Ever since the PSP and Nintendo DS generation, I’ve found a love for playing games both on the little screen and the big screen. When the PSP’s Video Out cable became a thing, I loved it. It was terrible to keep hassling with this massive cord between my PSP and my TV, but being able to play games like Dissidia and Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops on my TV was well worth it. It began a long rise in my love and desires for being able to take a game on the go and play on the TV at the same time.
This continued this generation with the Vita and the PS Vita TV (or PlayStation TV as it is called outside of Japan and Asia). Being able to play Vita (and PSP) games on the go with my handheld and then just swap a memory card and play them on my HDTV with a Dual Shock controller was absolutely incredible. I loved it and wanted that to continue. And apparently Nintendo heard that desire.
Now, we are in the dawn of a new era of gaming, and Nintendo has released a game system that blends console gaming, mobile gaming, and handheld gaming all into a single device. There has been a lot of hype, controversy, and more around their newest piece of technology, but just how good is it? Let’s find out! Here is my review of the Nintendo Switch!
In terms of hardware, the Switch is divided into 3 different pieces (though technically 4). You have the Dock that the system fits into for TV Mode, you have your Switch Unit that functions like a tablet or a screen, and you have your Joy Con Controllers. Each piece is a crucial piece to the overall puzzle and how the system showcases itself as a console, handheld, and tablet all in one.
The dock has a big open area that the console fits into and in the back is a compartment that opens up to reveal the electrical ports. There is 1 HDMI port, 1 USB port for controllers like the Pro Controller, and 1 USB-C port for the Power Adapter to give the unit electricity to run. This is pretty simple, though worth noting that the back compartment door has to remain open for cords to be going into this section.
The Unit itself is like a big tablet. On the front is the screen, itself. On the top are buttons for Power, Volume, Headphones, a Game Cart slot, and the system speakers. On the bottom is the USB-C slot if you want to charge up the system without having it docked in Console Mode (which is preferable that I’ll explain later). And on the back, we have a kickstand that pulls out so it can be propped up but is also hiding the MicroSD Card Slot to expand the system’s memory.
Finally, we have the two Joy Con Controllers. Each one slides in and snaps in place on either the side of the system itself for handheld mode or on a special grip included in the box to be used as a controller. These are meant to each be handled with one hand, each containing two shoulder buttons, an analog stick, a menu button, and four buttons (either directional buttons or face buttons). On the inside of them, there are also two extra buttons for games that utilize each as an individual controller for local multiplayer.
Now with interface, we will be talking about 2 things. The first is how the interface works with the hardware. As I said above, the Switch is a console, a handheld, and a tablet all in one. When the system is in the dock, it displays on a TV via HDMI cable and the Joycons are used wirelessly as controllers. If you want to switch it up, you simply pull the system out of the dock and it automatically switches the display onto the built-in screen.
From there, you have two options. You can open the kickstand and display it on a flat surface and still use the controllers wirelessly, or you can slide and snap them onto the sides of the system and use it as a handheld.
Next is the software OS. The user interface of the Switch Operating System is very simple and easy on the eyes. Basically in the middle, you have your square icons for all installed games, be it digital downloads or retail copies of games. Below that are small icons for various features. These would be News, eShop for browsing and purchasing digital content, Gallery to manage your screenshots, Controllers to re-pair or re-calibrate your Joy Con Controllers, Settings, and Sleep Mode for when you wish to power down the system.
Above in the left corner are user icons to show what users are currently active. You can also go in here to see their/your profile, Online Friends, Activity, etc. And in the top right is your indicator for Clock, Wi-Fi Connection, and Battery Level. It’s a pretty simple UI, overall.
Now, how does the system perform? The first thing we should take note of is the hardware. Transitioning from one “Mode” to another is seamless and runs extremely well. You pull the unit out of console mode and by the time you have it out, the screen has already taken over. If anything, it waits for you to get the Joy Cons to continue playing.
The great thing about this is for power outages. Lightning Storms are the bane for console gamers. But with the Switch, even if your console is turned on when your home’s power goes out, it automatically switches control over to the unit, making you not lose any progress and you can just switch to handheld mode to continue playing.
