Released in March of 2017, the Nintendo Switch took the world by storm with its unique approach to both handheld gaming and home-console experiences, but now, it’s time to take a deep dive into how well the handheld has aged over the past two years. Find out what we think in our review of the Nintendo Switch after two years of wear and tear.
+Offers the greatness of both home and portable console capabilities
+A beautiful and crisp display that takes full advantage of its LED capabilities
+Its intuitive design allows it to be played in countless ways
+Still offers an experience much like that of the Nintendo 3DS while moving forward in hardware specs.
-Battery life is problematic for those constantly on the go
-Some controller options are not friendly to long sessions of gaming
-Third-party support is thin, but steadily growing
-Still doesn’t support voice chat natively
It’s hard to think that the Nintendo Switch is already quickly approaching its second year. Only having released in March of 2017, Nintendo sought to change the way we look at, how we play, and where we enjoy our games. They got rid of that single-handed approach the Wii U had begun, a journey that slowly began to integrate mobility into games.
Once again, Nintendo has steadily revealed that they have listened to their fans, releasing high-demand third-party games on their hardware and even allowing for benefits to be earned by those that join their Nintendo Switch Online subscription service. Now that we have major features, it’s time for a proper review of the Nintendo Switch. So let’s snap our fingers and get this show on the road.
Let’s talk hardware right out of the box? I gotta know what it has.
First up, the Nintendo Switch is a hybrid console; one with a bit of an identity crisis as both a handheld device and a home console like your PlayStation 4 or Xbox One. But the switch itself is something a bit more fascinating in its own right.
The Nintendo Switch itself is a 6.2” LCD multi-touch display. This allows for both the Joy-Con’s and the Nintendo Switch screen itself to be used for specific games, allowing for user interactivity and endless possibilities for Android and iOS-based games that have the full intention of a console launch.
Inside the actual hardware case is a custom-designed Nvidia Tegra T210 with a Maxwell-derived GM20B GPU, something on par with what’s inside the Nvidia Shield K1 series of tablets. The console itself ships with 32GB of internal storage that can be expanded upon by purchasing a microSD card for your Switch. The Nintendo Switch also features an accelerometer to measure movement speed, a gyroscope that detects what direction the Switch is turned, Bluetooth 4.2 (Joy-Cons/Pro Controller connectivity), NFC capabilities for amiibos, aWiFi 802.11b/g/n/ac compatible chip (with wireless LAN support).
On the outside of the case, you will find a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, stereo speakers, power and volume buttons on the top, ports for both the MicroSD expansion, a USB Type-C port for charging and an interchangeable kickstand on the back. But that’s only the Switch itself – we still have to talk about the dock.
Externally speaking, the Nintendo Switch ships with a cradle for the Nintendo Switch itself to be docked into by sliding it down on the peripheral device. The dock allows for the Nintendo Switch to be used on a TV or projector, depending on your preference, and play your games with a much larger viewing area. The dock itself has a hub on the back that allows for the USB Type-C cable to connect to it to provide it power, allowing it to both charge and provide power to the console and the dock itself.
The dock itself also come with two extra USB 2.0 hubs on the back, allowing for you to connect your wireless headset (as of late 2017) and even charge your pro controllers via the back of the console itself.
Nintendo’s approach to the Switch shows they have learned from their past and evolved
Along with the Nintendo Switch comes two detachable controllers Nintendo call the Joy-Cons. These two controllers have their own ability to work as one unified controller or two separate controllers when turned side-days for games like 1-2-Switch and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.
Along with the Joy-Cons is the Joy-Con Grip that allows you to fuse both of the Joy-Cons together to form a single controller instead of using the device as a hand-held mobile device. You can even connect these bad boys to your PC and use them there via Bluetooth connectivity.
But the Nintendo Switch does have one issue. Unlike the Nintendo 3DS or the PlayStation Vita, the Nintendo Switch isn’t as great on the go. Its battery does struggle to stay alive through powering both the Nintendo Switch and charging the Joy-Cons while on the go. Because of this, we’ve seen the battery life last as long as three hours to a mind-boggling 6 depending on the game we were playing.
Unfortunately, if you are looking at taking it on a flight, you may want to consider bringing a portable charger with a USB-C cable (sadly, not all do work with the Switch), and finding a way to charge it that way. The Switch also doesn’t work great to protect itself due to the lack of being able to fold it up to protect its screen – unlike the 3DS, another shortcoming that even Sony has had with the Vita and the PSP.
