Overclocked Nintendo Switch Tested by Digital Foundry – Tegra X1 Gets Significant Performance Boost


If you're willing to hack your Nintendo Switch, the homebrew scene is full of possibilities. Just recently we covered the release of the Switchroot LineageOS ROM, which fully enables Android with all of its apps and games.

However, if you're simply looking to improve your experience with existing, native Nintendo Switch games, you could overclock the NVIDIA Tegra X1 SoC. The folks at Digital Foundry did just that thanks to the sys-clk homebrew tool, bumping the CPU from the standard 1020 MHz Docked mode clock to 1785 MHz and the GPU from the default 768 MHz Docked mode clock to 921 MHz.

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Their test results showcase a significant performance boost in some games. Dragon Quest Builders 2, for instance, has particularly egregious issues with user-made levels, but with the CPU overclock frame rate went up by roughly 40 percent.

Mortal Kombat 11 also benefits a lot. With both the CPU and GPU overclocked, the game's frame rate is basically locked at 60 frames with only minor and sporadic drops, while those are much more frequent at stock clocks.

DOOM 3, which recently came out on Nintendo Switch after the surprise announcement at QuakeCon 2019, also runs locked at 60 fps with the overclocks. The most recent installment, DOOM (2016), sees improvements with its notorious frame pacing issues, while Wolfenstein Youngblood has them completely fixed while also looking a bit better because of the game's built-in dynamic resolution system.

However, overclocking the NVIDIA Tegra X1 isn't a magic bullet of sorts. In other cases, such as Saints Row the Third or even The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the performance remains largely the same due to the bottleneck of the memory bandwidth. The memory controller of the Nintendo Switch when docked is 1600 MHz and it's also a hard limit of the Tegra X1, which means it can't be overclocked any further.

Obviously, anyone familiar with overclocking also knows that there are drawbacks to the procedure. For instance, Digital Foundry estimated that temperatures went up from 60°C when running stock clocks to 64°C with the CPU overclock and 67°C with both CPU and GPU overclocked. Similarly, the power draw is increased from an average of 15-16 watts to 19-20 watts, but that was also to be expected.

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Still, those who own a hackable Nintendo Switch model (Nintendo has since fixed the hardware exploit in newer models) may certainly consider this option if they want to get the best possible experience on the console.