How the Nintendo Switch fits perfectly in this PC gamer's life

The Switch is Nintendo's new handheld console that doubles up as the successor to the Wii. It's not perfect and has its flaws — as do all consoles — but as a PC gamer, this is as good of a secondary platform I'm going to get when not at my desktop. After two weeks with the Switch, I'm ready to share my thoughts on the new console from Nintendo, what I like and what I'd like to see improved.

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From PC to Switch

Nintendo Switch

On paper, the Switch isn't a powerful machine. It's not meant to be. Sony and Microsoft are battling it out to see who can pack as much power inside a small black box as possible without inflating the price, while Nintendo attempts to continue doing things a little differently. Sometimes this pays off (the 3DS and now Switch), while other times haven't been so fortunate (looking at you, Wii U). The Switch satisfies a need for adequate performance in a small, handheld package.

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CPUCustom NVIDIA Tegra (2GHz)Quad-core Intel Core i5-6600K (4.4GHz)
Display6.2-inch (720p)25-inch AOC (1440p), 21-inch AOC (1080p)
Storage232GB (200GB MicroSD)4TB

The Switch is vastly underpowered compared to my desktop PC, but that's the point. The PC is for at-the-desk triple-A gaming while the Switch can rely on its battery to allow for some entertainment when away from the two monitors. Prior to picking up the Switch, this was achieved with the trusty smartphone and a 3DS with a rather limited game library. Compared to the 3DS this is a substantial upgrade and mobile games are terrible.

As someone who favors a stable 60 frames per-second on PC, playing games on the Switch is a whole heap of fun and you can easily ignore the low-res screen and lackluster internals once immersed in the handheld experience. Seriously, firing up Zelda: Breath of the Wild and initially seeing just how vast Hyrule is made quite the impression. Nintendo has always been able to work with less and achieve much more. The same can be said for the Switch.

Nintendo Switch

The 32GB of internal storage is ridiculous because you will need to fork out for a MicroSD card when downloading titles from the eShop. This slot is cleverly located behind the kick-stand. Luckily, MicroSD cards aren't too expensive and I opted for a 200GB card (opens in new tab) for less than $80. Other than that, you have a tablet with a good-looking display and some pretty good audio.

As a PC gamer, I was surprised by how much I like the Switch's Joy-Con controllers. You have two halves (+ and -), each slotting into the side of the main console, but they also pop right off and can be used wirelessly and as motion controllers. It also makes co-op and multiplayer gaming on the same Switch super easy to put together.

Nintendo Switch

When used together, these Joy-Cons share the same layout to an Xbox controller. This is also done to allow for a standard setup when used on their own. Using just a single Joy-Con is clever but may take some adjusting to the crampt layout. Each Joy-Con has a thumbstick, four grid buttons (A, B, X, Y), two secondary buttons, shoulder button and finally the trigger. This makes the Switch capable of running action and shooter titles without much issue.

Playing DOOM on this thing is hilarious fun — and by DOOM I mean the 2016 Doom. There's also HD rumble for feedback, which is okay when games take advantage of it. I'm a fan of massive, ambitious games and the fact we have a few already on Switch is a positive sign that I won't be sacrificing too much when moving from the PC to handheld after a good four hours in X3: Albion Prelude.

Gaming on the move

Nintendo Switch

Instead of being all corporate-like, Nintendo opted to go for USB Type-C for charging the Switch (and the Pro controller). This allows for a more convenient process to keep the device topped up with juice using nothing more than a handy smartphone charger. Just take note of supplied power as when gaming on the Switch you need to match the draw in order to actually charge the thing. I figured this out by underpowering it with a outlet adapter and ran out of battery because the Switch was using more than I could provide.

But for gaming, the Switch is great. There are some good titles on the eShop (and in stores) already like Zelda: BOTW (opens in new tab), Skyrim (opens in new tab), Stardew Valley, Mario Odyssey, Splatoon 2, Mario Kart 8, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, DOOM (opens in new tab), FIFA 18, Sonic Mania, and more — all this within the first year of being available. That's not a bad line-up of games at all and Nintendo has a vast catalog of intellectual property. The portability is excellent and the included dock allows you to hook the Switch up to the big screen.

Nintendo Switch

The console will try and maintain 720p on the go, or 1080p when docked, but demanding titles can force the frame rate and resolution to drop slightly — though this is to be expected when you're throwing big titles like DOOM at what is essentially a tablet. But the Switch is much more than a tablet, thanks to the two Joy-Con controllers. It's the ideal fusion of older handheld physical controls with modern technology.

