The Nintendo Switch was an outdated device even when it launched in 2017. The Nintendo Switch was far behind the rest in raw horsepower. It ran close to the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One. We were able to play because of the Switch. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the WildTake the metro.
However, soon enough, it was not possible to play major console games on your phone. Many have called for an upgraded version of Nintendo’s Switch to be able to handle harder games and provide better performance. Rumours began to swirl earlier in the year after reports surfaced that Nintendo would shortly announce a Switch capable of 4K video. Nintendo would update its ambitious hybrid console by adding some extra energy.
Or maybe not. In July, when Nintendo dropped the news about its next Switch model, it didn’t quite match the rumors or expectations. It would feature an OLED display with a larger screen size, better speakers, internal storage and a kickstand. There was no mention in the announcement of an improved system specification or 4K output.
That leaves us with the Nintendo Switch OLED Model, a console enhancement we’ve been using for the last week that feels like a half-measure, yet still manages to offer some clear improvements over its predecessor.
OLED has many benefits
Let’s start with the easiest point of comparison: The OLED screen is a gorgeous upgrade when compared to the LCD screens of the standard Switch and Switch Lite. It’s the predictable star of the show here, but it’s also an improvement that’s hard to properly convey.
I’m not obsessive when it comes to screen quality, and I was initially concerned that the difference between LCD and OLED would be insignificant. It’s actually quite stark. The colors on the OLED Switch’s screen are much more vibrant and striking. Mario’s classic red cap pops dramatically in the middle of a kart race or while zooming across Lake Lamode. Pikmin shine in the lush green of an Apocalypse while they sprint to their final deaths.
High contrast areas are where the OLED shines. You will find moments of excellence in Metroid Dread when the screen is almost entirely black, and all that’s visible are glowing bits of Samus’ armor. This would be a moment that appears on an LCD monitor, and it might look darker than gray. However, on the OLED Switch, this screen looks void with occasional laser beams breaking through.
Is it so much better that I’d suggest tossing your existing Switch into the ocean? It’s not. But if you’re the sort of person who focuses on visual fidelity, you’ll be amazed at just how much color data is lost on a non-OLED screen.
Larger screens are better
In addition to delivering improved blacks and colors, the OLED Model’s screen is also 13% larger than that of the original Switch, jumping from 6.2 inches to 7 inches. The OLED Model’s screen is a strangely tiny size, almost so small that it seems unnecessary. Like the color difference I doubted I’d notice it. As with the color change, I did notice it. Screen size improvements were more significant than any color changes made by OLED screens.
The OLED Model was tested in handheld mode. It felt like the larger screen made my vision narrower than it would on a regular Switch or Switch Lite. It was possible to play games like Metroid DreadI feel immersed in the experience more than before.
This is partly to do with the literal screen size, but also because the OLED Model greatly reduces the width of the original Switch’s bezels. The launch model’s bezel measures three quarters of an inch from the sides to the bottom, and one-half inches at the top and the bottom. On the OLED Model, it’s about half that, which means you don’t feel like you’re carrying this large black frame around whenever you’re playing a game.
The new Switch model has a smaller resolution but it makes it easier to view some games with tiny text and icons, such as the recently released Switch. Diablo 2When playing handheld, remake).
We’ve all made fun of the fact that one of the major features of the OLED Switch is an improved kickstand. There was no doubt that the original Switch’s kickstand was next to worthless; it was flimsy and could snap off at the drop of a hat, and we brutally knocked it in our review. There was only one possible angle that the original kickstand could hold. If that angle wasn’t ideal for your sitting situation — say, if you were sitting at your desk, and the angle was too steep to see the screen — you were out of luck.
Nintendo has drastically redesigned the OLED Model’s kickstand. Instead of being just one piece of plastic along the Switch’s length, the kickstand now covers the whole device. It’s also fully poseable and will hold the Switch at any angle you please. Play without having to lower your workstation to toddler height. Mario Kart 8
Paired with OLED Model’s larger screen, the kickstand actually makes playing on a desk or table far more viable, such that you can sit a bit further back and still follow the action.
Some less impactful changes
Other upgrades are available on the OLED Switch, though you will not notice it depending on how often you use them. The internal storage is now doubled to 64 GB, but that’s still pretty paltry, and will likely still require that you pick up a microSD card after installing three or four games.
Nintendo says the speakers are “better,” though the difference between the new and old ones is incredibly subtle and would probably require a very attentive ear. Don’t expect Dolby Atmos to be blasting out of your OLED Switch.
There’s also the nice addition of an Ethernet port built into the dock that comes with the OLED Switch. Wi-Fi will serve most Switch users well, but if your Switch is used to playing competitive games such as ESPORTS, it’s a good idea to upgrade to hard-wired. Splatoon IIYou can do it. The original Switch required you to buy a separate USB Ethernet converter to allow direct connection to the internet. But this adapter is unnecessary.
There remain serious issues
There’s no doubt that the OLED Switch offers some very nice improvements to the original model. But it still hasn’t corrected all of the issues that have existed on Switch hardware since the system was first released in 2017.
The Joy-Con controllers that come with the OLED Switch haven’t been modified at all (apart from the addition of a new white color). For years, it’s been clear that the design of the Joy-Cons is faulty, resulting in drift that makes them useless. This issue has been so prevalent that many class-action lawsuits against Nintendo have been brought. Nintendo has been replacing Joy-Cons that have become damaged through its mail-in program. However, the company hasn’t announced any plans to extend the life of the controller. It’s hard to believe that a company whose products have typically been considered to be indestructible would be cool with such widespread failure of its flagship controller, yet here we are.
OLED Switch does not offer ergonomic benefits for handheld use. Anyone who’s played a Switch game in handheld mode for longer than an hour or two can attest to the hand cramping that occurs. This can be attributed to Joy-Cons which are designed for convenience rather than comfort. It’s long past time that Nintendo reevaluated whether the Joy-Cons are the right way to go moving forward, or if there’s a solution more suited for a human hand that would work better.
Beware of the Buyer
The OLED Switch is loaded with improvements that you’ll instantly see when taking it out of the box. Yet it’s still hard to ignore that it lacks the upgrades that dedicated fans have been asking for: a more powerful processor and graphics chip. Nintendo repeatedly denies plans for a 4K Switch, however, the reliability and frequency of reports suggests that such a device may be on its way next year.
The OLED Switch, taken on its own is a vast improvement to the launch model. But it’s not so big that I’d recommend everyone, or even most people, throw out their old hardware in favor of this device. For someone who has never purchased a Switch and is deciding whether to spend $50 more on the OLED model, I’d say it’s worthwhile. Everyone else will have to wait.
On October 8, the Nintendo Switch OLED Model is due to be available. Nintendo supplied hardware to review the console. Vox Media also has affiliate relationships. They do not affect editorial content. However, Vox Media might earn commissions for products bought via affiliate links. Find out more. additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here
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