Nintendo Switch OLED review: Beautiful, but not a must-have

Image Credit: Kris Naudus / Engadget

Alongside that new display are a bunch of minor tweaks that don’t seem like much when considered individually, but as a whole really improve the experience. The most notable is the new stand on the back. The one on the original Switch is small and roughly a finger’s width, with only two positions: open and closed. The one on my original launch unit no longer locks in the “closed” position and has a tendency to flop out when I’m playing in handheld mode. It also detaches completely if you look at it funny.

The Switch OLED’s stand is an entirely different beast. Instead of a skinny little strip, it’s now a Microsoft Surface-style panel that stretches across the back of the entire unit, with real hinges that can be left in a number of positions so you can now put your unit at whatever angle you prefer. I wouldn’t try to pull this thing off; the hinges are actually molded into the plastic, so if you do break it, it’ll have to go off to the Nintendo repair shop to get fixed up.

Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Switch OLED, face down

Kris Naudus / Engadget

To accommodate the new stand a bunch of stuff has been moved around on the back of the Switch unit. The logo is now printed on the stand itself, so it’s been moved to the lower half of the rear. The manufacturing info, like the parts number and voltage, is now printed in black on the black plastic, underneath the stand. So it’s doubly hidden — a subtle but welcome improvement. The rear speakers have been moved to the bottom edge of the unit, where they also serve as a way to pull the stand out. It’s actually very thoughtful, while providing clear game audio and minimizing system noise. And, while the microSD hasn’t been completely relocated, it’s now placed parallel to the bottom edge. I assume this small change is to keep users from accidentally pulling out the card when they’re trying to adjust the stand. The one thing that hasn’t been relocated is the USB-C port on the bottom, so you still can’t recharge it in tabletop mode.

Face down, bottom pointed at camera

Kris Naudus / Engadget

There are fewer changes to the device’s top edge, with the most notable being a button redesign resulting in longer, thinner power and volume switches. The new buttons aren’t easier to hit, but they do look sleeker and feel better under my fingers thanks to the textured plastic of the Switch OLED. The system is actually just nicer to hold now, like when it kept the sweat from pooling under my clammy hands during a particularly stressful boss fight in Metroid Dread.

Metroid Dread on screen, Joy-Cons in front

Kris Naudus / Engadget

Because the Switch OLED has to be compatible with all existing accessories, that means the unit is the same height and width as the original model. The Joy-Cons haven’t gotten a redesign, but hopefully the infamous “Joy-Con drift” has been eradicated by now. The new black and white color scheme is very nice, a step up from my all-gray launch unit in terms of style. If you like a more playful color palette, the Switch OLED can also be bought with red and blue Joy-Cons, or you can swap any other Joy-Cons you want. But the white ones don’t show scratches as easily as the other shades, so they’ll look spiffy for longer.

The one change in the system’s dimensions is the weight, thanks to the OLED screen. When handling the original and new Switch side by side, the difference is undeniable. But it’s not a big enough divide to make the Switch OLED less portable in any way. Subjectively, it might actually seem a bit lighter, possibly because the weight is well-distributed. The one thing about the build that feels like a step down is that the OLED model has a tiny bit of flex in the middle of the rear panel that’s not present in the original. However, it doesn’t make much of a difference to the build quality unless you’re planning to take a hammer to the back of the unit.

Face down, on a stack of games

Kris Naudus / Engadget

Because the system keeps the same internals, that means the battery has gone unchanged as well. It’s the same as the refreshed 2019 battery, which offers between four and nine hours of battery life compared to the launch unit’s cap of six hours. However, the new OLED should be more power-efficient than the LCD, and in use it appears to be. I got almost seven hours of Metroid Dread before I got the “low battery” warning at 15 percent, and that’s a game that makes frequent use of vibration. Compare that to the four or five hours I tend to get out of my OG Switch, even when playing something fairly tame like Animal Crossing or Untitled Goose Game.

If you already have an existing Switch, you can drop the OLED model into your current dock and it will work just fine. But the system does come with its own, redesigned dock that you might want to set up. It looks a lot nicer thanks to its rounded corners and glossy black plastic on the inside (which admittedly will probably scratch up over time). The back panel isn’t great, as it feels flimsy and can come off completely (so you may lose it). But all of these are outweighed by the important addition of an ethernet port.

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