Nintendo Switch vs Switch OLED: Should you upgrade your console? Is it worth the extra price?
The Nintendo Switch is one of the best-selling consoles of all time, overtaking the Nintendo Wii and rapidly closing in on the Game Boy series. Buying a Nintendo Switch is a little more complicated than at any other point during the history of the console, following the arrival of the Nintendo Switch OLED four years after the launch of the original design.
As the name makes painfully obvious, the biggest selling point of this redesigned console is the gorgeous OLED touchscreen display. This offers a serious step-up in picture quality compared to the previous console (and portable-only Switch Lite) which both rely on an LCD display. Nintendo also took the opportunity to expand the size of the screen, from 6.2-inches on the Nintendo Switch to 7-inches on the Switch OLED, and tweak a number of other design features, like the kickstand.
But these improvements have also resulted in a higher price tag for the Switch OLED. Coupled with the fact that Nintendo Switch deals are becoming more common during blockbuster sales events, like Black Friday. So you could be paying much more for the redesigned consoles.
Will you be glad you spent the extra money when you load up your first game on the Switch? We’ve pitted the two consoles against one another to find out. Here’s our verdict on the Switch vs Switch OLED debate…
Let’s Compare Nintendo Switch Screens
Switch OLED offers a substantial upgrade over the standard model. For those who don’t know, OLED – Organic Light-Emitting Diode – panels don’t rely on a uniform backlight to illuminate the pixels. Instead, each individual pixel is an LED which can be switched on and off to create a colour on-screen …or total darkness.
By switching the individual pixels off completely, OLED avoids light pollution from the backlight which makes dark areas on-screen start to look a little grey on LED or LCD panels. This granular level of control is also why OLED panels can save battery when using primarily black user interfaces compared to LCD devices, where it makes no difference.
And the OLED panel used by Nintendo looks great. Atmospheric games like Metroid Dread, which launched with the console, look stunning on the new screen with punchy neon colours and rich blacks that are indistinguishable from the black border around the display itself. Super Mario Galaxy looks stunning, with fire bursting onto the screen with new-found intensity.
Switch OLED arrives in an exclusive white colour, although all existing Joy-Con are compatible
If you’ve tried the Switch OLED …you won’t want to go back to the original console, which looks a little washed-out in comparison.
To expand the screen size from 6.2-inches on the original Switch design to the more expansive 7-inches on the Switch OLED, Nintendo has shaved down the bezels around the screen. As such, the overall footprint of the console hasn’t expanded. If you’re looking to upgrade, you might even be able to stick with the same travel case – yes, they’re that close in size.
The bezels around the touchscreen on the Nintendo Switch were pretty chunky back in March 2017, when the console first appeared on store shelves. But five years later, when smartphones, tablets, Smart TVs and laptops have all whittled the borders around their screens to a few millimetres …the original design looks a little cheap and toy-like. That’s something the Nintendo Switch OLED fixes and, if you’re the sort of person who will be playing most of their games in portable mode, then it’s well worth the investment.
One thing that is worth noting is that Nintendo hasn’t upped the refresh rate of the screen on the Switch OLED, with gameplay still stuck at 60Hz.
Most smartphones and tablets have switched to 120Hz high refresh-rate technology, which offers silky-smooth animations and lightning-fast reactions during games …so it’s a shame the Switch OLED hasn’t followed this trend.
What About The Design?
Aside from the larger screen, Nintendo hasn’t tinkered too much with the overall design of the new Switch. That’s no bad thing as the original portable-cum-home console has really stood the test of time.
The detachable Joy-Con controllers still attach in the same manner, the console still charges via USB-C, and you only need to drop the Switch into the Dock stand to instantly beam your gameplay to the biggest screen in the house.
However, Nintendo has made a few minor adjustments to the Switch OLED that all add up to make a big difference to your experience.
For those who regularly play on a tabletop, the kickstand on the OLED is a huge improvement
The most obvious change is the improved kickstand, which now makes the Switch more sturdy when playing on a tabletop. It can be adjusted to any angle, so you can always avoid reflections on the screen as you play on a plane, train, or outside. The new kickstand runs the length of the console for added stability. In comparison, setting up the original Nintendo Switch in its one-size-fits-all angle feels much more precarious.
Nintendo Switch OLED also arrives with a slightly larger power button on the top and the volume rocker has also been expanded to make it easier to pump up the tunes. We had no issues with the design of these buttons on the original Switch, so this did very little to change our gaming experience.
The one downside of the new OLED-equipped model is that it’s a little heavier than the original, tipping the scales at a little over 420 grams compared to 400g with the original. That extra weight is probably worth lugging around as all of the above improvements make portable or tabletop gaming much, much better than the original.
The kickstand on the original design is much flimsier and less reliable
Sound and Storage on the Switch
Nintendo says it has fitted improved speakers in the Switch OLED, which tallies with our experience playing on the new console. Make no mistake, these isn’t a surround sound system and most people will still get a better experience with headphones, but it’s a nice improvement when playing with friends outside or in tabletop mode.
What’s more important for players is the amount of storage in the new model. Nintendo fits the OLED model with 64GB of internal memory as standard, rather than the measly 32GB found on the standard Switch. It’s a really important addition as you can now keep double the games on it without needing to buy a microSD card.
That said, microSD cards have dropped in price since the Switch launched back in 2017, so it’s well worth checking the latest prices. With the right Switch deal, you might be able to buy the original design and a 128GB or 256GB microSD for the same price as the shiny new OLED model.
