Switch Version of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Plays Better in Handheld Mode

by Darrin Wright

In a surprising and somewhat discouraging development, there seems to be a trade-off when playing the Nintendo Switch version of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on your TV as opposed to the console’s handheld mode. While you will get a better-looking version of the game, as it runs in 900p resolution in TV mode as opposed to 720p in handheld mode, users are noticing a slight dip in performance as the Switch struggles to maintain a 30 frames-per-second frame rate.

As you can see from this video by Digital Foundry, Breath of the Wild suffers from notable frame rate drops depending on the situation you and Link find yourselves in:

Digital Foundry speculates that what’s happening here is the push to increase resolution to 900p when connected to the dock “may be sapping memory bandwidth away from the main processor cores,” while noting that the memory bandwidth only increases by 20 percent while the resolution increase is around 56 percent.

So naturally, while Breath of the Wild looks fantastic on whatever screen you’re using, it seems playing in handheld mode will give you the best experience, at least from a “stable performance” perspective. However, it’s possible to fix this issue while playing in TV mode, by heading into the system’s options and scrolling down to “TV Output,” where you can then have the console stick to one particular resolution, in this case 720p, and be able to play on your TV without as many issues.

Kotaku notes that when the framerate of the Switch version of the game starts to dip, it locks to 20 frames per second, just like the Wii U version, although it’s also worth pointing out that neither version of the game seems to outperform the other, except the Switch does seem a bit more stable in handheld mode compared to the Wii U version.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is available now for the Switch and Wii U, and it’s pretty good.

- This article was updated on March 8th, 2018

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