It’s still sometimes hard to believe the Nintendo Switch has yet to hit its gaming peak.
In almost four years, there’s been a ton of fantastic exclusives. Super Mario Odyssey, Super Smash Bros Ultimate, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, now Metroid Dread. But much of the console’s library is also made up of past Nintendo greats and amazing multi-platform releases, such as Hades and Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury.
2022 seems set to change all that, though, with exclusives the likes of Splatoon 3, Bayonetta 3, and Pokémon Legends: Arceus, already announced, and others like Metroid Prime 4 and Breath of the Wild 2 still waiting in the wings.
There has never been a better time to own a Nintendo Switch, and I’m here to tell you that if you’ve yet to dive in, you absolutely must ensure to opt for a Nintendo Switch OLED.
Sure, the Switch Lite is the most convenient family member, and the base Switch model is cheaper than ever, but after spending a week with the Switch OLED, I believe it’s the perfect balance of quality, value, and intention.
What’s new with Switch OLED?
The obvious change is the OLED screen on the Switch console. It’s bigger than the other Switch systems at 7-inches vs 6.2 inches, though resolution remains unchanged. The border frame around the screen has been significantly reduced for much greater visibility, and the picture quality is absolutely stunning.
While it looks fantastic on the big screen, games like Metroid Dread just thrive on OLED. And as someone who moves quite frequently between dock and handheld, I can say that the most definitive experiences I’ve had on OLED have unsurprisingly come while playing in the palm of my hands. It’s changing the way I play the Switch, probably permanently.
The screen also feels like it has better responsiveness in terms of touch. I was able to navigate through the Switch eShop much more seamlessly and skim between my games with just the deftest flick.
Best of all, you can adjust the console screen vividness to have more striking color effect vs the standard look to make it even more dazzling to behold. It’s quite something.
Other games, for instance, like Tetris Effect, really benefit from that rich vivid effect with flashing images, Twilight Princess had me in awe with its stunning backdrops, floating between the clouds, and Super Smash Bros Ultimate where the action is fast and furious. One look side-by-side with the original’s LCD screen and you’ll find it almost impossible to go back.
But apart from that incredible screen, Switch OLED also boasts much improved, inbuilt speakers at the bottom of the console. Before the system’s sound had a bit of a tinny effect to it and lost its quality at max volume. Now the quality is improved, the filtering of sound is more crisp and defined, and it may actually inspire you to leave the headphones on the side table.
It also feels like it has more of a surround effect, so when I’m blasting through waves of enemies in Dread, I can hear more clearly where the sound of the blast is coming from.
Another significant upgrade is the kickstand. I’ll be honest and say I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve played tabletop Switch since launch. A big part of that is the original’s weak, thin strip of a grip. It’s serviceable and keeps the console aloft, but what Nintendo have done with OLED is exactly what it should have been since day one.
Now there’s a back panel the entire width of the console, it bends almost all the way back, and it is 100x more sturdy. You can now prop the Switch so it’s slanted toward the ceiling, making it even easier for casual, relaxed gaming, if you’re sat in a group gaming, or if you’re propped up in bed.
Also as before, a nice area to nestle your SD Card into the console is positioned behind the stand though, sadly, the USB C connection port is still at the bottom of the system, which continues to go at odds with how you hold the Switch.
At the top, the power and volume buttons have had a makeover. They’re longer now and easier to grip, more naturally nestling under the fingertip for better overall control. It’s surprisingly more comfortable as the buttons feel like less jaggedy and protrude much less than before.
The top grill is also much less prone to cracking and snapping, better inbuilt into the system itself. My launch Switch sounds like it’s about to take off these days now the fan is exposed, but this seems much more stable and protected.
The one aspect of the new system I’m not sure about is the cartridge port as there’s no groove to get your finger underneath to lift the flap up. I feel like I need to pick at this new flap several times before I can wedge it up. I worry about chipping away at the plastic long-term, whereas previously it was less resistant and more free flowing in a single motion.
As for Joy-Cons, you can grab some gorgeous new White ones, which compliment the screen nicely as well as the more traditional Blue and Red types, depending on what you fancy. And of course any Joy-Cons you already own can be rolled into the console, even the Hori Split Pad Pro, which makes the console seem like an absolute mammoth and, in my opinion, seem a more natural, comfortable fit.
On top of all that, the Switch internal memory is much larger now, offering 64GB out of the box, which is a much better capacity and will cover most of the major new releases on the platform. And, of course, this can still be expanded with an SD Card to ensure you’ve got easy access for all your games.
Finally, the battery is much improved from the original launch model and the Switch Lite, now comfortably allowing for between 4 and 1/2 to 9 hours of play, depending on what you’ve got going on, which is on par with the current Switch models on the market. Sadly, the battery life hasn’t been improved upon even further, but it’s still more than sufficient for long-term play sessions.
On the whole, though, as far as new improvements and updates go, the Switch OLED is a fantastic, sturdier, more impressive upgrade.
What about the Dock?
The dock doesn’t quite benefit from as many big changes, but what it does offer is significant. There’s now a really sleek white finish which is actually really beautiful to look at and is more curved than before, meaning the system nestles into the cradle more softly.
The back panel now snaps off, which takes a bit of getting used to as before it was on hinges. Once off, the standard HDMI and Adaptor ports are in the same places as before. Sadly, you still plug the HDMI cable inside out, which still feels awkward, but there is one other marked difference.
There’s also an Ethernet port in the back of the dock to help make internet connections more stable, something Nintendo Switch Online games have suffered from in the past. It’s a nice feature to have it hardwired into the dock now, and even if the download speeds are slower, this will almost certainly help when you’re in a particularly delicate Smash brawl or it’s a close run race in Mario Kart.
There’s no question about it, Switch OLED is the system Nintendo should have launched with back in 2017. The OLED screen is a game-changer, the system feels more user-friendly, and the dock offers much-needed additional benefits.
If you’ve yet to get a Switch and have waited for the right hardware revision, then this is it. The game library is never better, the games have never looked better, and the future is bright, quite literally.
In terms of whether it’s worth the upgrade cost if you already own a newer Switch is a tougher sell, especially since the rumours of a Pro model refuse to go away. All I can say from my time with OLED is that I find it difficult to go back to the smaller, less vibrant, LCD screen now, and I am enjoying revisiting the extensive back catalogue through a new lens. Plus my launch Switch is starting to struggle, so this actually turned out to be quite an upgrade.
Basically, Switch OLED is the real deal and is yet another hit for Nintendo, even if some members of the gaming world had written it off before it even hit the shelves.
+ The OLED screen is stunning and responsive
+ Vivid colourings really help some games in the Switch library to pop
+ The Switch model itself with the Kickstand, buttons and fan grill is more sturdy
+ Onboard memory and battery life are much improved from OG Switch
+ The dock has finally added in an ethernet port
– USB C and HDMI ports are unchanged and still fiddly
– Cartridge port door feels harder to open
– May not be a significant enough upgrade for those with newer Switch models
Nintendo Switch OLED is now available
Console Kindly Provided by Nintendo