I'm not one, personally, who enjoys docked mode since that's where my PC comes into play, but it's good to have available, especially when going around someone else's home. I have dabbled into it, however and find it to be acceptable. The Switch will underclock both the CPU and GPU when in portable mode to save on battery, so getting the maximum performance out of it will require you to be docked. That said, you barely notice drops in quality.

Speaking of battery, Nintendo told me I'd get between 2-6 hours of use and they weren't wrong. It depends on what game you're playing — Zelda drains the battery far faster than a lighter game like Stardew Valley. There's a small fan in the Switch to keep things cool when it's running hard; you won't normally notice it, but when it's firing at full speed you can feel the vibration across the Switch.

Nindie drawbacks

Nintendo Switch

I don't like everything about the Switch, however. The main issue I have is the grip controller that allows you to insert the Joy-Cons for a gamepad-like experience. It's just not as comfortable as an actual controller, something you can work around with the Pro controller, but that means forking out for yet another means of input. It's a shame really, as I'd prefer to have the Joy-Cons be the true Jack of all trades.

There's also the placement of the USB Type-C charging port, located on the bottom of the Switch. This handheld can be set up on a flat surface with the kick-stand, but it means you won't be able to charge it due to the position of the port. You then have the included dock, which is awful. It's so bad some owners have even scratched their console by sitting it into the dock. While it allows for video passthrough to a larger screen, it could have been easily improved prior to launch.

An accessory you absolutely have to buy — and frankly should come pre-installed — is a screen protector. The Switch's display is plastic, not glass, and thus can scratch easily. Installing a tempered glass screen protector for your Nintendo Switch (opens in new tab) should shield it from bumps and scratches without sacrificing on touch-screen sensitivity. Lastly, games are a little too expensive on the platform. Binding of Isaac, Skyrim and other titles are far more pricey than their PC counterparts. Sure, it's a new system, but the excuse of "portability" to charge $60 for a six-year-old title is a joke.

Also, 32GB of internal storage? Come on, Nintendo.

The ideal companion

Nintendo Switch

The Switch isn't perfect, but I'm sure Nintendo will revisit the Switch with a 2.0 that addresses the concerns gamers have risen. What the Switch is, however, is a great secondary companion for PC (and even console) owners. The ability to pick up and take games around with you has always been the benefit of owning a Nintendo handheld (or the PlayStation Vita), and the Switch takes it to a whole new level.

2017 has been a strong year for Nintendo and 2018 is set to be nothing but the same, which makes this a good time to hop aboard the Switch train. I'm just holding out for cross-platform save support in titles like Stardew Valley to really take this experience up a notch. The Switch isn't for everyone, but I'd certainly recommend it to any PC gamer who wants to have a little fun when on the go, especially if you have friends located nearby.

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Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds was formerly a Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.

