When Nintendo revealed the Switch to the world way back in 2016 it felt like the company had taken the best of its home and portable console universes and mashed them together to create the ultimate hybrid. It was something that you could take on the road with you or slide into a dock for a big screen TV experience. Since then, Nintendo has offered up the Switch Lite for folks who either didn’t need the docking feature or were looking for a more inexpensive entry option for their experience. Now, Nintendo is ready to release its latest model, the Switch OLED, and I got a chance to take it for a spin ahead of its launch to see what it had to offer.
From an operating system standpoint, the Switch OLED functions just like the current models, using the same OS and internal organs as them, only now with an expanded 64GB of storage built in. The Joy-Cons are the same as well, only now you have the option of a black and white color motif if you prefer something that has a more minimalist, streamlined look than the mostly neon-laden choices available. The real star of the show here, so to speak, is the brand-new 7-inch OLED screen this Switch model gets the 2nd half of its moniker from.
As one would hope, or perhaps expect from an OLED, this screen is chock full of vibrancy when showing off its color spectrum and has a solid refresh rate. For my hands-on with the Switch OLED I was given a chance to go hog wild in the upcoming Metroid Dread and man-oh-man was it looking good on that screen. All the reds, yellows, oranges, whites, and blues of Samus’ suit felt like they were popping off the screen and the animations looked so damn smooth on that OLED screen. I also experienced no frame-drops or slow-downs during my hands-on time. I also really liked how shiny and clean the beveling looked around the screen as well.
The stunning vibrancy of the Switch OLED’s screen isn’t the only improvement though. There’s also a number of what I would call “quality of life” improvements that this version of the Switch console makes. One of the biggest improvements is actually the completely revamped kickstand. If you spend a lot of time on the go and you only have so much carrying space, you’ve probably used the kickstand on your Switch quite a bit. You’re probably also aware that you only get one viewing angle as that’s all the stand is made to offer. The Switch OLED changes all that and provides a much sturdier stand that’s made to be adjustable.
It may seem like a silly thing to praise, but this feature is a real neck saver and is going to come in extremely helpful for anyone without a dock on hand who doesn’t want the hand fatigue that can come from holding the console for too long. If you need to lower the top angle you can even just give the top of the screen a gentle push to adjust it.
Other quality of life improvements come in the forms of what felt like sturdier locks on the sides for the Joy-Cons and a new and improved speaker system. I tend to use earbuds or keep my volume down when playing in handheld or tabletop mode, so it’s hard for me to say just how much better the speakers on the Switch OLED are when compared to earlier models. I can say that everything sounded clear even when there was background music/noise going on and someone speaking in-game. I think most folks will be pleased with the sound quality of the Switch OLED though.
The other big new thing is the Switch OLED’s revamped dock. Unlike the original Switch Dock, the OLED models feature a built-in Ethernet port. It won’t improve Smash Bros. netcode, but it is a welcome addition for anyone who would prefer to download games quickly or maybe even watch some Hulu or YouTube through the system. I also like that the back cover simply comes off now instead of being on a loose hinge that mostly got in my when connecting HDMI, power, and USB cables. The actual dock part has been widened too so it’s not such a tight fit and should solve issues folks have had in the past with their screens getting scratched or damaged when putting their consoles in. It’s also pretty sweet that the brand-new docks are compatible with the original Switch models as well (Not the Lite though, since they have no docking capability to begin with.)
My overall impressions of the brand-new Switch OLED are pretty dang positive. It has the wonderfully vibrant OLED screen, a healthy 64GB of storage, an improved kickstand, good speakers, and a dock with an Ethernet port. I honestly hope they come out with a new standard Switch model that has some of these quality of life improvements as well. I do think that if you have a regular Switch and play mostly in docked mode that a lot of these improvements would be lost on you though. If you spend a lot of time on the road or playing in handheld mode I think that you’re probably the right person to benefit from everything the Switch OLED has to offer. The MSRP price point is $349.99 USD making it only about $50 USD more for a number of bells and whistles that will make your Switch experience that much better. And if you haven’t bought a Switch yet and have been looking for the right time to strike, you probably couldn’t pick a better moment to hop on the Big N bandwagon.
These impressions are based on an in-person hands-on demo. The Nintendo Switch OLED model is set to launch on October 8, 2021 at a retail price of $349.99 USD.