Switch OLED has double the storage, but if you’re buying digital games you’ll still need a microSD
Regardless of whether you pick the Nintendo Switch or the Switch OLED, if you’re planning to download a few dozen games for your new console …you’ll need to invest in a microSD card. The Switch OLED just delays that purchase by a few more months. For context, The Legend Of Zelda: Breath of the Wild weighs in at 14.4GB, Fortnite is 15.6GB, and Pokémon Sword clocks-in at 12.4GB when downloaded digitally to your device (if you buy a physical copy, you won’t need that much storage as everything is on the game card itself).
Super Mario Odyssey tips the scales at 5.6GB, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is 10.2 GB, while Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is 7.4GB …so you can see how both Switch models will begin to quickly max-out their internal storage.
Is Battery Life Better?
Despite boasting a bigger and brighter display, Nintendo has still managed to keep battery life at the same level as the second-generation Nintendo Switch. That means you’ll have between 5 and 8 hours of playtime depending on what you game you’re enjoying and how bright you set the screen.
The Switch has never had world-class battery life, but it’s ample for a short-haul flight or daily commute to work on the train. And you’ll be able to use the same USB-C charger that works with your phone, tablet, or laptop to top up the battery on-the-move. It also works with external battery packs if you’re going to be away from a plug for a long time.
If you’re looking for a clear winner between the Nintendo Switch and the Switch OLED in this category …unfortunately, there isn’t one.
Processors and Power
Given all of the work to the outside of the Switch OLED and that shiny new screen, you might be thinking that Nintendo upgraded the internals too. After all, the Switch OLED arrived four years after the original model. In that time, processors had become smaller, more battery efficient and much more powerful.
Despite all of the time …Nintendo Switch OLED has the same brains as the first-generation model that launched all the way back in early 2017. Nintendo is using the same CPU to power its consoles and there’s also the same amount of RAM too.
That’s not too much of an issue – best-selling games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Super Mario Odyssey and Breath of the Wild all load pretty quickly. However, in the last few years, we’ve definitely started to see developers struggling with the limitations of the chips inside the Switch – Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity can stutter as the battlefield begins to fill with characters, and more titles are beginning to rely on cloud gaming servers to provide the extra grunt needed to keep up with other consoles.
As always, it depends on expectations. If you’re looking to buy a Nintendo Switch to dive into the vast library of indie games or retro titles, you won’t see a single frame dropped in your time with the console. Likewise, most first-party Nintendo games look and play brilliantly on the limited hardware. But if you’re looking to play triple-A games from third-party developers …you might be better catered to elsewhere.
Whatever Nintendo Switch you pick, don’t expect to see blisteringly quick performance or any pixel-packed new 4K graphics.
Although the chipset hasn’t changed this time around, there is one tweak that’ll speed up an evening of online multiplayer as the new Switch OLED’s dock has an ethernet port. That means you can play without worrying about your Wi-Fi letting you down (something that’s possible with the previous Switch design, but requires a dongle – sold separately).
What About The Price?
There’s no hiding the fact that the OLED model is going to set you back considerably more.
Nintendo sells the standard Switch on its own for £269.99 and with a game included for £289.99. However, if you want the latest-and-greatest Switch OLED model, it’ll cost you £309 – without any games. Start adding Mario Kart or Metroid Dread and you’ll end up with a bill of close to £350 without a good Switch deal.
Of course, we regularly see deals and discounts to these consoles, so you won’t necessarily have to pay full price for either console. However, as you might expect, the older Nintendo Switch enjoys more aggressive price cuts and better bundles so if you’re looking to save a few pennies when treating yourself to this new console …that’s undoubtedly the model to plump for.
Nintendo Switch vs Switch OLED Model review: Which one is worth your time?
Nintendo Switch vs Switch OLED: Final Verdict
Nintendo is not known for following the latest trends or bragging about the size of its processor in a measuring competition with Sony and Microsoft. And the Nintendo Switch is no different.
This utterly unique masterstroke from Nintendo lets you move from the sofa, to the bus, to a plane, to the garden without interrupting your in-game progress. The Joy-Con controllers detach for instant local multiplayer at a time when third-party games on Xbox and PlayStation rarely support local gaming in favour of co-op over a broadband connection. Despite its age, the Nintendo Switch is still a fabulously flexible gaming device that we highly recommend to anyone who wants to bring some fun to their commute, holiday or living room.
There’s no doubt that you should own a Nintendo Switch – you won’t regret it.
So, the question is …has Nintendo done enough to warrant the extra asking price of the new OLED model?
That gorgeous new OLED screen makes a massive difference. If you want the ultimate gaming experience on-the-go, the improved panel technology and larger size mean the Switch OLED is well worth the extra cash. The updated kickstand is also more stable, the audio is also noticeable better, and the battery life remains at a solid 5-6 hours.
If you’re planning to spend most of your time with the Nintendo Switch playing on trains, planes, and the back of cars …the Switch OLED is the best choice.
But if you’re planning to pop the console into the Dock and enjoy Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, Pokémon Legends Arceus, and Animal Crossing on your Smart TV from the comfort of the sofa, there’s very little about the Switch OLED that will improve your experience. After all, that delicious OLED screen and improved speakers will both be switched off.
If you have an OLED television, you’ll get the same experience on the big screen regardless of which Nintendo Switch console you’ve got plugged into the HDMI port.
For those who will take advantage of the portable nature of the Nintendo Switch, the new OLED model is the way to go. But those who want to play their games from the sofa on a big screen, you might as well save the extra cash and buy a few more Nintendo games (because those rarely see any discounts or deals!) Whichever model you choose, you can be confident that you’re going love it.