March 12, 2017
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The Nintendo Switch Review: An innovation that spreads itself too thin

The Nintendo Switch seems like a totally forward-thinking piece of technology for all it is worth, but we kinda wish the forward thinking was also extended to the amount of games they have on this new console/device.

Don’t get us wrong: the Nintendo Switch is totally a cool new way to play games, and its marquee launch title, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, is a masterpiece of the action RPG genre. But without a decent library of games, the novelty wears of really quickly and its flaws become much more noticeable.

Modular gaming

The Nintendo Switch is a modular system, and can assume the form and function of a traditional home console, a portable gaming system, and a touchscreen tablet (with wireless controllers). It’s a product of ingenious engineering, we’re just awe that a device can already do that but it’s this achievement that cost it to fail in other aspects.

Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima himself told Time that Nintendo was too busy making the Switch an “amazing dedicated video game platform” to make time for other applications. The basic premise of the Nintendo Switch is it wants you to play with it indoors or outdoors, and it wants you to do so and have a grand old time.

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They may claim to not be competing with Sony and Microsoft but the fact of the matter is they kinda are. The Switch only has nine titles so far (more to come this year, of course), only four of which are original titles (half of them with limited replay value). Now, paying $300 to play a few games might not seem like a fair trade, so for consumers trying to get a console might opt for better counterparts.

The Switch suffers from playback problems, specifically when visuals on the screen stutter as the processor struggles to keep up with a game’s high specifications.

The Switch wants to please different play styles and as a result, ends up not know what it really wants to be. It’s too underpowered for console gaming and a little too sheltered for outdoor gaming. They wanted to please indoor and outdoor gamers that they end up disappointing both.

Controllers

The Grip completes the Switch’s home console mode, integrating the left and right Joy-Con (primary controllers of the Nintendo Switch) to form a traditional Nintendo controller. It won’t beat Sony Dual Shock 4 but it’s definitely comfortable. The buttons are tactile and easy to hit but it lacks traditional D-pad or full-seized analog triggers, putting you at a disadvantage in certain games. The tiny Select/Back buttons (the minus and the plus) are oddly placed, that one tends to hit another button/the analog stick in order to reach the tiny buttons.Inside Image_joy con

Another limitation it has is you can’t charge the Joy-Con while they’re attached to the Grip, you have to reattach them to the tablet to charge them. If you want to bypass this, you’ll have to pay $30 to get a Joy-Con Charging Grip.

Sometimes the Joy-Con desyncs when you play with it detached from the tablet, killing our characters undeservedly a few times. Distance is also a factor in getting a stable connection between the Joy-Con and the console, so if you go more than 10 feet away from the console with your controller, you could get disconnected. (So just don’t play too far away, that seems reasonable.) So yes, Nintendo needs to tweak the Joy-Con a little more.

A desync occurs when a game is not synchronized with the server and it causes a lag or an unexpected error of whatever nature, whether in graphics or gameplay.

Using the Joy-Con to play two-player games by separating them and turning them sideways can be jarring because of the awkward layout (not to mention the small size, which seems reasonable anyway). The left and the right Joy-Cons are not symmetrical, with the buttons push to one side for the left one, and the other for the right one. At first we thought this could be good for players who are either right-handed or left-handed but that seems ridiculous as no two players will always have that set-up.

Still, the Joy-Con controllers have some neat features, like highly-accurate and responsive accelerometers and the HD Rumble, a form of articulated haptic feedback that fools you into perceiving weight and motion within the controllers. The right Joy-Con has an infrared sensor and an NFC reader for scanning amiibo™.

A chameleon among gaming devices

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To be fair, we wouldn’t be here if the Switch wasn’t a marvelous device.

The Nintendo Switch has a 6.2-inch, multi-touch, 720p LCD screen, with vibrant color production and bright enough to take outside. But outdoor is limited as you can only see on the screen in indirect sunlight, and it gets worse on brighter days. It also has a sensitive touch screen that’s better than the Wii U.

The Switch is powered by a custom version of the Nvidia Tegra X1 chipset. In mobile gaming standards, it’s a powerhouse. No, you have to pause for this and this is important: it’s a monster of a handheld gaming device. The Vita or 3DS has nothing on the Switch in terms of sheer power. It should’ve been more expensive but the Switch manages to be affordable for its format (being a format-breaking medium). It’s a good balance, it just lacks games.

But as a home console, it lacks power to compete with PS4 and Xbox One. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild seems to barely make it to 30 frames per second in TV mode, and goes even lower when there are too many elements in the screen at one time.

Of course, these won’t be a problem once you switch to handheld mold. Instead of going for 900p in TV mode, Breath of the Wild renders in 720p at handheld mode so visuals are smoother. This also means less syncing problems for the Joy-Con so the overall gaming experience is better in handheld rather than on TV.

Still, the ability to switch modes is a game-changer in the world of gaming. It seems that even though the Switch fails in a few aspects of the overall experience, the point they really want to drive home is the seamless transition between handheld gaming, home gaming, and even outdoor multiplayer gaming. You don’t have to wait a long time in between switches, just dock or undock it and go play. They can improve their shortcomings for sure but what they really want to sell here is a change in your gaming lifestyle that stops the medium from hindering you (or your friends’) movements.

