Our Verdict: The Nintendo Switch is a fun and competent console for all gamers and a must-have for Super Mario, Zelda, and Pokemon fans. It is also the only modern console designed for “gaming on the go”.
What we liked: Up to nine hours of handheld gameplay, a vast library of games with excellent exclusive titles, motion sensitive controllers with three play modes. It’s like a transformer!
What we don’t like: Graphics quality lags behind the competition, Bluetooth wireless headsets not supported, scratch susceptible screen, Joy-Cons drift issue.
Score: 8 out of 10
Nintendo Switch has been around since 2017, with sales figures that have been surprising competitors from quarter to quarter, which then resulted in a slight hardware upgrade with the Nintendo Switch 2019.
The console itself is unique on the market because it’s the only modern handheld console on the market. To top it off, there’s also a vast game library, with Super Mario, Zelda and Pokemon being the headliners.
Other multiplatform titles like FIFA, Fortnite, Civilization VI, Witcher III, and similar triple-A titles, are also available on the Switch, making it an even more appealing console of choice.
With that said, the plan for today’s Nintendo Switch Review is to go through the most important features, hardware specs, game library, accessories, and other essential aspects of the device in this review. But first, to play on the latest Nintendo gaming system, you will need to set up a couple of things – accounts before all.
Nintendo Switch Review: Data Management
Powering the Switch console for the first time leads you to a profile set up and linking with your Nintendo account. If you already have it, you can log in, but If not, it’s not a hassle because you can set it up in a few minutes. You just need a valid e-mail address.
The reason behind the Nintendo account are the online services that big N is managing, which include the eShop for purchasing games, My Nintendo loyalty program, and for playing multiplayer games online, like Fortnite and Super Smash Brothers.
To create an account, you have to be 13 years or older. If you’re below that age limit, then you will need a parent or guardian to create a child account for you.
With the child account you get the option of limiting the playtime, suspending some software segments, customizing online features, deciding which games kids can play through a parent or guardian account, or with a companion app on your smartphone. Try not to go overboard with the number of accounts, because the console supports up to 8 registered users.
As for the triple-A titles which I mentioned earlier, if you want to play them, you will have to link additional accounts. Fortnite is among the most popular examples, and it requires an Epic Games account, while Apex Legends or FIFA 21 players will need an EA account, 2K for NBA 2K titles, and Ubisoft for Assassins Creed. Yeah, looks like your fingers will fall off from typing in all those credentials, but on the bright side, there is no need for additional account linking for Bethesda titles like Doom, Skyrim, and Wolfstein. The same applies to the LEGO games franchise and Witcher 3.
One thing to note is that the platform suffered a data breach in 2020 when more than 300,000 user accounts were compromised. The hackers took advantage of the same login credentials for Nintendo Network ID and Nintendo account, and since that data breach, the company discontinued this option and encouraged two-factor authentication (2FA), which I embraced immediately.
Nintendo Switch Comparison: 2017 vs 2019 model
Nothing much changed in terms of looks, if you compare the original Nintendo Switch 2017 and the new Nintendo Switch 2019 model you’ll see that they are visually identical.
Funnily enough, both consoles are still available for purchases. You can spot the difference with packaging, where the new box is now primarily red compared to the white original. Another clue is the model number on the back – if you have HAC-001(01), it is a newer version, and if it’s HAC-001, its the original from 2017.
If they are so alike, why should you get a new one?
- Well, there’s a stronger battery, with it you can play up to 9 hours in handheld mode, while the original had a maximum of around 6.5 hours.
- There is a slight upgrade in the display, with the V2 model having a little brighter screen.
- The Joy-Cons are visually identical, but Nintendo rearranged their antennas internally, so you’ll have less problems with their connectivity.
Nintendo Switch Review: Cost of Ownership
To begin with, you can get a Nintendo Switch console for $299.99 on Amazon. There are special editions like Animal Crossing: New Horizon for the same price or Monster Hunter Rise Deluxe that costs $369.99. There’s also a Lite version of the Switch, which is a handheld-only model, and you can get it for $199.99 in several colors, but more on that in our Nintendo Switch Lite review.
Unlike some previous Nintendo devices, most notably Wii U and Wii, the Switch console is not regionally locked, which means you can play your system regardless of where you bought it.
Although the Nintendo Switch doesn’t have the raw power like the rest of the next gen consoles, the main appeal is its convertible nature and vast games library. They don’t come cheap, but you can bump into various sales here and there.
Exclusive titles like Mario Kart Deluxe, SuperSmash Bros, or Super Mario Maker are $59.99. The same goes for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. However, you can find indie games that cost as low as $12.99, or games from other platforms like Minecraft, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and LEGO games for $29.99.
A monthly subscription is needed for multiplayer gaming, and it will set you back $3.99 on a monthly basis. Three months will cost you $7.99, which is a better value proposition, but I find the best bang for your buck in a yearly fee of $19.99. What’s interesting about this, is that the prices haven’t changed since the launch, and I think that a lot of new users will appreciate this.
