In Theory: Could Sony produce a PS4 Switch-style console hybrid?

Nintendo’s Switch has carved out a sizeable share of the gaming market by offering something genuinely unique – a state-of-the-art handheld that also doubles up as a decent home console. Despite a spec disadvantage in terms of pure performance, it’s been a genuine pleasure to chart the progress of the console. When we first saw it way back in January 2017, it was easy to dismiss it as a portable Wii U. Now we know it’s much, much more – and its success begs the question: could Sony or Microsoft follow suit with console hybrids of their own?

Well, if we’re talking about complete compatibility with the existing PS4/Xbox One software, the answer is fairly straightforward – it’s much easier to scale up a mobile device to run on a living room flatpanel than it is to take a traditional console and scale it down to run on the go. And in actual fact, this ‘mobile first’ strategy isn’t exactly exclusive to Nintendo – the Maxwell technology on which the Tegra X1 is based was built from the ground up first and foremost for applications in the mobile field. If you can achieve exceptional efficiency at the low end, the rewards with more power, more frequency and more bandwidth become even more pronounced.

But the point is that there’s a lot of performance there at that low-end, all derived from what is ridiculously low power consumption. Doom 2016’s Switch port – and indeed the upcoming Wolfenstein 2 conversion – have taken a lot of grief from users unhappy with resolution reductions, frame-rate hits and obvious downgrades in the visual feature set. But the port seems almost miraculous when you look at the host hardware’s power consumption. The fact that any kind of port is possible at all beggars belief when you look at the vast difference in the amount of juice being pulled from the wall in rendering those visuals.

So, let’s consider some power consumption comparisons. A launch model PS4 running fully flat out draws about 120-130 watts, and that drops to around 70-80 watts on the PS4 Slim, which uses a smaller, more power efficient version of the same processor. Some of that power reduction (in the region of 10-20 watts) comes from Sony moving from 16 GDDR5 memory modules to eight, a figure we could ascertain from power measurements gleaned from the CUH-1200 model – which uses the original processor with the more streamlined eight-module memory set-up.