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Nintendo Switch OLED review

The Nintendo Switch OLED delivers an awesome display, improved speakers and better kickstand but it may not be worth upgrading for existing Switch owners

Nintendo Switch OLED review
(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

The Nintendo Switch OLED sports a gorgeous screen, an improved kickstand and lots of storage space. It’s an easy recommendation for first-time Switch buyers — and an extravagance for current Switch owners.

For

  • Beautiful OLED screen
  • Handful of small, useful upgrades
  • Handsome black-and-white color scheme
  • Retains excellent Switch features and library

Against

  • No 4K capabilities
  • Display still 720p
  • Shows its age compared to PS5 and Xbox Series X/S

Tom's Guide Verdict

The Nintendo Switch OLED sports a gorgeous screen, an improved kickstand and lots of storage space. It’s an easy recommendation for first-time Switch buyers — and an extravagance for current Switch owners.

Pros

  • + Beautiful OLED screen
  • + Handful of small, useful upgrades
  • + Handsome black-and-white color scheme
  • + Retains excellent Switch features and library

Cons

  • - No 4K capabilities
  • - Display still 720p
  • - Shows its age compared to PS5 and Xbox Series X/S
Nintendo Switch OLED: Specs

Release Date: October 8, 2021
Price: $350
Chipset: Custom Nvidia Tegra X1
Storage: 64 GB (expandable)
Display: 7-inch OLED
Max Resolution: 720p handheld/1080p docked
Max Framerate: 60 fps
Ports: USB-C, 3.5 mm audio, microSD, HDMI (docked), LAN (docked)
Size: 9.5 x 4.0 x 0.6 inches
Weight: 14.9 ounces (handheld)
Battery Life: 4.5 – 9 hours

The Nintendo Switch OLED is an amazingly easy product to recommend — and to recommend against. Are you looking to buy a Nintendo Switch for the first time? Get the Switch OLED. At $350, it more than earns its $50 premium over the $300 base Switch model. Do you already own a Nintendo Switch? It’s probably not worth upgrading, unless collecting Nintendo consoles is one of your hobbies.

On the one hand, it’s easy to love the Switch OLED, because it accomplishes what it sets out to do so well. On the other hand, it’s easy to be frustrated with the Switch OLED, because it’s such a mild upgrade at a time when the Switch could really use a full 4K variant. The Switch OLED is nearly identical to the base model, save for its prettier screen and a handful of design improvements. And while the screen is, indeed, very pretty, it doesn’t radically alter the experience of playing the Switch in handheld mode. If you play your Switch in docked mode, then the Switch OLED doesn’t alter anything at all.

Still, taken on its own merits, the Switch OLED is a strong machine. It still has a killer hybrid design, a terrific library of games and an admirable focus on gaming, first and foremost. If you’ve been on the fence about a Switch, the OLED is the model to get. Read on for our full Nintendo Switch OLED review.

Nintendo Switch OLED review: Design

First things first: The Nintendo Switch OLED is, for the most part, exactly like the console’s base model. If you want to know how the system functions overall, I recommend you check out our Nintendo Switch review, which covers the system’s general size and shape, portable functionality, idiosyncratic controllers, uneven online features and extensive game library.

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Nintendo switch oled

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Nintendo switch oled placed on shelf by TV

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The first thing I noticed about the Switch OLED was that it’s the same size as the base Switch: 9.5 x 4.0 x 0.6 inches. This is a bit bigger than the handheld-only Nintendo Switch Lite, but it’s a comfortable size for most teens and adults to hold for long periods of time. (It’s probably a bit too big for small children.) This may seem like a minor point, but because the Switch OLED retains its counterpart’s physical design, all of your existing accessories should still work. Stashing the Switch OLED in my regular Switch’s carrying case saved me a big headache right off the bat.

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To be fair, the Switch OLED is a tiny bit heavier than the base model: 14.9 ounces, as opposed to 14.1 ounces. I didn’t find the OLED less comfortable to hold for long periods of time, but when it comes to handhelds, lighter is better.