Like probably many users, I was disappointed with only 32 GB of internal storage, which is not nearly enough for comfortable gaming, so I suggest you immediately buy an SD card. SanDisk produces Nintendo Switch branded SD cards that come with 64 and 128 GB of storage. Theoretically, you can get up to 2TB of additional storage with SD cards. On that note, check out our best SD card for Nintendo Switch article, it will make your purchasing decision less time consuming
As for the accessories, I strongly recommend getting a screen protector. You can easily scratch the plastic screen, even by inserting it in the TV stand, so a tempered glass or other protectors that can cost 6 to 11 dollars are a must-have. Additional or new Joy-Con controller will cost you $39.99 for a single or $79.99 for a pair. Alternatively, you can play with a Pro controller that looks more like a traditional gamepad, and it comes with a $69.99 price tag. I’ve found myself playing on the TV with using the Pro version, as it provides an easier transition from other gaming systems.
Nintendo Switch also supports third-party controllers like JALVDE Wireless JoyPad with a handgrip on the controller that looks almost identical to Joy-Con but costs only $37 a pair. Retro gamers might like 8Bitdo SN30 Pro, and classic gamers will go for the PowerA Wireless GameCube Style controller. BEBONCOOL Wireless controller and Sunjoyco are cordless options.
Nintendo Switch Review: Setup and Hardware
The first setup of Nintendo Switch is surprisingly simple. After connecting the AC adapter, and HDMI to your TV, you’ll need to attach the Joy-Con controllers to the console. Then it’s time to follow on-screen prompts to complete the first-time setup. Configure Internet settings by connecting to your wireless network, selecting Time Zone, and then set up your icon and nickname. Now it’s time to connect your Nintendo account or create one!
When you want to use Switch in handheld mode, just attach the Joy-Cons, press the power button, and that’s it, you’re good to go. The powertrain used in it comes from NVIDIA’s Tegra chipset, and it can efficiently run its 720p resolution screen as a mobile gaming system, and higher 1080p resolution when connected to the TV. In that case, the console should be in the docking and connected to a TV with an HDMI cable. I feel Nintendo Switch is best suited for players that like local multiplayer games with split-screen. One of my favorite things about Switch is a continuation of gameplay in handheld mode.
Since Nintendo Switch is completely made out of plastic from the outside, it doesn’t feel premium, while it is sustainable to scratches on both front and back. Joy-Cons left me a much better impression. They are a pair of lightweight controllers divided as designated L and R sides. There is a stand for controllers in TV mode, and in handheld, you’ll have to insert Joy-Cons into the console by sliding them in until you hear a satisfying click (sometimes I do it just for the funsies). Clicking the button on the back and pulling them out will release them. If you consider Switch’s longevity, the small plastic kickstand feels most brittle, unlike the rails on the console where you put controllers. Joy-Cons have a fair build quality, and the Pro controller can give you even more confidence for playing in the long run.
Controllers do feel responsive and adequate even after months of heavy use. They have a clickable analog stick, four face buttons, two top buttons, and two side buttons accessible in detach mode. Accelerometer and gyroscope are integrated for motion tracking and haptic feedback option HD Rumble, and they are conveniently charged when connected with the console.
One of the most frequent issues with the Switch is Joy-Con controllers drifting that effect some players, but I didn’t have that problem. Drifting of the analog sticks causes characters to move on the screen without user intention. This problem affects the left Joy-Con more frequently, and according to comments on the system, communities’ newer model is not as affected.
Moving back to the console, the Switch has a multi-touch capacitive 6.2 inch LCD screen with, for todays’ standard, relatively low 1280 x 720 resolution. On the flip side, I was pleasantly surprised with the system IPS display that has decent brightness and vibrant colors. HD resolution is just satisfactory for the screen size, and the games look sharp. Naturally, IPS has excellent viewing angles, which comes in great if you are opt-in for a split-screen local multiplayer. Previous Nintendo 3DS had both TN and IPS screens, and TN lost the color vibrancy when viewed from a slightly different angle.
Battery life on the refreshed model will get you 4.5-9 hours of playtime, depending on screen brightness, sound loudness, and even the game, for example, Zelda Breath of the Wild and other more demanding titles will eat up the battery fast, but playing Tetris can get you maximum battery life. After all, here you’re only piling blocks on top of each other, although, yeah, this is probably the best mobile gaming experience available out there.
Download speed for downloading digital copies of games is decent but somewhat limited so that the small console doesn’t overheat. Nintendo supports 5 GHz connectivity, and you can get up to 3 MB/s download speed in practice, but the maximum download speed can be improved if you change MTU (maximum transmission unit) setting to 1500. For Animal Crossing and its 12 GB of download data, I needed around 75 minutes of downloading.
Nintendo Switch also has Bluetooth 4.1, but it doesn’t support audio connections, so you will have to work around it with a Bluetooth dongle to connect your latest noise-canceling wireless headset. Similarly, like with Bluetooth, Nintendo doesn’t have a LAN port, but there’s an option of buying an adapter for a more reliable network connection.
Nintendo Switch Review: App Library in 2021
Although the Switch is primarily a gaming console, with access to an essential vast game library, there are some applications outside of games, and the best one is YouTube.
