The Nintendo Switch is finally here and has had its fair share of dedicated fans longing for it and the disgruntled ones that opted to just say ‘no more’ to Nintendo. I was very much on the fence myself about getting the console/handheld hybrid but decided to take the plunge because I just love getting new tech on day one and thought it would be a great opportunity to do my first hardware review.
In terms of size, the tablet device itself isn’t much larger than the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, on that note it’s not exactly going to be a comfortable fit in your pocket so you will probably want to invest in a carrying case, because if the tablet is just about able to fit in your pocket then with the joy-con’s attached it surely won’t. As a console, it’s form factor is incredible, small enough to fit into most entertainment set-ups, as a handheld it is a little on the large side but at least the device with attached controllers is still smaller than the Wii U gamepad.
Almost seamless transitions between playstyles does the Nintendo Switch’s messaging justice, a home console system that can be taken on the go and not only that switching between the three main playstyles is fast and easy. Going from TV to handheld mode happens in under a second, with the display switching almost instantly, maybe add another second or two if the joy-con’s are detached before hand. Changing from handheld to TV takes just a little bit longer at two to three seconds for reasoning I can only think off is the increase in power needed. Then going from handheld to tabletop mode is once again just a few seconds and that will vary dependent on your prowess to flick the stand out and detach the joy-con.
In handheld mode, the device is light enough to not tire your arms out after a lengthy play session and yet has enough weight to feel like a premium gaming device, the same can be said for the actual joy-con. When it comes to actual comfort in using the joy-con experiences will of course differ, but speaking for myself my left hand sits perfectly on the device with thumb on the left stick. I can’t say the same for my right, because of the placement of the stick it can sometimes get in the way when using the X, Y, A, B buttons. The offset stick configuration of the joy-con is good in the sense that you have both a stick and the key buttons available on the same axis, however lowering your thumbs to the directional buttons and right stick doesn’t feel so natural, having to bend my thumb at a near 90 degree angle it certainly isn’t painful at all by any means but something to think about dependent on hand size.
It has been noted that people with larger hands than most have some issues with comfort using the joy-con. The good news however is that both bumper and trigger buttons are in great positions and easily accessible, not to mention you have four extra buttons you have at your disposal being home, share, + and – each of which don’t force you to move your hand almost completely from the one side of the device much like the Wii U gamepad, so kudos to Nintendo for that.
The fantastic idea of having the joy-con able to function not only as one entity but two separate controllers does well in adding value to the system as a whole, straight out of the box you aren’t forced to purchase a second controller which is the case with most console’s nowadays. It must be said that using the separate controller’s make it worse again for people with larger hands, one hand is enough to wrap around a lone joy-con so using it a horizontal controller with one hand on the stick and one on the buttons often feels a little cramped especially when it comes to the shoulder buttons build into the rail. The shoulder button scenario can be combated slightly with the attachment of the wrist straps that come included and aid in giving a bit more size to each controller. I understand that the current placement of each button and stick is probably the best they could do to ensure these controllers could function separately or as a pair but that still doesn’t let it off the hook.
The included joy-con grip is definitely comfortable and almost comes close to recreating the feel of a pro controller, switching from buttons to sticks feels more natural, but the recurring theme is those with big hands beware, I didn’t have issues with this but it’s certainly been noted online. So for that section of the audience they may be forced to purchase the Switch pro controller, out of all the ways to play I feel the sold separately pro controller is the definitive way to play, that’s not to say the joy-con and joy-con grip are bad by any means, it’s just my preference based on the games I prefer to play.
The 6.2 Inch capacitive touch panel display maxes out resolution wise at 1280×720 or commonly known as 720p, sure 1080p would have been nice as it is seemingly the new standard, you may not get the sharpest quality but for the screen size the resolution is more than enough to deliver stunning visuals. The screen has the benefit of being playable from wide viewing angles but the drawback that sunlight just might ruin your experience. When in TV mode the Switch can output a resolution of up to 1080p which is great news, with Breath of The Wild running at 900p you can see a noticeable difference but not in a way that makes the 720p handheld display look bad at all. The fact that the Switch can only output Breath Of The Wild at 900p and 30fps shows the lack of horsepower the system has.
Nintendo had stated you could achieve around six hours of playtime on a full battery in less demanding games, Breath of the Wild would run down the battery at a steady rate allowing for just 2-3 hours of play time in handheld mode, you can try and get the most of your battery by turning the brightness down. The saving point however is that thanks to the USB-C port charging is fast, going from near empty (1%) to full in just a little over two hours.
An uninterrupted and less disruptive gameplay experience is always desired and when it comes to system noise the Switch is absolutely silent, if you are sharing a bed or room with someone you don’t have to worry about the switch making any noise that could possible wake anybody up. Other than game audio the only noise you need to worry about is the slight clicking of the buttons being pressed and even that isn’t disruptive.
With a not so much boasting 32GB of storage, the Switch is closer to a smartphone than a gaming console in that department, once the operating system takes its chunk of memory you are left with 25.9GB of storage to use. To put this into context, Zelda is 13.6GB, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is 7GB that would leave you with approximately 5GB left for either one to perhaps three games dependent on which games they are. That is without mentioning that Dragon Quest Heroes I & II will be a 32GB file size which is bigger than the device’s storage size on its own, if you are hoping to go digital you do so at the expense of an external MicroSD card, thankfully the switch can support up to 2TB of expandable MicroSD memory.
The user-interface is clean and easy to navigate, you effectively have three rows accessible, user profiles, games & apps and options each of which are clearly visible on screen at all times, you just hit up or down to select the row you want and then left to right to select the app or option. It’s simplistic rather than pretty having the choice of either a white or black theme for now, I imagine downloadable themes will certainly become a thing in the near future.
In terms of features and services provided the Nintendo Switch misses the mark that its competitors hit with ease, lack of an internet browser and media streaming apps hold it back from being a contender in the entertainment system market. The future will no doubt see these features implemented and more but for now, you can’t review what isn’t there.
I went from being on the fence to happy I picked the system up, for the core reason that I see what it is now but can see its potential as well. The hybrid handheld/home console has the form factor of a handheld but enough power to be considered a console. Whilst not as powerful as other’s in the market, the Nintendo Switch makes a good case for itself, play at home on the big screen or on the go, play alone or play with friends, you choose how you want to play and who with. Ultimately, it’s your choice, there’s pro’s and con’s to each play style but there’s plenty of options. With future updates and of course more games, the Switch could certainly be a great device to own, but the score will reflect on what it is now.
OVERALL – 7/10 – GOOD
Reviewed by Rhys Baldwin (Jester).