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Nintendo Switch (OLED model) hands-on impressions

After spending a full hour with the newer, shinier model, here are some thoughts and a bunch of more specific details beyond the screen quality.

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On October 8 Nintendo will release the brand-new OLED model of the Switch console, a revision of the original model that launched in 2017 which aims to improve its hybrid gaming experience in any of its three modes (TV, tabletop, and handheld).

As it's pretty obvious, the name says it all and the main difference here is the added picture quality and screen size provided by its 7-inch OLED panel, but other than testing the new screen and comparing it with both the original's and Switch Lite's, I also noticed several little additions and tweaks here and there, on both the console and its dock, which might be of your interest.

The new screen is immediately noticeable

The main new feature is as eye-catching as you would expect. Not only does it look considerably better in terms of brightness, contrast, or viewing angles, but also when it comes to its design, as it fits the unit much better, occupying more space and leaving a reduced, more elegant bezel.

I played some Mario Kart, Zelda, and 51 Worldwide Games to compare IQ, colours and the overall experience. The additional 0.8 inches mean you need to get accustomed to it if you're a handheld player, as some elements will look different in terms of size and even placement.

The picture itself is, of course, brighter and more contrasted, and the colours more vivid, perhaps even a bit too much for some elements that were undoubtedly coloured with the original screen in mind (take the hands in 51 WW Games,
for example, they look weirdly reddish in comparison). It is also warmer in colour temperature, so much so the white menus in both OG and Lite look blueish next to it.

I feared that, same as with the 3DS XL before, switching to a bigger screen could result in an uglier, more pixelated image. However, even though output resolution and pixel density seemingly remain the same, only the trained eye will be able to detect the occasional aliased edge (for example in a menu 2D graphic), while the benefits more than compensate for it. The 921.600 pixel count seems like a reasonable choice for this size and for the games to perform well, more so considering there's no boost in CPU, GPU, or other specs.

One thing I really appreciated is how the brighter OLED screen performs with reflections and with viewing angles. You will keep getting distracting lights on top of your gameplay when say a strip light is reflected like a mirror, but darker elements see themselves faded, as for instance happened with my own fingers. Regarding the always-feared burn-in and image retention issues with OLED screens, that's a test that will have to wait until we spend more time with the unit.

Regarding viewing angles, they remain quite similar when watching from the sides (although the added brightness and size go a long way) but then increase drastically in comparison if you move the unit upside down. This improvement goes hand in hand with the new multi-angle stand for a much better tabletop experience.

Nintendo Switch (OLED model) hands-on impressions

Much better grip in tabletop mode

The Nintendo Switch OLED model comes with a new backstand that uses pretty much the whole width of the unit, compared to the tiny, more unstable 'leg' that we got with the first Switch. It also can be fixed at any angle, from almost 90 degrees (perpendicular to the table) to almost 180 degrees (lying horizontally).

It looks sturdy and solid (here's hoping it remains like that with time), but what caught my attention is that the unit itself grips much better to the surface thanks to two tiny rubber protuberances that have been added to the sides of the device, whereas until now the rubber end was on the tiny leg instead of the unit itself. The result? I stopped playing in tabletop mode when travelling by train or plane because it wouldn't stop shaking, but after the few tests I performed, and together with the better viewing angles, I'm sure many's the time I'll go tabletop with the OLED.

The handheld experience

Overall, given the new screen, the handheld experience is just more vibrant and spectacular. It is true that there's an added weight of 22 g (and 3 mm of negligible added width), but based on my tests it's pretty unnoticeable compared to holding the OG Switch. Of course, the difference is greater if you switch back and forth with the Lite, but if you're used to that already, now you'll have a harder time opting for the lighter model just because of the screen upgrade.

The so-called "enhanced audio" also makes for improved sound. It seemed louder to me at first, but after performing some dB tests and listening carefully, the volume was pretty similar to the OG Switch (perhaps slightly louder) - it was just clearer and richer with the bigger speakers, creating a better stereo separation.

Then, in terms of controls, the Joy-Cons seemed more firmly attached to the unit, even though they use three instead of five screws to fixate their rails now. However, this could be more related to the Joy-Con themselves as they were brand-new, and not to any design tweak to the unit. Don't expect any change on the controllers either, as they're your regular Joy-Cons, just in a new white finish. If Nintendo managed to prevent the Lite's sticks from drifting, we just hope the annoying issue is finally gone for good for each and every controller.

Wait a minute, Dock

Finally, the Dock base gains an inner LAN port instead of the USB port that was next to HDMI and USB-C. It's quite convenient, and in my case, I rather use the external USB ports to connect or recharge controllers, and not to keep an ugly ethernet adapter hooked to the system so that I get an advantage given my otherwise poor performance when fighting online in Smash Bros.

Elsewhere with the Dock, I noticed that the four little rubber pads have been replaced by a full rubber-like plastic base for, again, better grip. Also that the back lid is now fully removable instead of acting like a 'door'. And, interestingly enough, that I felt a considerable looseness when leaving the unit docked, more so than with the original. Old and new consoles and docks are fully compatible, so I wonder if this has to do with further preventing screen scratching.

All in all, Nintendo emphasised that this will be a new addition to the Switch family, meaning no replacement to the original model. We'll see about that in the future, but given the tiny price difference between the two, and of course before spending much more time with the OLED model for a full review, I see little reason to opt for the OG ever again, be it as your first ever Switch or as an additional unit. It looks like it could've been much more, but it also presents itself as the most tempting version of the hardware so far.

Nintendo Switch (OLED model) hands-on impressions


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