Hulu, for example, is a premium streaming service with live and on-demand movies, is also available, but there is no Netflix or Amazon Prime. How can I chill without Netflix? Impossibru!
If you like reading comics, Nintendo has you covered with the Inky Pen app that has an enormous range of titles, and you can unlock its premium version for $7.99. Among other apps, you can try KORG Gadget, a music creation software with numerous synthesizers and drum machines, or Coloring Book, a simple coloring app for kids.
Nintendo Switch Review: Game Library in 2021
Nintendo Switch library of games has more than 2000 titles, with The Legends of Zelda, Super Mario and Pokemon games topping it. As soon as the Switch came out, many Wii U games became instantly available on it, but the company also created remakes with enhanced graphics.
Zelda’s Breath of the Wild was the biggest hit on the Switch, and it was initially released for Wii U, just like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Unfortunately, there are currently no Metroid games available.
If you don’t plan to buy physical game cards, you can download games digitally from their eShop. I found the experience usable, but it felt a bit clunky and unintuitive. There is limited functionality to the shop and subpar organization of the game library, which is a shame considering what they represent. Once you get the hang of it, you can check out the prices.
Exclusive titles cost $59.99, third-party games like Skyrim, Doom, and other costs $29.99. The platform also has a vibrant indie game scene with numerous titles. Among US cross-platform bestseller is just $4.99, but most indie games cost $12.99. Unfortunately, if you’re in to card games or want to check out Nintendo’s slot machine selection, I will need to disappoint you – there aren’t any good ones.
As a handheld console, Switch was my best ally on long commute trips, I went through numerous single-player games in my A to B point travels, while I was always able to switch between the big screen and handheld mode once I found myself back in the apartment. Super Mario Odyssey and the Legends of Zelda: Breath of the Wild can alone give you countless hours of single-player gameplay, which is why I invested in both. I also replayed Skyrim once again. And once again.
On the other hand, Super Smash Bros Ultimate, Super Mario Party, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe are among the top local multiplayer supported games, which is why I got them for when my friends come over. You can divide the screen for up to four players and compete in these highly engaging and before all nostalgia-triggering titles.
Competitive online multiplayer games like Apex Legends and Fortnite, or FIFA 21, Minecraft, and countless others are also available. I’m more of a FIFA guy, and the experience is similar to other platforms, so it gets a thumbs up from me. You’ll have to pay a subscription to play online unless your focus is on Fortnite, which can be played without Nintendo Switch Online.
If you want to see some of the other equally fun and popular games, check out our detailed list where we covered the best Nintendo Switch games of all time.
How’s the online community?
Nintendo fans are an outspoken community with sometimes hardline attitudes. I was surprised by the Smash community and the toxicity level when Waluigi wasn’t in the game. Angry fans asked for Sakurai to be fired, and there were even some physical threats.
The absence of National Dex in recent Pokemon Sword & Shield turned the Pokemon fans into an angry divided group, while Animal Crossing has a formidable group of fans complaining about the lack of cloud save options. And while I understand the frustration levels, but not the vile nature of posts, of Pokemon enthusiasts, some Animal Crossing comments are hard to comprehend.
Zelda and Super Mario followers have much less drama, and the games have huge online communities. Like on all other platforms, Fortnite clout-seeking youngsters are on the verge of ruining the game for quiet players. Apex Legends players complain about the graphical downgrade, which makes it unplayable for most, and I can’t tell that I disagree.
We all know that accessories have always been Nintendo’s strong side, I myself have a dedicated shelf of it. I blame their store which has interesting addons like Joy-Con Wheel Accessory Pair, where you can insert controllers in the Wheel and play Mario Kart 8 Deluxe-type games with a wheel.
Another timeless add-on for it is the Hayabusa which is used for old-school fighting games that our fingers pounded day in, day out. With its analog stick and nine buttons, it really brings you back to all of those arcade times that you had with your friends. Remember when we used to go outside? For gamers who want to stay in shape, or get to it, there’s the RingFit Adventure and Ring fitness accessory. Of course, there are your other run-of-the-mill add-ons, Bluetooth transmitters, wireless headsets, play stands, and many more accessories, and you can find our picks in our separate best Nintendo Switch accessories article.
Verdict and our wishes for the next model
For all Super Mario, Zelda, and Pokemon fans, Nintendo Switch is a no-brainer, nostalgia hits hard here. When it’s all set and done, I liked the portability aspect the most, which is Switch’s key offering, as well as the longer battery life of this refreshed version.
The huge game library only cements the rest of the positive impressions, with some awesome third-party games like Witcher III, Rocket League, and for me, Skyrim.
I would be a monster if I wouldn’t mention that I LOVED the local multiplayer racing in Mario Kart, while, yeah, other classic multiplayer games like Fortnite and FIFA deliver on what they promise. Of course, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, there are some areas for improvement, for example, the screen could be bigger and Nintendo could work on Bluetooth connectivity.
I would love to see seamless Bluetooth audio connectivity, improved scratch resistance, and solved Joy-Con drifting problems, as well as more internal storage space.