Nintendo Switch OLED versus the rest: we’ve all played with them

There are a few versions of the Nintendo Switch, and it can be confusing to decide which is the best for your gaming needs. The latest edition in the lineup is the Nintendo Switch OLEDfollowed by the Switch Lite and the original switchwhich had two generations of devices. (Not to mention that there could be another switch on the way.) The question isn’t just whether you should buy Nintendo’s game console, but what do you expect from your Switch? Or even trickier: which one to buy if you already own one of the other models?

Although the OLED Switch looks like the better version, it’s not necessarily the right choice for everyone. Here is my advice after testing and reviewing each model.

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The best Nintendo Switch OLED upgrade isn’t the screen


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The OLED Switch isn’t exactly a reinvention of the console. With a larger OLED screen and better kickstand, however, it’s an improvement over the original. The original Switch got an increase in battery life in 2019, which this version also has. This time you get a bigger and more vibrant screen. It has the same 720p resolution as the original Switch and Switch Lite, but looks more colorful, with more contrast and deeper black levels.

Most of the OLED Switch’s gains are in its handheld mode. It has a larger screen, more powerful speakers, and a kickstand that finally covers the entire back panel and also folds out at multiple angles. That kickstand alone might be reason to upgrade if you’re interested in a portable Switch, especially for on-the-go multiplayer gaming in tabletop mode.

There’s more onboard storage included (64GB versus 32GB on older Switches), which is enough to hold a dozen or so game downloads. But most Switch owners just pop in a microSD card to expand storage (you can get 256GB for around $20 now). A large SD card is basically a must-have Switch accessory. The included new docking station has an extra Ethernet port for wired internet, but I don’t care: I use Wi-Fi for everything and that’s fine.

Despite the increase in screen size, from 6.2 to 7 inches, the footprint of the device is almost the same. After all, it has to house the same Joy-Con controllers, which snap into the sides of the system when you’re not holding them in your hands. This means you get more screen in the same size body, so the bezels around the screen are narrower and the screen dominates your view even more.

Games, however, will not play any differently. Inside is the same Nvidia Tegra X1 processor as before. This hardware configuration dates back to the launch of the Switch in 2017, four years ago. The competition? Consoles with the new 2020 processors.

The extra $50 for the OLED Switch is worth it for the upgrades, especially the screen and kickstand. If you are new to Switch life, this is the one for you. But that doesn’t seem as necessary if you already own a Switch.

Read our Nintendo Switch OLED review.

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The Switch Lite, at $199, is $150 less than the OLED Switch, which is a significant price drop. He plays all the same games too. The Lite’s build quality is excellent, and it’s compact and more compact. However, it lacks the TV docking feature of the larger Switches, meaning you lose out on using it as a TV-connected game console. You also cannot detach its controllers.

It’s a big loss for families or anyone who loves couch games. It disables the switch, making it just a handheld. That being said, it’s a great second Switch or travel Switch for families, and it’s a powerful Nintendo 3DS successor if you just want casual handheld gaming, period.

Read our Nintendo Switch Lite review.

Erika Garcia/CNET

The classic Switch remains at $300, which currently seems absurd. The OLED Switch is absolutely the one you should get instead, but holiday sales could change the equation. We don’t see any Switch sales at the moment, but if that original version were to come with games included or drop in price (provided it’s the V2 revision in 2019 with a lifespan of the longer battery), it might be worth picking up for the savings on the OLED model. When connected to a TV, the experience will be exactly the same. Needless to say, if you only play in docked mode, treating the Switch like a permanently docked home console, this is the one for you.

Read our Nintendo Switch review.

Make the Upgrade Call: Solo vs. Group; TV vs handheld; budget vs madness

The most important factors to weigh are how you plan to use the switch. That’s how you’ll know which Switch makes the most sense to you, and that they’re more important than any single spec.

Play solo against friends and family: If you’re a solo gamer, you might be fine with a Switch Lite, especially if you’re playing in a cramped dorm or your cabin. If you’re a little more liquid, the OLED Switch with the larger screen is a deluxe choice and a must-have for the TV dock. But for families playing gamesmake sure you have a switch that connects to a TV (sorry, Lite).

Almost always playing on a TV: If that’s you, don’t buy a Switch Lite. But also, if it’s all about the big screen, you might not need the OLED Switch either. Stick to the original.

Mainly portable games: The Lite is portable and cheap, but only portable. The OLED model has a great screen, but it’s bigger and more expensive. Deciding whether you need that best screen can come down to whether you’re 70% portable or 90% portable.

Money is not a problem: So get the OLED Switch, obviously. (It’s not that expensive at $350, all things considered.)

Will there be a new Switch this year? Nintendo can’t seem to help but release new models of its handheld gaming hardware every couple of years or so. Reports of a graphically enhanced 4K Switch are still present, possibly called Switch Pro or Switch 2. Just a reminder that the OLED switch will definitely not be the final switch. You can always wait and be happy with the switch you have (if you have one).

About Jason Zeitler

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