Nintendo Switch OLED review: OLED screen

From a physical standpoint, the Switch OLED makes two big deviations from the base model, and one small-but-significant deviation. The most noticeable change, of course, is the 7-inch OLED screen, compared to the 6-inch LCD screen on the base Switch.

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The OLED screen is the centerpiece of the Switch OLED, and where most of Nintendo’s praise is due. The larger screen renders crisp images with vibrant colors and deep blacks. When you play a game with dark, detailed levels — such as the alien caverns of Metroid Dread or the foreboding castles of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild — the experience feels even more immersive than before. While the image quality isn’t vastly different between a 7-inch OLED and a 6-inch LCD, the color richness is.

When you play a game with dark, detailed levels — such as the alien caverns of Metroid Dread — the experience feels even more immersive than before.

At the same time, it’s worth pointing out that your eyes get acclimated to just about anything after a while. When I first jumped from the base Switch to the OLED model, I found the bigger screen and more lifelike colors stunning. After half an hour, I’d tuned them out to focus exclusively on gameplay. Likewise, going back to the base Switch felt like a big step down at first, and a nonissue shortly thereafter.

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For this reason, among others, I’d caution existing Switch owners against running out to buy the OLED model. It looks good, but it’s not a night-and-day difference from what you already have. The screen still maxes out at 720p resolution; the console still chugs during demanding gameplay sections sometimes.

Nintendo Switch OLED review: Kickstand and speakers

The Switch OLED’s other upgrades are more subtle, but still useful. The kickstand now runs the length of the device, rather than being a simple, flimsy piece of plastic. This makes it easier to stand the Switch OLED up on a variety of surfaces, without worrying about it taking a sudden dive.

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Furthermore, the Switch OLED’s dock possesses a built-in Ethernet port, so you no longer have to buy a separate adapter.

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Then there are the speakers, which don’t look much different, but sound considerably better. On the Switch OLED, the speakers are slightly bigger and have more of a rectangular shape.

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The more important change, though, is that they sound much better than before, with a clearer, more nuanced soundscape, even at lower volumes. The ambient sound in Metroid Dread felt sufficiently ominous; the strong melody of the Hyrule Castle theme in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild felt sufficiently heroic.

Nintendo Switch OLED review: Interface

The Nintendo Switch OLED’s interface is exactly the same one you’ll find on the base Switch and Switch Lite with the same OS. That means that you’ll still get the easy-to-navigate game menu on the home screen, with separate sections for Nintendo Switch Online, news, the Nintendo eShop, saved photos and videos, controller options, brightness and other system settings.

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The Switch OLED’s navigation is arguably not as robust as the PS5 or the Xbox Series X/S, but it’s also arguably much simpler and more straightforward. All Switch systems — including the OLED — now support Bluetooth audio, thanks to a recent firmware update, which is a nice touch.

Nintendo Switch OLED review: Performance

If there’s one area where the Switch OLED falls a bit short, it’s in performance. That’s not because the Switch OLED is any worse than the base model; in fact, it’s almost exactly the same. But the fact is that the Switch is a four-year-old console, and the industry has made some pretty significant strides in hardware since 2017. To put it bluntly, after playing the PS5 and Xbox Series X, it’s difficult to go back to a Switch, OLED or otherwise.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

To put it bluntly, after playing the PS5 and Xbox Series X, it’s difficult to go back to a Switch, OLED or otherwise.

Like the base Switch, the Switch OLED features a custom Nvidia Tegra X1 chipset. This is similar to what’s inside a high-end streaming device; the Nvidia Shield uses one as well. The Switch OLED has 4 GB RAM and 64 GB flash storage. (The base model has 32 GB flash storage, so that’s improved, at least.) The result is a handheld hybrid that can display 720p at up to 60 frames per second in handheld mode, and 1080p at up to 60 fps in docked mode. 4K resolution and 120 fps frame rates are a pipe dream — not to mention the near-instantaneous loading times that SSDs can facilitate.

While Nintendo didn’t design the Switch to incorporate cutting-edge components, the device felt a little underpowered in 2017, and downright outmoded now. In handheld mode, you’ll notice long load times and low resolutions; in docked mode, you’ll notice dated graphics and inconsistent frame rates.

