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Kavawuvi

Nintendo Switch console

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The Nintendo Switch has been out for a year now, so I figured I would finally give a little review after it has been updated for a while, now.

 

Note that I am reviewing the console in its current state, and things may change, especially at the end of this year when Nintendo makes online multiplayer a paid service.

 

What is it?

 

The Nintendo Switch is Nintendo’s latest home console. It’s a hybrid console that essentially mashes together aspects of Nintendo’s handheld and home consoles. Like past consoles, Nintendo does for the Nintendo Switch what Nintendo does best: innovating things that may or may not have actually needed to be innovated.

 

Portable Console Gaming

 

The Switch’s main selling point is that it can be played portably. While being able to play full console-like games portably isn’t anything new, Nintendo presents the Nintendo Switch in a way that still retains its identity as a home console.

 

In a nutshell: you can take your console gaming experience with you on its 720p capacitive touch screen, or you can put the Switch in the included dock and plug it into your TV for up to 1080p output.

 

This type of functionality provides a level of convenience that other 8th generation consoles do not bring. After all, some people may not have time to sit down in one spot in front of a TV or monitor and may need to move around, and the Nintendo Switch nicely fulfills this niche. That said, smartphones more powerful than the Tegra X1 processor inside the Nintendo Switch are a thing, so it is not like this is the first system or the most powerful system that can accomplish mobile gaming.

 

The Nintendo Switch also has a kickstand on the back, allowing you to set the Switch on a surface. You can then detach the included wireless controllers (Joy-Cons) and/or use a wireless controller like the Nintendo Switch Pro controller to play. However, because the charging port is on the bottom of the Nintendo Switch, it won’t be possible to play this way while charging its battery if you were to set it on a regular table.

 

Is playing portably a 1:1 experience to playing docked, though? For the most part, yes. You play the same games, and it’s a very seamless transition of just taking the console out of the dock or putting it back. However, there is some stuff that happens under the hood when you take it out. For one, the game is now limited to 720p output due to the Switch’s resolution. Also, the Switch’s GPU runs slower. Games may have to reduce their graphics a little bit.

 

Speaking of the screen, the Nintendo Switch uses plastic. While this does make it shatter-proof, it’s not very scratch resistant. If you take good care of it, it most likely won’t get scratched, but just to be safe, you can get a pair of tempered glass screen protectors for around $8. Then, you don’t have to worry about scratches.

 

Switch vs. Wii U

 

One of the things the Wii U had was a tablet-like device which operated as a controller and a screen. Many games could be played this way without having to use the TV. While the Nintendo Switch does this as well, it is not tethered to a console as, this time, the tablet is the console.

 

There is no Gamepad for the Nintendo Switch, so it’s likely we won’t see any Wii U backwards compatibility. We probably also won’t see any DS or 3DS virtual console, either, as it would be difficult to play those when docked if there is no touch screen.

 

Due to the 16:9 aspect ratio of the Nintendo Switch, playing those games undocked may also be difficult if you still want to have the controls on the side of the Nintendo Switch. Perhaps Nintendo may change this by allowing you to connect a Wii U Gamepad or something similar, but I can’t gauge how likely this would be.

 

The only time you’ll ever see two screens in one game is if you are playing wireless multiplayer with two Nintendo Switches.

 

Games

 

The Nintendo Switch has a lot of first and third party games this time around, and many of the third party games are quite good. Rocket League, for example, is a big seller on the system. Nintendo’s first party lineup is also quite strong, with a few games ported over from the Wii U and a bunch of new games made for the Switch.

 

You also have two options for how you can use games: physical or digital. Physical games come in cartridges instead of traditional discs, similar to Nintendo’s past handheld consoles. Cartridges have the benefits of being smaller and easy to bring with you in a carry case. Of course, the most portable option is downloading the games. Nintendo will even credit you 5% what you spend on digital games on the eShop, where if you buy a physical game, you’ll only get 1% and only if that game was released in the past year.

 

User Interface

 

One thing I really like about the Nintendo Switch is its user interface. Everything is organized and clean, and it is very easy to navigate around it. Nintendo still uses tiles for games like they did with the 3DS and Wii U, but this time, only games or things you download are in tiles. Things like the eShop and settings are placed in small circles on the menu, separate from your games.

