Back in the day it was all about FRAPS. These days, Riva Tuner Statistics Server and OCAT are the tools of choice. For decades now, PC users have relied on real-time on-screen displays with frame-rate counters and system monitoring tools to give them some idea of how their PCs are being utilised during gaming. But what if similar tools were available to console users? Remarkably, a recent breakthrough in Switch modding has made this a reality. Frame-rates, CPU/GPU utilisation, temperature monitors, fan speeds: all are exposed, giving us a fascinating insight into how Switch titles pushe the hardware during gaming.
Of course, this is all limited to earlier Switch revisions, vulnerable to a recovery mode hardware exploit on which custom firmware was developed. Yes, you can run these tools yourself but there is a route to piracy here – so not surprisingly, consoles attached to Nintendo’s online gaming service are routinely banned. But the interesting part from the Digital Foundry perspective is the flourishing homebrew environment, which recently saw the release of the Tesla frame-work – code that runs on the Switch’s reserved CPU core, bringing up an interactive overlay at any time during gaming. Tesla was swifty followed by the release of the Switch overlay mod, which essentially builds much of Riva Tuner Statistics Server’s functionality onto the Tesla foundation. Voila: full real-time system analysis – but what does it reveal?
Well, at the most basic level, you get instant confirmation that Nintendo does indeed reserve one of the Switch’s CPU cores for the OS and front-end – the overlay shows cores zero to two essentially dormant while navigating the shell, with only core three active as the menus are traversed. Similarly, there’s on-screen confirmation that Switch’s docked clocks are totally locked during gameplay: 1020MHz for the CPU, 768MHz for the GPU, 1600MHz on the EMC (embedded memory controller).