It seems that NetherRealm is one of the first third-party studios to have taken advantage of Switch’s ‘boost mode’, according to our friends over at Digital Foundry. The behind-the-scenes mode, which released with the console’s latest firmware update, enables developers to take advantage of increased clock speeds to improve game performance in several ways.
At launch Nintendo limited the console’s docked CPU speed to 1020MHz and the GPU to 768MHz. These figures were both substantially below the performance found in Nvidia Shield Android TV, which uses the same Tegra X1 processor as the Switch. In handheld mode, however, the GPU was further slashed to 40-50% of that figure (between 307.2 and 384MHz). While this conservative clock speed helps prevent your Switch from cooking itself into a mess of melted plastic and electronics, it presents developers with some very stringent limitations.
Richard Leadbetter from Digital Foundry has used his tools and considerable nous to test the machine and its supposed new ‘boost’ mode and has confirmed these improvements with hard data. As we reported last month, temporary CPU clock increases to 1785MHz are helping in certain circumstances (loading screens in Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, for example) and it appears that Mortal Kombat 11 is benefiting from GPU speed increases along with Nintendo’s games, too. The video explains everything in detail:
In handheld mode all the mentioned titles benefit from a GPU jump from 384MHz to 460MHz helping to reduce the impact of dynamic resolution scaling, among other things. Interestingly, the GPU clock also seems to change dynamically in some situations – a six-minute section of DOOM saw the clock speed change no less than 28 times.
If you’re at all interested in the nitty-gritty, we highly recommend you watch the whole video for a detailed breakdown and check out more of Digital Foundry’s videos. Their forensic work on consoles both retro and modern is fascinating if you’ve got a head for numbers and an interest in the challenges that face developers across all platforms. In the meantime, it seems a little more wiggle room for developers is expanding the potential of your favourite handheld hybrid console – everyone’s a winner.
Have you noticed an improvement in any of these titles? Is the forest in Breath of the Wild a little less stuttery? Let us know below.