Nintendo isn’t normally been in the business of doing full upgrades to its consoles in the middle of a generation, with smaller changes instead being made to create systems such as the “new” Nintendo Switch and the Nintendo Switch Lite. In 2020, however, the company finds itself in a peculiar place, as Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 are less than a year away, and will bring with them a significant power increase that further distances the two platforms from the Switch. Perhaps because of this, pundits and analysts are predicting that a fully upgraded system, which we’ll call the “Switch Pro,” will be arriving this year.
The same analysts have even predicted that the system could cost as much as $400, which would likely put it in line with Microsoft and Sony’s own consoles when they launch this holiday season. That price point could mean substantial improvements compared to the standard Nintendo Switch and Switch Lite. Here are the features we want to see in a potential Nintendo Switch Pro system.
The Nintendo Switch Lite and the upgraded standard Nintendo Switch both increased the battery life compared to the original 2017 version, with as many as nine hours possible on the larger system. If a Switch Pro doesn’t need to fit the same accessories and dock as the standard console, that could mean giving it enough room for a larger battery capable of powering the system for far longer than that. The battery doesn’t need to be absurdly beefy, but lasting between 10 and 12 hours would be a substantial upgrade, especially for those who are still using the first Switch.
Most modern touchscreen devices have a piece of glass placed over the more fragile screen components to prevent them from being easily scratched. The Nintendo Switch’s screen is plastic, however, and if you don’t have a protector on top of it, it’s extremely vulnerable to scratches. In a more expensive Nintendo Switch Pro system, that screen should be covered with glass by default, making it less likely to be damaged when it’s removed from the dock and harder to scratch accidentally during travel. A screen protector would likely still be good to have, but as a precaution rather than a necessity.
Better (and smaller) dock
The Nintendo Switch’s dock has been pretty lousy since the console launched, with the capability to scratch the screen and potentially warp the system through poor heat circulation. It’s also far too large based on the small amount of hardware actually included on it, making it less-than-portable and a hassle to set up when visiting someone else’s home. That design couldn’t really be changed with a system that kept the same form factor, but if the Switch Pro is a different design, then a new dock would be in order. Despite the new console being potentially larger, we want the dock to shrink — something that keeps the same ports, or even more, and can be more easily stored in a bag would be perfect.
The Nintendo Switch’s built-in kickstand is flimsy and awful, and is technically functional but best swapped out for something like the HORI charging stand. The Switch Lite didn’t even include a stand at all, but we’d want one to be included on the Switch Pro — and we’d want it to be worth using. Something far more substantial that could keep the Switch in place without risk of popping off mid-session and potentially with a design that could allow for charging during gameplay through a hidden USB-C port underneath. This would serve as a replacement for the microSD card slot, which could be moved somewhere else, as having our game downloads stored on something that be exposed if a plastic stand happens to break has always been a little worrying.
Direct HDMI out
Should the kickstand be reconfigured in a way that allows for charging without the use of an external accessory, then it would also make sense for Nintendo to include direct HDMI output on the Switch Pro. This wouldn’t be a replacement for the power-and-video USB-C solution used on the current Switch, but as an alternative for those on the go. It would allow for the system to be used without a dock at all, with charging and output handled separately and the console receiving much better airflow. A feature would also likely bump up the price, but $400 is a lot of money for a Nintendo Switch as is.
One thing we definitely do not want to have to do is buy a new set of Joy-Con controllers for the Switch Pro, as we already have extra controllers that work with our current Switch model and can be attached if their battery happens to die. Regardless of any new form factor for the Switch Pro, it needs to make use of the same Joy-Con controllers, both for wireless play and when connected directly to the system. This would ensure compatibility with existing games like Ring Fit Adventure, and it would mitigate the cost for Nintendo fans who have already spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on accessories for their first Switch.
60 frames-per-second gameplay
The biggest technical leap that could be possible with the Nintendo Switch Pro could be 4K gaming, but we would be very surprised if that is possible in a portable system at a reasonable price. Instead, it’s more likely that the system would allow players to choose a 60 frames per second option in their games. Certain games can hit this framerate by default on the standard Switch, but others – including Dark Souls Remastered – are limited to 30 frames per second. Such a change could make AAA ports much more attractive on Switch Pro, even more so than if they simply had their resolution bumped up.
External storage support
If you’re getting a Nintendo Switch Pro, you don’t necessarily want to get rid of your first Switch, and might even continue to use that system as your portable console. If that’s the case, then your Switch Pro will stay in its dock and could benefit from additional storage space beyond what a reasonably priced microSD card can provide. Support for external drives on the Switch Pro would allow for players to install much more content on their system without having to delete anything, and this would be especially true given the relatively small file sizes of Nintendo Switch games. If this could allow for even easier transfer of game data between two consoles, it would be a bonus.
Built-in voice chat
Voice chat on the majority of game consoles is as simple as plugging your headset into your controller and speaking to other players in your game of choice. On Nintendo Switch, however, we have never heard another person talk, because the system makes you use several wires as well as a separate phone app in order to talk with players, and limits it to the game you’re currently playing. There are some exceptions, but a universal system-level voice chat solution is long overdue. Players should be able to talk with their friends on the system, even if they aren’t playing the same game, and they should be able to do it in an easy way. Right now, Skype or Discord is a much more attractive solution.
No exclusive games
Nintendo launched its New Nintendo 3DS line several years ago, and it included several exclusive games, such as Xenoblade Chronicles 3D and the 3DS port of Minecraft. It’s quite possible that the new Switch Pro hardware is going to be powerful enough to run games that simply can’t run on the standard Switch, but giving the console any exclusive games would split a dedicated user base that has been supporting the platform since launch. Release enhancement updates for past Nintendo Switch games, but make sure those who own the first version of the system can still enjoy the entire Switch library.
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