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Nintendo OLED Switch review: The screen is the star

A significant upgrade to an ageing machine but it’s not the Pro version we were expecting

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CONSOLES are no stranger to the mid-life crisis, the one where the parent company takes advantage of advances in technology to redesign the machine after a few years on the market. Sometimes the price drops too.

The aim is to rejuvenate sales and regain the attention of a notoriously fickle audience. Sony and Microsoft both went one step further in the last generation by turbo-charging the chips inside.

Nintendo had long been rumoured to do the same with a so-called Switch Pro, an upgrade to the wildly successful handheld that could potentially pump out 4K visuals. Instead, we’ve just been handed the OLED Switch and it’s hard not to swallow a sigh of disappointment.

Remember, Nintendo has already produced the Switch Lite – no TV mode – in 2019 and subtly enhanced the original Switch in 2020 with longer battery life … and not much else. So the OLED must be a radical rethink in 2021?

Well, yes and no. At a glance, the new machine probably looks identical if you don’t have an older version to hand for comparison. But turn on that gorgeous OLED display and you see immediately where Nintendo’s designers have placed their bet.

Side by side with an older Switch, the OLED tech easily outclasses its sibling both in terms of brightness, crispness and size. At seven inches, it actually feels considerably larger than 6.2-inch dimensions of predecessors, probably something to do with the smaller bezels.

It achieves this leap without an increase in resolution, which could dismay anyone hoping for better image quality while the OLED Switch is attached to your big-screen TV.

But as we see in new release Metroid Dread, the OLED tech at least allows for deeper blacks and dazzling whites in handheld mode. Colours too pop far more in vibrant games such as Breath of the Wild or Super Mario Odyssey.

That’s not quite the end of the redesign. Apart from low-key changes to some buttons on the top of the machine and an Ethernet port on the dock, the most significant other shift brings a welcome improvement to the kickstand, which now runs the length of the machine’s rear. It feels far more sturdy and indeed more useful.

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But that’s where the makeover effectively stops. The controllers’ design remains the same outwardly but hopefully the issue of Joy Con “drift” has been put to bed. The messiness of the Switch’s interface goes unaddressed, though. The process of transferring your games from an old Switch to the new one is quite painful, especially if you don’t subscribe to Nintendo Online, which puts your saves in the cloud. In that case, you must manually send the saves one by one, and redownload your games, a tedious process.

All that said, if your first-generation Switch is beginning to creak and show its age, the OLED model would feel a revelatory upgrade with its longer battery life and terrific screen. Owners of the more recent edition would struggle to justify the new outlay, which at €365 is a good bit dearer than the €300 for a 2020 Switch, or €240 for admittedly much less capable Switch Lite.


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