From Animal Crossing to Zelda, Nintendo’s library of gaming franchises is legendary. Though it’s not perfect, there’s no better way to play all these games—including a surprising amount of ports from other consoles—than the new Nintendo Switch OLED (available at Amazon for $349.99). It has everything that made the original Switch an instant classic, but with a slightly faster processor and a screen so good it’s become this model’s namesake. If you are getting a Nintendo Switch anytime soon, this is the one to get.
Of course, a lot of people have a Switch they’re already satisfied with. If that’s the case, the new OLED Switch isn’t much of a reason to upgrade. It’s slick, it’s faster, and has better battery life than the original Switch, but it doesn’t play any games the original can’t.
About the Switch OLED
Display: 7-inch 720p OLED LCD
Processor: 16nm Tegra X1+, 4GB LPDRR4 RAM
Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wifi
Controllers: Two detachable Joy Cons included
Storage:64GB internal, MicroSDXC expandable
Audio: 3.5mm headphone jack, Bluetooth headphones supported
Dimensions (W x H x D): 9.5 x 4.0 x 0.55 inches
The Nintendo Switch OLED earns its namesake from its OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) screen. OLED screens are similar to the LED/LCD screens found on most gadgets and phones (including the original Switch), but their unique design means every pixel provides its own light. That means when it’s off, it’s all the way off, so blacks become truly black giving your picture more contrast.
The new model also inherits some of the benefits that rolled out with the 2019 Nintendo Switch Lite, including a larger battery and more efficient processor. The Switch Lite remains in the lineup as a smaller, cheaper option with controls that are permanently attached.
What We Like
The display is big, bright, and beautiful
Where else is there to start? The 7-inch OLED screen is the reason for the Switch OLED to even exist, and it is by far the most notable upgrade. It’s still just 720p (so HD instead of Full HD), but in handheld mode you’re unlikely to notice much of a difference compared to higher-resolution screens.
One thing you will notice is the OLED’s ability to drive more realistic contrast, punchier colors, and better brightness control. Nintendo’s library of first- and third-party titles tends to lean toward the cartoonish and colorful side, and that style of art really plays to the Switch OLED’s strengths.
The battery life is much longer
The main issue with the original Switch? Lackluster battery life. It could be particularly spotty after six months or a year of use, dropping from fix or six hours to around four or less when playing more intensive games like Breath of the Wild or Doom ports.
Though the battery in the Switch OLED seems to be the same 4,200 mAh part as the original, the processor is more efficient. Nintendo lists the approximate battery life as the same (4.5 hours up to 9 hours), but in my experience you’re more likely to get to the 8-hour mark whereas the 2017 launch model rarely got more than six hours.
The games are still stellar
Yes, we’re reviewing the hardware here, but the only thing that makes the Nintendo Switch a worthwhile purchase is the games. In particular, Nintendo’s first-party exclusive titles like Smash Bros., Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Mario Kart, Mario Party, Animal Crossing, Pokemon—the list goes on and on.
The Switch also features a healthy collection of classic games from the Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64, and GameCube eras available through Nintendo’s online service.
What we don’t like
There’s no 4K upgrade in sight
The Nintendo Switch is now four years old, and rumors have been swirling for half that time of a mid-cycle refresh that would take the Switch and ramp up the speed and graphics, offering 4K-ready graphics—at least when docked to your TV, if not in handheld mode.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case. The Switch OLED uses the same processor as the Switch Lite, so the gaming ability is largely the same. It’s dockable, but even with the doc the processor can only drive gaming up to 1080p.
It does make sense that Nintendo would hold off on a true upgrade to the Switch since it would fragment its player base between the old Switch and the new, but games today are meant to scale and Nintendo could certainly deliver a 4K-ready Switch without leaving original Switch players behind.
The jump to 64GB storage isn’t nearly enough
This has been a problem across all of tech, but flash storage (the kind you’ll find in just about everything from memory cards to smartphones and gaming consoles) is dirt cheap. There are 256GB SD cards available, at retail, for $20 or so. Nintendo bumped the storage from 32GB to 64GB in this revision, but memory prices have dropped tremendously in four years.
You can easily add a larger card to the Switch, but you shouldn’t have to. Especially in a console where games are running anywhere from 5-10GB apiece, having internal storage that tops out after just a few games is really unacceptable.
Should you buy it?
Yes, if you don’t own a Switch already
If you already have a Switch, the new OLED model isn’t a good enough value to upgrade, unless you can sell your old Switch or you have someone else you want to give it to. It’s a great console, and the upgrades here are all welcome (if a bit overdue), but it doesn’t fundamentally do anything the original Switch can’t do.
But if you don’t own a Switch yet, this is the first one you should look at. Though a used launch model or a Lite will be cheaper, this is the best version of Nintendo’s original Switch vision: a powerful handheld console with great battery life and the ability to transform your gaming experiences from your living room TV to on-the-go seamlessly.
It’s a fantastic entry in Nintendo’s legendary lineup of handheld consoles. It may not be the “Pro” Switch many were hoping for, but it’s easy to see why, in the current market, Nintendo would hold off on that. There’s a ton of life left in this handheld generation for Nintendo, and until someone comes and knocks them off their platform, Nintendo will continue to reign as king of handheld gaming.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.