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The Nintendo Switch OLED is a welcome upgrade, but one that pleases more than it wows. It’s an inherently flawed product due to the console’s original hybrid design: dock the Switch OLED, and the benefits of the sumptuous new 7-inch display, redesigned kickstand, and enhanced speakers vanish. If you’re a first-time Switch buyer this is undoubtedly the model to buy, but the improvements to the Switch OLED will only really benefit handheld and tabletop mode users – and if you’re thinking of upgrading, don’t expect a Nintendo Switch Pro.
NINTENDO SWITCH OLED REVIEW: WHAT’S NEW
So what’s the difference between the Nintendo Switch and the Nintendo Switch OLED?
Firstly, the screen is bigger – it’s 7inches on the OLED model, where it was 6.2inches on the original. But the biggest difference is in the screen technology, on this model you get an OLED touchscreen as opposed to a simple LED touchscreen. That means the pixels are no longer illuminated by backlighting, they produce the light themselves – in laymen’s terms, you should get a brighter screen from OLED with more contrast and better viewing angles. It won’t be more detailed though as they’ve kept the resolution at 720p for handheld and 1080p when docked.
Another difference is in the internal storage, which has doubled. It was 32GB on the Nintendo Switch, whereas the Nintendo Switch OLED boasts 64GB. Both are expandable using a MicroSD card, though. Plus, Nintendo has enhanced the quality of the audio produced by the stereo speakers.
On the new white dock, there’s now a wired LAN port so you can connect the dock directly to your Wi-Fi router using an ethernet cable, which should mean much more reliable internet speeds.
Lastly, there’s a more robust kickstand on the new OLED model, fixing a problem with the slim and somewhat flimsy stand that plenty complained of before.
NINTENDO SWITCH OLED REVIEW: PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
You can buy the Nintendo Switch OLED for $350 in the US, £309.99 in the UK and AU$539 in Australia. To see where you can pick one up, take a look at the widgets on this page.
At launch, it is more expensive than the original Nintendo Switch which started at $299.99 / £279.99 / AU$470 although you can pick one up cheaper than that now.
NINTENDO SWITCH OLED REVIEW: DISPLAY AND DESIGN
The 7inch OLED display is a beauty, even though the resolution is still just 720p. Games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild really showcased the potential of the new OLED screen – it’s bright, colourful and the contrast has improved massively. Even on the simple Home screen, lettering comes across with clarity and colours are vibrant, popping out of the display.
Where you really make the most of the new 7inch OLED panel is in tabletop mode where two players both use the display at the same time using a Joy-Con controller each. It makes loads of sense to have that bit more screen real estate which combined with the improved viewing angles means you can both see the display much better.
If you plan to play in handheld mode a lot then it’s definitely worth spending the extra cash because the OLED model has improved brightness and contrast. In terms of quality, it feels more like using a small tablet than the majority of handheld consoles I’ve used in the past.
You’ll recognise the Nintendo Switch OLED’s design because it’s almost identical to what came before it. There’s a tiny power button and volume controls on the top left of the frame and the game card slot sits on the opposite side. On the underside, there’s a USB-C charging port and two system connector holes which attach the console to the dock.
The OLED model measures 102 x 242 x 13.9mm with the Joy-Cons attached which is just a little taller than the original. It weighs just over 20g more now as well, so 420g in total. Despite a slight increase in size, it’s still comfortable to use in handheld mode, although you’re less likely to be able to slide it into your pocket.
The two thin Joy-Cons slide down onto the edge of the screen using the side rails. The left controller has an L button and minus button with the Left Stick below it, followed by directional buttons and a capture button to take screenshots during play. On the right controller, there’s an R button, plus button, the A/B/X/Y buttons, the Right Stick and the Home button. Each Joy-Con has an SL and SR button on the inside edge.
When used separately during multiplayer games, both controllers can be used horizontally in exactly the same way with the same layout.
The downwards facing side of the right Joy-Con houses the IR motion camera, although both controllers can use motion tracking in more physical games like Just Dance as they both have an Accelerometer and Gyroscope.
The whole device looks sleek and modern, partly aided by the very slim bezels. You won’t be disappointed by the build quality either as it feels solid and premium for the most part.
On the back, the kickstand now stretches across the whole length of the screen which makes it much more stable to use propped up on a table, with the controllers attached or without. It’s made from plastic so still doesn’t feel as tough as a metal stand would have done, but it’s definitely an improvement on what was there before.
