The next iteration: Nintendo Switch OLED review

Handheld or bust.

Image via Nintendo

It’s hard to believe that the Nintendo Switch has already been around for four years. Since its 2017 launch, the Switch has become a hit for Nintendo, with an abundance of acclaimed first-party games to boot. Following the initial launch, Nintendo released two different revisions of the console in 2019 with the Nintendo Switch Lite and an improved base model with better battery life. Now, Nintendo is dropping the latest revision of the hybrid portable console—the Nintendo Switch OLED.

While it might not be the rumored 4K revision of the Switch many were hoping for, the OLED is still a more robust console that improves the handheld capabilities of the Switch as a whole. Sporting a larger, more colorful OLED screen, the Nintendo Switch OLED puts other models to shame.

If you mainly play with the system docked, however, most of these features might not be a huge selling point for you. The OLED system has no advantages for docked gamers, so if you mainly play the console on your TV, there might not be a logical reason to invest this time around.

Still, for those looking to purchase their first Switch system, the OLED represents the best on the market as an overall experience, even if it does have some slightly irksome flaws.

New nuts and bolts

The Nintendo Switch OLED version is a best of both worlds situation for new owners. It sports a 7-inch OLED screen that feels drastically bigger and different from previous versions of the Switch. Gone is the chunky black bar surrounding your on-the-go display. Instead, all you have here is a massive screen that looks as vibrant as playing on a TV.

The Switch OLED also features ample improvement in its base sound. Audio comes through clearer when using the speakers, with little need to rely on headphones. Revs of an engine in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe sound more lively, the ambient music of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild feels more immersive, and there is more overall depth to the audio.

In addition, Nintendo improved the flimsy little kickstand that appears on every Switch model so far. The OLED provides a larger, sturdier kickstand that tilts in any direction to better suit where you need to play. Finally, the days of having your Switch titled at just one angle are a thing of the past.

Outside of the system itself, the OLED’s Dock comes with a few improvements, most of which are long-standing fan requests. The most welcome update is the LAN Port, which allows those playing Super Smash Bros. Ultimate or other online games the chance to finally plug an Ethernet cable into the Dock. Adding this feature into the new Dock costs it one of its USB ports in the long run, but many people were using that port to connect a Nintendo Switch USB to a LAN port of some kind and will be happy to sacrifice the port in favor of stable internet.

Swings and misses

Despite impressive quality-of-life improvements to an existing platform, there were always going to be minor issues since a revision can only help so much.

Take, for example, the Nintendo Switch OLED’s charge port. Even with the improved design of the kickstand, if you need to charge your Switch on the go, you still will be unable to do it without placing it down flat on a service. Needing the port placement to accommodate the Dock is understandable, but there was still a sliver of hope for some kind of alternative.

The console, while docked, is also a bit loose. It has a habit of wiggling around and feels like it’s going to smack against either side when a gust of wind hits it. Granted, this is far better than the tightness of the original Nintendo Switch Dock that ended up damaging the screen over time when slid in and out of the Dock.

To touch on a previously made point, if you play the Nintendo Switch mainly while docked, there is little reason to upgrade to the OLED version if you won’t be taking advantage of the new system’s improvements. This also goes for the LAN port, which, while practical, will not be used by the vast majority of on-the-go players.

Lastly, although the Switch OLED boasts an expanded 64GB internal storage space, up from 32GB, it doesn’t feel like much of an upgrade. Considering the size of some games on the eShop like Pokémon Sword and Shield, which are 12.4GB without DLC, you will fill up the internal memory pretty quickly after a few digital purchases. The space on offer is not enough and will continue forcing players to invest in external storage cards to get the storage they need.

Is this for you?

After highlighting all of its pros and cons, there isn’t a satisfying answer to who the Switch OLED will benefit most. It seems like the best Switch console on the market, at least until we get that fabled 4K console in the future, and it is definitely an improvement over the original. But as highlighted before, unless you play both on the go and at home, some players won’t be able to take full advantage of the new system’s most significant selling points.

If you already have a Switch or play games only on the TV, there is little reason to invest in this new model. Even with the new LAN port, products are out there to attach a LAN port to the original Switch Dock, and, if not, Nintendo already stated that it plans to sell the new OLED Dock in the future by itself and have other Switch models work perfectly with it.

Even the Joy-Cons that come with the system are the regular old Joy-Cons you get with every other version of the console. The only difference being that one version of the OLED has special White Joy-Cons, which will undoubtedly become available in the future to buy without getting the console itself.

The changes from the original Switch to OLED are minor, but those small changes add to an overall better Switch experience for select users. A bigger and more colorful screen, a kickstand improvement that allows you to place the Switch however you want. It’s all very small but noticeable in that it feels like this is how the original Nintendo Switch should have been when it came out in 2017.

When it comes down to it, the Switch OLED mainly exists for those who haven’t got a Switch yet or those Switch Lite owners who want to take full advantage of the system’s features. If you own a Switch already, there is little reason to invest in the OLED model, and it might suit you best to wait it out for the future rumored 4K console to finally take that leap.

Pros

  • Better, brighter, and bigger screen
  • New Dock with requested features like LAN Port
  • Marginal storage increase from 32GB to 64GB
  • Improved kickstand is a huge plus

Cons

  • Charging port still in a poor place
  • No reason to invest if you play games docked exclusively
  • Internal storage should provide more space