Despite being almost two years old and a mill of rumors about a possible redesign, the Nintendo Switch is still going strong, turning out to be Nintendo’s most successful gaming hardware since the Wii.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock or just aren’t the gaming type, you’ll know what makes the Nintendo Switch so appealing. It’s the fact that it’s a hybrid home/portable console which can be played while connected to your T.V through a dock or out of the dock using the consoles built-in display. This isn’t purely a home console or a portable console, it shows no real preference to one or the other and treats both equally.
Nintendo Switch review: In the box
The Nintendo Switch comes with a box full of goodies to help get your Switch adventure started. In the box you will find:
- Nintendo Switch console
- Nintendo Switch dock
- Left Joy-Con
- Right Joy-Con
- 2 X Joy-Con wrist straps
- Joy-Con controller grip
- USB-C power cable
- HDMI lead
Nintendo Switch review: Portable design
When undocked, the Switch is in its portable mode. In this mode, it looks a lot like a tablet, a premium one at that. What sets it aside from the typical boring looking tablets of today is its ability to have both the left and right Joy-Cons connected to it using a rail system on each side of the console. Once connected you simply play it like you would any other handheld system.
Nintendo didn’t stop there with the portability, they have also made it possible to play the Switch in ”tabletop mode”. This mode allows you to play the Switch using its built-in display without holding it at the same time. Simply unclip the Joy-Cons and flip the kickstand at the back to play it like this. One issue that arises here though, is the fact the kickstand only supports one angle, meaning you have to play the Switch at a slight tilt when using this method.
With its tablet form factor, the Nintendo Switch comes with a premium design and feel thanks to an all-metal body. The display on the front is a full touchscreen complete with an HD resolution of 720p for portable gaming. Below the display in the bottom left corner is a small circular light sensor, which you may mistake for a camera given its shape, talking of which, unlike other handheld consoles the Switch console itself doesn’t feature any built-in cameras, although there is an IR camera on the bottom of the right Joy-Con, which has been used with Labo.
Running along the top is the game cartridge slot, a headphone jack, the volume rocker and the power switch. Due to its portable nature, it makes sense that the Switch has been given a cartridge slot, not only does it keep the console a fair size, it also has an effect on the battery life, by not draining it with spinning parts. Also present at the top of the console is an air vent for obvious reasons.
The left and right sides of the console are home to a rail system that acts as the connection point for each Joy-Con. The rails securely hold the Joy-Cons in place using a built-in locking system, that is deactivated only when you push the button on the rear of each Joy-Con.
Nintendo Switch review: Home console design
Using the Nintendo Switch as a home console is done using the provided dock, which is basically a big black block of plastic with a small circuit board and a USB type-C connection point inside it.
While rather basic in design the dock does feature some neat little features such as built-in cable management through the use of a large door opening on the back, USB ports for connecting external controllers and an LED light to remind you the Switch is being used in home console mode.
The real magic of the dock, comes from how simple it is to switch between home and portable console mode. The transition from big screen to portable or vice-versa is as seamless as can be. All you have to do is lift the Switch from the dock to enter portable mode or place it in the dock to enter home console mode, all without stopping or pausing your game.
It’s possible to buy extra docks that you can place with other T.V’s around your home, so you can take your Switch from the front room T.V to the bedroom T.V if you wish. The biggest issue here is that despite not doing much, Nintendo sells these docks around the £80.00 price mark, which is pretty steep. There are third-party docks, but these have been said to brick systems completely.
Of course, the dock also serves to charge the Switch’s 4,310mAh Li-Ion battery. This battery can last anywhere from 2.5 hours to 6 hours depending on the game in use. Playing Pokemon Let’s Go for an hour and a half usually takes me from 100% to roughly 70%.
Nintendo Switch review: Joy-Con design
Nintendo’s Joy-Cons really are something different, just like Nintendo’s previous controller designs. You get a left and right one in the box, which can be formed into one controller by attaching them to the Switch or the controller grip, or you can use them as two separate controllers for multiplayer gaming.
On the right Joy-Con you will find Nintendo’s classic A, B, X, Y configuration, an analog stick positioned below the previously mentioned buttons, shoulder buttons, a plus button that acts like a pause button and a button that returns you to the home menu. On the bottom of this Joy-Con, you’ll notice something that looks like an IR blaster, this is, in fact, an IR camera that is utilized by a few games such as 1-2 Switch and Labo.
