Nintendo Switch OLED review: The best Switch yet, but not quite different enough

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The OLED Nintendo Switch has a bigger, better display. But its improved kickstand also means tabletop mode makes more sense now.

Scott Stein/CNET

I’m going to make this absolutely simple for you: The Switch OLED is the best Nintendo Switch there is, period. But your kids aren’t going to care. Or, at least, mine didn’t. 

I learned this the hard way when I took the OLED-screen Switch downstairs to show my kids and got the Cold Hard Shrug of Indifference. My littlest kid wants a Switch he can fold up and put in his pocket. My older kid thought it was nicer, but also said he’s fine with the Switch he has. That’s the thing about the latest Switch update: the subtle upgrades are great, but they’re also more like things the original Switch should have had in the first place.

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The newest version of the Switch is the most expensive: $350, or $50 more than the . Is it worth it? To me, yes. To my kids, no. But I’m old, my eyes are bad, and I love the idea of tabletop game consoles.

8.7

Nintendo Switch OLED

LikeBigger 7-inch OLED displayImproved adjustable kickstandStorage doubles to 64GBDock adds an Ethernet port

Don’t Like$50 more expensiveSame Joy-Cons as before (but that’s also good)TV and handheld resolution still underwhelm

I bought a midway through the pandemic. I already had a Paperwhite. I read a lot. The Oasis has a nicer, bigger screen. I don’t regret it.

The Switch OLED is like the Kindle Oasis of Switches. That bigger, more vibrant OLED display is obviously better. That’s why a lot of people at CNET (not me, though) have an , and we’ve been talking about the advantage OLED brings to phones for years. (One thing I don’t know the answer to yet is if there are any concerns with .) If you play a lot of Switch games in handheld mode, and want the best experience, this is it. And now that I’ve played it for a week, I obviously like this Switch the best.

But the other way this shines is in the Switch’s third mode: tabletop mode.

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Finally, a good tabletop Switch

I always wanted a , an old game console from the ’80s that had vector graphics and looked like a self-contained mini arcade machine you’d stand up on a desk. I used to put iPads in . I love the idea of Arcade1Up’s retro machines.

The Switch has two clear gaming modes: handheld, and playing docked with a TV. But there’s another. Tabletop mode means you use the Switch as a propped-up screen and huddle around it with your detachable Joy-Con controllers. That mode has generally been lousy with the original Switch, because its flimsy kickstand is terrible and it only stands at one angle. The original Switch’s 6.2-inch screen is also better viewed from shorter distances, while tabletop gaming makes it feel too small for collaborative split-screen games.

The older Switch’s bad kickstand (left) and the newer OLED Switch’s nice, adjustable kickstand (right).

Scott Stein/CNET

The 7-inch OLED Switch’s display is far more vivid and can show off small game details more clearly. Also, that rear kickstand is improved at long last. The pop-out plastic stand runs almost the entire length of the body, and can be adjusted to any subtle angle, from nearly upright to close to flat. Much like many iPad kickstand cases (or the Microsoft Surface Pro), it means it’s finally usable. It just makes sharing games on that screen a lot more fun for games like Pikmin 3, or board games like Clubhouse Games. 

Look, , you’ll still want to dock with a TV. The tabletop mode is really a niche third form. But if you’re traveling with kids, you may end up taking advantage of it a lot more than you thought (and it seems like an amazing thing to have for airline table gaming).

A bit bigger (but basically still the same size)

The OLED Switch is a bit bigger and heavier than the original Switch. Still, I was able to zip it into a basic carrying case I’ve used for the old Switch just fine. The slightly changed dimensions do mean it won’t slide into those old folding Labo cardboard items (if you care), and it’ll likely make other more closely tailored accessories and sleeves not fit. But so far it feels like using the older Switch, just better. There’s no change to how the Joy-Cons connect to the sides, so that’s the main thing. 

The OLED-screened Switch (bottom) is, without a doubt, better. I don’t want to go back to the old Switch now.

Scott Stein/CNET

The display: Vivid, sometimes subtle

The larger 7-inch OLED display is, without a doubt, better. Colors are more saturated, which works really well with Nintendo’s bright and bold games. , which I played on the OLED Switch, looks wonderful. So does , Luigi’s Mansion 3, Hades, Super Mario Odyssey, Untitled Goose Game, Zelda: Skyward Sword,  and nearly everything else I threw at it.