To attach the Joy-Con straps, you just slide them on, click them into place and the SL and SR controls automatically switch over to the larger buttons on the straps. They’re particularly handy for multiplayer games like Mario Kart Deluxe 8 where you want more grip on the controller throughout the game. They add more space to hold it as well as more prominent, easy to find buttons. You do have to make sure they are attached properly as it can affect the functionality if they aren’t.
The included grip is another fantastic accessory to have in the box, making the two sets of controls much easier to use simultaneously in solo play. If I were to nitpick, one design flaw with the grip is just how big it makes the controller, it feels almost too big considering the controls on each side are packed so tightly together.
NINTENDO SWITCH OLED REVIEW: DOCK AND CABLING
The dock on the Nintendo Switch OLED is white, where it was black on the original. It’s not a major change but it does affect how it looks by your TV.
It’s very easy to hook up the console to the dock, it’s literally just a case of sliding the display in and placing it down.
The docking station is made of plastic with a detachable panel on the back where you plug in the USB-C and HDMI cables. There’s also a wired LAN port to connect it directly to your Wi-Fi router using an ethernet cable – this means you’ll be able to rely on the console to get the fastest internet speeds your home network allows for which in turn will massively improve your gaming experience.
Having most of the ports tucked away behind the rear panel keeps everything neat and tidy by your TV, you won’t have the eye-sore of loads of cables hanging around.
Elsewhere on the outside of the dock, there are two additional USB ports that can be used for a number of different things, like charging your Nintendo Switch Pro controller or even the Joy-Cons when they’re attached to the grip. You can use the ports to attach a USB keyboard to make typing in logins and passwords much easier as well.
There’s no 3.5mm audio input so you won’t be able to hook the Nintendo Switch OLED dock up to a wired audio device.
NINTENDO SWITCH OLED REVIEW: PERFORMANCE AND SOUND QUALITY
You can’t talk about performance without mentioning the screen again. It’s the best we’ve seen on a Nintendo console, and I can’t stress that enough – it really does make the whole experience better, even on less colourful games like Metroid Dread. Whether you’re playing alone or with someone else, you can see more, do more and enjoy it more because of it. And it was already pretty enjoyable before.
A feature worth mentioning is Automatic Brightness. Using sensors on the console, the brightness on the display is adjusted depending on where and when you are playing – that’s perfect for those who lose themselves in a game and don’t notice that they’re squinting as the room gets darker.
As what’s under the hood is identical across the old and the new versions of the Nintendo Switch, there isn’t much to say there. Powered by the NVIDIA customised Tegra processor the Nintendo Switch OLED is fast, responsive and a pleasure to play. I had no issues to speak of when it came to gameplay, loading times or navigating the interface, it all works as you expect and want it to.
The Nintendo Switch OLED has a battery life of 4.5 to 9 hours which is the same as the original and plenty for most people.
It would have been nice to see an improvement in the way of battery life but it is still quite impressive that they have managed to keep it the same despite having a more demanding display.
Nintendo hasn’t been able to increase the speed of charging either, when powered off or in sleep mode, it’ll take about 3 hours to recharge.
When it comes to the battery life of the controllers, I highly doubt you’ll ever run out of juice, I didn’t. They should both last about 20 hours and they take 3.5 hours to fully recharge.
NINTENDO SWITCH OLED REVIEW: VERDICT
The Nintendo Switch OLED has come on leaps and bounds when it comes to how it feels to play on the go, as opposed to when it’s hooked up to your TV (that side of things is just as pleasurable as it has always been).
For those who plan to play a lot on their own in handheld mode, the new OLED panel makes games truly come to life. I was blown away by how beautiful and vibrant the graphics look – it makes the whole experience incredibly enjoyable. But even if you want to buy a Nintendo Switch for your whole family or household to use, the bigger brighter screen on the Nintendo Switch OLED makes a lot of sense because you’ll get a better view of the screen when you play multiplayer games in tabletop mode.
The only reason I would tell you not to buy this console is if you already own the Nintendo Switch. Under the hood, they’re almost exactly the same so it’s not really worth splashing out this much cash just to get a slightly bigger, better screen. Of course, there are a few other improvements but they are minor, and won’t make it worth the upgrade.
If you are looking to buy the Nintendo Switch for the first time then this model is the one you should get. The Nintendo Switch OLED is without a shadow of a doubt their best games console yet.