Nintendo Switch Review: Is the Console Back in the Game?

Saturday, April 18, 2020
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The Nintendo Switch is a unique gaming device that wants to do it all. Advertised as a “hybrid” game console, the Switch can be used as a portable, handheld device like the Nintendo 3DS, but also as a console like the PS4 or Xbox One that you plug into your TV.

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The question is: does the Nintendo Switch live up to the challenge of bringing multiple platforms together in a single device or have its developers chewed more than they could handle with this unique, but risky design? You’ll have to read on to discover the answer.

An Innovative Hybrid Design

To better understand how the Nintendo Switch works, let’s first take a closer look at the exact components you get with the console. When you first open the shiny magic box, you should find the following:

  • The main console, sporting a 6.2-inch capacitive touchscreen with a 1280x720 resolution. The screen doesn’t have 1080p resolution, but 720p is more than enough for most of the games you can play on the console.
  • The two detachable controller sides or Joy-Cons. These are accompanied by the Joy-Con Grip, which you can use to fuse the two sides into one controller.

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  • A power cable and an HDMI cable to connect the console to your TV.
  • The TV dock, which is where you slide the Switch when you want to use it in console mode.

With this kit of accessories, you can configure your Nintendo Switch for three main functions. If you attach the Joy-Cons to the main console, you can use the Switch as a portable handheld device that is similar to the 3DS that came before it.

At the top of the console, you’ll find the headphone jack, a slot for game cartridges, the volume controls, and the power button. At the bottom, there’s a kickstand and a microSD slot for additional storage, which you are very likely to need if you prefer to download games.

If you detach the Joy-Cons and place the Switch in the TV dock, you can use it in console mode, similarly to how you would use a PS4 or Xbox One. If you’re playing alone, you can use the Joy-Con Grip to put the two Joy-Cons together and make a neat controller. The viewing experience is transferred seamlessly onto your TV and you can even make this transition while in-game.

Finally, you can also use the Nintendo Switch in tabletop mode, by detaching the Joy-Cons and propping the main console on its kickstand. This mode is great for multiplayer games, especially since each Joy-Con can act as a standalone controller. However, the screen is perhaps too small to fit more than two players and the charging port is actually inaccessible in this position, which means you can’t play and charge the Switch at the same time.

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Slight disadvantages aside, the Nintendo Switch does a fabulous job in all three modes, which is no small feat. Does somebody want to hog the TV when you’re immersed in a game? No problem. Just slide the console out of the dock, attach the Joy-Cons, and keep playing. Got a long train ride ahead? Use the Switch in tabletop mode for some multiplayer action. The list of possibilities just carries on.

Battery Power Estimations

When the Nintendo Switch first came out in 2017, the devs claimed a battery life of up to six hours depending on your brightness settings, Wi-Fi usage, and the game you played. Realistically speaking, tests performed by players and other third parties projected just under three hours of battery life with most games. If you turned the brightness down, you could expect another 20 to 30 extra minutes of gameplay.

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This was somewhat disappointing since the Nintendo Switch was praised, first and foremost, for its portability. Thankfully, an improved version of the Switch arrived in 2019 and the updated console added no less than two hours to its battery life. Now, you can actually the Nintendo Switch to play your way through most train rides and flights without having to recharge the battery.

Nintendo Switch Accessories

Since the Nintendo Switch was first launched, a number of third-party accessories became available in order to patch some of the console’s acceptable, yet inconvenient drawbacks. A few examples include:

  • Large MicroSDXC cards for extra storage for players who prefer to buy and download games digitally. Since the console packs only 32GB of internal storage, you’re very likely to need one of these.
  • An extra battery pack might become necessary if you play while travelling. Although the improved version of the Nintendo Switch has made it more usable during commutes, you’ll still need more juice if you travel for 6+ hours at a time.
  • The Nintendo Pro Controller might be a good addition if you play competitive games and you’re serious about your performance. This is a more solid, one-piece gamepad that feel very familiar to the Xbox One controller in both shape and weight.

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  • The Nintendo Labo, an accessory designed for kids that allows them to combine the console with cardboard kits for more immersive experiences. For example, kids can play a makeshift piano, drive a car, or even fish.

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One thing to bear in mind is that all of these accessories – some of which are more “optional” than others – come at an additional price. If you don’t actually need them, that’s great, but if you do, then the Nintendo Switch might end up costing you more than the baseline £279.99.

Should You Buy the Nintendo Switch?

Yes, the Nintendo Switch – especially in its current, updated version – is a great investment if you love gaming and you’re a fan of some of Nintendo’s most popular titles, such as Mario or The Legend of Zelda. The Switch is definitely better than the older Nintendo 3DS, which makes it the best handheld gaming device on the market today, in my opinion.

If, however, this is your first console, I believe that you’d be better off with a proper setup. The Nintendo Switch can be an awesome secondary gaming system, but you won’t get as much out of it as you would with some of the more entrenched platforms like the Play Station 4 or the Xbox One.