You’ll definitely want to grab a carrying case and we highly recommend buying one as we’ve found a plethora of both hard and soft cases that work rather well.
What the not included with the Nintendo Switch right out of the box.
First, the Nintendo Switch does come with a few shortcomings for those of you looking to get the most of it. First, it doesn’t support a camera of any kind, one that will support or could support streamers looking to stream the moment they start. Well, that’s also a feature the Switch doesn’t have – you can’t stream from the device at all, but you can take screenshots and capture footage from select games!
At least the Nintendo 2DS/3DS and WiiU had cameras built into them. Okay, so the camera’s aren’t completely necessary, but they are a highly appreciated feature to have and the Switch could benefit from allowing you to capture some of your best moments with your pals while you game.
Secondly, the Nintendo Switch won’t be able to connect to the internet via an Ethernet cable, an oversight Nintendo has made by cutting production costs on their device. The Switch itself can only take advantage of using third-party LAN adapters while docked due to the fact they do not utilize the Switch’s USB Type-C port.
Second, the Switch can only connect to the internet via Wi-Fi out of the box. Third-party LAN adapters are available, but they only work when the Switch is docked because they need a USB Type-A port.
Play how you want, where you want, when you want
The surprising thing about the Nintendo Switch is that it’s quite different from many of the Nintendo Switch devices we’d seen in the past, but it still yet remains even more familiar than anything we’d ever experience. It is a Nintendo Device after all and it has drawn inspiration from its sister devices such as the Nintendo Game Boy, the Nintendo 3DS and even both Wii and Wii U consoles.
It pulls inspiration from the Wii and Wii U with the use of the JoyCon’s, onboard display and even its ability to be played as a console or tablet-based device – a feature we absolutely loved about the Wii U despite its miniscule library of games outside of the Virtual Console.
Both the handheld device and Joy-Con’s feel sturdy even after a little over a year of wear and tear. Granted, the Joy-Con’s have come a bit loose on the rails due to natural wear and tear, something we’d noticed only plagued our Red and Blue Joy-Con’s themselves. We even tested another set, the solid black ones and found that those remained tight as ever and fit like glove without wiggling or coming loose with age.
One of the best additions to the Nintendo Switch is the ability to slide the Joy-Con’s on and off the handhelds rails, using it as a full-blown mobile device or even as a tablet with controllers wirelessly connected by Bluetooth to the device itself. The use of the Joy-Cons and how they connect is an admirable feat and one that is highly appreciated in our current day and age.
The ability to go from a handheld device to a console-based device is absolutely admirable and the Nintendo Switch truly delivers an inspiration form of innovation to mobile gaming hybrids. The Joy-Con’s themselves are sleek, easy to use and their matte finish makes them look both classic and modern all at once.
Surprisingly enough, the Nintendo Switch itself isn’t all that heavy as it weighs in at roughly 1lb with the Joy-Cons attached to the device. It’s one that’s light enough for long stretches of gaming, but it does have one minor flaw; your hands will cramp after quite some time. The only way this can be compensated for is by using a Pro Controller and even then, you won’t be able to actually hold the Switch if you are on a train or in a car as this will require you to buy an extra peripheral for use.
The other downside behind the Joy-Cons? They have to charge by connecting to the device or by connecting them to an optional Joy-Con Charging Grip from Nintendo that allows them to charge while connected to the grip. The Charging Grip itself, while not part of the original shipment is cheap, it’s affordable and it does replace the need for the optional Pro Controller that sits as an extra $70 on top of you $300+ you’ve already spent
The Nintendo Switch’s controller and third-party peripherals are full of endless possibilities, but not all of them are good
Unlike the Wii or the Wii U, Nintendo has realized what hurt them the most – third-party support. We didn’t see just a whole lot come out of either the Wii or the Wii U due to Nintendo’s isolationist approach to their hardware and software extensions. Nintendo has changed this around in a way thanks to the release of third-party peripherals and their acceptance that gamers want to use them.
The downside to this approach is somewhat damning for Nintendo. First up, there’s the 32GB of internal storage. When you look at games such as DOOM, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe or Fortnite: Battle Royale, you won’t have a lot of memory when said or done. Since the Nintendo Switch has been designed for being an on-the-go device with the option of being docked, there seems to be a disconnect between what is and what is not acceptable storage space.