Moving over to the left Joy-con, things are slightly different with a repositioned analog stick, four circular buttons similar in shape to the A, B, X, Y buttons instead of the traditional directional pad, a screenshot button in place of the home button, a minus button instead of a plus and lastly the shoulder buttons which are positioned exactly the same as they are on the right Joy-Con.
The reason for the lack of a traditional D-Pad on the left Joy-Con is purely because Nintendo has designed these controllers to be used separately from one another, which means the console is pretty much ready for multiplayer gaming right out of the box.
Both Joy-Cons feature shoulder buttons neatly tucked into the rail system on the side. These buttons are used in place of the shoulder buttons on the top when the Joy-Cons are being held horizontally.
Nintendo has equipped the Joy-Cons with that it calls ”HD rumble”, which a more refined take on the usual vibrations given out by console controllers. HD rumble is more than just a rumble, the idea behind it is to feel what’s happening when it happens in the game, such an example from Nintendo itself is being able to feel multiple ice cubes inside a glass through the use of the rumble. It’s not something I’ve really noticed much in the games I have played.
Motion detection technology is featured in both Joy-Cons, meaning some games give you the ability to flip, shake or twist your Joy-Con for some seriously fun controller input. For example, the Pokemon Lets Go games make use of this feature by allowing you to throw a Poke ball by flipping the Joy-Con towards the Pokemon on-screen.
Three accessories for the Joy-Cons come included in the package. These are the standard (none charging) Joy-Con grip and two wrist strap devices. Just like they do with the console, the Joy-Cons attach to these accessories through the use of the rail system.
Despite their small size, I have found the Joy-Cons to be very comfortable in use when playing in T.V mode or Tabletop mode. Even after a couple of hours of Pokemon let’s Go: Pikachu with just one Joy-Con in use, the comfort is still there. With the Joy-Cons connected to the console in portable mode, it’s a little less comfortable for me and I generally find myself taking breaks every now and again.
Charging the Joy-Cons is possible one of two ways, you can either charge them connected to the Switch while in its dock or go and buy a charging grip. Unfortunately for whatever reason, the Joy-Cons do not feature USB ports for charging the built-in batteries.
Nintendo Switch review: Software and U.I
Nintendo has done a solid job in creating a friendly, easy to use UI that makes navigating the Switch a pleasant task. With the choice of touch screen or controller input, it’s simple to move from one screen to another.
Of course, it’s obvious that while docked you will be navigating your Switch using the Joy-Cons only. The navigation remains quite smooth using the Joy-Cons, although you don’t get that swiping left and right satisfaction provided by the touchscreen.
It’s clear to see Nintendo has focused on providing a clean and simple experience. The home area features your game collection which you can swipe left or right using your fingers or the Joy-Con taking center stage, while below at the bottom of the screen is a set of six buttons for accessing things such as your settings, screenshot gallery and even the Nintendo eShop.
The Nintendo Switch is capable of having up to 8 profiles at a time, meaning you and your family can easily share one console. Switching between the profiles for games is incredibly simple thanks to an on-screen prompt that pops up each time you launch a game. If you want to switch profiles before launching a game, you can do this by navigating to the top corner of the screen where you will see each profiles avatar picture.
In a move that not everyone will agree with, there are no real entertainment apps such as Netflix or Amazon video on the Switch at this moment in time. Nintendo has always stated that the purpose of the Switch is for gaming and that it’s not a multimedia center. For me, this isn’t really an issue as I tend to watch these things through my smart T.V and I don’t really watch things on the go anyway.
Nintendo Switch review: Nintendo Switch Online
Much like the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, the Nintendo Switch finally has an online service known as ‘Nintendo Switch Online’. For a small fee of £17.99 a year, you get access to this service. Compared to its two competitors this is a cheap price, however, there’s a reason for that and that’s simply that Nintendo Switch Online is nowhere near as good as PS Plus or Xbox Live Gold. That said it’s good for what it is and what it does for the Switch, but it could be and should be a hell of a lot better.
What you get for your money are five features you wouldn’t get without the service. Online Play, a NES app for playing old school NES games, a smartphone app, save data cloud and special offers.
Playing online is exactly what it says. Playing online with other people, as you would on your PS4 or Xbox One. For some reason, certain online games like Fortnite and Brawllhalla (a free to play platform fighter game similar to Super Smash Bros) do not require the Nintendo Switch Online service to be played. I’m not complaining, but I am wondering why?
Like PS Plus and Xbox Live Gold, Nintendo Switch online offers you automatic save data backup to the cloud for most games. This means you can easily access your data should something happen. The data can be accessed from any Switch that your account is on.