 

One welcome improvement over the 3DS and Wii U is the fact that you also have access to the entirety of the main menu even when a game is running. You don’t have to close the game before opening the eShop or the settings. You can also pair controllers and set the controller order with the Controllers button next to the Settings button on the main menu even while a game is running.

 

Also, going between the main menu and back in-game is a lot faster than the 3DS and Wii U. On those older consoles, it would take several seconds before I would see the menu. On the Nintendo Switch, it’s almost instantaneous.

 

Being able to use the touch screen to navigate the menu or type things seems pretty natural (though you can also plug in a USB keyboard into the dock).

 

That said, it’s not perfect. The eShop, while fairly easy to navigate, is a little sluggish (FPS-wise) for some reason. For example, if I go to select Games on Sale, wait for it to list the games, then go to select a game, it plays a very choppy animation to zoom in the list of games that are on sale. Some categories are less laggy such as the Best Sellers or if I use an option that doesn’t list any games, such as Enter Code. Obviously I’m not playing a game, so it’s not like it’s that detracting, but it does negatively impact my experience in a small way. Everything outside of the eShop is fine, though.

 

To be honest, I mainly browse the eShop on my PC and buy games from there rather than using the one in the Switch.

 

Graphics

 

The Nintendo Switch mostly does a good job with outputting decent graphics, but it is outclassed by its competition here. For example, DOOM runs at 60 FPS on the Xbox One and PS4. On the Nintendo Switch, the settings are reduced and it is locked to 30 FPS. It doesn’t look bad, and you can play it portably, but it is something to keep in mind if you get this system.

 

Of course, if you were looking for the most powerful system for $300, you’d be better off buying some used PC parts. GTX 760s are cheap these days.

 

The Controllers

 

The Nintendo Switch comes with two controllers (Joy-Cons) which can function either as one controller together or, for some games, two separate controllers. You can also connect additional Joy-Cons as well as the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller (plays like an Xbox One controller but lacks analog triggers).

 

The Pro Controllers are pricey ($70 USD), and so are Joy-Cons ($80 USD per additional pair), but there are also cheaper controllers out there. PowerA, for example, has cheaper, Nintendo-themed wired controllers which work similarly to a Pro controller but without motion controls, and it costs only around $30.

 

Controllers also have a share button that allow you to take a screenshot or save the last 30 seconds of gameplay to the Nintendo Switch. You can then access this from your Album and upload it to Facebook or Twitter. The saved video is 1280x720 at 30 FPS, however, so games that run at 60 FPS may look choppy in the video. If you want to record continuous footage or record at a higher frame rate/resolution, use a capture device.

 

Joy-Cons

 

The Joy-Cons work quite well, but they are a little on the small side of things. The tiny analog sticks can impact games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe when having to be used with my somewhat large hands, making a full-sized controller more appropriate even if it may otherwise have the same button layout.

 

Putting them both in the included Joy-Con grip does improve things a little bit, as it at least feels like one single controller now, but it’s not quite the same experience as using a full controller.

 

One issue is that the left Joy-Con does not have a directional-pad. Instead, Nintendo has opted to have it mirror the right Joy-Con by including another set of four buttons. As such, you can use these Joy-Cons individually to play two-player multiplayer.

 

However, using a single Joy-Con limits how many controls you have. Not only do you lose an analog stick, but you don’t get any direction buttons or triggers, and the L and R buttons on the side of the Joy-Con labelled SL and SR are tiny. Personally, I’d just get a second controller, but this can be useful in a pinch.

 

Motion Controls

 

I mentioned it a few times. Yes, motion controls exist in the Nintendo Switch. Even in 2018, Nintendo has not given up on them.

 

Like in all past iterations, they can be useful in some instances. Having more precise aiming, for example, can be seen in some games. Splatoon on the original Wii U made a lot of use of this and greatly benefitted from it, in my opinion.

 

However, they can also be infuriating, such when as trying to roll a ball across a maze in one of the shrines in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Fortunately, Nintendo was less in-your-face about it, and in this game, you only need it for these few shrines, should you choose to do them, rather than every time you want to swing your sword like in certain Wii games.

 

Local Multiplayer

 

Another aspect I think the Nintendo Switch does well in is multiplayer, especially local multiplayer. There are quite a few ways to do this, actually.

 

One method you may be familiar with is split screen. In many cases, the two Joy-Cons can function as separate controllers, and you can also connect additional controllers to the Nintendo Switch. This can be done docked or even undocked, though you should mind the smaller 720p screen if playing split screen while undocked.

