GadgetsNintendo Switch OLED review: The handheld is all grown up

Nintendo Switch OLED review: The handheld is all grown up

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When the original Nintendo Switch was released back in 2017, life was easier. The word “pandemic” did not enter our daily vocabulary, 4K did not matter to the ordinary users, and 30 fps was enough for everyone. One thing, however, remained unchanged for a while: the Nintendo Switch looked more like an average tablet than a serious console. Absolutely everyone wanted to buy this portable, but few could argue with the fact that the wide bezels, plastic screen and imperfect build quality made it seem more like a toy than a direct rival to the PlayStation Vita, the most advanced handheld at the time. I admit, I didn’t particularly care about the design of the console – as well as its screen. Switch has never impressed with the characteristics, but it didn’t need to because it had games up the wazoo, and the unique hybrid concept was, well, unique. And now that it finally has a serious competitor (Steam Deck), it still stands out. But Nintendo had to somehow respond to Gabe Newell’s ambitious statements. And they answered. Yes, indeed! After I have spent some time with the Nintendo Switch OLED, I completely stopped looking at alternatives.

Nintendo Switch OLED

Why?

I agree that on paper, the new revision does not seem to be the boldest attempt to breathe life into aging hardware. While the entire Internet has been speculating for two (or even all four) years on the topic of the updated Nintendo Switch PRO with 4K support, the Japanese giant was thinking about something else entirely. After the unsuccessful GameCube Nintendo has stopped chasing power and instead started thinking about the concept. But how to update a console that has not been new for a long time, while not significantly changing anything? Answer: make it a little better at everything.

Nintendo Switch OLED

After watching the Switch OLED trailer, I wasn’t impressed. On the contrary, I was sure that this was the first serious blunder of a company that does not make mistakes in this generation. While the narrator was talking about the new screen, I was becoming angry and disappointed. Yes, the display of the original Switch and its improved revision never broke records and did not amaze with a picture, but it was more than enough, considering what games Nintendo itself produces. Yes, the built-in stand that is not made of the cheapest plastic must be nice, but is it worth overpaying for it? In other words, I wasn’t thrilled. But when it comes to consoles, my curiosity always takes over. Therefore, I still set a goal for myself to get acquainted with the new device and understand if everything is as uninteresting as it seemed to me at first. And, as it turned out, no, it’s not! This is a phenomenal upgrade – yes, phenomenal. But in order to understand this, you need to see everything with your own eyes.

Read also: Nintendo Switch Lite review – Comfort versus versatility

What’s new

I own all the existing revisions of the Nintendo Switch, starting from the original and ending with Lite and OLED. As the company intended, my whole family uses them. Unfortunately for Nintendo, my family consists of two people, counting me. But I love gadgets, video games and bright colors, so every announcement certainly arouses my interest.

Nintendo Switch OLED
A little thing that not everyone mentions: the JoyCon attachment to the console has been slightly changed, and now the controllers fit much better. They used to wobble and this was pretty annoying, now the console seems more monolithic. Not the Lite level, but better.

If we compare the Nintendo Switch OLED directly with the previous revision, which, let me remind you, significantly increased the battery life and changed the characteristics of the display, making it more… yellow, then the changes are noticeable right out of the box. The two previous revisions were indistinguishable from each other until you turned them on, but now the eye immediately catches the new details: more streamlined and glossy edges, an aggressively glossy display, which is now glass, not plastic, reduced bezels and, of course, the stand, which now stretches the entire width of the console. There are other differences: new recesses for speakers, more elegant cooling holes and even a modified cartridge slot. By the way, the width of the console itself has increased by two millimeters. We’ll talk about this seemingly unimportant detail later. Almost everything, except Joy-Cons, has undergone changes. Not so big that the Switch is no longer recognizable, but enough to make it seem that I really bought a new thing, and not another modification with dubious upgrades.

The hardware inside is the same: the same Nvidia processor and 4 GB of RAM. The battery is also old. But the memory has been doubled: 64 GB instead of 32 GB.

Price

Price is a sore point for many fans of Nintendo. There is even an opinion that the Japanese company holds its fans hostage, forcing them to buy expensive accessories and consoles, realizing that they simply cannot give up Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Pokémon, Animal Crossing and other legendary franchises. Whether this is true or not, everyone decides for themselves, but one thing is for sure: the Switch OLED is not affordable. At the same time, there aren’t really any alternatives, because the handheld market is basically dead after being monopolised by Nintendo. The only alternatives to Switch OLED are its other revisions and the Switch Lite.

