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Nintendo Switch Review: A Truly Portable Gaming Console

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As it is with every product that Nintendo launches (NES Mini, anyone?), there was a lot of hype around the launch of the Nintendo Switch ($299 at Best Buy, $380 at Amazon). Fans and reviewers alike were excited to get their hands on this new console that came with a dock for playing on the TV, along with removable controllers that Nintendo dubbed “Joy-Cons”. So, obviously, we got the Nintendo Switch to check out for ourselves, and see if the hype was well deserved, or just another marketing win for the company. I’ve been playing with it for quite some time, and here is my review of the Nintendo Switch:

Nintendo Switch Specifications

Dimensions 9.4 x 4 x 0.55 inches
Processor Quad Core ARM Cortex A57 Tegra Processor with NVIDIA GPU
Display 6.2″ LCD Display (1280×720 pixels)
Storage 32 GB ROM, microSD upto 2TB
Battery 4310mAh Li-ion battery
Sensors Accelerometer, Gyroscope, and Brightness Sensor
Price MSRP $299.99

Design and Build: Decidedly Boring

First things first, the Nintendo Switch comes in a box that has so many compartments it’s hard to wonder if you missed taking something out of the box. Fortunately, even if I did miss something, it was obviously not essential to the overall functionality of the console, because it has been working perfectly well.

Inside the box, you’ll find:

  • Nintendo Switch console (obviously!)
  • Joy-Cons (grey, or coloured, depending on which ones you ordered… we got the grey ones)
  • Switch Dock
  • Wrist Straps
  • Joy-Con Grip
  • HDMI Cable
  • Power Adapter

The first thing I noticed as soon as I pried the Switch out of its comfortable cardboard cradle, was the ginormous bezels, the plastic screen, and the kickstand which is so weak that it comes off every now and then. From the outside, the Switch doesn’t look like much, to be honest.

The speakers are positioned on the back, and the air vent on the top. Plus, the over-all monochrome theme that Switch comes with, looks decidedly boring. Of course the coloured Joy-Cons would’ve added colour to the setting, but I don’t really like those colours.

Oh, and before I forget, the microSD card slot (yeah, there’s one on the Switch!) is located behind the kickstand, so every time I place the Switch on the kickstand, it just feels weird because I know the slot is exposed. PSA: Get a microSD card; the Switch comes with 32GB of storage, but there are games that are larger than the available internal storage on the Switch. Awkward much?

I honestly thought, in all of my naiveté, that the Switch would ship with at least some sort of a demo installed. So I just slid the Joy-Cons on the sides, and fired it up. Needless to say I was disappointed. What with long forms and account creation steps, I was forced to accept that I wouldn’t get to play anything until I purchased and downloaded it.

The problem reared its ugly head when I had to first remove the Joy-Cons from the Switch. There are buttons that you need to press and hold while sliding the Joy-Cons out from the sides (which in itself sounds like something they should train you for), and even then, the buttons are placed in a very bad place. It takes quite a bit of twisting and turning the Switch in your hands to be able to take the Joy-Cons out. Although this did get easier once I got used to the awkwardly placed buttons, it’s still something I think Nintendo could’ve worked out in a better manner.

All that said, attaching the Joy-Cons to the Nintendo Switch is quite the fun thing to do. The audible and tactile click of the Joy-Cons sliding into place is amazing, and the buttons on the Joy-Cons are so perfectly tactile (except for the home and screenshot buttons), that I found myself pressing them for no reason, even when the console was powered off.

Nintendo obviously realized that people will get excited while playing the multiplayer games on the Switch, and might end up accidentally throwing their Joy-Cons into outer space; which is why Nintendo included wrist straps with the Switch. There are a couple of things I noticed while trying the wrist straps out, playing Quick Draw against Rupesh.

Firstly, the buttons on these things are just bad. They’re mushy, and so not tactile that it’s quite an annoyance pressing them at all. What’s worse, is that removing the wrist straps feels like it’s not supposed to be done.

There is a lot of resistance to removing the wrist straps, and Nintendo literally added an additional lock to them, to supplement the already awkwardly placed button on the Joy-Con. In order to remove the wrist straps, you’ll first have to disengage the lock, then press and hold the button and slide the Joy-Con up. If this sounds complicated as it is, wait till you do this and the lock clicks back into place. It happens. Almost every time.

Moving on to the Joy-Con Grip, one interesting thing I noticed about it, is that the lights that show up on the Grip are just reflections of the lights from the Joy-Cons themselves. Nintendo used mirrors to reflect the light from the Joy-Cons, which I really really like. Why be redundant and add lights to everything when reflection can solve the problem?

The only thing I didn’t like about the Joy-Con Grip was the fact that it’s unable to charge the Joy-Cons, because, it’d be infinitely better if I could just leave the Joy-Cons attached to the grip, and plug in a cable to charge them up, while the Switch sat in the Switch Dock and charged. It’d have been easier.

