole.

It's a pity these Mariko Switches are going to be locked down tighter than a drum.
Even before these Mariko Switches being released, the Switch has been pretty unhackable since the ipatched devices back in June 2018. Even though those may be hackable in the future, if you had updated your unit past 4.1 on those ipatched devices your device is SOL atm.
 

Eorl

Member
Oct 30, 2017
1,978
Australia
they should have just used Tegra X2 from the beginning. double the memory bandwidth and 16nm so less power hungry and runs cooler/can be clocked higher.
As someone else pointed out, it wasn't about price but availability. Besides that point the want to have better would always be there with locked down consoles. I'd have preferred the base Xbox and PS4 to have better hardware but that would have required either price increases or delays in development. Console makers can't afford that when they've lined things up already and are in production.
 

kirbyfan407

Member
Oct 25, 2017
1,443
I'm very curious how the new model with the new chip can be overclocked. I imagine it might have potential for higher clocks.
 

sunnpeace

The Fallen
Oct 27, 2017
653
Here's my question,
Right now there are laptops out there with integrated graphics chip but with a Thunderbolt port that allows eGPU's to be plugged in, such as my Dell XPS 13.
Would it be feasible for a Switch successor to come packaged with a dock that functions as an external GPU at the same price point? Alternatively, could there be a 'pro' dock for that Switch successor, or is memory bandwidth too much of a bottleneck?
 

SMD

Member
Oct 28, 2017
3,129
Here's my question,
Right now there are laptops out there with integrated graphics chip but with a Thunderbolt port that allows eGPU's to be plugged in, such as my Dell XPS 13.
Would it be feasible for a Switch successor to come packaged with a dock that functions as an external GPU at the same price point? Alternatively, could there be a 'pro' dock for that Switch successor, or is memory bandwidth too much of a bottleneck?
I don't think Nintendo have designed it with that in mind, they probably looked at handheld performance as the baseline and went from there.
 

Atolm

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,161
It's not in the video but Xenoblade 2 gains are fairly substantial on portable mode with OC and a custom game profile.