Nintendo Switch OLED

The PlayStation Vita has been retired, and the 3DS followed suit. The Steam Deck is just around the corner, but it’s aimed at a different crowd. We can only mention other game consoles with a similar price tag, because the OLED costs $350, which is $50 more than the previous version. Let me remind you that the Xbox Series S, which is several times more powerful than the Switch, costs $299, and the PlayStation 5 without a disk drive is priced at $399. So yes, the price is a bit much. And if you already have a model that suits you, or you only play in dock mode, then you don’t have to upgrade at all. But if you are just now thinking about buying, it is better to pay extra right away and take the ultimate version.

What’s in the box

But let’s put the Switch aside – it’s not the only thing in the box. As expected, the set is very nice here, although it is exactly the same as before. By the way, the box itself has also become completely different, having significantly decreased in size and changed the format – now it is vertical, not oblong. Looks very nice. You may ask, what difference does it make at all how the box looks, but do not forget that millions of fans not only appreciate and cherish the original packaging, but even buy these boxes separately.

So, inside, besides the handheld itself, you can find a docking station, and it has also changed – for the first time. Firstly, it is now white (if you buy the revision in white, of course). Secondly, an Ethernet port appeared on the back, replacing the additional USB-A in the old revision. Gamers have been asking for this addition far more often than the new screen, so I am glad for them. There was an opportunity to use wired connection before, but you had to use the third-party adapters, which is always unpleasant.

Nintendo Switch OLED

The design has also changed slightly: there is now another hole for wires in the back, less angular and therefore a little less convenient. The cover that hides the ports now detaches completely – I also don’t know why. The inner surface where we place the Switch for charging is smoother and less harmful to the console screen, which could be easily scratched. Better late than never.

Read also: Sony PlayStation 5 review: 4K Gaming and a Mind-Blowing Controller

Nintendo Switch OLED

In addition to the docking station, the already familiar HDMI cable is here, as well as a USB Type-C charger, which either plugs into the dock or charges the Switch itself separately, and the Joy-Con Grip for better ergonomics. There’s also a strap for the Joy-Con for extra safety.

OLED is a game changer

Okay, let’s get right back to the main reason for the update – a completely new screen, which now is OLED (not IPS like before) with increased in size due to narrower bezels. Bezels are something that annoyed many, and it’s very nice that the console finally looks more or less modern.

So, the size is 7 inches (and not 6.2, as before), and the resolution remains unchanged – 720p. Yes, yes, it’s bad by modern standards, but we must not forget that there is no browser, social networks or Netflix here, so a higher resolution does not make much sense, given that in portable mode, games do not run at a resolution higher than 720p.

Thanks to OLED, everything has changed: color reproduction, brightness and battery life. Nintendo insists that the new screen is so much better than you have to upgrade, no matter how much it costs. Previously, I would say that this is nonsense. Now I am not so sure.

Nintendo Switch OLED
The Switch is 23 grams heavier. A slight difference, but now you notice this weight when using it. But it’s all a matter of habit – I’ve been holding the same model in my hands for a couple of years.

The new display is a monumental change. I already mentioned that the screen was fine before, but now I don’t even want to look in the direction of IPS. Now you can play in the sun, while before I could NOT play Mario Kart even on a train if the weather was clear. But don’t expect miracles: I don’t recommend playing Metroid on the beach. The visibility may be better, but not by that much.

The colors have become many times more saturated – red almost hurts the eyes, and black is finally black, not dark gray.

I’m already familiar with OLED screens: after all, I was among the first to praise the original Vita screen (the first model), which until the release of the new Switch revision remained the best among all handhelds ever released.

Nintendo Switch OLED
Comparison with the Switch Lite (above).

The Switch OLED gives every game a completely new look. Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield, which were never considered particularly beautiful releases, look downright epic and very, very colorful. Super Mario Odyssey is even brighter, and the green fields in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild are even more picturesque. Metroid Dread, with its gloomy and dark palette, seems like a completely different game.

Read also: Spelunky 2 review: Pain and suffering, revisited

Nintendo Switch OLED
Let’s compare OLED with all other revisions. On the top left is Switch Lite, on the top right is the second revision with improved battery life. On the bottom right is the original model.

Simply put, it feels like every game on the platform has been slightly remastered. Yep, a real transformation which is noticeable from the very first seconds.

