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.
From PC to 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.
|CPU||Custom NVIDIA Tegra (2GHz)||Quad-core Intel Core i5-6600K (4.4GHz)|
|GPU||NVIDIA Tegra||ZOTAC GTX 1070 AMP Extreme|
|Display||6.2-inch (720p)||25-inch AOC (1440p), 21-inch AOC (1080p)|
|Storage||232GB (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.
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 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.
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
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, Skyrim, Stardew Valley, Mario Odyssey, Splatoon 2, Mario Kart 8, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, DOOM, 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.
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.
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 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
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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