The New OLED Switch from Nintendo Is Everything the Original Should Have Been

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Photo: Sam Rutherford – For the popular handheld console, a new screen represents more than just a minor improvement.

The Nintendo Switch has never been the most technologically advanced system available. However, after seeing the impact of a few well-placed enhancements on the new OLED Switch, it appears like Nintendo has finally developed the hybrid system I’ve been waiting for.

The new OLED Switch costs $350, which is $50 more than the previous model. For that money, you receive the following features (in order of importance):

  • OLED panel with a 7-inch screen (up from 6.2 inches).
  • Stereo speakers that have been improved.
  • Increase your base storage capacity by two times (64GB, up from 32GB).
  • There’s a built-in Ethernet connection on this new dock.
  • Kickstand that has been redesigned
  • The color palette is a crisp black and white.
Photo: Sam Rutherford

The OLED Switch’s new 7-inch OLED screen, which finally offers the type of richness and color saturation that consumers are used to seeing on current phones, tablets, and even some laptops, is obviously the most significant update. And, despite my initial worries about Nintendo’s decision to retain the OLED Switch’s resolution at 720p, I can report that my concerns were unjustified after playing Metroid Dread for nearly an hour.

Even with the minor drop in overall pixel density, the bigger screen makes gaming in portable mode that much more pleasurable. When you hold the OLED Switch about a foot and a half or more away from your face, you can’t see individual pixels, so everything seems to be as crisp as before.

Just look how deep the red lettering in “Dread” looks.
Photo: Sam Rutherford

Because Nintendo was able to squeeze the new 7-inch OLED screen inside the Switch by slimming down its bezels and not actually increasing the overall size of the system, the OLED Switch’s proportions look and feel even better, which undoubtedly helps to overall immersion when gaming on the move. To be honest, even if Nintendo didn’t improve anything else, the OLED Switch’s new screen is worth the extra $50 on its own.

When playing Metroid Dread, the responsiveness I felt while controlling Samus almost made it feel like the OLED Switch’s screen offered somewhat decreased input latency, though I acknowledge that this might have been due in part to having a fresh 2D Metroid to play. No offense to Metroid Prime aficionados, but leaping, dodging, and shooting your way through an old-school grid-based terrain just feels wonderful, and it’s refreshing to see a fresh take on a classic brand in 2021.

The original introduction of the OLED Switch made audio appear to be a bonus rather than a fundamental enhancement. However, for those who like playing portable games, it is a tremendous advantage. Sure, it’s not 3D spatial audio or anything, and the OLED Switch’s speakers aren’t going to rock the house, but the new speakers give a little additional clarity and detail that you truly appreciate.

The OLED Switch’s increased basic storage of 64GB is perhaps the most long-overdue enhancement, considering 32GB was barely adequate in 2017. If you’ve owned a Switch for a long time or play games rapidly, you’ll still need a microSD card slot. However, for casual gamers or those who play the same game for extended periods of time, the additional on-board storage may be sufficient to eliminate the need for a microSD card altogether, which represents a significant savings.

Then there’s the new Ethernet connector on the OLED Switch’s dock, which is virtually required for competitive Smash Bros. players and has the added benefit of reducing clutter behind your media console. The OLED Switch’s kickstand has a lot broader base than Nintendo’s previous popsicle stick, so resting the OLED Switch on a table feels like a sensible notion rather than a test to see if breathing on the system is enough to cause it to tumble down.

And then there’s the new color palette. Now, I’m not here to tell you what colors you should prefer, but as someone who purchased a second pair of matching red Joy-Con for my launch Switch, I believe the new white Joy-Con look incredibly fresh and clean.

Photo: Sam Rutherford

I’ve just had an hour with the new OLED Switch, but it’s clear to me that everyone who doesn’t already own one should purchase the OLED variant. It doesn’t even come close. With its new OLED screen, improved speakers, and more on-board storage, the OLED Switch is essentially the console I wish I could have purchased in 2017. It’s more than simply an update; the OLED Switch has replaced the standard Switch.

For those of us who already possess a Switch, determining whether to upgrade is a little more challenging. I’d spend $50 or even $100 to improve. But investing an extra $350 to replace something that has served me well for the previous four years is a far greater ask, especially since my primary complaint with my existing Switch is Joy-Con drift, which the new OLED Switch does not fix (at least as far as I can tell).

Photo: Sam Rutherford

At the same time, the improved visual quality provided by the OLED panel is significant, and I can’t criticize any current Switch owners who wish to upgrade. My pocketbook and my head both say no, but my heart wants what it desires.

The new OLED Switch will be on sale on October 8, but if you haven’t already pre-ordered one, you may have to wait.