The Nintendo Switch supplies an amazingly powerful portable experience when you consider the size of the system; it’s basically like having a souped-up Wii U which you can actually carry around with you, which is quite an achievement when you think about it.
However, there have been some niggles with the performance of the machine, most notably during The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. If you’ve put as many hours into that game as we have then you will no doubt have noticed frame-rate drops and pauses during gameplay where the screen freezes for a split-second – a jarring issue, even if it isn’t quite game-breaking.
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It’s not just Zelda which is impacted by this problem – Nintendo Life reader JunkRabbit has written in to point out that performance issues are present in Fast RMX (resolution drops) and I Am Setsuna (frame rate fluctuations).
While some have pointed to this as being a problem with the console’s power (or lack of it) we’ve been speaking to a third-party Switch developer – who chooses to remain anonymous – and they’ve informed us of a known issue with the console’s Wi-Fi connection which places additional load on the processor.
JunkRabbit also confirms this is the case, and has discovered that since turning off the Wi-Fi auto-connect option in System Settings, the problems have vanished:
I remember the Digital Foundry experts to have been puzzled how some of the worst framerate issues seem to occur so randmoly, not area-specific. I believe these are not the fault of the game, but of the Switch trying to periodically auto-connect to WiFi where there is no network available. This is supposed to happen in the background, but it apparently does affect the game(s).
I actually noticed this in FAST RMX first, where I got periodical FPS drops, while everyone was always saying that it is a perfectly locked 60 FPS experience. It wasn’t game breaking, but it made me curious. Driving in circles also made the periodical nature so much more apparent.
Then I also had these in Setsuna, which to me made no sense at all, especially after watching DF’s comparison to the PS4 version, where they also said the Switch version was perfectly locked 30 FPS.
Having them on multiple games like that, and in none of them they made sense, got me thinking. At home I turn on WiFi only when I need it basically, so it’s not always available. During the Setsuna session I checked the status LED and sure enough it was off. I then delved into the Internet settings of the Switch, found the “Auto Connect” option and turned it off, and Voilà, no more FPS issues in Setsuna and FAST RMX! And only the “usual” minor ones in BotW in very specific (foliage intensive) areas, no more heavy random ones.
You can also enable Flight Mode to disable the console’s wireless connections. It’s worth noting that Flight Mode doesn’t work when you dock the Switch.
Our anonymous developer has confirmed that Nintendo is aware of the problem and that a fix will be included in a forthcoming firmware update.