I’m sure that Nintendo’s hardware engineers have had more than a few restless nights over the last couple of years, their hairlines rapidly receding as each new rumour of a ‘Nintendo Switch Pro‘ emerged to heap more pressure and more expectation on their shoulders. When it was eventually revealed, I’m sure that the Nintendo Switch (OLED model) will have disappointed a fair few expectant gamers out there. Here is a device that keeps the core of the console exactly the same – the chipset, the screen resolution, the Joy-Con – but Nintendo has looked at other ways to improve the experience of playing on their console.
The first thing you notice about the Switch OLED is just how unassuming it is. It’s almost exactly the same size as the original 2017 model, it’s still a large black slab kindly escorted into your hands by a pair of Joy-Con on either side, and unless you knew what you were looking at, you could easily mistake it for a regular old Nintendo Switch. Then the screen lights up.
Look, I know that talking about the difference between 7″ and 6.2″ is going to get some snickering from the back of the room, but it’s surprising just how much bigger the 7″ screen feels to play with. That extra 0.8″ simply means that the screen takes up that much more of the front of the central tablet. It’s along the lines of the transformation that so many smartphones and tablets have undergone over the last few years, where bezels are banished and screens get ever closer to the edges of the device.
Pulling out my old Switch for the sake of comparison, and another difference becomes abundantly clear: the OLED panel works wonders for just how vibrantly colourful these games are. We had the opportunity to check out a handful of evergreen Nintendo exclusives, and from Mario Kart 8 Deluxe to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, the graphics pop with more saturated colours across the board – that’s saying something when Breath of the Wild has a rather muted colour palette.
If you were worried that a larger screen would highlight any deficiencies in resolution, then this trio of games weren’t exactly the best examples to try, but I honestly wasn’t bothered by any aliasing or resolution while playing. Games where the resolution drops significantly below 720p might be another story, but at that resolution, the Switch OLED will certainly be an eye-catching option.
That bigger screen is also going to be a boon if you’re a fan of tabletop mode and multiplayer when on the go, and it goes hand-in-hand with the new kickstand. Where the original Nintendo Switch kickstand is this fiddly bit of plastic that only kicks out at a relatively slight angle, the Switch OLED has a kickstand that runs the entire width of the device and can be adjusted to pretty much any angle you could possibly want. It’s exactly what you would want from a kickstand, with a solidity to any angle you set it to thanks to a pair of chunky hinges that extend from recessed channels in the Switch OLED’s body when collapsed – this is a clear sign of some of the internal space-saving that Nintendo has made.
And if you want to hear what’s going on while playing your game? The Switch OLED’s front-facing speaker holes are wider slits for speakers that can go noticeably louder than before. It might still lose the fight with a noisy cafe, but every little helps.
That kickstand has also forced Nintendo to make changes to the console’s cooling, relocating the intake vents that were previously on the back panel to run along the bottom edge of the console. Anyone that’s suffered from a cracked vent at the top of their console will also be happy to see that the exhaust at the top of the console is much more solid as well, similar in style to those on the Switch Lite, instead of the gaping hole into the body of the console on the regular Switch.
It’s not just the Switch that has been given an overhaul, as the humble Switch Dock has also been redesigned. Fundamentally (as with the main console), it’s the same concept as before, with a slot that you drop your console into for charging and playing on a TV, but again, it’s been refined. That slot now has smooth, shiny plastic on the inside, so you won’t worry so much about the risk of scratching up your lovely OLED screen, and around the back, hidden behind a panel that now pops off instead of opening on a hinge, you’ll find an ethernet port to help eliminate internet connectivity issues (which has often been one of the Switch’s weakest points).
The Switch OLED might not be the souped up console that many people wanted Nintendo to make, but I will say this: it’s pretty nice. Surprisingly nice, in fact. It is far from essential, and at an extra $50 it’s an added expense over the regular Switch model that will remain on sale for the foreseeable future. Even so, I’m sure that there’s some people out there that will be tempted by the refinement of a familiar machine, and the allure of that new vibrant screen.