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Nintendo Switch OLED Preview: Nintendo Makes It Make Sense

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Nintendo Switch OLED Preview: Nintendo Makes It Make Sense

There has been a lot of conversation about the Switch OLED, both positive and negative, since it was suddenly revealed in early July. Rumours had swirled of a Switch Pro for well over a year - a definitive upgrade in the console's hardware that would reward long-time lovers of the Switch with a reason to upgrade. But that's not what Nintendo was working on, and the OLED is not the Pro people thought it would be.

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Switch fans, though they may love the console's exclusives and portability, can be forgiven for feeling a little neglected while PlayStation and Xbox players have received new toys to mess with. I mean come on, Nintendo: you don't even have a little 4K to give your loyal consumers?

Here is the trailer for the Nintendo Switch OLED...

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The Switch OLED's upgrades seem lacklustre on paper, there's no denying it. The new OLED has a screen that's only 0.8 inches bigger, 64GB of base storage (up from 32GB), a new wired LAN port replacing one USB output, and everything else from resolution to battery life seems to be the same. For an entirely new console, fans have echoed online that this doesn't seem like enough. Nintendo needs to give them more if it's going to convince people to spend another few hundred bucks on the same system.

But, like a lot of Nintendo's products, the Switch OLED makes sense when it's placed in your hands. As someone who had seen so much scepticism about the machine, so many comments waving away the upgrades as if they weren't worth the time of day, seeing the Switch OLED in-person made my brain click into place and say, "oh, yeah, I get it."

See, what I failed to understand from just a few stats on a Nintendo product page, was what a monumental difference the small changes made to the Switch feel like when you're really familiar with how the old console performed. The OLED is less a "Pro" upgrade, and more a quality of life update to the Switch.

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Nintendo Switch OLED // Credit: Nintendo
Nintendo Switch OLED // Credit: Nintendo

While the hardware isn't any more powerful than the original release of the Switch, the new screen and audio makes it feel like the OLED is more powerful. Everything is smoother, cleaner, prettier, crisper, shinier. When given the opportunity to play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, despite my familiarity with the intro sequence, I was suddenly re-enamoured with the particles on-screen and the little splooshes as a barefoot, bewildered Link takes his first steps in years.

As I explored a little of Super Mario Odyssey I remembered the original magic of the title as I took control of a T-Rex. When playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, I could see players in front of me clearer as I aimed my green shell. The OLED makes a difference, everything plainly looks and feels better when you can see everything that little clearer. And the bezel reduction just feels right.

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Not only is the screen a highlight for single-player experiences, but somehow it justifies some of Nintendo's bizarre marketing campaigns. You might have seen the way the Switch is pitched towards co-op gaming - taking the machine on the go and playing it with a group of oddly attractive 20-something-year-old adults who aren't visibly drinking alcohol but have probably had a pint or two before engaging in a hilarious game of Mario Kart.

Nintendo Switch OLED // Credit: Nintendo
Nintendo Switch OLED // Credit: Nintendo

Now, before it never felt like it made sense to see two or even four people hunched around a screen propped up by a tiny stand. But with the new OLED, I can legitimately see some friends playing the Switch just as these commercials have depicted. You have far more stability with the new back panel stand; and rather than just having one setting, the new stand can adjust however you like it, with surprising manoeuvrability.

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Additionally, the audio has been improved for these sorts of settings. We're not exactly sure what's changed the "onboard speakers with enhanced audio" are a welcome change too. Although if you're travelling it's likely you're going to be relying on your own headphones to hear the ductile tones of a Lynel murdering Link, if you need the speakers for co-op play you'll definitely feel a difference in both volume and clarity.

And we can't forget the new dock which completes the "Switch, but make it look like Apple designed it" aesthetic the OLED has taken on. Gone is the swinging backplate, and now it's just a removable panel that houses the new LAN port and power cable pretty nicely. Aesthetically, this white OLED will sit below a TV screen far more smoothly than the original dock, and generally feels as though more thought has been put into the final product.

Even with all these niceties, one question remains: who the heck is the Switch OLED even for? Who needs it? How can you justify buying one? Well, there are two groups of players I think this will appeal to the most. First, of course, it's for those who haven't yet owned a Switch, as this is obviously an improvement on the original model and likely worth the little extra dosh to have the better screen, audio, LAN port, and even the new stand - which will undoubtedly make the Switch feel more useful in social settings.

Nintendo Switch OLED // Credit: Nintendo
Nintendo Switch OLED // Credit: Nintendo

The second group is actually the position that I'm in. I've taken my poor ol' Switch abroad, stuffed it in handbags and backpacks, and dropped it a thousand times. Yes, it's still functional, still going strong, and working almost as it did when it was brand new. I've kept this Switch on me for years. I've opened it up in a pub to play co-op with a mate, used it for streaming, and sat in hotel rooms exploring new worlds with it by my side. And that means I'm the sort of person that will see and feel the Switch OLED's improvements the most.

Now, is it an essential upgrade? No, not by any means. If you don't have a comfortable amount of funds to spend on a new console when you have a perfectly fine Switch still at your side, I wouldn't try to convince you that you need the OLED. But I would keep an eye out for how other Switch fans react to its release in October. It's shiny and sparkly and makes me feel warm and tingly, but that's probably just a reflection of seeing a new and upgraded piece of tech I was already sold on from years of play.

Oh, and at the preview, I did ask about other colour variations. Although yes, the original Joy-Cons are still functional on the Switch OLED, Nintendo representatives said to me that there were no pipeline plans of something like the Animal Crossing: New Horizons Switch collaboration that they knew of. So if you're holding out for a special edition OLED release, there's nothing Nintendo is ready to confirm on that front. But: new console, and new Zelda on the horizon? It makes sense, right?

Featured Image Credit: Nintendo

Topics: Features

Imogen Mellor
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