Even though they don’t release as frequently as iPhones, you can always expect a few mid-cycle refreshes for video game consoles (think: the PlayStation 4 Pro or Xbox One X). An OLED screen and some other exterior changes are on the way for Nintendo’s original Switch this week. The insides of the Switch Pro are basically the same, so don’t call it that. “Slightly nicer Switch” doesn’t sell many units, so the Nintendo Switch OLED is now officially known as the OLED version. It’s not necessary if you have already purchased a Switch or Switch Lite, but if you’re still without a console, this is the model to buy.
The new version costs $50 more than the original, which is still on sale. The new Switch has a 7-inch OLED screen for $350, compared to the 6.2-inch display of the previous model. In handheld mode, I didn’t notice the larger screen size as much as I did when playing on a larger screen.
When I switched back to the original, the 6.2-inch display’s large bezels caught my eye. Some things about the system have never appealed to me, so I’ve never been fond of them. OLED’s slim lines have been reduced to a third of their original size, and now they make me recoil in disgust. When you look closely at your phone, you’ll notice the matte plastic frame around the screen has shrunk and been replaced with a glossy plastic.
Yes, the display is brighter than before. There’s enough of a difference that when I went back to my personal Switch at home hours after my initial hands-on, I was shocked. Both are clearly different when compared with one another. Compared to the original screen, the OLED screen has a slightly lavender tint to the original screen’s purer white, making the colors pop a little more.
Nintendo is also releasing Metroid Dread on the same day as the new color palette. Samus’ red and yellow (or blue) armor contrasts well with brown and gray backgrounds in the game, which is consistent with the rest of the series. While the OLED display’s improved color fidelity is on display, the new Switch doesn’t actually bring any new features to the table in terms of performance.
This ensures that all future Switch titles will work on both the original Switch and its Lite version. This is in line with the Game Boy Advance and 3DS product lines, which, like the Game Boy micro and 2DS, underwent some radical redesigns over time. There were handhelds like the DSi and New 3DS that had improved internal specs, but they never became popular. If you’re looking for a new gaming system, look no further than Nintendo’s OLED version of the Nintendo Switch.
It’s not just the new display that makes a big difference; it’s a slew of minor tweaks that make the experience even better. The stand at the back is the most noticeable change. Only open and closed are available on the original Switch, which is only a finger’s width in width. I’m having trouble keeping the one on my original launch unit closed when I’m playing handheld because it no longer locks in that position. If you look at it in the wrong way, it can also come apart.
The stand for the OLED version of the Switch is a completely different animal. For the first time, instead of a thin strip, it’s a Microsoft Surface-style panel that extends across the entire back of the unit, with real hinges allowing it to be positioned in a variety of ways. I wouldn’t risk breaking this thing; the hinges are molded into the plastic, so if you do, it’ll have to be sent to the Nintendo repair shop.
Everything on the Switch’s back has been rearranged to make room for the new stand. The logo has been moved to the lower half of the back of the stand because it is now printed on the stand itself. Underneath the stand, on the black plastic, is now printed the manufacturer’s information, such as the part number and voltage. A minor but welcome improvement is that it is now doubly hidden. In order to make the stand stand out, the rear speakers have been relocated to the bottom of the unit. Thoughtful, it also provides clear game audio and minimizes system noise. As a result, the microSD card is now positioned parallel to the bottom edge of the device. To prevent users from accidentally removing the card while trying to adjust the stand, I believe this small change was made. USB-C port is still on the bottom, so you can’t recharge it while using it on a table.
As far as top-edge changes go, the most notable one is a button redesign that results in longer and thinner power and volume switches. The new buttons aren’t any easier to press, but the textured plastic of the Switch OLED makes them look and feel better in my hands. In Metroid Dread, the system kept my clammy hands from drenching in sweat because it was so comfortable to hold during a particularly stressful boss fight.
In order to be compatible with all existing accessories, the Switch OLED must be identical in height and width. “Joy-Con drift” hasn’t received a new design yet, but hopefully it’s gone by now. Black and white is a nice change of pace from my original all-gray launch unit. Red and blue Joy-Cons are available as an option if you prefer a more vibrant color scheme, or you can swap out any other Joy-Cons you prefer. As a result, they’ll last longer than the other colors because they don’t show scratches as easily.
Because of the OLED screen, the system’s dimensions have only changed slightly. When comparing the old and new Switches, it is clear that there is a noticeable difference. However, it isn’t large enough to make the OLED version of the Switch less portable. Because the weight is evenly distributed, it may appear lighter to the naked eye. When it comes to the overall build quality, the OLED model has some flex in the middle of its rear panel, which isn’t present in the original model’s design. However, unless you plan to hammer the back of the unit, it doesn’t make much of a difference.
Because the internals of the system have not changed, the battery has also remained unchanged. It’s the same as the new 2019 battery, which provides between four and nine hours of battery life compared to the six-hour limit on the launch model.. OLED, on the other hand, is expected to be more power-efficient than LCD, and so far so good. I was able to play Metroid Dread for almost seven hours before I received the “low battery” warning at 15%, and that’s a game that frequently uses vibration. This is compared to the four or five hours I get out of my original Nintendo Switch, even when playing games like Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp or Untitled Goose Game.
If you already have a Switch, you can simply insert the OLED model into your dock and it will work. You may, however, want to set up the system’s redesigned dock. The rounded corners and glossy black plastic on the inside give it a more refined appearance (which admittedly will probably scratch up over time). Because the back panel is flimsy and can come off completely, this isn’t a great option (so you may lose it). However, the addition of an ethernet port outweighs all of these issues.
As a wireless gaming platform, the Nintendo Switch has never lived up to its potential. You had to restart the system if you had an older model that forgot how to connect to your WiFi. Even with the OLED model, downloading from the Nintendo eShop can be slow; I had to leave my system running for an hour or so while it downloaded games wirelessly. For a faster, more reliable connection, you can simply plug in a cable. For those who have one in their living room. This is a feature for those who are more interested in the technical aspects of the game. In my opinion, this is the only new feature of the OLED version of the Switch that is truly “professional” level, and it’s definitely worth the $50 premium.
Overall, the OLED version of the Nintendo Switch is a good system that comes out at a strange time, since it’s been four years since the original Switch was released. According to Nintendo’s release history, a new console could be expected in 2023. Because of this, it’s a big ask for people to spend $350 on a system that’s just a few years away from something better. In spite of Nintendo’s recent denials, there is no guarantee that there will not be a new Switch in the future.
Additionally, there’s the looming threat of the Steam Deck in December, which is just two months away (assuming no delays). Although it’s a lot more powerful than the current Nintendo eShop, it promises access to nearly the entire Steam library, which overlaps a lot with the Nintendo eShop. Access to legendary franchises like Mario and Zelda as well as the incredible value of Switch Online are two of the biggest draws for the Switch OLED. It’s possible to play old NES, SNES, N64, and Genesis games without an OLED screen or ethernet.
To upgrade to a Switch OLED is a difficult decision if you’re not going to have access to ethernet or don’t need better speeds because you play offline all the time. In the event that you always play on the television, there’s no point in purchasing this dock, as the output quality is identical. In the absence of the rumored upgrade to 4K, this version will look exactly the same. While the handheld version of the Switch isn’t a necessity, unless you’ve given up on your original Switch because you hate LCD displays or need more than five hours of battery life, it’s still not a necessity.