Can Nintendo Switch Stream 4K?


Update July 2021: The unveiling of the Nintendo Switch OLED has changed some parts of this article. I have amended it taking the new console into account.

Recently while reading through the comments on a video games forum I got an interesting question.

One of the forum members wanted to know if the Nintendo Switch can stream in 4K.

I knew the answer to their question because I had tried live streaming gameplay from my Nintendo Switch in 4K when I bought the console.

So, I gave them the following answer. 

Can the Nintendo Switch stream in 4K? Unfortunately, the Nintendo Switch can’t stream in 4K. When docked the Switch can only output 1920×1080 Full HD. There have been rumors that Nintendo is working on a new Switch console that will output 4K resolution when hooked up to a 4K TV or monitor.

In the following sections, I will delve deeper into why the Nintendo Switch can’t stream 4K, and tell you why streaming the Switch in 4K may soon be possible.

What is 4K?

4K also known as UHD, Ultra HD, or 4K UHD refers to the screen resolution of a TV or monitor.

A 4K screen approximately has 8 million pixels. the 4k name comes from the fact that 4K TVs are roughly 4000 X 2000 pixels in size. Pixels are small dots of color that create the image you see on your TV or monitor.

Images with lots of pixels, like the 8 million on 4K, have a clearer and sharper look.

If you were to buy a TV today it would probably have a 4K resolution. 

This is because, after 8K Full Ultra HD, which is still quite new, 4K TVs are the most popular and best screens on the market.

Other common screen resolutions are 720p HD, and 1080p HD, which have lower video resolution than 4K. 

Why can’t the Nintendo Switch stream in 4K?

To stream from the Nintendo Switch you have to dock the console and connect it to a TV or monitor.

While docked the highest video resolution the Switch can output is 1080p. 

1080p is four times lower resolution than 4K.

You can connect the Nintendo Switch to a 4K TV but the game images displayed won’t be 4K.

4K TVs have the capability to display 1080p or lower resolution images. They do this by upscaling the images to make them look normal on a 4K TV. 

Some 4K screens do a better job upscaling than others, but even with an upscale the Nintendo Switch game images still look muddy and are not as crisp as they would be if the console could output 4K.

The key reason why the Nintendo Switch can’t output 4K is that it doesn’t have the processing power to do so.

4K requires four times more processing power than 1080p.

I think at the time Nintendo was developing the Switch it was close to impossible for them to make a graphic chip that was small enough to fit in the console, powerful enough to deliver 4K, and avoid cooling issues.

The Switch Pro or OLED doesn’t support 4K

The new Xbox Series X and PS5 support native 4K.

I did expect Nintendo’s next console, the Switch Pro or OLED, to do the same in an effort to remain competitive against Xbox and PlayStation.

There had been a lot of talk throughout 2021 that an upgrade of the Switch dubbed the Switch Pro could be released anytime from the second half of 2021.

Nintendo insiders privy to the development of this new console said that Nvidia’s Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) technology will be used to give the Switch Pro 4K resolution.

DLSS uses artificial intelligence to create higher resolution graphics more efficiently. 

Unfortunately, the Switch Pro never materialized. Nintendo instead released a new Switch called the Switch OLED. And it doesn’t support 4K.

However, Switch Pro or Switch 2 rumours are still budding on the grapevine.

There are rumors that Nintendo has already asked its developers to make their Switch games 4K ready, which is exciting news.

As an avid Nintendo Switch gamer, I look forward to playing the next Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or Pokemon game in the best screen resolution possible.

The Switch’s graphic upgrades will likely make the Pro model more expensive than the current Nintendo Switch.

A price tag of between $349.99 and $399.99 has been mentioned for the Switch Pro which insiders say will also have a larger 7” 720p Samsung OLED screen, 128GB storage, 8GB RAM, better battery life, an improved processor, Bluetooth audio and hopeful an upgrade version of the Joy-Cons.

How do you stream the Nintendo Switch?

As you wait to find out if the Nintendo Switch Pro will be able to stream in 4K, you can live stream your Nintendo Switch in 1080p on popular streaming sites like Twitch, Facebook, and YouTube.

To do that you’ll need the following software and hardware:

  • The Nintendo Switch dock
  • A capture card. If you don’t have one I recommend you buy the Elgato HD60 S capture from Amazon.
  • A PC or Mac computer 
  • HDMI and USB cables
  • A monitor or TV
  • The Open Broadcaster Studio (OBS) software.

With these items ready you can proceed to set up your Nintendo Switch for streaming.

Here is a quick rundown on how to stream on Twitch, a platform synonymous with video game streaming.

1: Begin by docking your Nintendo Switch.

2: Connect the dock’s HDMI cable to its HDMI Out port and the other end to the capture card’s HDMI in port.

3: Take your capture card HDMI cable and connect it to its HDMI Out port and then plug the other side into your TV or monitor’s HDMI port.

4: Connect your capture card to your computer using a USB 3.0 cable.

5:  From OBSProject.com download the Open Broadcaster Software on your computer. Once the download is complete, open the software and click yes on the auto-configuration pop-up that appears.

6: Next, on the OBS menu, which will appear when you right-click inside the software’s interface, click on Add then choose Video Capture Device

7: Click on Create New and proceed to name your capture card.

8: In the device drop-down menu, click on your Elgato HD60 S capture card to select it then press OK.

9: Turn on your Nintendo Switch and start the game you want to stream.

10: The game’s image should appear on your computer’s OBS screen.

11: Open your Twitch account, and proceed to the platform’s dashboard.

12: On the dashboard select Account Settings, Channel, and then Videos Tab.

13: Copy the Stream Key in the Primary Stream Key Section. 

14: Go back to OBS on your computer and from its menu click on File then Settings and Stream.

15: Select Twitch in the box that pops up on the screen.

16: Paste the Stream Key you copied from Twitch earlier in the required box then click apply.

17: Click on Start Stream and you should be able to see a preview of your Nintendo Switch live stream.

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