Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Nintendo’s new Switch is put to the test

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Nintendo’s more expensive model of the Switch is impressive at first glance, thanks to its bigger, brighter screen. But the unit’s improvements are subtle and mostly won’t be relevant to people who play the machine hooked up to a TV.

The big picture (literally): The most notable improvement is the 7-inch OLED screen, up from 6.2 inches.

Why it matters: The Nintendo Switch OLED model, to be released Oct. 8, has been a head-scratcher since it was announced, given the limited improvements offered for its $350 price tag, $50 more than the standard model.

Last week, I played the upcoming “Metroid Dread” on the OLED model for 90 minutes and got sucked into the game, quickly forgetting about the screen. That’s what good games do.

None of this impacts playing Switch on the TV, as the OLED model doesn’t run games at better frame rates or resolutions.

Only when I looked over at my original Switch did I again feel the impact of the screen size. Games on that one now feel like they’re playing in a picture frame.


The overall OLED model is barely bigger than the original. Its central unit has been widened just enough that it is incompatible with a couple of the cardboard shells (piano, bike) offered as part of the Nintendo Labo playsets.

The controllers are unchanged, a Nintendo rep confirmed to Axios. That means the long-standing issues with the system’s Joy-Con controllers could crop up for the OLED model, too. Players who want to prop their Switch on a table will probably appreciate the OLED model’s broader, unit-wide stand.

The bottom line: The Switch is so hot that minor improvements shouldn’t be a hindrance for Nintendo. It will probably have no problem selling the new model, to the extent the company can make them in these supply-constrained times. Bear in mind, Nintendo still hasn’t needed to drop the base Switch’s $300 price in the U.S. since its 2017 launch.

What’s next: If you’re holding out for a more powerful Switch, Nintendo’s approach to near-annual iterations of its portable hardware suggests it’d be at least a year or two away.

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