Xbox Scarlett vs. Nintendo Switch

Can the Nintendo Switch survive once Xbox Project Scarlett is released?

Since its initial launch in 2013, the Xbox One has struggled to compete with the PlayStation 4’s larger library of exclusive games — despite later surpassing its power with the upgraded Xbox One X. The company has a chance to turn this around when it releases the next-generation Xbox system, code-named “Project Scarlett.” It will certainly have some competition, particularly from the Nintendo Switch. Nintendo’s console emphasizes portability and flexible gaming options over pure power, but when it comes to the Xbox Scarlett vs. Nintendo Switch, which console is more appealing? We’ve detailed what we know about the next Xbox so far and compared it to the Nintendo Switch so you can make that call for yourself.

Further reading

Specs

Next-gen Xbox

Nintendo Switch

Dimensions 10 x  4.2 x 0.5 inches
Weight 0.65 pounds
Color Dark gray
CPU Custom AMD processor with Zen 2 and Navi technology Nvidia customized Tegra, shared with GPU
GPU Allegedly “Arcturus 12” Nvidia customized Tegra, shared with CPU
Memory 4GB
Memory bandwidth 25.6GB/s
Storage SSD 32GB, support for external cards
Optical drive Yes No
Max resolution 8K 720p handheld, 1080p docked
HDR Yes No
Ports HDMI out, One USB-C, One USB 3.0, Two USB 2.0
Online subscription Yes,  $20 per year
Price Likely $500 $300
Availability Holiday 2020
Digital Trends review Coming soon 4 out of 5 stars

Performance

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The Nintendo Switch isn’t designed like a traditional game console. Its power is a step up from the Wii U and it’s capable of running several of the latest third-party games, but you won’t be able to show off the latest features of your shiny new 4K TV on it.

There are two different maximum resolutions for Nintendo Switch, depending on whether you have the system docked or in handheld mode. Docked, the Switch can play games at 1080p meanwhile in handheld mode, the console caps games at 720p.

These resolutions vary from game to game, and certain games have experienced performance issues when using them in one mode or the other. Docked games tend to be the worst offenders, as the increased resolution can result in a lower framerate. This is the case with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. This could play a role in how you choose to enjoy Switch games since the system is capable of hitting 60 frames per second on some titles —  Mortal Kombat 11, for instance, manages to maintain a solid 60 frames per second, albeit with the loss of textures and higher resolution as a trade-off. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 players have encountered issues with the game in handheld mode, with resolutions occasionally dipping as low as 368p.

The Xbox Scarlett console will be a much large step up in power from the Xbox One X, and will likely rival the next-generation PS5’s power. We know from interviews with PlayStation system architect Mark Cerny that the system will be capable of 8K resolution, Microsoft has confirmed this for the Xbox Scarlett as well. According to Kotaku’s Jason Schreier, it will aim for more than 10.7 TFLOPS of power, which would make it nearly twice as powerful as the Xbox One X. Though it was previously reported that two separate consoles were in development, Microsoft recently confirmed that only one is in the works.

An upgraded Switch

Although the next Xbox will still be a much more powerful machine than the Nintendo Switch, a recent hardware revision to the system has improved its performance. Using a cooler-running and smaller version of the Tegra X1 processor, Nintendo has been able to get several more hours of battery life out of the Switch and even slightly improve performance in certain games. The battery actually remains the same despite the improvements, and a new display is also a little brighter and sharper.

Storage

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Because of the small size and lack of traditional solid-state drive or hard drive on the Nintendo Switch, it isn’t capable of the large storage space found on other systems. The system only comes in one configuration, which offers 32GB of built-in storage space, which you can expand through an optional microSDXC card. Because of the size of certain digital games, you essentially need a card if you don’t want to only use physical game cartridges. If you choose to use game cartridges, the file size stored on your system will be greatly reduced.

The decreased fidelity of Nintendo Switch games also has a silver lining – your file sizes will never reach that of the Xbox One, let alone Xbox Scarlett. A card with around 128GB will be sufficient for most players.

The Xbox Scarlett is likely to come with 1TB or more of storage space, which would put it in line with the Xbox One X. Like that console, we also anticipate you will be able to expand space further by plugging in an external drive. However, Microsoft didn’t allow users to swap out the internal drives on any Xbox One systems this generation, and it’s unclear if this decision will be reversed going forward. With file sizes only going up as we further increase visual fidelity, that 1TB could fill up quickly.

Microsoft has confirmed it will be using a solid-state drive, it could also have an impact on games’ loading times.

Game selection and backward compatibility

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The Nintendo Switch has a game selection that we haven’t seen from the company since the early booming days of the Wii, and the quality of the games being released is even more impressive. Some of the best exclusive games of all time are available on Switch including:

  • Super Mario Odyssey
  • Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
  • Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
  • Splatoon 2
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses

These great titles will soon be joined by exclusives such as Metroid Prime 4 and a full remake of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. The 3D RPG-style Pokémon Sword and Shield are also on the way.

These games are joined by third-party titles from publishers who previously stayed away from Nintendo, including Bethesda with Doom and Warner Bros. with Mortal Kombat 11. Even former console-exclusives on Xbox have come to the Nintendo Switch, such as the excellent Cuphead. With cross-platform support on several titles, Nintendo Switch and Xbox One players can even enjoy games together.

The Xbox Scarlett’s game lineup remains a mystery at the moment, but we do know at least one game that will end up releasing for the system: Halo Infinite. Given Microsoft’s commitment to cross-play across Xbox One and PC already, we wouldn’t be surprised to see the Xbox One and Xbox Scarlett versions be compatible, either.

The Nintendo Switch offers no backward compatibility with older Nintendo games, including digital titles you purchased from the Virtual Console on those systems. In its place in the Nintendo Switch Online vault – more on that below – which gives you unlimited access to a handful of NES titles.

Though it launched without backward compatibility, the Xbox One later added support for Xbox 360 and original Xbox games. Microsoft is almost guaranteed to keep this up with the Xbox Scarlett, allowing players to play nearly any Xbox game they own on one console, though we don’t think Kinect games will be included.

Online services

Just like with our comparison of the Nintendo Switch and next-generation PS5, we can basically declare Xbox Scarlett the winner when it comes to online services, despite the console not being announced. The Nintendo Switch’s online subscription service is barebones, and despite only costing $20, it still feels like it’s overpriced.

With a Nintendo Switch Online subscription, you get access to online multiplayer in games, as well as discounts on certain digital items, and access to the digital game vault mentioned earlier. These games come with added online functionality but are limited to NES titles. You can also back up your game saves in the cloud.

However, Nintendo Switch Online doesn’t provide a worthwhile system for voice chat, as you must use a headset with a separate mobile app. As you might expect, no one does this, and the system desperately needs to be replaced.

Xbox Live Gold costs $60 and also gives you the ability to play games online, but you don’t need it to store game saves in the cloud. A subscription comes with four free games a month — two for Xbox One and two for Xbox 360 with backward compatibility — and it uses a voice chat system that is compatible across Xbox One and PC. If Microsoft were to implement this system without changes on Xbox Scarlett, it would still be a success.

We also expect the next Xbox to make use of Microsoft’s Project xCloud streaming service. This will allow you to instantly stream games to your system without having to download any content, and pick the games up on a mobile device when you’re traveling.

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