Digital Foundry – Minecraft update on Switch improves resolution beyond
Minecraft on Switch is one of the best uses of Nintendo’s hybrid design, offering a full version of the classic with 4 player functionality – either on the dock or laptop. But its launch was affected by two factors: poor 720p resolution even in the dock and sharp drops in split-screen performance. 4J Studios promised that it would try to raise the resolution to 1080p and succeeded – more than that, despite the 2.25x increase in resolution, we also have better performance in split screen.
In an interview with TIME, Richard Reavy said that “everything else remains the same. We wanted to make sure that increasing the resolution would not cause any problems.” At the launch, Microsoft confirmed that switching between resolutions between dock and mobile modes caused problems with the HUD. But in update 1.06, 4J Studios overcame the problem.
As you can see in the video we have on this page, the visual style of Minecraft benefits immensely with the increase in resolution, placing it up to expectations at the time of launch – and despite commitments in other areas, it even compares well with the image 1080p on PS4. Native Full HD is something very important for those who have a 1080p screen: we are no longer at the mercy of the Switch’s converter. As you would expect, even the menu runs at 1080p.
In a game like Minecaft, an increase in resolution is more important than it looks. The game prides itself on its simplicity, uses low-resolution textures to build a world of blocks. But the leap to 1080p greatly benefits long viewing distances. Looking at your creations in the distance, the improvement is impossible to ignore when compared to the 720p image, taken from the release version. A surprise bonus here is the texture filter that has also been improved, the higher resolution increases the sample set: it means you have cleaner, sharper surfaces at tighter angles.
So far we only have gains, but are there sacrifices? Well, the good news is that the rendering distance remains the same, between 11 and 12 blocks in the dock, while the size of the world remains at an average of 3072×3072 blocks. Pop-in appears at the same points when touring the world. There are no other visual changes. The good news is that it was already acceptable to the Switch, nothing was compromised to give the GPU a higher fill rate to achieve the increase in resolution.
Richard Reavy explained that we can thank this for the extra optimization. What set the 1080p team apart was the transition from and to the dock, with that corrected, the Switch can unleash more of its potential. It is understandable that keeping everything at 720p was easier for the launch, but now that we have the update, there are no problems when switching between the two modes. With the exception of a quick rendering of the block scheme in the dock, it is an uninterrupted jump between the two modes.
V1.06 is a major improvement. This dock comparison between the launch code and the update shows the dramatic increase in image quality.V1.06 is a major improvement. This dock comparison between the launch code and the update shows the dramatic increase in image quality.V1.06 is a major improvement. This dock comparison between the launch code and the update shows the dramatic increase in image quality.V1.06 is a big improvement. This dock comparison between the launch code and the update shows the dramatic increase in image quality.V1.06 is a major improvement. This dock comparison between the launch code and the update shows the dramatic increase in image quality.V1.06 is a big improvement. This dock comparison between the launch code and the update shows the dramatic increase in image quality.
What about the frame rate? In our tutorial test, there are no problems with maintaining 60fps. Bearing in mind that the Switch ran very well at 60fps – having better performance than the PS4 at 1080p – it suggests that there was a lot of leeway to work originally at 720p. The extra fill-rate is now used effectively and continues with fixed 60fps on the ground. We have some extended drops for 50s means – about 2-3fps than in the release version. But even in more complex areas, performance doesn’t seem to be worse. This is what we wanted and the hiccups were reduced when compared to the original tests.
Solo is great, but it gets even better when we look at split screen mode on the dock. In the original version, it could vary between fixed 40fps up to 60fps. Blocking at 40 and 60 can suggest a kind of double-buffer in v-sync, creating an unstable frame-rate, visible in our graphics and a sobering frame time. With the 1.06 update, something changed: the average frame rate went up and despite remaining between 40 to 60fps, the performance is smoother overall and the movement feels less awkward. This even benefits the Switch in portable mode, where the jumps between 30fps and 60fps disappeared where we found them – and yes, the split screen mode renders at native 1080p.
Better image quality and a better texture filter are the most important here, but the good news is that there is little, if any, performance cost. In fact, for those who play in split screen, it is surprising that this means improvements in the frame rate in addition to the resolution. This Minecrat update is one of the most radical visual improvements seen on the Switch. From 720p to 1080p without compromise is not trivial, 4J Studios deserves respect for what it has done.