Nintendo Switch Boost Mode: Everything you need to know

Nintendo Switch
Nintendo Switch (Image credit: iMore)

Nintendo has been rumored to be working on experiments to create faster, more-efficient gaming experiences for the Nintendo Switch. Unsatisfied with sitting around and waiting for the gaming company to make this a reality, home developers have also been getting in on the action. Many have been able to temporarily increase clock speeds for the hybrid console, making it faster and more efficient. We'll explain why this is important and what it means for you.

What is Nintendo Switch boost mode?

Basically, "boost mode" refers to speeding up the Nintendo Switch's loading times and minimizing lag for a better gaming experience. The name is semi-inaccurate but it's what the internet has chosen to call this process. To understand how "boost mode" is possible, we'll have to go into the Switch's specs as well as its history. Some of this information can get a little technical but we'll guide you through it.

When the Switch was released, many people were surprised that Nintendo decided to give the hybrid console a Tegra X1 mobile processor. This meant it would have significantly slower processing times than the Xbox and Playstation consoles currently on the market. Granted, the Switch has done very well for itself, but speed is definitely an area where the Switch doesn't measure up to current video gaming trends and technology.

Nintendo Switch

Nintendo Switch (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / iMore)

Via the Wall Street Journal, we know that Nintendo itself wants to create an improved version of the Switch. It's been confirmed that the company is currently conducting performance-enhancing experiments by overclocking its hardware and testing thermal management techniques. Basically speeding up the processor past Nintendo's specfications in order to make it work faster and finding ways to keep the console cool so it can last longer by not using as much power.

Meanwhile, gamers and home developers have also been dreaming up ways to improve the Switch's performance and have even produced some fantastic results. To understand the significance of these experiments, we first need to know the abilities of the Switch console. Here are the specs according to the findings of Digital Foundry:

Nintendo Switch Specs

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 DockedUndocked
CPU clock speed1020MHz1020MHz
GPU clock speed768MHz307.2MHz
Memory clock1600MHz1331MHz

What difference does boost mode make?

Some home developers have enabled the Switch console to temporarily reach a 1785MHz CPU clock speed while docked, much higher than its standard 1020MHz docked clock speed. This huge jump makes Nintendo's latest console about as fast as the PS4 and Xbox One S. This is still nowhere as fast as the far-more-powerful PS4 Pro or Xbox One X, but it's a major improvement.

Additionally, in these experiments home developers have been able to temporarily raise the undocked GPU clock speed to 460MHz. That's 50% faster than the usual 307.2MHz handheld clock speed. This means faster loading speeds, less lag, and fewer wait times while playing your favorite games on the go.

These home developers have also discovered that the speed at which a game will play, actually depends on the game itself and how it's designed to load. So results vary depending on the game being tested.

For a more in-depth look, check out Digital Foundry's video.

How can I overclock my Switch?

To be able to increase the speed of your Switch, you'll need a technical understanding of the console's software and physical components, as well as access to frequency monitoring software. It should also be noted that any modification to the Switch negates your warranty and might even lead to your console getting banned from Nintendo's online services.

Unless you know what you're doing and you don't mind the risks, you really shouldn't do this to your Switch. But with any luck, Nintendo will perfect these improvements and employ them on a new version of the Switch in the near future.

Could Nintendo's testing be for the Switch Pro?

Nintendo Switch

Nintendo Switch (Image credit: Nintendo)

We don't know for sure but, yes, it's possible. The Nintendo Switch Pro is still a widely speculated and unconfirmed piece of hardware. Granted, earlier this year, Digitimes, a Taiwanese new outlet, claimed that the Switch Pro would be launching towards holiday season 2020 around the same time as the release of the PS5 and Xbox Series X. However, Nintendo has stated that the gaming company "has no plans to launch a new Nintendo Switch model during 2020." It could be that Nintendo is just being demure in order to reveal something on their own time table. We'll just have to wait and see if anything gets revealed later this year.

The Boost

Nintendo has been very private when it comes to releasing details about its current hardware and software projects. There are sure to be more developments when it comes to improving the performance of the Nintendo Switch (both from Nintendo and from home developers). We'll keep our ears to the ground and let you know if we discover anything new.

What do you think about the Nintendo Switch's boost mode? Tell us about it in the comments.

Rebecca Spear
Gaming Editor

Gaming aficionado Rebecca Spear is iMore's dedicated gaming editor with a focus on Nintendo Switch and iOS gaming. You’ll never catch her without her Switch or her iPad Air handy. If you’ve got a question about Pokémon, The Legend of Zelda, or just about any other Nintendo series check out her guides to help you out. Rebecca has written thousands of articles in the last six years including hundreds of extensive gaming guides, previews, and reviews for both Switch and Apple Arcade. She also loves checking out new gaming accessories like iPhone controllers and has her ear to the ground when it comes to covering the next big trend.