Nintendo Switch OLED Model Review
When I reviewed the original Nintendo Switch back in 2017, I said that the “Nintendo Switch feels like the most un-Nintendo thing they’ve ever built.” A slick, minimalist and modern system that you can take and play anywhere.
Since then, Nintendo’s not done anything with the Switch in how it looks or is built. Aside from a slight battery boost, we’ve not seen anything different about what’s inside the system changing either. The Nintendo Switch has been selling so well; Nintendo’s kind of been getting away with doing very little in the hardware space, plus the past 18 months with you-know-what raging around the world probably put the brakes on a lot of changes.
Four years is a long time in technology, and the Switch is getting a little tired. The processing power is getting hammered by more advanced games. Battery and screen technology has improved, and more advanced technologies have dropped in price and risen in availability.
For whatever reason, the Nintendo Switch OLED Model isn’t the “Pro” or “4K” model everyone has been clamouring on about. Still, it doesn’t mean it should be ignored, as the OLED Model makes several significant improvements to the Switch. It’ll just depend on how you play your Switch.
The most significant change to the OLED Model is, you guessed it, the OLED screen – I mean, it’s right there in the name, isn’t it. The new screen replaces the LED panel of the past with a bigger, organic light-emitting diode filled screen that’s a significant improvement in every way.
Being an OLED screen means several things. It’s brighter, has deeper blacks, and there’s a broader colour range. When playing something like Metroid Dread, the empty spaces of stages let the rest of the stage pop out and add to the atmosphere. The colourful tracks of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe look even more vibrant. Going back to the original Switch looks fuzzy and dim – despite the screen being the exact same resolution. My Mario Red Switch also had a really warm colour temperature panel and was worse than the one my launch Switch came with. I’m glad I am graduating to a modern display.
Although the screen size is only 0.8 inches or 2cm bigger when you see it in person, it is something to behold. The bezels on the original Switch seemed big before, and they’re even more prominent now. When you wake up the new model, it’s like the entire device’s front comes to life. The panel is also closer to the plastic, making it look like the content is painted on the surface. The older Switch models now look like you’re looking into a box and seeing a dim dark screen.
The entire front body of the Switch OLED is now also glossy, which looks like it’ll get easily scratched – no more fake piano black if we can avoid it, please. With only having the Switch a week, it’s impossible to know how bad any OLED burn-in might get, but it’s probably best to turn auto-brightness on. Also, Nintendo, please update the NES and SNES online games to allow us to turn off the borders.
Since day one, I could never figure out how the original Switch kickstand got approved. Although far from the stumbling drunk the memes made it out to be, the little flimsy kickstand of the original never made any sense. It worked only on completely flat surfaces and not much else. It could snap off easily and couldn’t even stand up to finger taps from touch-based games.
Forget about all of that now; the new kickstand is perfect. Not only is it great for just holding the system up and angle a lot more surfaces, but it opens the doors for new ways to play.
One downside: the only way to pull the stand out is to stick your fingernail in the repositioned intake vents. The vents also have a mesh over them that’s not flimsy but not entirely rigid either. You’ve got to be careful not to pinch or damage the mesh.
The last of the bullet point changes to the Switch OLED isn’t to the console itself but the dock that comes in the box. The new dock features a new design, and despite being the same size, looks a little bit smaller thanks to some fancy curve work. The back of the dock also no longer has a hinge, and it just pops off. The backplate also has a slot for cables to poke out – it’s just more polished overall.
The LAN port is the only real difference outside of how it looks. You do lose one USB-A port on the back, but now you don’t have to have a chunky USB to LAN adapter should you wish to play that way.
While you can use a new OLED Model in the old dock and an older Switch in the new dock, the new vent locations on the OLED Model and their corresponding spots on the new dock mean the OLED Model might not breathe so well in an older dock and vice versa.
The smaller changes
The updated speakers on the Switch OLED Model seem like a modest improvement in both volume and quality. However, when it kicks up a notch, you notice the stereo separation is now much better. With the speakers themselves larger, and wider apart, it’s more apparent where things are coming from in a game. It’s a nice enough boost in quality.
The Switch OLED also features double the internal memory of the original. It’s still a mere 64GB, which doesn’t seem like a lot in terms of real-world data. However, Switch games generally are smaller, so you might not need an SD card quite as fast as you did before.
As mentioned before, the intake vents have moved position, but also the exhaust seems a little more robust. The power button has also changed shape, which should stop the system from getting cracks along the top of the console like everyone else has already. The texture on the back of the console is also more grippy, which is pleasant. Hopefully, it stays that way.
What’s the same?
Aside from the mentions above, everything else about the Switch OLED is the same. The Joy-Con are the same, the rest of the buttons, the rails for the Joy-Con, the USB-C port, charging speed. The OLED Model is a classic mid-cycle update.
We’ve got a bargain roundup for where to find the OLED Model the cheapest and in-stock here.
Who is it for?
Let’s get the simple thing out of the way first. If you have a Nintendo Switch already and only play in docked mode, there is very little, if anything, here for you. More storage is cheaper via SD card, and if your Joy-Con are getting run down, you don’t need to replace everything. The screen, battery, kickstand and speaker changes will mean nothing to you if you solely play in docked. It’s also likely that if you’re a docked only player, you probably have a USB ethernet port adapter. In 2017 Nintendo revealed that less than 20% of players are docked only, 50% played in both and 30% in portable only. If you’re happy with your Switch, there’s probably not too big of an incentive to change, especially if you’re settled in with a big memory card, have a working Joy-Con, your battery life is still good, and you are happy with the screen included.
So what about everyone else, the 80% who play portably and a share of both?
It all depends on where you are on your journey with the Nintendo Switch. If you’ve got a launch model and the battery is getting tired, your Joy-Con is wonky, and your Switch has been through the wars, then it could be time for an upgrade. If you just jumped into the world of Switch, then unless you love a shiny OLED screen, there won’t be much for you at this point. However, seeing that new screen in person might be enough to change your mind.
Then there are the people who haven’t got a Switch yet. You could find the original model much cheaper than what Nintendo is selling the OLED Model for – but even though the guts inside is the same, the OLED Model feels like a better product now.
The Switch OLED Model contains the same guts graphically as the original Switch. We’re seeing developers bring games to the table that are pushing this little system to the extreme and beyond. The OLED does nothing to change that, and more than four years later, Nintendo must be building something in their bunker to replace it – there’s smoke out there, rumours abound about a successor. But there’ll always be those. The OLED Model is also a lot more expensive than the standard models, whether or not a big shiny screen and the other improvements are worth it is up to you.
The Nintendo Switch OLED Model isn’t the Switch everyone thought it would be. But it’s not a wasted update, the screen is beautiful, and the collection of other changes make it still a worthwhile midlife upgrade – unless you’re a docked only player. It might be some time before we see another Switch model; it might not be – the OLED is a bet each way for Nintendo and you.