Nintendo Switch OLED review: screen time

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Buying an upgraded version of a gadget can be tricky. It is not always immediately clear what has changed or whether the changes are even useful to you; it can happen with iterative updates to the phone or, more recently, the latest generation of gaming consoles from Sony and Microsoft. In the case of the latest Switch, however, Nintendo made it easy: all that matters is how much you care about the screen.

The new $ 350 OLED Switch is functionally identical to the version released in 2017. It plays all the same games, has the same interface, and uses the same controllers. These games don’t have any kind of performance enhancement; no better frame rates or higher resolution. And aside from a few small tweaks – an improved kickstand, a slightly redesigned dock, more storage – the hardware doesn’t feel all that different. When you collect it, it looks like a Switch.

But as soon as you turn on the screen, you can see the difference. The new Switch replaces the original LCD screen with a larger, brighter OLED screen. It doesn’t fundamentally change what the Switch is or what it can do. But if you plan on spending a lot of time in handheld mode, it makes a big difference to how you experience gaming.

Okay, so the basics. The OLED Switch has a seven-inch OLED display, which is a bump from the original 6.2-inch display (and a huge leap from the portable-only Switch Lite and its touchscreen). 5.5 inch). That doesn’t make the hardware much bigger, however. The OLED switch measures 102mm x 242mm x 13.9mm and weighs 420 grams with the controllers connected; the original switch measures 102mm x 239mm x 13.9mm and weighs 398 grams. In my hands, I could barely tell the difference in terms of weight and height. Rather than feeling bigger, it’s more like Nintendo has shrunk the massive black bezel to create more screen space.

This screen is the star of this new device. The size is nice, especially if you play games with a lot of text or a complicated interface, like Fire Emblem: Three Houses. And while it features the same 720p output as the base model, things didn’t look much less crisp to me. But the most obvious change is how much brighter and more vibrant everything looks. You can see it in colorful games like Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, where the colors really pop. (Seeing again Link’s AwakeningOpening animation inspired by Ghibli really made me wish the Switch had video streaming apps like Netflix.) That’s true whether you’re playing something new or old; I have found the excellent sprites of Street Fighter III: Third Strike were really striking on the new screen, even though they are two decades old.

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity operating on OLED switch.

Finally, a built-in support that works.

The buttons have a slightly refreshed look.

The perks also go in the opposite direction and make dark virtual worlds darker. The scary side-scrolling game Inside is a prime example of this; the inky blacks really stand out, making his world all the more dark and oppressive (as he’s supposed to). On some screens, InsideThe black and white visuals of can blur a bit, but here things are kept distinct. Perhaps the best showcase for the OLED display is Terror of the metroids, which launches coincidentally with the new Switch. The gloomy adventure takes you through dark caverns, ancient forests, and underwater research facilities, and there is a wonderful contrast between them. During a sequence when you turn on the lights in an old abandoned facility, the change is really shocking. I played the entire game on the original Switch for our review, then spent a few hours replaying it on the OLED version and, well, I really would have liked to wait for the new console.

It’s important to note that these visual improvements are purely due to the display. The new Switch isn’t more powerful, so you won’t see any change in performance. (It’s certainly not the very popular “Switch Pro”.) Fortnite looks more vibrant and colorful on an OLED switch, but it still has the same flat textures and slow pop-in as on all other hardware versions. It also means that if you play games on your TV using the docking station, the experience is exactly the same as with a base model.

A few other things on the screen. Although it is far too early to tell if burn-in will be a problem, Nintendo warns against displaying “the same image on the OLED screen for long periods of time” in order to minimize “the risk. image retention or screen burn-in “. The company also says that the screen has an ‘anti-diffusion adhesive film’, which it says not to remove; although after several days with the device, I admit that I didn’t even notice that there was a movie on the screen.

Aside from the screen, the biggest improvement here is in the design rather than the technology: the Switch finally has good built-in support. I never really think about my base Switch’s kickstand, mainly because it sucks. It’s so fragile that I don’t trust it to keep an expensive video game console standing. In four years, I’ve barely used it. But the OLED Switch now has a Surface-style mount that runs the entire length of the device and is much more flexible in terms of viewing angles. You know how in every Switch ad there are people playing games in the park or on a rooftop in table mode, having a lot of fun? Well, I finally feel comfortable doing this, and it turns out it’s awesome. It has become my preferred method of participating in some Pokémon United, and it works especially well for on-the-go games like WarioWare: come together Where Clubhouse games.

The dock has a less square look now.

The rest of the changes are much more minor. The buttons and vent on the top of the switch have been streamlined a bit, and the speakers have moved from the rear panel just below the display to the front. Nintendo says they offer enhanced sound, but to me they sounded just a little louder. (There’s still a standard headphone jack when you really want to immerse yourself in it, and Nintendo recently added Bluetooth audio support to all Switch hardware via a software update.) The dock has a slightly more polished look with corners. rounded on top, and it comes in white now. There’s also the addition of a LAN port, and the docking station’s rear panel is removable, instead of being on a hinge, making swapping cables a bit easier. The new dock is also compatible with the original Switch, and vice versa. Meanwhile, Nintendo has doubled the built-in storage to 64GB, although you can expand it up to 2TB with a microSD card.

The key aspects of the handheld haven’t changed at all. The OLED Switch uses the same Joy-Con controllers, so you’ll still have to live in fear of the dreaded drift. And it has the same battery life as the slightly improved version of the base Switch introduced in 2019, which means you’ll get anywhere from five to nine hours of gameplay on a charge, depending on what you’re playing and your brightness settings. The bigger, brighter screen doesn’t seem to make a difference in this regard. When playing docked, it also always hits 1080p.

All of this puts the OLED Switch in an interesting place within Nintendo’s slowly growing hardware family. The Switch Lite is the obvious entry point, a cheaper model and designed explicitly for portable gaming with its small size and sturdy build. The Basic Switch, meanwhile, is decent on the go, but it’s best suited for those who will be using it primarily as a home console, making the latest model the best of both worlds. For $ 50 more, it works like a typical home switch, but its excellent OLED display and finally working kickstand make it the most premium portable experience, too.

So again, it all comes down to this screen. You already know what to expect from a Switch. It hasn’t changed much in four years. But if you want that experience to be better, brighter, and more vibrant when you’re away from the TV, the choice is simple.

Nintendo Switch OLED launch on October 8.


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