The NES app I mentioned offers a wide selection of games that you play through the app itself. There’s a large selection and new games are added every month. While it’s a nice feature it has nothing on the modern games offered by PS Plus and Xbox Live Gold. That said I am impressed to see that Nintendo has made it possible to play these old games online with friends, which gives them a bit more playability.
A big downside that seems like a major dumb move by Nintendo is that to voice chat using the online features you have to use the smartphone app as the Switch itself doesn’t fully support this on its own. I say ”fully” because games like Fortnite offer voice chat through the Switch itself, so it’s obviously do-able.
Nintendo offers several price plans for this subscription, which are as follows in the U.K:
- 1 month £3.49 (single account
- 3 months £6.99 (single account)
- 12 months £17.99 (single account)
- 12 months £31.49 (Up to 8 accounts per family group)
When compared to PS Plus and Xbox Live Gold, it’s easy to see the price differences, especially for a year, but given what you get, it’s no surprise just how cheap this service is in comparison.
I do have to say I am not a fan of Nintendo’s ”family plan”, both PS Plus and Xbox Live Gold allow multiple accounts on one console to share the benefits without charging extra.
Nintendo Switch review: Game library
Since its launch it 2017, the Switch has seen its fair share of decent games such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the wild, Super Mario: Odyssey and Pokemon Let’s Go just to name a few.
The biggest problem with the Switch library is that while it offers decent games, a lot of them are ports from the Wii U such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the wild, Mario Kart 8 deluxe and the recently released Super Mario Bros. U deluxe. There’s also a number of third-party titles that have been ported such as Skyrim and Crash Bandicoot: N-Sane trilogy. Don’t get me wrong these games are good but it just seems that the Switch is more a port console than anything else.
The balancing fact here, in relation to Wii U ports, is that if you’ve never owned a Wii U, you most likely haven’t played any of these games, which means they do feel fresh and I have to admit I have enjoyed every second of Mario Kart 8 deluxe on the Switch
Despite various rumors, AAA titles such as Red Dead Redemption II will never see a Switch version owing to the fact the Switch hardware is simply underpowered when compared to the PlayStation and Xbox One consoles and let’s not forget that on those two consoles the file size came to over 100GB across two discs.
Talking of 100GB game files, if you want to download your games from the eShop, rather than buy physical copies, you may want to invest in a decent microSD card, as all versions of the Switch come with a measly 32GB of flash storage built-in, which isn’t a lot when you consider that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the wild eShop download comes in at 13.4GB, taking almost half of the stated space, but let’s not forget some of that 32GB is also taken for system files so even less space is actually left after installing a game like this.
Since the console only offers a 720p display, you won’t be getting Full-HD graphics from your games while out and about. When docked, however, the system pushes out 1080p for T.V’s that support it. It’s amazing how good Pokemon Let’s Go: Pikachu looks on my TV in 1080p, although it doesn’t look too shabby on the Switch’s bright 720p display.
Nintendo Switch review: Conclusion
Like many people I originally doubted the Switch, mainly based on the failure that is the Wii U. Let’s face it by that point Nintendo had managed to humiliate itself in terms of home console offerings and it was going to be no easy challenge for them to make up for it.
Of course, in my haste to doubt it, I was blinded by mistakes of the past and upon finally giving the Switch a go I realized this. It’s so much fun to play and despite having a large library of ports, the games are a lot of fun, especially if you’ve never owned the Wii U versions, which let’s face it you probably never did, I mean who owned a Wii U?
The Switch console itself shows that Nintendo knows how to make premium, sturdy feeling hardware. An all metal body, combined with a decent looking design proves this.
It would be nice to see Nintendo lower the price of the official dock significantly to make it more affordable for people who may want to have multiple docks located around their home.
The Joy-Cons despite their small size are incredibly comfortable to use and feel well made. It would be nice if Nintendo bundled a charge grip with them in the package instead of the regular version.
Nintendo Switch online could and as I said earlier should be a lot better. This could be done by providing more modern content in terms of games and by allowing online voice chat to be done from the console instead of a separate mobile device.
Both portable and docked, the Switch is a fantastic bit of hardware that has shown Nintendo can be innovative in the console gaming world where not much is usually different. The Switch executes its purpose well, thanks to a seamless transition from home console to portable console with no real effort from the user required. A wide selection of games from different developers ensures there’ll be hours of fun console quality fun, at home or on the go.
- Well made hardware
- Easy transition from home to portable console
- User-friendly U.I
- A vast library of games
- A lot of Wii U ports
- Nintendo Switch Online could be better
- No bundled charging grip
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