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Digital Foundry: Zelda On Nintendo Switch Runs Better In Portable Mode

Respected technology publication Digital Foundry is reporting that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild runs better in portable mode rather than docked. When Breath of the Wild is docked you can notice major frame rate drops whereas these aren’t so noticeable playing the game in portable mode. You can see examples in the video, below.

“Beyond performance, there is very, very little to separate the visual experience. Yes, the game runs at a higher resolution when hooked up to your HDTV, but the presentation on the 720p 6.2-inch display looks beautiful, and while the pixels-per-inch metrics may not impress by smartphone standards, it’s still enough to ensure that the complete lack of anti-aliasing isn’t that much of an issue, especially as the game renders at the screen’s native resolution. Zelda looks crisp and precise in handheld form, while the blown-up image on your flatscreen serves to emphasise the less impressive aspects of the game’s image quality.”

“However, playing while docked highlights one visual improvement: texture filtering still isn’t great, but it’s clearly improved over the handheld version, resolving more ground detail in particular further away from the player. Will you actually notice outside of eyeballing screenshots? It’s highly unlikely. Miniaturising the action onto the 6.2-inch screen makes the difference virtually indistinguishable, and the improvement – such as it is – manifests as a ‘band’ of additional texture detail just ahead of the Link character.”

“Otherwise, the experience is identical. Nintendo could have made minor tweaks to engine settings in order to accommodate the handheld mode’s slower GPU clocks, but as it turns out, that’s not required. The lighting is unchanged, level of detail transitions and pop-in (such as it is) are like-for-like and shadow quality is a match. Overall, expectations of Switch performance here are reversed when looking at final code – going in, we’d expect downgrades in the mobile execution of the game owing to reduced GPU power, but it’s actually in handheld form where we find the smoothest experience.”


24 thoughts on “Digital Foundry: Zelda On Nintendo Switch Runs Better In Portable Mode”

  1. Hard to listen to these guys. They almost ruin gaming in my opinion. BOTW is a great game by all accounts it seems, but these issues, on the whole are either insignificant or play more to the fact that the port was done in an odd way from wiiu to switch and dumping the things that made it a wiiu exclusive in the beginning

    1. actually now when you think about it, what they must have done, and what took so long was, since the architecture is so different, they must have ported it to the switch and then backwards ported to the wii u.

      That sounds retarded and maybe someone who is a developer or into that for real can show the error in that blip of a thought… but if even sort of true, it makes sense why there are issues and why BOTW doesn’t really push what the switch can do… especially at 13.4gb

      1. As Bass-Ackwards as that sounds, I would certainly say it makes sense. It would explain a lot… Or simply both versions are just Frankenstein’s monster. Chopped and spliced to the point we’re lucky all we have to worry about are some framerate issue and that a very basic control scheme works. It started as a unique, incredible WiiU game. They showed it off as such and people actually got to use the gamepad in demos. By the time they chopped it up and put it back together, you’d expect a few issues, but like you hinted to, I don’t think most people will notice that much.

        And it makes sense it runs better in 720p. It was designed for 720p and the switch version is hardly an HD remaster.. more of an attempt to do just enough to say, “Please buy this on switch, the wiiu version has nothing to offer, really, we took it all away. The switch version is better!”

        1. Yeah, that sucks. I wasn’t as, and maybe still not quite, maddened by it as you, but to think I could have been aiming arrows with my gamepad from horseback and looking through the gamepad at this seemingly endless world and looking at my map and switching weapons on it and now that is ALL GONE… I don’t care what the peanut galllery says, the gamepad is cool and has great functionality. They ruined Starfox with this Switch progression as well giving us a half completed game with the kinks not worked out in the control scheme. A letter of apology to the 10 million wii U adopters would be nice with maybe some free content (virtual console or whatever) just to save face… sure, maybe they’d lose 20 million dollars, but they did give us the bone so that would be the fair thing… but to admit such a mistake on a grand scale? I doubt it.In fact, I know it will never happen except maybe in a one off comment in an interview years from now

          1. I loved the gamepad. Not a band-wagon gampad fan, I was a day 1, to this day I love the gamepad. It was one thing I never, ever complained about. Unless Nintendo wasn’t using it. When Call of Duty allowed player 2 to have the gamepad as their own screen, and Blacklist let you fly drones with the gamepad, and zombiU used it as a backpack, and all Nintendo could think of was to use it as a fucking Horn In Mario kart? Fuck! Lazy!

            I give credit to Nintendo for Nintendo Land. It looks kiddish, but I really thought it was fun. Unfortunatly, it was the last time Nintendo would use it for a while.

            I really believed they would have left Zelda’s gampad features alone, but we now know that Nintendo fucked the WiiU one last time on a grand scale.

            1. Yeah, that must have been a real power struggle behind the scenes. Gamepad works amazingly well and in NintendoLand, the Metroid themed game where you flew with it I thought was very cool. I wonder why no one ever thought that the abandonment of a gyro-tablet-controller is the real reason why the system took a dump. I remember the first trailers for the wii u showing a pga golf game where the ball was on the game pad and you you swung the wiimote over the game pad and that is how you hit the ball. That would have been amazing and I love a great golf sim.

              It was a screw up. And in some sense, I can’t wait to get a second wii u when the prices drop, just to make sure I got one ready.

              I am going to get that blacklist… I always forget about it.

              1. Splinter Cell BlackList for WiiU was really well done, and it has online coop to boot. It was a lengthy campaign. Black List, Mass Effect 3, Monster Hunter 3U, Black Flag (AC4) were all really fun and looked great on the WiiU IMO. And they all used the gampad to some degree. Although in Black Flag I think it was just a map, but it was nice to have!

                  1. Oh I’m not sure about that but wii u sports golf does use the second screen for the golf ball, you put the game pad on your floor and look down to swing

  2. Having a switch and having played it on both handheld and TV, i can tell you that the game looks beautiful on both, and runs well on both. There are times where the framerate drops a bit on the TV mode, but it never gets in the way of gameplay, and is only a minor distraction, that doesn’t happen very often.

    1. Lucky! I can’t wait to play. Mine shows up tomorrow…. unless I download it tonight after work and save the WiiU box sealed, which, I don’t really believe it will be worth anything, but maybe the downloaded version will play smoother? IDK!

    2. How often is not often to you? I personally am very bothered by drops but if it’s only once an hour that’s totally fine.

  3. I play docked and it’s almost perfect, I don’t notice anything. All this nit-picking is really boredom.
    They made people already worried with the Joy-Con disconnections… take some rest please.

  4. I’m already one hour into it and I love it. The symbiotic relationship between discovery and reward is absolutely addictive.

  5. King Kalas X3 {Greatness Awaits at Sony PlayStation 4! Hopefully it will also await us at Nintendo Switch if Nintendo doesn't FUCK things up again!}

    I’ve only had one instance of lost framerate while climbing a mountain in Gerudo Highlands when facing off against a moblin. It lagged like fucking crazy. Luckily, it was falling from a rock as I knocked the hell out of it so the lag didn’t get me injured or killed. Other than that, my gameplay while docked has been utterly flawless.

    1. King Kalas X3 {Greatness Awaits at Sony PlayStation 4! Hopefully it will also await us at Nintendo Switch if Nintendo doesn't FUCK things up again!}

      Sucks for those that ARE having issues while docked. Hopefully a patch will be released later to fix this issue from some. And hopefully the patch won’t fuck up other people’s games in the process that had nothing wrong with theirs.

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