As a secondary option, Nintendo has made it possible to expand your memory, making it so you can go as high as you want, but Nintendo did so in a really confusing manner. If you want to use a MicroSD, you have to know what kind you want as Nintendo has made it almost confusing behind what ones you can and can’t use based on their memory size.
For up to 2GB of storage, you can grab your phones old 2GB MicroSD card for a temporary backup storage slot, but realistically, who’s going to use this in today’s day and age? REalistically, a lot of consumers are going to be aiming for 64GB or higher, which means you’ll want a MicroSDXC card, but wait, if you don’t have internet, you can’t just plug and go with this SD card, you HAVE to download a mandatory update, but update aside, you still have to consider transfer speeds as well as what kind of transfer type your card actually uses.
The best option you have is using a MicroSDXC card with UHS-I (Ultra High-Speed Phase I) capability and transfer speeds between 60 and 95 MB/sec (you’ll want to go as high as you can for the best gameplay experience on the Switch). Nintendo doesn’t exactly offer you this as soon as you open your devices box, you have to actually dig into the information online if you are seeking to buy a brand new device.
I wasn’t even made aware of this before I purchased my SD card and then had to make my way back to my local store to get the correct card for the job. But alongside the SD card issue comes the awkward approach to stuff such as Nintendo Labo, which is an admirable, albeit expensive addition to what the Nintendo Switch can do. Sure, the cardboard kits are amazing and kids no doubt love them, but they are extremely expensive.
It’s still admirable to see Nintendo push the imaginations and creative capabilities of today’s youth by allowing them to have cardboard assembly kits to make backpack devices, RC cards to Pianos or even fishing rods to let them enjoy unexpected rumbles when they snag a fish or when you end up drifting in a game of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe while using the gyroscopic control mode.
Nintendo has brought the focus back on games and innovation with the Switch
When it came to the Wii U, Nintendo’s Achilles’ heel was the fact they lacked software support. While the Virtual Console had a robust selection of games, the Wii U struggled to release games on a consistent basis over its shortlived cycle. The console even struggled to attract third-party developers due to the complexity of designing games that could utilize both the handheld device and the TV itself.
For the few years it was out, the Switch struggled to maintain fans outside of the cult following if Monster Hunter 3: Ultimate, The Legend of Zelda and Super Smash Bros. games. Even with these followings, the Wii U struggled to meet both fan and sales expectations over the course of its life.
Over the first year and almost a half of the Nintendo Switch’s life, Nintendo hasn’t proven to have the same issue this time around. They’ve been hitting strides with third-party support ranging from publishers such as Bethesda, Ubisoft, Epic Games, and Ubisoft among many indie developers placing their faith in the newly released handheld console.
Let alone has the third-party support remained strong, Nintendo hasn’t been shy about releasing their own first-party games ranging from online-only titles like Splatoon 2 to offline epics along the lines of both Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
With this holiday season quickly approaching, Nintendo is already aiming to start their upcoming quarter strong with the release of Pokémon: Let’s Go Evee and Pikachu – both featuring Pokémon Go connectivity – alongside the highly anticipated release of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and already announced titles ranging from Daemon x Mechina, Metroid Prime 4 and Shin Megami Tensei V already being in the works.
As stated, it’s not just the Triple-A games that are doing rather well and bolstering the Switch’s third-party support. The Nintendo Switch serves as a host to dozens, literally, dozens of indie titles that have flourished due to the demand for such games on the handheld-turned-console device.
It’s not too bad playing online – but there’s a catch
As Nintendo aims to put themselves in the spotlight with the Nintendo Switch, the company hasn’t been scared about making it so that fans will need Nintendo Switch Online to play their online games. While a good 99% of the Switch’s library requires it, Nintendo has aimed for a free-to-play stance with their partnership with Epic Games for the release of the world-renowned Battle Royale title Fortnite.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem any other games will be exempt from the practice. The worst of it all is that Nintendo still hasn’t learned how to make their consoles sociable for those playing with friends around the world. Nintendo hasn’t even figured out how to use voice chat on their device without the need for a smartphone app, which requires a really weird setup to even use with the console itself.
Even without voice chat, every game that plays online will require a membership, making it so DOOM (2016), Splatoon 2 and Super Smash Bros. fans will need an online membership, which is a bit pricier than it initially sounds for families with more than a single user on a Switch. That aside, the Nintendo Switch is rather flawless when it comes to online play.