Display: Just Good Enough

The Nintendo Switch features a 6.2″ LCD screen, with a resolution of 1280×720 I know that sounds pretty bad on paper, but honestly, it’s fine. Mediocre, yes, but fine. Nintendo could’ve made it much better. However, the reason they didn’t do this is hidden behind the GPU that is used in the Switch. Nintendo went with a GPU that has an undocked clock speed of 307.2MHz, and driving a 720p display will be infinitely easier for the GPU, while also saving on battery life, and god knows the Switch needs to save on battery life (I’ll get back to that).

Nintendo Siwtch Display

Game Modes: Truly Unique

If it looks like this review is not going too well for the Nintendo Switch, things are about to change for the better. Like I said, on the outside, the Nintendo Switch doesn’t really seem like anything great, or even exciting enough. So, I purchased a game (The Legend of Zelda, if you’re wondering), and just started playing.

There are a number of ways to play games on the Nintendo Switch, and all of them offer something unique.

One of my personal favourites – the Portable Mode offers what the Nintendo Switch had always been claiming. A truly portable gaming solution that brings great control, and gameplay in a small package. It’s really a lot of fun to play games in the Portable Mode, and a lot of credit for this ease of play goes to the fact that the Switch maintains a perfect distance between the user’s hands while they’re playing.

Word of advice: As fun as it is to play games in the Portable Mode, do not use it while lying on your back. It will fall on your face, and you will feel the pain. Believe me, I’ve been there.

The Switch doesn’t claim to be a complete gaming package without having a lot of features one wouldn’t find on other consoles: modularity being one of them. It was with relief and expectation that I pulled out the Switch’s kickstand, and placed it on a table to continue playing Legend of Zelda.

Playing in the Kickstand Mode is great, and is a lot of relief from having the Switch’s weight on your hands all the time. I truly believe this could be a great way to enjoy games on the Switch for longer sessions, but I was brought to an abrupt and unwelcome stop by the Switch’s battery being low.

Testing it out, the battery life I got from the Switch varied from game to game, which was expected. However, what wasn’t expected was just 3 hours of game time on Zelda, and most other graphically superior games. Oh, and if you’re thinking “so what? I’ll just plug it in and continue playing!”, you’re in for a bitter surprise – the USB Type-C port is on the bottom of the Switch, so it’s not really possible to charge the Switch while playing in Kickstand Mode. Not unless you use a third party Switch dock. If you’re interested in that, you can check out Nintendo’s officially licensed dock from Hori.

The Nintendo Switch is not only meant to be a portable gaming console, it’s meant to be an all-around entertainment system. Which obviously means that it should have local multiplayer support… and it does. The first game that I bought for trying out multiplayer gaming on the Switch was “1-2 Switch”, and I must say, multiplayer games are quite fun. 1-2 Switch has 28 mini games inside, ranging from slow games like “Ball Count”, to more intensive games like “Table Tennis”, “Boxing Gym” and more. I’d also recommend “Quick Draw” to anyone wondering which games to play in multiplayer mode.

That said, 1-2 Switch has the kind of mini-games that are quite fun to play for a couple of times, but will definitely end up not being used after a couple of days. They do show off the capabilities of the Joy-Cons, and I must say, Nintendo packed some sweet tech inside those little controllers. Well done!

Probably one of the best, and most exciting way of playing games on the Switch, is the TV Mode. It’s also great that moving from portable to TV mode is seamless. All I had to do, was slide the Switch into the TV Dock, and I could continue playing Zelda on the TV. The Switch definitely surprised me when it was able to handle pushing Legend of Zelda to a 1080p display, and get 60fps! This thing is what dreams are made of; at least for people who like gaming.

The Dock also serves the purpose of charging the Switch, but I was disappointed to see that the charging speeds were quite slow. Not at all fast enough to actually gain a lot of battery power if you decide to move back to Portable Mode after a bit of TV gaming.

Oh, and before I forget, there have been reports of the Nintendo Switch Dock scuffing up the bezels on the Switch console, which is definitely something I find very weird. It didn’t happen to me, even after using the Switch Dock multiple times, but it could very well happen, so it’s good to be careful.

Nintendo Switch Games: Limited & Pricey But Fun!

The Nintendo Switch is definitely an excellent console, but it is held back by the (currently) limited number of games available in the Nintendo eShop. Which also reminds me that the eShop is the worst experience available on the Switch, but I’ll come back to that later.

There aren’t a lot of games available for the Switch, 38 to be exact, at the time of writing, and while the Nintendo eShop isn’t region locked (you can literally access the eShop for any country you want), accessing content other than what’s available in your region’s eShop requires creating a new user for every region.

Not just that, the games for Nintendo Switch are incredibly overpriced, for the most part. When I first got around to purchasing games for the Switch, I was quite okay with Legend of Zelda being priced at $59.99; sure, it’s a bit steep, but the game deserves it and I was sure of it. However, 1-2 Switch comes at a price of $49.99, and it’s just… disappointing? I don’t know how to describe it, but spending ~$50 for a game you’d get bored of after around 2-3 hours of playing just seems like a really bad idea.

