Nintendo Change OLED Assessment: An improve is an improve

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Nintendo Switch OLED

RRP $ 350.00

“The Nintendo Switch OLED may not be what gamers have dreamed of, but it is undeniably a technological advance for the Switch.”

advantages

  • Improved screen

  • Improved onboard audio

  • Much better stand

  • Cleaner dock design

disadvantage

  • No upgrades for the TV

  • Memory is still small

Much of the discussion surrounding the Nintendo Switch OLED model has centered on what it isn’t as opposed to what it is. From the very first announcement, fans were loudly disappointed with the lack of three main features of the upgrade: 4K graphics when docked, an improvement in resolution in handheld mode, and a battery boost. That left many to write off the system entirely as a minor midlife switch upgrade rather than the version they envisioned.

So let’s talk about what the Switch OLED actually is: It’s clearly a better version of the Nintendo Switch. It has a bigger, brighter screen that makes the old Switch look washed out. That alone would be enough to make this a notable improvement, and it’s not the only novelty here. The question is whether or not the difference is enough, considering the Switch is a four-year-old console that has lagged behind technological advances in gaming for nearly half a decade. The answer is probably no, but it hardly matters if Nintendo plays by its own rules.

The Nintendo Switch OLED optimizes an already great console with a better screen, cleaner audio, and a stand that dwarfs the old Switch. For those who prefer to play their games in handheld or tabletop mode, it’s an upgrade worthwhile as your Switch ages. However, those who play docked stay in the dust, making it a somewhat enigmatic addition to the Switch family.

See the light

The only important difference you need to know about here is the console’s eponymous OLED screen. Given how unimaginative the name of the system is, one has to assume that Nintendo is putting a lot of its hopes on this aspect. But there is a good reason for this: the new OLED panel is unquestionably better than the switch’s outdated LCD panel.

For starters, it’s bigger. While the normal switch is equipped with a 6.2-inch screen surrounded by a thick black bezel, the OLED extends to seven inches to make better use of the switch’s space. There’s a noticeable difference, especially since video games tend to use the smallest amount of text when it comes to the user interface.

A Nintendo Switch OLED and a 2019 Switch model side by side.

More importantly, everything is brighter on the OLED panel. You can see this clearly by simply launching the home menu on an old and a new console. The original Switch almost looks like it has a white haze over it and the colors get a little dull. On the other hand, everything is crisp on the OLED screen; it doesn’t feel like anything is lost in the digital translation. When testing the Metroid Dread on it, I switched back and forth between my TV and the OLED in handheld mode. I quickly found that the picture on the OLED was just looking clearer than it was on my aging TV. Because of this, I decided to play the entire game portable.

The new OLED panel is undoubtedly better than the Switch’s outdated LED panel.

For disappointed fans, a better screen was only half what they’d hoped for. The console does not offer any resolution increase in handheld mode, which means that like its predecessor, it is limited to 720p. A lack of 1080p sounds like a big deal on paper, but ultimately doesn’t make that much of a difference on a seven-inch screen. Instead, OLED gives Nintendo’s gaming a boost where it really matters. A game like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, for example, shines on the console with its colors that appear in all their shining splendor.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe runs on a Nintendo Switch OLED.

I’m a Switch gamer who plays in handheld mode almost exclusively, even when I’m at home. From that perspective, the new screen is a remarkable improvement for me. I wouldn’t have rushed to buy it based on the datasheet, but now that I’m using it, I can’t imagine going back to my old model.

Undeniable upgrade

The other upgrades to the OLED are more subtle in comparison, though they justify the $ 50 price tag. For one, the system has a completely redesigned stand that makes the flimsy plastic of the old switch look like a cruel joke. The entire rear lower half of the console can be folded out and remains in place at every angle. It goes so far back that the console can lie almost flat with a slight incline. The Switch feels a lot more stable in tabletop mode, which makes the dream of playing on the plane feel a lot more realistic. It no longer feels like the switch is falling over in a strong gust of wind.

The stand of the Nintendo Switch OLED compared to the 2019 Switch model.

Audio gets a boost here too, which is a small but nice touch. When playing in handheld mode, the onboard speakers just sound a bit louder and crisper overall. Similar to the way the new display removes the washed-out haze of the switch, this also applies here to a more subtle degree. The audio upgrade doesn’t make a difference if you’re playing with headphones on the go, but it’s nice for a lazy couch player like me.