One thing that I don’t like with the hardware is something you’ve likely already heard, and that is related to the Left Joy Con. The Joy Cons are used wirelessly outside of handheld mode, so their antenna and the dock’s antenna have to communicate to run properly. If you have objects between the Left Joy Con and the Dock, you are likely to experience lag or having to re-sync the controllers altogether. This is likely a design flaw because I have not experienced this at all with the Right Joy Con. It’s always the Left.
Now, other than this, the Joy Cons are very unique controllers and actually work really well without the grip that comes with the system. As strange or awkward as it may sound, having one Joy Con in one hand and another in the other, I was able to play a little more fluidly than I could with the controller-like grip. Although motion controls are a bit dicey like this, it makes for a very comfortable experience.
What wins the comfort game, though, is handheld mode. As a handheld gamer, I look to this mostly as a handheld gaming system, and handheld mode is very comfortable. The Switch isn’t all that heavy, and the positioning of the Joy Cons on the side works wonders. As I said in the initial video, it feels more comfortable than the grip and it really just works well. As much as I loved seeing Zelda on the big screen, it was that much more satisfying to hold it and see that huge open-world on the go.
Battery Life + Charging Time
Speaking of on-the-go, let’s get to everyone’s big question: Battery Life and Charge Time. I spent 2 days doing tests for this so I could have some accurate stats for you. Granted, all of these were done while playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, so this may be different for other games. If it is, I’ll be incorporating Battery Life into each Switch Game Review I do on the channel.
But, with testing until the battery hit 15% where the system advised I plug it in, here is the Battery Life I got in Handheld Mode:
• Max Brightness + Wi-Fi Enabled – 2 hours, 36 minutes
• Max Brightness + Airplane Mode – 3 hours
• Low Brightness + Wi-Fi Enabled – 2 hours, 50 minutes
• Low Brightness + Airplane Mode – 3 hours, 12 minutes
One thing to note about the above is that Airplane Mode can only be used in handheld mode. It cancels all wireless communication, including the Joy Cons so that means Tablet Mode cannot use Airplane Mode to increase Battery Life.
This is about what I expected out of it, but less than I’m sure many handheld fans were hoping for. Obviously, this may depend on the game being played. Shovel Knight may have considerably better battery life than Zelda did. But that’s what I got.
The more shocking stats I got for battery were charge times. I found that charging happens significantly faster in handheld mode than console mode. Here’s what I got for using the same power outlet for both options:
• Console Mode – 6 minutes for 1% Charge.
• Handheld Mode – 1 minute, 15 seconds for 1% Charge
Why handheld mode charges so much faster, I don’t know. Since the Joy Cons charge as well as the unit when you’re in handheld mode, but that’s definitely a good thing for handheld gamers.
Screens, Profiles, Sharing, Multitasking
If you’re curious about screen resolution. When you’ve got your Switch plugged into your TV, you can set the resolution between 480, 720, and 1080. In handheld mode, it defaults at 720, so you’ve got a resolution a decent amount bigger than that of the PlayStation Vita and significantly bigger than that of the Nintendo 3DS.
With games, there are basically 2 things that are nice here. First of all, you can have several profiles on your Switch and if one profile buys a game digitally, any profile can access and play that game. So, if you and your girlfriend have profiles and she buys I am Setsuna, you can play it on your side, but save data is separated between the two of you, so you have your own profile in the game and don’t risk hurting or accidentally deleting her save file.
Along with profiles, the social elements have changed. We temporarily still have Friend Codes for adding people, but Miiverse is gone. If you want to share screenshots, you can use social media like Facebook and Twitter to do so. There will be more social elements later on, but I am glad to see Miiverse go away. It was a huge hassle for me to get review screenshots through the Miiverse website.
The other thing that’s nice is the multitasking involved. When you’re in the middle of a game, you can go back to the home screen and browse the eShop or any of the other main apps without having to close down the game first. On the 3DS, you had to close games to do pretty much anything else, but with the Switch, it’s really got good multitasking optimization.
Finally, let’s talk about game storage. The Nintendo Switch, by default, has an internal storage capacity of 32 GB, which means you only get around 25 GB to be used. Most of the Switch’s current digital games take up less than 2 GB of space, though Zelda takes up a meaty 13 GB. That’s why it’s great that Nintendo added a MicroSD Card Slot. So, if you’re willing to spend a few bucks, $40 could net you an extra 128 GB of storage, with bigger MicroSD cards releasing nearly every year.