Though they don’t come out with the annual frequency of an iPhone, video game consoles can always be counted on to have a few mid-cycle refreshes (think: the PlayStation 4 Pro or Xbox One X). This week it’s Nintendo giving the OG Switch a makeover, adding an OLED screen and a few other exterior tweaks. But it’s basically the same system on the inside, so don’t call it the Switch Pro. It’s officially dubbed the Nintendo Switch OLED, because calling it the “slightly nicer Switch” doesn’t really move units from the shelves. If you’ve already invested in a Switch or Switch Lite you won’t need the upgrade, but if you’re still Switch-less this is the model to buy.
It’s $50 more than the original, which is not being pulled from shelves just yet. For $350, the new Switch has a full 7-inch OLED screen, a step up from the older model’s 6.2-inch display. The larger screen size is appreciated, though after six hours of playing it in handheld mode I didn’t notice the difference as much.
- OLED screen is larger and brighter
- Improved battery life over previous models
- New stand makes it easier to play in tabletop mode
- Matte plastic coating feels good to hold
- Ethernet port
- Heavier than other Switch units
- Still no way to charge while playing in tabletop mode
- More expensive
What did catch my attention when I switched back to the original were the chunky bezels around the 6.2-inch display. I’ve never liked them and found them to be one of the least attractive things about the system. Now they make me recoil in disgust when I compare them to the OLED model’s slim lines, which have been whittled to a third of the size. The matte plastic frame around the screen has also shrunk and changed to a glossy plastic, making it even less obtrusive.
As for the display itself: yes, it is noticeably brighter. There’s enough of a difference that in my initial hands-on I was dismayed when I returned to my personal Switch at home hours later. When placed side by side, the difference is undeniable. The colors pop just a bit more, the blacks are deeper and the whites are… more white, with the original having a slight lavender tint in contrast to the purer white of the OLED screen.
While not every game will benefit from better colors, Nintendo is also releasing Metroid Dread the same day. Like all titles in the series, the game traffics in a lot of dark spaces, with the bright pop of Samus’ red and yellow (or blue) armor contrasting nicely alongside backgrounds of brown and gray. It’s a good showcase for the OLED’s improved color fidelity and just a nice-looking game in general, which distracts from the fact that the new Switch doesn’t bring any actual improvements under the hood.
The CPU and GPU go unaltered, which ensures that all future Switch titles remain compatible with existing Switch and Switch Lite systems. This is pretty much in keeping with the Game Boy Advance and 3DS lines of products, which saw some radical redesigns like the Game Boy micro and 2DS over their lifespans. Sure, there were handhelds like the DSi and New 3DS that came with improved internal specs, but those never saw widespread adoption. The Switch OLED is a lot more like the Game Boy Advance SP: significant improvements to the display and form factor, but the same old library of games.