 

It also brings wireless multiplayer from Nintendo’s previous handhelds in several games, such as Rocket League. With this, you can play wirelessly between multiple Nintendo Switches without needing to connect a Wi-Fi network.

 

Unlike past iterations, though, there is no form of DS Download Play which would allow you to download the game from the other console. This means that all players will need to have the game on their Nintendo Switch. It is possible for games to work around this, though, such as Namco Museum having a free download to let you join a Pac-Man Vs. game on the full version.

 

Lastly, a few games also support wired LAN. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, ARMS, and Splatoon 2 can make use of this. However, for a wired connection, you will need to plug in a USB Ethernet adapter. Nintendo recommends you use licensed adapters, but some non-licensed ones have been known to work.

 

Paid Online Multiplayer

 

Currently, online multiplayer is free, but Nintendo has announced paid online multiplayer (Nintendo Switch Online) to be introduced in September 2018. When this happens, all of the games that supported online multiplayer will require this to continue supporting online multiplayer gameplay.

 

Here’s how much it costs:

 

$20 per twelve months ($1.67 per month)

$8 per three months ($2.67 per month)

$4 per one month ($4.00 per month)

 

This is a lot cheaper than what Microsoft and Sony offer, which at best is $60 per year ($5.00 per month). In the past, multiplayer has been free on Nintendo platforms, so it does suck a bit that they will be switching to a paid model as this does negatively affect the value of this console by tacking on more money you have to pay. Also, in the past, their online multiplayer hasn’t been the greatest in quality. Nintendo has been working on improving this, fortunately, but there is no guarantees. At least it's cheaper, though.

 

Storage and Save Data

 

The Nintendo Switch comes with only 32 GB of built-in storage. To make matters worse, you can only use 26 GB of that. This is extremely small, but you can, fortunately, expand this with a microSD card. With one installed, games, game updates, screenshots, and videos can be stored in the microSD card instead of the built-in storage.

 

You do have choices in what you can put in your Nintendo Switch. Nintendo wants you to buy a Nintendo-licensed microSD card, but you are probably going to pay twice as much for it. Fortunately, any other microSDXC card up to 2 TB should work. Here are current prices:

 

64 GB microSD cards are ~$20 ($0.31 / GB)

128 GB microSD cards are ~$40 ($0.31 / GB)

200 GB microSD cards are ~$66 ($0.33 / GB)

256 GB microSD cards are ~$110 ($0.43 / GB)

400 GB microSD cards are ~$250 ($0.63 / GB)

 

In terms of value, your best choices are 128 GB and 200 GB. 64 GB is way too small for some games, and if you do end up buying multiple 64 GB cards, you may as well be buying multiple 128 GB cards as you’ll have fewer to worry about.

 

If you need something larger than 200 GB, you do take bigger plunge. 256 GB requires spending an extra $44 for another 56 GB and 400 GB requires another $140 on top of that for 144 GB.

 

I got a 128 GB card and I found it to be enough (for now). I may switch to a larger card if my library gets larger. However, I rarely buy games. If this happens, then moving data from a smaller to a larger microSD card is very simple with a PC. Simply copy the files from the microSD card to the other one. Then, start up a game from the destination card to verify it was successful.

 

A word of caution: Beware of scams. Some smaller cards (e.g. 8 GB) are disguised as a larger cards (e.g. 128 GB) even to the point where, upon inserting them into a drive, it will actually appear to have its rated capacity. However, attempting to write data beyond the card’s actual capacity will result in data corruption. A good way to tell if a card is a scam is if its price is too good to be true or it has a lot of negative reviews. Exercise common sense and get a well-reviewed microSD card.

 

How much does a Nintendo Switch cost?

 

The MSRP of a Nintendo Switch is $300. This gets you the base console with 32 GB (actually 26 GB) of storage, two Joy-Cons (with Joy-Con grips), a dock, a non-charging grip, and a charger. This is around the same price as a new PlayStation 4 ($300) and a little more expensive than a new Xbox One ($240). However, you may find yourself paying a bit more than this beyond the games.

 

Screen protectors cost around $8. Having one can be important due to the plastic screen being prone to scratching.

 

Also, you’ll want at least a 128 GB microSD card to store all of your games if you download them, which will be $40. Even if you don’t download all of your games, your games do need room to put their updates.

