The Main Differences Between
The Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Switch OLED
Nintendo unveiled the $350 Nintendo Switch OLED model, the newest edition of their hybrid game device, in 2021. The slightly larger and noticeably better-looking display is among the many things this hardware update gets right, but after using it for a week, the unaltered internal specs and lack of notable dock enhancements have left me with mixed feelings. For anyone who doesn't already own one, the great new screen makes this the best Switch available, but given the very short list of upgrades available to those who do, I'm left wondering why some of these design updates weren't included in the 2019 model.
The Switch OLED has a 7-inch 720p OLED display, which is slightly larger than the base Switch's 6.2-inch screen. However, because of the smaller bezels (the black frame around the screen), the Switch OLED has nearly the same physical dimensions as the original Switch: it measures 242mm as opposed to 239mm. Additionally, the Switch OLED increases storage, doubling it from the original Switch's meager 32GB to... a still meager 64GB. Of course, we have the same choice to add a MicroSD card to it (the slot for which has been shifted slightly).
What distinguishes LCD from OLED?
The primary distinction between LCD and OLED is that each uses a different technique to illuminate and display an image on the screen. OLEDs contain self-lit pixels and show light on a pixel-by-pixel basis, allowing for deeper blacks and more vibrant colors than LCD displays, which normally utilize a single backlight to illuminate a whole panel.
The Switch OLED not only looks better, but it also feels better. From the display's glass screen to the revised kickstand, it does not feel cheaply made in any sense. The Joy-Cons are also more securely attached than they were on my original Switch model, which always felt a little loose, especially at the bottom.
One caveat is that because of the extra three millimeters in length, some of your original Switch's accessories may be incompatible. While any Joy-Cons will fit the Switch OLED - including third-party controllers - some controller grips, third-party docks/mounts, and cases may not fit; I would not recommend forcing the OLED into any of these things to make it work.
OLED Switch Improvements
The majority of the Switch OLED's upgrades pertain to its handheld capabilities, however there are a few small adjustments for people who prefer to use a TV to play the Switch, such as a modified dock. The dock has curved corners and an interior with a glossy black design in addition to the new white hue. The original docking station had a problem with the Switch's display getting scratched when placed inside, but the new dock has a little more room than the old one. However, there is a trade-off: the Switch now wobbles slightly while docked. Although not enough to warrant unplugging the TV, the wobbling is apparent when compared to my previous Switch dock, which is completely stable.
The updated Switch dock still has the two USB ports on the left side, but it differs slightly from the original in that the backplate is removable rather than having a back door with a hinge, and it has more space for cables than the old dock did. The material on the backplate of the updated dock feels a little flimsier than the one on the original, and I long for the hinge that connected the backplate to the Switch dock.
The updated dock
The updated dock also does away with the third USB port in favor of a LAN port, which is a great feature and allows for direct Ethernet cable connection to a Wi-Fi extender or router. Although my internet connection and speeds are fairly good, they are only as good as the weakest link in the network that connects to it. The only option to do that with the original Switch dock (without purchasing an adaptor) was via Wi-Fi, which is typically not going to be nearly as quick as a cable connection. On my Wi-Fi connection, games like Cuphead and Sonic Mania would take approximately 40–50 minutes to download, but via LAN, they take about 15–30 minutes.
The stability of games with online capability is also significantly enhanced by the LAN port. On my launch Switch, I've always experienced lag when playing online in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Mario Tennis Aces, and Splatoon 2, but I didn't experience any lag or internet problems when connected to an Ethernet connector. (Note that Nintendo will offer the new docking station separately at a later time; if that's all you want, you don't need to spend $350 on a brand-new Switch, but if you don't mind having a dongle hanging off your dock, you'd be better off getting the $30 adapter.)
I've discovered that the brighter, more colorful, and slightly larger screen on the Nintendo Switch OLED Model has made me want to take it out of docked mode much more frequently—and not just when I'm going to travel. I'm more inspired to laze around playing handheld video games on the couch or even outside in the sun. The updated kickstand makes it simpler to play on any flat surface, and the Ethernet-capable dock speeds up downloads. While it may be more difficult to convince current Switch users to upgrade, especially those who mostly keep their system docked, there have been enough changes to make it a straightforward recommendation for anyone who does not already own a Switch.