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(Pocket-lint) - There are two ways to look at the Nintendo Switch OLED model: positively, as an all-round improved console with bigger, brighter and better screen tech; or cynically, as a half-baked progression over the original console, missing out on various opportunities to further improve and enhance the Switch experience.

We've had the Switch OLED in hand for a week and, since day one, we've gone in with an open mind. From our perspective the original Switch was a total game-changer console, one that we've loved using for years now, so to have one that improves upon the portable play side of things can only be a good thing.

So if you're yet to jump on the Nintendo train to joy town then, well, clearly the Switch OLED model is the way to do it. Here's how we've found it to compare to the original console and why we think it's the Switch to rule them all.

What's different?

  • 7-inch OLED display
  • 64GB built-in storage
  • Enhanced audio output
  • White colourway option
  • Large, multi-positional rear kickstand
  • Dock includes Ethernet/LAN port (in place of one USB)

As the product name tells you loud and proud: the third Switch model (after the original and Lite) comes with an OLED screen. This self-emitting technology isn't necessarily brighter than LCD - although, as our side-by-side pictures show you, the OLED panel here very much is - but it's always known for richer colours and deeper blacks. The OLED model has 'cleaner' whites, too, meaning it's cooler, kind of more blue - but in a more natural fashion.

But the biggest take-away about this screen is that it's bigger than the one in the original Switch: the OLED panel measures 7-inches on the diagonal, compared to 6.2-inches of the original's LCD panel. However, this doesn't make the OLED model console's overall footprint really any bigger - it's simply that the bezel has been eaten away, so there's less distracting amounts of the black stuff to the edges, delivering a more expansive viewpoint (albeit not quite edge-to-edge).

However, the very first time we played with the Switch OLED model - at a preview event in central London back in August 2021 - we couldn't help but notice that this new bezel is glossy, whereas the original Switch's is matte. Gloss isn't great for reflections, so overhead lighting caused some distractions in that instance. However, since using the Switch OLED at home - admittedly in the grey, rainy end-of-summer UK season - it's far less standout that we had at first thought.

The Switch OLED's dimensions do differ a tiny amount compared to the original, and it's a little heavier, but having handled both one after the other for the sake of this review, we're sure you really wouldn't know. The physical 'height' is identical between both products - which is great as it means Joy-Con controllers are interchangeable, should you have a spare set to make use of and fancy mixing things up a bit.

Some of that dimension increase is down to the OLED model's new, larger integrated kickstand. This is a vast improvement over the tiny stick-like one in the original Switch, making desktop mode - where you can detach the Joy-Cons to play as if the Switch is a mini TV - far more viable. It holds strong and is adjustable through a wide array of angles. Bravo.

The Switch OLED also comes in a white colourway finish, helping it to stand apart from the various multi-colour finishes. Even the dock is finished in white, giving it a clean, cool look. The dock adds a LAN/Ethernet port at the expense of the internal USB socket, but this is an ideal for ensuring solid connectivity to a router - besides, there are two USB ports on the exterior of the dock anyway.

Is OLED really better?

  • Console dimensions (with Joy-Con controllers): 102mm x 242mm x 13.9mm
  • Console weight (with Joy-Con controllers): 420g / (without Joy-Con controllers): 320g
  • 7-inch OLED panel, 720 x 1280 native resolution (1920 x 1080 60fps maximum TV output)

The Switch OLED model is a clear winner if you're looking to play when on the go, thanks to that luscious screen. Thing is, that's kind of the point of the Switch Lite (the one Switch console that can't connect to a TV), which has a smaller and inferior screen.

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As the OLED model adds no extra grunt to power proceedings over the original Switch, if you're largely a TV screen player then, well, there's zero difference between the two main console options. It's identical in terms of graphical fidelity - it's 'HD Ready' 720p on the portable screen, upping to Full HD 1080p on a TV screen - it's all the same.

That's where the cynical angle could creep in: a lot of people were expecting a 'Switch Pro' instead of this OLED model, but that's not the deal here. It's more a mid-lifecycle change-up. But if you've never bought a Switch before now then, well, the OLED model is the obvious one to go for in every regard.

Furthermore there's no distinctive battery improvement. The wide-reaching scope from Nintendo's word is between four-and-a-half and nine hours on a single charge. We've been playing Metroid Dread - the 'launch title' along with the OLED model, as it happens - and have been able to get over five hours of portable play, no problems (without getting five hours into the game, as it's unexpectedly difficult!). Small criticism: we wish the charging, at three hours via USB-C/the dock, ought to be speedier.

Oh, and the whole Switch family still doesn't have much appetite for third-party apps. There's still no Netflix, for example, which is a shame given the OLED model's new-and-improved screen. That said, you buy a Switch to game, not watch Gossip Girl (we're not judging).

Super games

  • Play on TV, on-the-go, on desktop
  • Limited third-party apps (no Netflix, for example)
  • Nintendo eShop downloads or cartridge purchases

All that said, it's difficult to not let the Switch OLED model sweep you away with its sheer brilliance. Because, let's face it, you buy into Nintendo for its first-party games. Many of which are absolute bangers. Everyone knows it: Nintendo has made - and continues to make - some of the very best games, ever.

That, above all else, is what sells the Switch series. Whether you want to buy the OLED model for optimum on-the-go potential, or save a little bit of cash and use an original Switch primarily for TV-based use, there's a whole variety of quality games on offer. 

Every time a AAA title graces our offices it seems to succeed: from Zelda Breath of the Wild delivering our favourite ever Link adventure; to Super Mario Odyssey delivering charm and imagination to 3D platforming fun; to Bowser's Fury delivering new levels of creativity and madness; to Animal Crossing New Horizons' record-breaking popularity.

Verdict

How you'll judge the Nintendo Switch OLED model will likely depend on where you already sit within Switch-land: if you already own the original console and predominantly use it for TV-based play then there's no need to buy one; conversely if you want the best mobile experience then it's clearly leaps ahead thanks to the considerably improved screen.

The cynical angle would say there should be more than 64GB of storage (despite that being double the original; there's still a microSD card slot for expansion), less reflective bezel (why the gloss!?), more battery, more power, more everything - but that's a future Switch Pro 4K, perhaps, not what the Switch OLED model is all about.

The positive angle, which is 100 per cent our take, is that the Nintendo Switch line-up offers some of the best first-party games you can buy. That is the absolute reason to buy any Switch - whichever of the three current consoles that happens to be - and why Nintendo is, in our eyes, unfaltering in its ways. The OLED console simply delivers that experience in a better-screen package for mobile players.

So if you don't own a Nintendo Switch and have been pondering getting one for some time then - and it's kind-of obvious - the OLED model is the best of the bunch. It's not a game-changing experience like the original was, perhaps, but it's still the best mobile console experience on the planet right now - and given the bevvy of super titles already available for it, there's no hesitation in awarding this console a full-marks score.

Also consider

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Nintendo Switch (original)

Want to play mainly via a full-screen TV? You'll get the same experience in that regard, but save some cash.

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Writing by Mike Lowe. Editing by Cam Bunton. Originally published on 2 August 2021.