Which brings me to another annoyance – demos, or the lack thereof. The Nintendo eShop has no way of filtering out games that have demos, but that’s probably because there’s only one – at least in the US eShop. Snipperclips – the name of the game – is quite the boring puzzle game, and I’m glad they had a demo, because I’d have purchased it for no reason. As I sat around searching for more demos, looking up forums on the internet and whatnot, I finally found out that the Japanese eShop had more demos than the US eShop did – two, to be exact.

A little tip: you can go to the eShop “Search”, and search for “demos” to view all the games that have a demo available. You can also leave the search field blank to view all the games that are available on the eShop. You’re welcome! Also, check out our list of the best Nintendo Switch games, if you want to make sure a game is good enough before you purchase it.

The only good thing about the way Nintendo handled demos with the Switch, is that there is no time-limit, or play-limit on the demos, so you can play them as many times as you like, and for as long as you want. However, I clearly recall thinking to myself that I’d gladly trade in the “no play limits” thing for having demos available for every game. Just my 2 cents.

Performance: Unexpectedly Good

Talking specifically about performance on the Nintendo Switch, it’s good to see that the console holds up pretty well for the most part. You may see a stutter ever so infrequently, when playing intensive games. However, I was surprised to see Legend of Zelda perform amazingly, even on the TV. I really doubted that the Switch will be able to handle a game like that on a 65″ 1080p display, but I was pleasantly surprised from the performance this little guy pushed out.

Battery: Mediocre

The Nintendo Switch packs in a 4310mAh Li-ion battery, which is rated to last for upto 6 hours. However, for the most part, the Switch battery will last you for around 3-4 hours. Playing Legend of Zelda on the Switch really taxes the console, and the battery dies out at around 3 hours, which is definitely not enough time! The Joy-Con controllers also have rechargeable batteries, but they last for around 20 hours on a single charge, so you won’t really find yourself worrying about them too much.

Other Thoughts and Minor Annoyances

The Nintendo Switch has a lot going for it, and it has a lot of things that I wish they changed. Both physically, and in the games, Nintendo can clearly make a lot of great changes. But while those were things that deserved their own personal section to discuss, there are some things that don’t really fit anywhere except just minor annoyances that I faced with the Switch.

Firstly, the Joy-Cons can’t charge unless they are attached to the Switch console, and the console isn’t being used. That’s not too big a deal, but it’s made worse by the fact that the Joy-Con Grip can’t charge the Joy-Cons either. I think Nintendo heard the requests from its customers, because it recently launched a Joy-Con Charging Grip ($29.88), and has also announced a Joy-Con Battery Pack (coming soon).

The screen on the Nintendo Switch is mediocre, and while it’s good enough at 720p for a 6.2″ screen, Nintendo could have made it much better. I won’t go as far as to call it a deal breaker, but it definitely isn’t as exciting as the idea of the console itself is.

Nintendo went ahead and put a headphone jack on their console, and while that was definitely a great move, the position of the headphone jack is weird. It’s placed on the top of the console, so you can easily attach headphones while playing in portable mode. Move on to placing the Switch on the table, however, and things start going downhill. Unless you have a pair of headphones with a cable that’s long enough, you’ll find yourself quite close to the screen for comfort. If you’re thinking “But why would you not use Bluetooth headphones instead?”, it’s because the Switch doesn’t connect to Bluetooth headphones.

Nintendo Switch

Pros:

  • Portable gaming solution
  • Amazing TV Mode
  • Tactile buttons and decent touch screen
  • Responsive UI
  • Amazing Joy-Con battery life
  • microSD support (upto 2TB!)

Cons:

  • Display quality is mediocre
  • Weak kickstand
  • Mediocre battery life from the console
  • No Bluetooth headphone support
  • Only 32GB internal memory

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Verdict: Is The Nintendo Switch Worth It?

The Nintendo Switch ($299 at Best Buy, $380 at Amazon) is definitely a great console, and while there are areas where I’m sure Nintendo could’ve done a lot better, none of them are deal breakers. The only thing that could come close to being a deal breaker, especially for people who play a lot of games for long hours, is the battery life, and that can be solved with a power bank, and the Joy-Con charging grip. The Switch also has a lot of great games available already, and more are being added every now and then. If you’re okay with the premium pricing on most of these games, you’ll love the experience that the Nintendo Switch is capable of offering.

Over all, the Nintendo Switch is definitely worth it. And while I’d have liked to have demos available for all the games (even if they were time limited or something), it’s not really something that puts me off. The variety of game modes, and the excellent gameplay really puts the Switch on my personal list of favourite ways to play games. At an MSRP of $299, the Nintendo Switch is one of the best gaming consoles that offers users the “best of four worlds“: with portable mode, multiplayer mode, kickstand mode, and TV mode. Like every product that Nintendo has been putting out, the Switch, too is selling like hot cakes, so if you’re interested, grab it as soon as you find one in stock. You’ll love it.

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