With the massively popular Nintendo Switch reaching its fourth year since its release in 2017, it was inevitable that revisions of the hybrid handheld/home console would begin to materialise.
Nintendo practically invented mid-generation hardware revisions with devices like the Game Boy Advance SP, Game Boy Colour and several variants of the DS systems.
The smaller, handheld-only Switch Lite was released back in 2019, but fans have been hoping for a more advanced model for years, to close the gap between the 4K, powerhouse consoles from Microsoft and Sony.
Nintendo is known for ignoring any graphical arms race to focus on a more creative approach and the OLED Model continues that trend somewhat.
At first glance, it appears Nintendo has stuck to a very similar design to the original, except for that new glorious display. However, there are a few other small changes and upgrades here and there.
Featuring new, eye-catching, white Joy-Con and white dock, however, the body of the Switch retains its matte black. But for those who like to keep a low profile, the OLED Model is also available with the standard red and blue Joy-Con as well as a black dock.
Measuring 4 inches high, 9.5 inches long, and 0.55 inches deep with Joy-Con attached, it is only 2.54mm longer than the standard model which doesn’t make any difference visually or to gameplay – but may affect cases and grips you want to use.
The OLED Model weighs approximately 421g with Joy-Con controllers attached, making it 23 grams heavier than the standard model; which isn’t enough to make it uncomfortable but is certainly noticeable.
Build quality is much improved with the OLED’s and the weight feels a lot better distributed and more solid compared to the previous systems. In addition, the materials on the device body itself feel tougher and slightly easier to grip.
Rails for connecting Joy-Con feel sturdier too, making the whole system feel more secure in my hands. The Volume and power buttons on top feel a little sleeker and smaller making them less prone to any accidental touch.
The thin and flimsy kickstand on the previous model has thankfully been replaced with a much more stable stand that covers the entire width of the body.
The hinge of the stand also has a surprising amount of flexibility which is great for tabletop.
The main event here is that new screen, which is a marked improvement on the previous Switch’s; colours are richer, and images look sharper and brighter too.
The plastic, 6-inch, LCD screen has been replaced with a glass, 7-inch OLED display that looks amazing, feels tougher, featuring smaller bezels making it look neater and like a more modern device.
Other Switch screens use a backlit panel which lights the screen from a single light source leading to lower contrast and duller whites and blacks in the previous models.
However with OLED (or Organic light-emitting diode), each individual pixel is lit, giving a much higher contrast and stopping any bleeding of light, so the darker parts of the screen stay dark.
This makes a dramatic difference on high contrast or darker games, including The Witcher, Astral Chain, Bioshock and Skyrim just to name a few.
Just like the older models, this supports resolutions up to 1080p in docked mode and the same maximum of 720p in handheld mode. This is a shame considering most modern phones can display higher, and 4K gaming is fast becoming the norm.
One of the key criticisms of this system is the addition of a clearer screen without the upgrade of its graphical capabilities.
The screen is much sharper, which looks great for some titles, but it also means some of the ports of older games really show their age but some of the better-looking games really shine.
The new screen also benefits from improved viewing angles, making it much better for tabletop play. It also fares well in direct sunlight outdoors, which is important for a device that is supposed to go outside.
The new model also boasts enhanced audio which did sound clearer and slightly louder, but the changes aren’t as dramatic and the new screen.
It also features a standard 3.5mm audio jack on top the same as the 2017 model, and also benefits from the recent Bluetooth compatibility update.
Featuring a much needed upgraded internal 64Gb memory, from the paltry 32Gb on the previous models, it may not be a revolution but helps save on the cost of SD cards, especially for cash strapped gamers as they won’t need to buy a card straight away.
Another important note is that games stored on the internal memory load faster than their cartridge-based and SD counterparts.
Aside from the new paint job, the dock has also seen some minor improvements too, seeing the addition of an ethernet port to enable faster and more stable internet.
The trade-off is it has one less USB port than the previous dock, but most gamers just used that port to add a USB to an ethernet converter anyway.
While the addition of an ethernet port is appreciated, it does feel a little outdated using cabled internet in 2021.
The inside of the dock is much smoother than the previous models to help prevent scuffs to that all-important display.
It also has a removable back panel which helps with cable management, and a vent that slightly increases airflow to the unit when docked; my original Switch when docked could sometimes get a little warm and set the fan into overdrive.
I must admit that after enjoying the clarity of that new screen I did feel slight disappointment at there being no change to docked performance.
Not everything in this device is new and improved; sadly the OLED Model uses most of the exact same hardware, including the Nvidia custom Tegra processor and RAM that was inside the 2019 Switch that replaced the original 2017 launch device.
So you’ll still have that superior battery life but sadly no boost to performance. I can’t help thinking the Switch OLED could have offered even a slight performance boost as the New 3DS added to the 3DS.
With the same hardware, the OLED offers nearly the same performance, but it was quieter and did run cooler than my 2017 original model but the same as my revised 2019 Switch.
It also has the same accelerometer, gyroscope, and brightness sensor so all compatible games will work the same and it obviously uses the exact same Nintendo Switch game cartridges as before so there’s no need to worry about your current library.
There are currently some experts tearing down the dock and identifying a new ARM Processor which can receive potential Firmware updates which could lead to changes in performance and even possibly upscaling but this has not yet been confirmed.
The rechargeable 4310mAh Lithium-ion battery offers about 4.5 to 9 hours compared to the launch Switch’s 2.5 to 6.5 hours, but this can vary depending on the game you are playing, as more graphically intensive games like Breath of the Wild will use much more power. Charging takes about 3 hours the same as the previous version 2 Switch.
I tested the New Switch in the old dock and the old switch in the new dock, as well as trying different Joy-Con and 3rd party controllers and as expected they worked fine.
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Compatible with most accessories that were designed for the original Switch, the only exception I’ve found is that some cases and grips might not fit the ever so slightly wider body.
At a very reasonable price of £309, this is very affordable for an upgraded unit, considering the 2017 model released at £299.99.
The Nintendo Switch OLED feels like a much more premium device, with the upgraded screen, better kickstand and improved memory capacity adding up to create the definitive Switch experience.
That screen really has to be seen to be believed and there’s a definite thrill in seeing games you’ve played many times before with improved clarity and sharpness is a fantastic experience; I only wish Nintendo had taken it just a little further and bumped up the performance just a bit.
It offers superior portable gaming but those who play docked might be a little disappointed that there isn’t much of a change to TV performance.
The OLED is perfect for gamers on the go and a brilliant option for anyone new to the Switch, while also proving a tempting upgrade especially for those with the Version 1 model or Lite.
The Nintendo Switch OLED Model is available from October 8 for £309.99 and can be ordered directly from Nintendo Store