The other changes here are less important, though it’s hard to complain a lot. The internal memory of the switch has been doubled from 32 GB to 64 GB. That number is still pretty skimpy considering the upcoming Steam Deck has 512GB of storage if you go for the top of the line. Switch games are smaller than PC games, and you can still save space by physically buying Nintendo’s game, but those who make a living from downloads will still need a microSD card anyway.

The other upgrades to the OLED are more subtle in comparison, though they justify the $ 50 price tag.

The aesthetic component is also a nice plus, but hardly a reason for an upgrade. The white Joy-Cons look particularly clean when they are attached to the screen so that it looks less like a toy. The white dock looks similar and goes particularly well with a PlayStation 5 in your entertainment center. The inside of the dock just looks cleaner, too, with a sleek black interior that doesn’t feel quite the way the regular dock scratches the screen. I wouldn’t advise anyone buying a console for the colors (nothing different with the Joy-Cons so don’t expect a drift fix here), but it’s a good bonus if you get one.

A Nintendo Switch OLED model in its dock next to a regular Switch dock.

“Bonus” is the key word here, so to speak. Aside from the screen and stand, the OLED’s new features are nice but negligible add-ons. The only other major boost here is the battery, though it depends on which Switch you already own. For those who bought a base Switch in 2017 and didn’t upgrade to the new SKU in 2019, the OLED features its larger battery size. It wasn’t worth spending $ 300 on an otherwise identical product back then, but it’s more enticing now in the context of an actually polished system.

Neglect from television gamers

The most confusing thing about the Switch OLED is that it doesn’t really bring any real improvements to docked gaming. While handheld and tabletop modes get a nice boost here, they run exactly the same on your TV. Given that Nintendo previously released the handheld-focused Switch Lite, you’d think its next system would tackle the other side of the hybrid console’s player base. Amazingly, that’s not the case here.

What we’re left with is a console upgrade, which is a straightforward recommendation for some gamers but completely irrelevant to others.

There’s only one real difference when it comes to TV gaming: the redesigned dock has a LAN port to support wired online gaming. Theoretically, this should make online experiences more stable, which the Nintendo Switch urgently needs. Of course, it’s not that simple. Online multiplayer is a two-way (or four-way or 100-way) street. When I’m wired, I know I won’t have Wi-Fi problems, but that doesn’t mean my opponents won’t have problems. Most of my testing with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate went smoothly, but every now and then I would jump into a four-player game and experience stutters or delays. A wired internet connection only really works if everyone has access to it, which requires gamers to extensively upgrade their docks. In practice, the wired connection will be a niche advantage for competitive gamers.

The Nintendo Switch OLED Dock.

What we’re left with is a console upgrade, which is a straightforward recommendation for some gamers but completely irrelevant to others. Buying a console for the first time? The OLED is a breeze. Are you a handheld gamer looking to step up a notch? It’s a good excuse to upgrade when you have the cash to spare. But for those who just play on TV, there’s practically no reason to buy one – especially since the dock will be available separately through the Nintendo website.

With Nintendo denying reports that a 4K model is in the works, it’s impossible to know if we’ll ever get a real Switch Pro. For now, this could be the last upgrade we’ll get in the life of the Switch. It’s certainly not the change we were hoping for, but I’d be lying if I said the new display wasn’t impressive. This is the model that Nintendo should have brought out when it launched.

Our opinion

The Nintendo Switch OLED model is an improvement on an already good console, period. No, it can’t do 4K and it doesn’t feel like a midlife change to PS4 Pro size, but an upgrade is an upgrade. The new OLED panel is a huge improvement that makes the Switch’s old screen look washed out in comparison. A new stand and better onboard audio both justify the additional $ 50, though the other enhancements are somewhat redundant. It may not be the upgrade the system needs after four years in the market, but it is the definitive model to buy if you don’t already own a Switch.

Is there a better alternative?

It’s certainly better than a regular switch if you’re handheld gaming. If you want more power, the Steam Deck is just around the corner (if you can get one).

How long it will take?

The redesigned dock reduces the chance of hair scratches on the screen. Is your Switch still working four years later? Then expect it to chug on in a similar fashion.

Should you buy it?

Yes sir. If you don’t already have a Switch, there’s no reason not to start here. It’s also a worthwhile upgrade for those who play in handheld mode, though TV gamers won’t benefit much from it.

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