Nintendo Switch Teardown: In Two Places at Once

iFixit's teardown of Nintendo's new Switch console gets into the secret sauce of creating a game console that functions for both portable and home-based gaming.

Nintendo has a long history of trail-blazing. Growing from a modest card game shop to the company that broke the mold in home video game consoles with the NES in 1985, broke new ground in handheld gaming with the Gameboy, and later created a surprise phenomenon among causal gamers with the Wii – and it's game-changing (literally) motion controller.

In the years since the Wii's release Nintendo has waned somewhat as competitors like Microsoft and Sony have continued to push boundaries with more powerful hardware and by embracing VR and AR technology.

But Nintendo is back, and its new console, the Switch, has been a big hit with consumers, breaking sales records , according to the company.

What's the draw? The Switch is both a handheld and home system rolled into one. It can connect to a TV via a dock to work as a home game system and can also function as a portable system. It even features detachable, wireless controllers (called Joy-Cons). Also, as an interesting tidbit, the Switch's SD-card like game chips have been deliberately coated with a chemical (denatonium benzoate) that makes them taste bad, so children won't swallow them.

So what's really under the hood of Nintendo's latest game changer (pun intended)? The team at iFixit got their hands on a Switch for their latest teardown.

Here are the basic specs of the console unit:

  • NVIDIA customized Tegra processor – the NVIDIA ODNX02-A2 (iFixit presumes this is the Tegra X1-based SoC)

  • Built-in 6.2" multi-touch LCD screen with 1280 × 720 resolution (capable of 1920 × 1080 output on an external display via HDMI)

  • 32 GB of internal storage (up to 2 TB additional storage via microSDHC or microSDXC card)

  • Samsung K4F6E304HB-MGCH 2 GB LPDDR4 DRAM (x2 for a total of 4 GB)

  • 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, USB Type-C charge port, and 3.5 mm audio jack on the console—plus three standard USB ports on the Switch Dock

  • Stereo speakers

  • Rechargeable lithium-ion battery capable of 2.5 - 6.5 hours play time

  • Detachable wireless Joy-Cons

Those Joy-Con controllers are the most interesting parts of the Switch. Though they look identical they actually have different hardware inside of them. They each have the same basics – lithium-ion battery, bluetooth, accelerometer/ gyroscope, and the “HD Rumble” motor for haptic feedback, but the right Joy-Con also has an infrared motion camera that can sense the shape, motion, and distance of objects in front of it. According to Nintendo, the camera can even recognize certain hand gestures like rock, paper, scissors and will also be able to record video in the future.

iFixit found that the HD Rumble motor in both Joy-Cons is a  linear resonant actuator  (LRA) that looks very similar, if not identical, to ones seen in controllers for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. “It's essentially a voicecoil installed in a moving mass assembly, flanked by a pair of powerful magnets,” the teardown notes. “However, it's interesting that this LRA seems to vibrate along its short axis, while many haptic feedback motors that we've seen vibrate along their long axis.”

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