  • I bought one for my dad, and I truly hate this console. Those controllers are so terrible, my hands cramp in 10 minutes. I think it's cause i have long fingers, but it is a serious downgrade compared to Xbox. And by the time you buy the memory card, screen protector, pro controller, and games, you might as well get an xbox one x or ps4 pro for the same price with more games, and better visuals. Oh jeez, sorry for ranting
  • It's a multiplayer console, we have some much fun playing mario kart and the odd games like snippet clippets. Compared to Playstation and Xbox... games just don't feel the same after a tournament on Sf5, we end up playing games on the n64 instead. I'm looking forward to playing Smash Bros Melee on the switch, having played every iteration... it's the only competitive game that anything goes. Although if you master playing with star fox, you're pretty much invincible. But we're a competitive bunch and can sustain pretty high damage lol. In one much we were all at 500% damage, we play with low frequency of weapons and health with 5 lives. It's all about skill and being able to survive. The smash ball is the first thing that goes off (disabled) as some of the characters special abilities are just over powered. No one choose Pit as you can jump almost 12 times (it's all about timing), anyone who chooses Pit is rushed lol. But yeah it's something about Nintendo that they can retain the magic of prolonged multiplayer gaming sessions.
  • You see, that's the thing. Smash bros is one of the best couch coop games of all time, no doubt. It was played with a pretty good NORMAL controller, not a gimmicky wiimote, and not on a ludicrously small tablet. I can't have the same enjoyment I got from the gamecube on the switch, because Nintendo won't let me. Edit: I just looked up the switch pro controller cost, it is 85 dollars at walmart! 85 bucks! A new xbox controller is only 60. I can't help but feel it will be a cheap piece of plastic like the other "pro" controllers they've released... I'm sorry for sounding so vindictive, it just upsets me to see Nintendo putting out products like this :( By the way, I will absolutely destroy you as Yoshi :p
  • @A BabyRed Yoshi. You can get the hoari pad which is officially licensed and is cheaper, also you can get the gamecube adapters for the WiiU so i imagine we will see something similiar for the Nintendo Switch. Haha, Yoshi eh... sounds like a challenge. Admittedly last time I played properly smash bros was a very long time ago and that was on the Nintendo Wii with gamecube pads. When i say properly, multiple very intense consecutive matches not just one or two... lol. Smash bros is only fun when you have very competitive and skilled players. But yeah Yoshi is absolutely formidable, in the hands of a skilled player.
  • I love my Switch, and i also have large hands. No trouble with the controller at all. And realistically, no amount of graphics upgrades will make any other system as portable and flexible as switch. It's a great complement to any other system :)
  • Using the joy-cons individually is a cramped experience however there is an additional slide across bumper that can be purchased. This makes a world of difference when you are playing something like Mario kart in multiplayer. Also you can set the karts to auto accelerate which also is easier on your hands as you don't have issues with your hands cramping up from pressing the buttons for long periods of time. Plus it also prolongs the life of the buttons on the controls, this goes a long way as an a replacement joy-con is not cheap. My initial experience with Nintendo Switch was without these bumper packs and not mention the Legend of Zelda: BOTW version I played allowed for save games to be deleted and able to over write the auto save slots. I do not understand why people are giving Nintendo a free space in regards to inability to delete saves and over write the auto save slots. The Nintendo  Switch and Zelda: BOTW we got for a sibling doesnot allow you to delete saves or delete auto save slots...
  • if i remember correctly, the tegra x1 in the switch isn't running at full speed. something around 1Ghz and less undocked. If it ran full speed, the system would have been larger to accomodate better cooling and the battery life would be almost half of what it is. If it did run full speed, it would be even closer graphically to the xbox one and ps4.
  • Try as I might, I just can't get excited by this console and I've bought almost every single Nintendo console and handheld.  It's nice that it can be docked and that it has good graphics but I can't justify spending the amount they ask for for the console and its ludicrously expensive accessories.  I also can't justify spending that on a console that has fewer features than either my Vita or 3DS.  Currently,my husband and I, along with our friends are waiting for Nintendo to do their inevitable refresh so they can double-dib by putting out the new and improved version with features they deliberately left out of the original Switch.
  • I don't agree, maybe because I have both 3DS and Wii U. The controller is not good as many reviewers here said. The hd rumble is great, the screenshot button is brillent, but besides these 2 features, others are just average or under the bar. It's not a great handheld console since it's too large (you can take it out for sure, but much more unlikely than 3DS). It's better as home console. There's not a lot of great games: there are more 3rd party games, but Xbox One X could give better experience; there are lots of 1st party games, but if you already have Wii U, the only appealing games are Zelda and Mario Odyssey. I checked the list and I don't know when I could buy my next game yet (as a comparison, I have more than 50 physical version games on Wii U and 3DS, and many digital versions as well).