 

Not including the games, the total upfront price of the Nintendo Switch, after you factor in a 128 GB microSD card, and a screen protector comes to be $348. This puts it at an awkward price point between the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 4 Pro, though at least multiplayer is currently free right now, lessening its current upfront price and actually making it slightly cheaper than the PlayStation 4 (with paid online multiplayer factored in). However, this will change when paid online multiplayer goes live for the Nintendo Switch this fall.

 

Some other gripes

 

Nintendo could do a lot better in some other areas, too. For example, if you want a second dock, such as for a different room, then Nintendo does sell those, but they are $90 each. Third-party docks have been out for a while, but ever since the Nintendo Switch 5.0 update, Nintendo Switch units have, for some reason, been bricked by these third-party docks. I would like to see this either addressed or have the official docks be less of a ripoff.

 

Another thing that is annoying is that you have no method to backup your save data either to a microSD card or to the Internet, even though pretty much every other console console lets you do this. This means that if your Nintendo Switch is damaged and must be repaired or replaced, you can potentially lose all your save data and your only recourse is to start over on all your games. Ouch.

 

Also, the battery life isn’t great. Some games, like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, I’ve found I only get around two and a half hours. While I don’t play video games that long, anyone on a long bus or plane trip may appreciate a longer battery life. You can use an external battery to charge it through its USB type-C port, extending its lifespan a bit, but this goes back to the point with the dock: you risk bricking your Switch.

 

Lastly, there’s no voice chat on the Switch itself. While I don’t personally care about voice chat and usually turn it off, others may find this really annoying, as now you can’t communicate with other people in the game. Nintendo does provide an app on your phone so you can voice chat with friends, but then you may as well use Discord.

 

Overall

 

Its main selling point of being able to be played portably makes it stand out from its competition, the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Many of the bugs that were present in its first year have been ironed out.

 

Docked/undocked modes, the user interface, the many options for local multiplayer, and the game selection are all great. However, I’m not too fond about the limited storage space and the limited battery. They clearly did cut some very interesting corners here to make that $300 price tag possible. I also don’t like that I can’t backup my save data even though everything lets you do that, now. It would be nice if Nintendo fixed these issues as the console grows in popularity.

 

Otherwise, this console is very nice to play games on and I do recommend it.

 

Pros:

  • Can play console games portably
  • Good local multiplayer options
  • Good user interface
  • Good game selection
  • Comes with two controllers (technically)
  • Free multiplayer (for now)

 

Cons:

  • Limited storage - mostly mitigated with microSD card
  • No (official) way to backup save data
  • Limited battery life
  • No voice chat
  • Dock is overpriced
Sceny, ShikuTeshi and Tucker933 like this

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Members of Open Carnage never see off-site ads.

When Nintendo switches to a paid model for online multiplayer, then assuming I don't forget, I'll go back and edit the original review to account for the paid model.

 

I think paid online is stupid, but you never know if they'll actually throw in something worth paying $20/year (probably not).


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Joy-Cons work in a pinch, but I have to say I'm not really a fan. The buttons are too far offset, either to the left or the right depending on which Joy-Con you're using. But I don't own a Switch so I can't comment on how the controllers work in single-player mode.

 

It's pretty cool that the Switch can be jailbroken, thanks to a flaw in the Nvidia Tegra chip. That will considerably extend the usable life of this device.

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2 hours ago, WaeV said:

Joy-Cons work in a pinch, but I have to say I'm not really a fan. The buttons are too far offset, either to the left or the right depending on which Joy-Con you're using. But I don't own a Switch so I can't comment on how the controllers work in single-player mode.

The Joy-Cons are okay. They work, and they feel pretty good for the most part aside from things being a little on the small side. I prefer the PowerA wired controller or the Switch Pro controller.

 

2 hours ago, WaeV said:

It's pretty cool that the Switch can be jailbroken, thanks to a flaw in the Nvidia Tegra chip. That will considerably extend the usable life of this device.

Oh yeah. Apparently it's easy?


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Posted (edited)

I'd like to add that Anker, the same brand who's 26800mAh Battery Bank I reviewed before has partnered with Nintendo to produce Battery Banks certified for fast charging the Nintendo Switch at the right 15V/2.6A
PowerCore 13400 Nintendo Switch Edition
PowerCore 20100 Nintendo Switch Edition

Edited by ShikuTeshi
Kavawuvi likes this

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