Many feared that the new technology and the increased size would affect the resolution – after all, 720p is hardly a lot. Some games looked blurry on older displays too, so what’s up with that? But don’t worry: everything is fine. Games that were crisp before will remain the same in the new version. But the titles with low resolution are still blurry as heck. For example, DRAGON QUEST XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition is more saturated, but in open spaces you still have the feeling that you are looking at everything through fogged glasses. But I would not say that the pixels have become larger or more noticeable. This was my main concern after the announcement.

New stand and speakers

This is something I forget about most of the time, because I almost never use the Switch in this mode, but all previous models had an awful stand. Every time you used it (to put the console in front of you or replace the memory card), you get the feeling that it is about to break. It’s amazing how long it took Nintendo to change it, but now a real transformation has finally happened: the leg has been replaced by an adjustable support, which not only seems very strong, but also allows you to change the angle of the portable as you please. After the screen, this is the most obvious new feature here. Let me remind you that behind the support is a slot for microSD memory cards (up to 2 GB), microSDHC (2 GB – 32 GB) and microSDXC (64 GB and more).

Nintendo Switch OLED
Even the slot for cartridges has been changed. Not really sure why – the old one seemed fine. Now the it is a little more difficult to open.

By the way, I had a small issue with the memory card: having taken out my 120 GB Samsung Evo Plus card out of the old revision, I found that it did not work. The console asked me to format it, which I tried to do, but in the process the Switch froze and stopped responding. After the reboot, I found that I could neither format nor use the microSDXC. Already suspecting that I killed it in the process, I tried to insert it into the old Switch and format it there, and – lo and behold – everything worked out. After that, I formatted it again on the new console and used it without any problems. I suspect this was an isolated incident.

Besides the stand, Nintendo bragged about better sound, too. The notches for stereo speakers really look different, and seem to even be directed in the other direction, and the sound has definitely become clearer. Orchestral soundtracks have definitely become more pleasant to the ear, but the difference is not as noticeable as the image quality.

Nintendo Switch OLED

One millimeter that changes everything

Among the most insignificant changes are the dimensions of the console, which has become wider by two millimeters. Seems like a non-issue, right? Well, yes – if you do not think about all kinds of accessories. In particular, many people like to use the grip for improved ergonomics when playing in handheld mode, and almost all of them will go to scrap yard after purchasing an upgrade. Old (official) cases, on the other hand, are fully compatible – just like docking stations.

Nintendo Switch OLED

While we’re discussing issues, I’ll mention something that does not only apply to this model. I associate Nintendo with simplicity and intuitiveness, but the same cannot be said about its process of transferring saves. If you bought a new console, you will have to transfer data by air, that is, you need two consoles. In this case, everything will be transferred … except for the Animal Crossing: New Horizons saves. When I turned on the game on the new device, I almost turned gray from the realization that I had lost about 200 hours of progress. With horror in my eyes, I rushed to look for answers on Google, which told me that in order to transfer the saves of this particular game, you need to install a special application on both consoles. It gets even harder: as soon as you turn on the Island Transfer Tool app on one console, it turns off immediately on the other. The thing is, you can’t use the same account on two different consoles! I had to use my other account in order for it to work.

Verdict

The Nintendo Switch OLED is a monumental upgrade that has made the hybrid console better in every way. A remarkable, bright, colorful display, the improved stand and sound make the Switch look all grown up. Many people mention that they even want to call the new product “Switch 2”, if only the hardware had also undergone changes. But even without more power, I wanted to try all my games right away to see how they look now.

Is the upgrade worth the money? It depends on you specifically. If you only play in TV mode, then no, it’s not worth it. In this regard, everything remains the same – except that the docking station itself has changed, but it can be bought separately. But if you love portable gaming, but prefer larger screens, then yes, it’s an obvious decision. The Switch OLED feels classier and just more enjoyable to play. Now we wait for the Switch Lite update.

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REVIEW OVERVIEW

Design
9
Performance
7
Ergonomics
8
Screen
10
Build quality
8
Software
8
Sound
8
The Nintendo Switch OLED is a monumental upgrade that has made the hybrid console better in every way. A remarkable, bright, colorful display, the improved stand and sound make the Switch look all grown up. Many people mention that they even want to call the new product "Switch 2", if only the hardware had also undergone changes. But even without more power, I wanted to try all my games right away to see how they look now.
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