  • "if you already have Wii U, the only appealing games are Zelda and Mario Odyssey" Zelda BOTW is also on Wii U.
  • I kind of want to play the new Mario. I was over all dispointed in the WiiU and the Wii... Lack of major games, dont get me wrong a handfull of amazing games but, not the selection that I get out of my Xbox one or PS4 (yes, I have all 4). I cant see spending ANOTHER $300 on a system that might have 2-4 games are great and a ton of ok games. After all the Mario Kart on the Switch is just Mario Kart 8 with a DLC... And the New Zelda is on the WiiU... so only thing to really get a switch for is the new Mario and $360 (system + game, if I can find a system right now)? No thanks too much. I'll wait till next summer when I can get a used swich on ebay for $100-150... as I am sure I will be able to get one by then for that much.
  • I bought one only for the nintendo exclusives. Other than that, no one should buy this for 3rd party games.
  • Why not I own an xbox x and got logo city & fifa for the switch as I wanted to play them on the go. For me the switch is a great console and being able to play games on the go or at home on a big TV made it a must buy for me
  • Just wish Nintendo would make games for other systems...  Hate to spend $300 for a few exclusives...
  • Presented in three - yes, THREE parts (because character limits are a [censored] "fudging beach") Part 1: So, I have a PC spec'd very similarly to the one in the article: i5 7600k / Asus ROG Strix GTX1070, and so on. It's running in UHD on a 43" Sony X800D series UHD TV in the living room. I also have a PS4 (non-Pro), XB1 (non-X, non-S), a WiiU, a N3DSXL, a Vita, about 40 older systems spanning back throughout gaming history.....and then I also have the Switch. So, in one sense of the word, I'm "team everything". However, in the more important sense for this comment, I'm totally "Team PC and Switch". When treated as a tag-team pair, the PC and Switch kind of make all other gaming feel like "second class citizens" to me. Perhaps the 3DS escapes that critique a bit because of its unique dual-screen and 3D, and how much easier it is than a Switch to slip into your pocket. But otherwise, everything else feels to me like it falls in the most unfavorable way imaginable into the void in-between the PC and the Switch. Now, I want to be clear: please don't hear PS4 or XB1 hate out of me here. It's not just "collectoarder" completism that keep them valuable to me - though that alone might do the trick. Instead, it's primarily the console exclusives, and all the free goodies PS+ and XBLG offer, as well as serving as Blu-ray players, the quality controllers, and the nice UIs and physical console designs that keep them valuable to me - and will do so for the foreseeable future. I will always have a place in my life, and my heart, and my living room for PS and XB.... ...... ......BUUUUUUT...... .....they still seem lower-tier to me now, and I don't think they'll ever recover. Even the Pro, and the 1X, I don't think will be able to rescue them. ----AND---- as it concerns just the multiplatform aspect of gaming, the traditional consoles are pretty much entirely "dead to me" now. What do I mean by that? This: if I need power and performance beyond what the Switch is capable of offering me, then why the heck would I settle....yes...SETTLE for what the PS and XB can offer me when I can leapfrog them (and even at least edge out the 1X) by simply appealing to my PC instead? As a PC gamer, the consoles offer me like, literally ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in terms of power and performance. So the only reason I'm still interested in Pro is improved PS exclusives, and the only reasons I'm interested in 1X are for the rare XB (non-play-anywhere), exclusives at Max, the best versions of games that exist on both XB and PS, but not on PC or Switch, and perhaps most of all, for the UHD Blu-Ray. But even when I eventually do have a Pro and a 1X, I'm STILL gonna favor PC for exclusives. And then, on the flip-side, for anything that DOESN'T require more performance than what we can eke out of the modest Switch, then I'm gonna favor the Switch version pretty much 100% of the time - yes, because I can play it both at home or on the go. Now, obviously, an exception to that may be if it's offered for free by PS+ or XBLG, or if it's offered for just dirt cheap on Steam. In those cases, I will definitely go for those other versions. But if I like the game well enough, then it may not be a matter of getting that version INSTEAD of the Switch, but rather, getting that version(s), and then buying it YET AGAIN on the Switch. That at home / on the go thing for me is THAT HUGE to me! (continued)
  • (continued....character limits....."fudging beach") Part 2: And as such, a soft rebuttal of the point in the article that "portability making paying more for the games ridiculous": this is not ONLY a portable. It is ALSO a console. A 3DS is only a portable, you can't play it on the big screen. And an XB is only a console, you can't take it on the go with you...i mean...without resorting to simply ridiculous means. But with a simple slip into or out of the dock, it becomes one or the other. IT'S.TRULY.BOTH!!! And, I mean, it's not even that it's a portable that you can simply rebroadcast on the TV as it offers distinction performance and graphics levels between the two modes. It offers two different experiences all in one. And it's better in the dock! Undocked, it's a portable that's a little bit more powerful than the WiiU, whereas while docked, it's a console that's ultimately not THAT much less powerful than an XB1. Those are two different experiences - two different systems in one - and yet a perfectly seemless experience! That's -MAGIC!