It works quite well with a wireless connection and 4G LTE hotspot connections. While Nintendo’s online offerings are rather slim picken’s when it comes to online compatible titles, Nintendo has continually strived to make their paid online service reason to be had thanks to the use of cloud storage and classic titles being available for subscribers.
They’ve even delved into allowing crossplay with Xbox One, PC and PlayStation 4 and seem to look forward to doing so moving forward. For games like Minecraft, you can even earn Xbox Achievements just by playing the game on your Switch, which was a surprising addition to a former Xbox 360 aficionado like myself.
The Switch does have a few problems that we need to discuss before we conclude the review
While the Nintendo Switch is completely unique in what it tries to do, we can’t just walk past the fact it does have some issues we need to discuss before going on. First, the Switch isn’t necessarily a piece to write home about. While it is a majorly innovative device, Nintendo hasn’t been scared about the idea of an upgraded piece of hardware that will see a steady performance jump on those already on the market.
With that in mind, we’re already gearing up to see Nintendo make a Switch successor or a second generation of the device to deliver an overall better experience for their fans. While the console itself is an admirable feat in its own right, the system is still slowly receiving games from major publishers and Nintendo themselves.
We’re still waiting to see some of the biggest third-party hitters make their way to the console itself. We still haven’t seen any substantial horror games, triple-A titles that are being designed just for the Switch or mobile games outside of Arena of Valor fully take advantage of what the Switch can do.
The other issue we have is the short lifespan of the battery between every other charge. You’re looking at an estimated 2.5 to 6 hours tops depending on the setting you use and the games you play. That’s incredibly short compared to the PlayStation Vita and Nintendo 3DS’ charge times that could average between four and eight hours depending on the games you played.
Secondly, the warrant isn’t all that great. Unfortunately, Nintendo is only standing behind a one year warranty. After that, if it breaks, you’re on your own and you will have to pay a good buck or eight to get it repaired or replaced. This makes third-party warranties such as GameStops Gameplay Guarantee an admirable warranty to obtain.
Thirdly, Nintendo doesn’t seem concerned about reports of the console warping, Joy-Cons coming loose with time or the report of consoles flat out dying. While many of the launch issues have been fixed, it doesn’t mean more won’t crop up and how Nintendo handles that is beyond questionable according to many of the reports you can find on Reddit and on Twitter.
And finally, the re-releasing of Wii U games at full price. The Switch has been no stranger to re-releasing games such as Bayonetta 1 + 2 at full price once again. While there’s no doubt Nintendo had to pay a pretty penny to get these games rebooted for the Switch, the games still remain expensive and somewhat unaffordable to those that bought games such as the aforementioned title along with games like Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze and even Super Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.
The Switch’s games are not going to be cheap
Unfortunately, we all know the cost of developing games has steadily risen. Because of that cost, we’re starting to see the games remain at the full cost of $59.99 while others market themselves slightly cheaper. The issue remains, the Switch’s games are getting more and more expensive and there seems to be no sign of Nintendo considering lowering the price for their games or even re-released titles.
The Switch could last as long as the Nintendo 3DS, but don’t hold your breath just yet
While the Nintendo Switch itself is fairly new, only having launched in the past year, we know the consoles themselves have an estimated shelf-life of around five to six years before a new generation launches. Luckily for Nintendo, they don’t have to worry all that much with the Nintendo Switch.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see them launch a next-gen variation of their astonishing device by 2023 or 2024 as a “Switch 2.0” with stronger and better features while taking advantage of the success they’ve already seen with the current models. Don’t be surprised if a future version supports party chat, Twitch streaming or video streaming via Netflix and Hulu.
The conclusion of our review – It’s time to Switch
Much like the Nintendo 3DS, I struggled to support Nintendo over the years. Having put hundreds of hours into the Switch already, the Switch itself is a strong and dignified device that Nintendo has designed. It offers the experiences we once had with Nintendo before and experiences we have yet to enjoy.
It’s a great alternative to those looking for a device to play on the go or just play a few games of Fortnite before heading off for the day. Unfortunately, if you’re looking for a premier console like the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, we highly recommend you pass and get one of the other two competitor pieces of hardware.
Yes. If you love Nintendo and want to keep playing new Nintendo games, or already own a modern game console, then the Switch should be your next game console. However, if this is your first modern console, or if you mostly like to play a lot of games online, you should pass.
Our review is based upon a retail console that was purchased for the purpose of this review. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
Final Score: 7.5 out of 10
About the Writer(s):
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the borders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.