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Nintendo's New OLED Switch Is a Small but Punchy Upgrade

After months of fan speculation, Nintendo today confirmed rumors that a new Switch console is on the way. Nintendo’s updated OLED model for the Nintendo Switch will arrive October 8, the same day as the highly anticipated Metroid Dread.

The OLED model—no cute or snappy name yet—replaces the Nintendo Switch’s 6-inch 720p LCD panel with a 7-inch OLED screen. LCD screens rely on a backlight for illumination, while individual pixels on an OLED screen produce their own light, which means the screen offers myriad advantages: better viewing angles, deeper blacks, and higher brightness levels that should help make playing outside in direct sunlight less of a squint-fest. Notably, Nintendo’s announcement does not mention 4K, which last-gen consoles like the Xbox One S and X and the PlayStation 4 Pro all boasted. (The standard Switch model outputs at 1080p when it’s docked.)

At $350, the new model will cost $50 more than the standard Switch but does come with some quality-of-life improvements beyond that OLED display. A built-in ethernet port will make a huge difference for anyone who plays online Switch games like Super Smash Bros. Ethernet connectivity will cut down on frustrating lag between players competing in multiplayer titles. And instead of the widely maligned dinky, fragile back-stand of the current generation, the OLED model has a wide, adjustable stand for tabletop mode, for anyone who wants to play Switch games with friends on airplanes or at coffee shops. It’s a long, rectangular bar that spans most of the console.

The new Switch will also have 64 GB of internal storage and “enhanced audio for handheld and tabletop play,” but Nintendo did not elaborate on what exactly that entails. It comes with white Joy-Cons and a white dock or Joy-Cons in the traditional red and blue. (Nintendo says that old Joy-Cons work on this model as well.)

The OLED model doesn’t appear to be a significant step forward for Nintendo hardware. Many of these upgrades simply take the Switch to a bar of quality it arguably should have cleared when it released in 2017: The Switch released with a puny 32 GB of storage, requiring many consumers to invest in expensive SD cards. Its battery life is listed at 4.5 to nine hours—the same as the base Switch model, despite the upgraded display—with your mileage varying depending on the game. All of which might be appealing if you’re new to Switch, but without 4K, or even a greater variety of hardware color options, it’s hard to justify as an upgrade. An exception might be if your Switch’s Joy-Con controllers are borked, an endemic problem that has sparked more than one lawsuit. Nintendo is not changing the Joy-Con controller configuration or functionality with the new OLED model.

Nintendo has been in a creative rut for some time now. As the era of Splatoon 3 and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2 approaches, that same stagnation appears to apply to its hardware as well.

Updated 12:17 pm ET, 7/6/2021: This story has been updated to include more information about the Joy-Con controllers for the OLED model.


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