- And while it is different in both modes, and better as a console, it's also not such a stark, jarring difference like you'd get doing cross-play between PS4 and PS Vita. So it's the perfect balance of different enough between Switch modes, and not TOO different. It still feels seemless. Therefore, from my perspective, it's not so much that you're paying more for portability, and instead, it's more that you're getting two versions of the game all in one, making the higher price a lot more palatable - unless the game doesn't utilize the extra power in docked, but that's a different rant for a different time. As far as it concerns docked vs undocked, simply due to the vast differences in the abundance or lack of opportunity, I do ultimately spend meaningfully more time playing my Switch undocked than docked. But in terms of my PREFERRED way to play, I'm absolutely in favor of docked. Even if it's less powerful than the consoles and way less powerful than the PC, it's still more powerful than undocked, and thus constitutes the premier way to experience these games. Plus, I prefer lounging on the couch with a big 4K TV in front of me and much richer, stronger colors than the Switch screen, and with higher resolution, more detailed images pumping out of the system. Plus, unlike the author, I actually don't find the Joycon grip experience uncomfortable at all. So I'm quite satisfied to engage in extended play sessions using the grip. (continued)
  • (continued...."fudging beach"...fudging fudging fudge - I really don't feel that much different towards the imposers of such limits, btw) Part 3: In any case, to bring this all home: so, with the aforementioned power (and customizability) of the PC on the one hand, and the flexibility, dynamism, and effortless "anywhereism" of the Switch, why the HECK (censored) would I ever waste my time with a PS4 or XB1 version of a game if it exists on PC and/or Switch instead? They just don't offer Take DOOM for instance. I LOVE playing DOOM in 4K Ultra / Nightmare graphics setting in high 50s FPS (with vsync off) over KBM on my PC, and I LOVE playing DOOM on the Switch at the office over lunch, in the passenger seat of the car, in bed, at the store, and wherever else (even though I've done a surprisingly high amount of it in the dock). But I just don't give a dang (censored) about the XB and PS versions at all. I was given the XB version as a gift, and have only ever used it to compare to the PC and Switch versions. It is 60fps or close, so it does have that going for it, but in test of the visual quality, the difference between it and my PC on the one hand is simply stunning! And on the other hand, despite the numbers on paper, the visual difference between the XB and Switch is surprisingly small, and really, virtually imperceptible when you're actually in the thick of it. Heck, even the 30fps the Switch runs at you stop noticing after just a couple minutes of playing as even it feels natural and smooth. So again, what does the XB version offer me that one, or the other of the PC or Switch version doesn't? A: N.O.T.H.I.N.G.! As such, I'm only ever gonna use the XB version for graphics comparison uses, and don't think I'll ever even bother with the PS version at all. In any case, because of their genuine saving graces that I mentioned above, bolstered by my completism, I'll never be completely done with XB and PS, but because they so totally fall in that sidewalk crack between the PC and Switch, they'll never be highly-esteemed, premier gaming experience to me ever again. And on the flip-side, I'm TOTALLY sold on the Switch! It's easily my favorite system of the current generation - even more than PC, if we're being completely honest here. And more than that, we'd have to go all the way back to the 4th-gen (Super NES, Genesis, Turbografx16) before we find another system that I've loved more. I don't hate the PS and the XB. In fact, I LOVE them! It's just I love the PC, and especially the Switch so much that my love for PS and XB can almost sound like hate by comparison. Fair? That's how huge the Switch is to me! And I absolutely recommend one to EVERYONE! It's the most magical thing I've ever experienced in gaming. Bar none! Cheers! (end)
  • I want surface phone to have gaming capabilities like this;")
  • There's a big reason that the Switch is the best console I've ever owned. It is the best/only place to play the greatest games in the modern gaming landscape - Nintendo titles and indie games. With the continuing dumbing down and anti-consumer practices employed by "AAA" titles, the Switch is a breath of fresh air... and this is coming from a PC/Xbox/PS4 gamer who has never owned a Nintendo console before.
  • I may one day get the switch to play the Bayonetta Sequel. I think it is a great companion for gaming on the move, but when commuting I usually either drive or read a book on a train, so my mobile gaming time is pretty well limited to none. In the living room it cannot compete with the multimedia power of the XBOX, but yes, for travel I'd rather get a switch than gaming laptop or some awkward iOS/android tablet. Switch is just not justifiable for me, not in the present price point. but I wish the device great luck and one day I'll probably buy second generation switch for my daughter.
  • i have a switch and aside form bayo 3 (which i'm honestly super excited about) zelda to me was fun and super boring at the same time (destiny one levels) oddysi was interesting, but imo nothing revolutionary like everyone else talks about, mario cart is fun and unique for that it is (prefer FH3) i'm not fond of on the go gaming like everyone seems to be, so at that point you are purchasing a fully pair down version of X, Y, Z game... i believe you slap a nintento logo on a **** and people will still buy it to no end
  • I'm curious as to why you actually bought the console.
  • I'm super chuffed with my Switch. It's basically the handheld I've wanted for the past 20 years thanks to the dock.