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It’s also worth noting that if you own a base Switch and play primarily in docked mode, the Switch OLED has almost nothing to offer you. Once you plug the console into a dock, the OLED screen, larger kickstand and better speakers are meaningless. And if you need an Ethernet port, you can get a perfectly good adapter for $30.

Nintendo Switch OLED review: Controller

Much like its interface and components, the Nintendo Switch OLED’s controller options are identical to those of the base Switch. The Joy-Cons are still competent when attached to the console, and a bit off-center and uncomfortable when plugged into the controller base.

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Nintendo switch oled controllers and TV display

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Nintendo Switch OLED joycons connected to base

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Nintendo Switch OLED multi-player controllers

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They’re also great for impromptu multiplayer sessions. I still recommend the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller if you’re going to sit back and play games on the couch for hours on end.

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This time around, you can get the Joy-Cons in either the traditional blue-and-red, or a stately black-and-white. I adore the Switch OLED’s new color scheme, but I do wonder how easily it will get dirty over time.

Nintendo Switch OLED review: Game library

The Nintendo Switch OLED offers a robust and eclectic game library, just like the base Switch and Switch Lite. The game selection is exactly the same among the three console variations. Just be aware that you’ll be able to play beloved first-party Nintendo fare, such as Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, as well as more recent third-party hits, such as Doom (2016) and Dragon Ball FighterZ. The Switch OLED is also a fantastic place to play older games, from venerable classics like Mega Man X, to newer favorites like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

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I would be remiss, however, if I did not mention Metroid Dread: the first original side-scrolling Metroid game in 19 years. Coming out alongside the Switch OLED, Metroid Dread is arguably the console’s flagship game. Samus Aran’s latest adventure does indeed look gorgeous on the OLED model, particularly the deep reds and blues of her power armor, and the stately blacks of the dangerous Planet ZDR. If you have any affinity for side-scrollers, Metroid Dread should be your first Switch OLED game purchase.

Nintendo Switch OLED review: Battery life

Nintendo claims that the Switch OLED can get between 4.5 and 9 hours of gameplay on a single charge, depending on which games you play. The Switch OLED employs the same battery as the base-model Switch, so the battery life may not be tremendously different. In our testing so far, Metroid Dread ate through a fully charged battery in about 5 hours, which is in line with Nintendo’s predictions.

Nintendo switch oled USB-C port

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It's difficult to come up with a standardized gameplay test for the Nintendo Switch's battery life, as different gameplay activities tax the battery to different extents. Instead, we selected a colorful YouTube video with a lot of motion, then ran it on four different Switch models with the screen brightness at 100% and the volume at 50%. Here's how each Switch variant performed:

Nintendo Switch: Battery life comparison
Nintendo Switch OLEDNintendo Switch (2019 Model)Nintendo Switch (Launch Model)Nintendo Switch Lite
Battery Life (Hrs:Min)5:004:403:283:19

The Switch OLED performed just as Nintendo promised, offering a solid 5 hours of battery life. A launch model Switch provided 3 hours and 28 minutes, while a Switch Lite lasted for 3 hours and 19 minutes. Nintendo implemented a better battery in the base Switch in 2019; one of those models lasted 4 hours and 40 minutes on a single charge.

Nintendo Switch OLED review: Verdict

Overall, the Nintendo Switch OLED is a great system. This is primarily because the base Nintendo Switch is still a great system, and the Switch OLED makes a handful of smart additions. The OLED screen looks as impressive as we’d hoped. Smaller improvements to the kickstand, speakers, dock and storage also address shortcomings in the base model.

Still, there’s something decidedly unsatisfying about the Switch OLED. After four years, it still has the same components, the same resolution and the same controllers, none of which were perfect to begin with. With a whole new generation of consoles on the market, even an OLED screen can’t make the Switch feel particularly slick or powerful.

If you take it for what it is, the Switch OLED is a solid system, and an easy bet for gamers who haven’t taken the plunge on a Switch yet. But if you consider what it might have been, the Switch OLED may simply be a stopgap before Nintendo takes another big risk on another inventive idea.

Marshall Honorof

Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.