Needs improvement

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It’s the Switch’s power as a handheld that it became a downside to its battery life. It eats up a lot of juice that you can only play for a couple of hours before it drains and you’ll need to charge it again. The Switch won’t alleviate your boredom on long travels but you can go three hours with the brightness turned way down and playing it indoors while you’re not at home. That and bringing your charging cable (and being near an outlet) or bringing a USB battery pack. Still, it depends on the game you’re playing. Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is such a demanding game to play in terms of energy consumption, but games that are less demanding give you more battery life.

If you want to use premium wireless headphones, tough luck: it has no optical port. No Ethernet port either so you’ll just have to stick with wireless internet connections over 802.11ac unless you have a USB Ethernet adapter. The Switch has three standard USB ports though, but the Switch itself docks and charges through a single USB-C port at the bottom of the tablet, requiring a different cable. So if you want to charge it while it’s propped by a kickstand, you can’t do it.

It only has 32GB of onboard storage, with its operating system taking up seven of those gigabytes. So if somehow you manage to get a big enough digital library for your Switch, you’ll have to get a big enough SD card.

The Verdict

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The Nintendo Switch tries to be too many things at once, which had the effect of failing in some specific aspects. But it really seems Nintendo just wanted to showcase as soon as possible a system that can adapt to your needs, changing what gaming could be like for the rest of the 21st Century, despite its flaws. Nintendo will no doubt make an effort in improving the finer details of the system afterwards if it could show you its great idea first, but they seem confident enough that consumers will get the device and avail of the updates later than wait for it to get a second iteration.

It looks like we’ll have to wait a few months to a year for several more Switch games to come out and for them to fix the Switch’s bugs and flaws, so if you don’t have one yet, just wait. It might just get better.

Its ability to let you play anywhere you like in a seamless fashion more than makes up for its flaws, and it still is a powerful device no matter how you look at it. It’s a refreshing and innovative piece of tech and we’re sure we’re going to see it again with better specs in the future.

It currently retails for around 1100 to 1200 AED (depending on the package).

Spec list

Storage 32 GB of internal storage, a portion of which is reserved for use by the system. Users can easily expand storage space using microSDHC or microSDXC cards up to 2TB (sold separately).
Networking Nintendo Switch can be connected to the Internet via a wireless (IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac) and Bluetooth 4.1
(In TV mode, Nintendo Switch can be connected by using a wired LAN adapter – sold separately)
Video output Up to 1080p via HDMI in TV mode
Up to 720p via built-in screen in tabletop mode and handheld mode
Audio output Compatible with 5.1ch Linear PCM output
Output via HDMI connector in TV mode
Speakers Stereo
Buttons Power button / Volume button
Headphone/mic jack 3.5mm audio jack
Game card slot Nintendo Switch game cards
microSD card slot Compatible with microSD/microSDHC/microSDXC memory cards
*Once the microSDXC card is inserted, a system update will be necessary. An Internet connection is required to perform this system update.
Sensor Accelerometer, gyroscope, and brightness sensor
Operating environment 41-95 degrees F / 20-80% humidity
Internal battery Lithium-ion battery/4310mAh
Battery life Approximately 2.5 – 6.5 hours
*The battery life will depend on the games you play. For instance, the battery will last approximately 3 hours for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
Charging time Approximately 3 hours
*When charging while the hardware is in sleep mode
Output (Dock) USB Port (USB 2.0 compatible) x2 on the side, 1 on the back
System connector
AC adapter port
HDMI port
Joy‑Con [L] Joy‑Con [R]
Size Approximately 4.02 inches high, 1.41 inches long, and 1.12 inches deep
Weight 1.7 oz 1.8 oz
Buttons Left Stick Right Stick
Up/down/left/right/L/ZL/SL/SR/- Buttons A/B/X/Y/R/ZR/SL/SR/+ Buttons
Capture Button HOME Buton
Release Button Release Button
Sync Button Sync Button
Wireless Bluetooth 3.0 Bluetooth 3.0/NFC
Sensor Accelorometer Accelorometer
Gyroscope Gyroscope
Motion IR Camera
Vibration HD Rumble
Battery life Approximately 20 hours
*This is an estimate. The battery life may be shortened depending on the usage.
Charging time Approximately 3 hours 30 minutes
* Joy-Con controllers are charged by attaching them to a console or charging grip connected to a power supply.

 

Controls
3.5 out of 5
Essentials
3 out of 5
Performance
3 out of 5
Features
3 out of 5
Overall

The Nintendo Switch is an amazing piece of new technology, but for all its great features, aspects of gameplay especially in TV mode tend to suffer. Its controls leave much to be desired in spite of being innovative, the device performs erratically as a home console. Still, it's a pioneer amongst gaming devices and we can only hope that the next iteration (or at least its improvements) are well under way.

3.13

Average
3.13 out of 5