The bezels are smaller, and the whole thing feels more modern now. You can’t even see how much better the display looks in these photos (photos don’t easily tell the story with displays). But also, the jump to a 7-inch display isn’t the quantum leap experience.

Switch OLED vs iPad Mini comparison? Sure, why not.

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The recent iPad Mini has a larger screen, for instance. The 7-inch display looks better for all games, but it’s still sometimes a bit small for me and my tablet-based life. The 720p resolution is low for a 7-inch display, but really I never noticed that much. 

One thing I do know: I don’t want to go back to the older Switch now. The display looks small and clearly worse, and the OLED display is already spoiling me.

The new OLED Switch (right) fits in the old Switch dock. The old Switch (left) fits in the new Switch dock.

Scott Stein/CNET

New dock, but also old dock

The new dock with the Switch OLED has an Ethernet jack now for wired internet connections, which isn’t anything I need but is helpful to have just in case, I guess. That jack means one internal USB 3 port is removed, but there are still two USB 3 ports on the outside. The pull-off rear dock cover is easier for cable access than the hinged door was previously. The dock is just for connecting the Switch to your TV, so if you’re a handheld-only gamer, that’s what that weird box with the slot in it is for. 

But the new Switch works in old Switch docks, too. The new dock isn’t really all that new. (Although, new docks can get upgraded firmware — which might mean new features, but it’s hard to tell right now.)

The OLED Switch works with older Joy-Cons, and its Joy-Cons are the same. Convenient! And also a bummer they’re not upgraded.

Scott Stein/CNET

It works with older Joy-Cons! (But Joy-Cons haven’t changed)

The Switch OLED can use any pair of Switch Joy-Cons you have lying around, just like always. That’s great news, except the Joy-Cons that come with the new Switch aren’t different, either. I got to try the new white-and-black model with its white Joy-Cons, but other than the color change, they have exactly the same features — and exactly the same feel. Joy-Cons, to me, have ended up feeling pretty old compared to the rock-solid and comfy Xbox and PS5 controllers. I wanted analog triggers, a better analog stick, less Bluetooth lag. And who knows if these seemingly similar Joy-Cons break as easily as .

What comes in the Switch OLED box: dock, Joy-Con controller adapter, wrist straps, HDMI, power adapter.

Scott Stein/CNET

It runs quieter so far?

The fan on my Switch I bought last year sounds like a car engine: I think the fan’s broken, or damaged. But I’m used to fans firing up. The Switch OLED, so far, has seemed a lot quieter. There’s still a heat vent at the top, but I haven’t noticed any noise as much.

More storage (but still get a microSD card)

The 64GB base storage on the Switch OLED is a good bump from the 32GB that older Switches have, which is nice. I downloaded 13 games before filling it up: Switch digital games range from several hundred megabytes to over 10GB, but take up less space than PS5 or Xbox games. Still, there’s a microSD card slot on the Switch like always, and storage is cheap. Using an extra storage drive doesn’t require any special setup or lock you to specific brands, unlike PS5 and Xbox Series X storage expansions.

Switch Lite (left), Switch (middle), OLED Switch (right): The three Nintendo Switches available now.

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This is the one Switch I’d want. But it’s not necessarily one you need

For me, it’s clear the , based on specs alone. But that slightly-bigger-and-brighter screen, those better speakers, the slightly different dock and karenroterdavis the admittedly very nice new kickstand don’t really add up to a huge reason to upgrade if you have a Switch you’re happy with. The Switch still plays games just the same as it did before, and the exact same games. TV playing is identical.

We’re four and a half years into Nintendo’s Switch console lifecycle, and there are tons of great games. But, also, the Switch clearly lacks the graphics punch of next-gen consoles like the PS5 and Xbox Series X. Mobile games and iPad games keep getting better. There are a lot of ways to play games. The Switch is still a wonderful library of Nintendo and indie games and other stuff too, and a stellar family device, but it’s just one slice of an ever-growing gaming universe. Nintendo hasn’t leveled up its console yet — this still has the same processor as before, and serves the same audience. Just consider it a revision that’s checked a bunch of our wish-list features off our list. But not all of them.

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