Release Date: 10/08/2021
Well, I finally pulled the trigger and bought a system I thought there was no point to. I was on vacation in Oregon, the local Target finally had some in stock, and I said, “What the hell? It can’t be that bad” The box itself is more vertical and more compact than the original models which I found strange. Smarter packaging techniques I guess. Once I pulled the tablet itself out of the system it looked bigger, but I wasn’t sure. The bezels were nearly non-existent and the bottom and top edges were smooth and round. Overall, the tablet itself felt the same, maybe just a bit heavier.
The white Joycons were beautiful. A brand new color we haven’t seen yet and it makes the Switch look very smart and less like a child’s tablet. Those weren’t any different, but the straps looked different. They have the same white and black straps that the Skyward Sword Joycons had. I guess this is the new standard now. The dock was probably the biggest physical difference. While it’s white and looks beautiful and adds to the smart higher-end electronic look of the OLED the back was different. There’s a quarter circle cut out for cables and the back flap isn’t hinged. It just comes off which is kind of annoying. However, there’s no USB A port back there, but a LAN port now!
Other than these noticeable differences at first glance, the HDMI cable, charger, and grip are all the exact same.
When I first powered on the Switch the difference in screen quality was noticeable even with just the Nintendo logo flashing. The colors are brighter, sharper, more vibrant, and somehow the screen just has a smoother feeling to it. Almost like it has a higher refresh rate, but I know it doesn’t have one. It just felt that way. The usual setup process was the same as any Switch, but I did notice the internal memory has been doubled to 64GB which is great for anyone just starting out and doesn’t have a massive library. You won’t need an SD card for a while at least.
The OLED feels heavier in the hand and it is slightly bigger. The screen ate up the large LCD bezels of the original models and then expanded out about 0.1mm so the screen size expanded a whopping 0.8″ and it shows. The bezel-less design is so clean and sleek that I can’t go back to the original model or even to the Lite. Games look amazing in motion on this thing, and then there’s the controversy about the Vibrant mode exclusive to the OLED model. The Vibrant mode pushes the saturation a bit and doesn’t look good on some games, and you can really see it on the home screen, but it works well in games that are full of color or are very dark. Flashes of color pop in dark areas and it just looks so good. I didn’t realize the upgrade would be this noticeable, but it’s stark if you hold any other Switch model up in comparison. The colors, even on the Standard contrast mode, make the other models look dull and less colorful in comparison.
With a huge 7″ screen a sizeable upgrade is nothing to scoff at. The next best thing to hold up that giant screen and the heavier Switch is the kickstand. This is probably the second biggest change as the stand goes along the entire back of the Switch and is basically a metal plate that folds out almost flat. You get steeper and shallower tilting angles this way and it no longer basically stands straight up. This is great if your sitting higher or standing and can lay the Switch flatter. With the metal design it no longer constantly pops off and is leaning on one side of the Switch. The MicroSD slot is also just underneath here and is easy to access. This should have been on the original model, but we won’t go there.
The OLED’s 4310mAh battery is exactly the same as the older model, but it lasts a bit longer thanks to the OLED’s better power management, but it also depends on the game. Brighter and more colorful games will drain the battery faster than darker ones. Nintendo claims a wide range of 4 hours to 9 hours and 5.5 hours playing Breathe of the Wild. On average you will get around 5 hours of life for most 3D Switch games, and more with 2D games. One thing I see anyone failing to mention is the improved top buttons. The power button is now oval instead of round and less inlaid, and the volume rocker is thinner and sticks out a bit more. All these buttons have more of a subtle sharper click and aren’t as mushy a feeling. However, the game card door no longer has a notch for your finger and instead has a small gap for a fingernail and is harder to open. It’s also rectangular instead of a rounded door.
Lastly, I want to mention the speakers. They have improved quite a bit and are the third-best upgrade for the Switch and add another plus to edge towards a purchase. I didn’t know this going in, but the speakers are larger (or at least more exposed) and are located on the bottom of the system instead of the back. The speaker’s grilles are right where the kickstand opens and go right along to just under the screen. The sound is louder, clearer, and overall more of what I expect from the fantastic sound quality of Nintendo’s 3DS lineup. The 3DS has fantastic handheld speakers and has always been hard to beat. When it comes to your old Switch cases this will fit as it’s only 0.1mm longer than the standard Switch and it fit for me even in a tight case. I also want to mention that the white OLED just seems like an added bonus for the cost and it looks smarter and sleeker than the black model does. It’s not as eye-catching.
Overall, the Switch OLED is a phenomenal upgrade over the standard and can justify the extra $50 price increase. With almost a single inch larger screen, better and louder speakers, a bigger and better-designed kickstand, better top buttons, a LAN port in the dock, and seemingly better battery life thanks to the OLED screen’s better power management, there’s so much going on here that is hard to see on the surface. No, there are no upgrades under the hood, the overall design is the same, but the gorgeous display with the Vibrant setting (on some games) just makes this the best handheld screen on the market and surpasses the 2012 original Vita OLED screen which had the crown for the best handheld screen until now. If you can’t justify the extra cost for another Switch just know that of course, no single thing is worth the cost increase, but everything added together makes this an amazing package.
*Note* The OLED model DOES have 5GHz wifi. During testing, it wasn’t seeing any 5GHz connections for a few days, but it’s working now.