Remakes and remasters are huge these days. We’ve seen them time and again. It’s a little less common, though, to see what amounts to a hardware remaster. The last-gen of gaming consoles tried their best to switch up our expectations of what a “console cycle” could be with the PlayStation 4 Pro and the Xbox One X, but these upgrades were little more than version 1.5 band-aids designed to tide impatient fans over until the real next-gen kicked in.
And speaking of switching things up… that’s exactly what we have with the Switch OLED Model; a bigger, fancier take on Nintendo’s beloved hybrid console offering a beautiful new display…and not much else that you couldn’t already get already. Is that dazzling display really worth the upgrade?
The Switch has been around for a whopping four+ years now, originally releasing in North America in March 2017. Since then, we’ve seen two previous hardware revisions. The first was the Switch Lite, a cheaper take on the Switch which jettisoned the console’s signature hybrid functionality and felt more like a typical handheld. Additionally, Switches purchased after August 2019 or so use a slightly more efficient system chipset and thus have slightly better battery life.
The Switch OLED Model is Nintendo’s first premium iteration of the hardware, offering a gorgeous new OLED display, twice as much onboard storage (64GB vs. 32GB) and an improved dock that offers onboard Ethernet connectivity. All of these are great quality-of-life enhancements, though the overall experience of actually playing remains unchanged.
Let’s get the most important point out of the way first: the Switch OLED is very much not the Switch Pro everyone thought was coming awhile back. It’s not more powerful at all, your games are going to run just like they always did and Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is still going to feel like you’re playing an N64 game with its framerate dips. Only more powerful hardware can really fix issues like that.
If you’re upgrading to the Switch OLED Model, you’re upgrading for the screen – that big, beautiful screen that probably looks better than your home theater screen. That said, it’s worth noting that while its internals are generally unchanged from the second wave of Switch consoles released in 2019, you’re actually getting a slight bump in terms of battery life if you’re using a Switch from 2017.
When we’re talking about current Switch owners, it’s important to focus on that bit about upgrading for the screen. In particular, if you play your Switch docked exclusively, the Switch OLED Model has basically nothing to offer that you’re not already getting with your current device. Your games won’t run better, the battery life bump won’t matter since you (probably) aren’t using the battery, and the additional 32GB of onboard storage, while nice, isn’t remotely worth the premium you’re paying. I guess the white Joy-Cons and more aesthetically pleasing dock are something, right?
On the other hand, if you spend a lot of time playing undocked, the Switch OLED Model is a pretty nice step up. The OLED screen is absolutely gorgeous, offering vibrant colors and impressive dark hues. It’s a sizable upgrade that’s difficult to fully understand until you see the new device in action – videos really don’t do the new screen justice, so you might want to check out a side-by-side comparison in a retail store where possible.
Games such as Metroid Dread, which Nintendo has used as a sort of poster game for the Switch OLED Model, absolutely pop when put on such a high-quality display, but you’ll notice the difference no matter what you’re playing.
Additionally, the screen is ever-so-slightly larger at 7 inches versus the original Switch’s 6.2 inches, a feat achieved by shrinking the bezel surrounding it. This, in turn, means the Switch OLED model is the same size as the original. Bigger is better, of course, but this also means the odd accessory designed for the original Switch might not work. Also, you’ll probably need new screen protectors for the Switch OLED Model, and you’ll want to make sure to get one since the OLED display as just as scratch-prone as the display on the original Switch.
One concern worth addressing: OLED displays come in several varieties, with some speculation beforehand that this new Switch would use a PenTile model which are cheaper, but largely considered inferior for low-resolution purposes versus a full RGB model, which are more expensive but clearer at low resolutions. Your phone might use a PenTile OLED display, for instance, but your phone is probably an HD device and so the fuzziness typical of PenTile OLED displays wouldn’t be noticeable. Happily, this console uses a full RGB OLED screen, so the image is sharp and crisp.
Outside of the screen, there’s a few other minor design changes. The kickstand on the back of the Switch OLED Model is significantly improved. It’s much wider and does a far superior job of keeping your console in place than the flimsy plastic tab on the original Switch. You get a new, slightly redesigned dock as well, which looks a little better sitting next to your TV and also includes a built-in Ethernet port so you don’t have to buy a USB dongle to connect your dock directly to your router. Generally, though, this is a Switch with a very fancy screen and that’s about it.
That’s really what your buying decision comes down to: do you want a Switch with a very fancy screen? If you already own a Switch, the Switch OLED Model is a luxury upgrade, the value of which really boils down to how much time you spend playing in handheld vs. docked mode. If you don’t, the additional price-tag is a worthwhile price to pay for a superior console and access to the Switch’s impressive library of games. Your calculus is going to vary a lot based on how often (and how) you play your Switch, but one thing that’s unquestionable is that the Switch OLED is a quality device and a step up from the original.