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Nintendo Switch OLED vs Nintendo Switch: what's different?

Nintendo Switch OLED vs Nintendo Switch
(Image credit: Future)

The Nintendo Switch OLED was announced on July 6, and it's the fourth major release in the Switch generation of consoles. 

First there was the original Switch in 2017, then the Switch Lite with non-removable controllers in 2019. And the refreshed original Nintendo Switch with improved battery life and a new CPU, again in 2019.

The Nintendo Switch OLED is the most exciting upgrade to this handheld series to date, however. Why? Well, the clue is in the name. This new version has an OLED screen, similar to the displays of top phones like the Samsung Galaxy S21.

In this piece we’ll look at why the Switch OLED is better than the LCD original, and the other upgrades you get in the Nintendo Switch OLED.

Nintendo Switch OLED vs Nintendo Switch: price

Nintendo has priced the Switch OLED at $350 / £309 / AU$539, with a release date set for October 8, 2021. That's $50 / £30 / AU$90 more than the original Switch was priced at, which cost $300 / £279 / AU$449.

Pre-orders for Switch OLED are now live

Nintendo Switch OLED pre-orders are now live. Releasing on October 8, 2021, the Switch OLED brings some much-needed upgrades to the popular hybrid console. You get a 7-inch OLED screen, a better kickstand and speakers, plus 64GB of internal storage.

Nintendo has confirmed the Switch OLED will be available from October 8, but stock is likely to be limited due to the ongoing global semiconductor shortage. This has impacted both the PS5 and Xbox Series X consoles since they launched in November 2020, so you might want to pre-order Nintendo's console or risk missing out.

Nintendo Switch OLED vs Nintendo Switch: design

The Nintendo Switch OLED looks similar to the original Switch and its 2019 refresh. It has removable Joy-Cons, the same button layout, and even comes in the familiar bright Neon Blue and Red color scheme. 

However, the version you'll see most online in the run-up to the Switch OLED's release is the new White version. This more sedate, grown-up color scheme is the sort of garb we expected to see the rumored Nintendo Switch Pro dressed up in. It may not be the Nintendo Switch Pro, but this is the closest we'll get for now and many of the leaks surrounding the Pro line up here.

There are some other important design changes. The thick bezels of the original Switch's display have been significantly trimmed down, and the 6.2-inch LCD panel has been replaced with a vibrant 7-inch OLED panel.

White Nintendo Switch OLED being played in handheld mode

The Nintendo Switch OLED has more slender bezels (Image credit: Nintendo)

This gives the new Switch a less dated appearance and means there is no significant difference in size with the new model, despite the use of a larger screen. It's 0.1 inches longer, at 9.5 x 0.55 x 4 inches (W x D x H).

This means that any Joy-Con controllers you bought will work just fine with the Nintendo Switch OLED. The new console uses the same 'rail' system for such accessories. 

Nintendo has reworked the Switch's feeble kickstand to make it much less fragile, too. It now runs across much of the console's back, which should keep it upright more securely. The stand is more adjustable as well, allowing for different display angles when playing in tabletop mode.

You wouldn't know it from a glance but Nintendo has also redesigned the Switch OLED's speakers. They still sit on the bottom of the handheld, one to each side, but Nintendo promises "enhanced" audio. 

We hope for slightly better low frequency output and increased maximum volume, which we'll take a closer look at when we get a Nintendo Switch OLED in for review.

Classic Nintendo Switch being played in handheld mode

The classic Nintendo Switch is a similar size, but has chunkier screen bezels (Image credit: Future)

As before the OLED Switch comes with a dock, to let you play games on your TV. However, it does not offer the 4K output many hoped for in a Nintendo Switch Pro console. Playing docked and 1080p remains the max output resolution, and the display is 720p when playing in handheld mode.

An Ethernet (LAN) port is the extra we do get. You take a cable from your home internet router and plug it into the dock, for a more reliable signal than you'd see from the Switch's own Wi-Fi connection.

Nintendo has also doubled the internal storage in the Switch OLED, from 32GB to 64GB. You also have the option of adding a microSD card if you need more room.

Battery life remains the same as the refreshed Nintendo Switch at 4.5 to nine hours. This is better than the launch Switch's 2.5 to 6.5 hours, but the OLED Switch brings no real improvement in this area.

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Nintendo Switch (OLED)

The Switch OLED has an improved, wider kickstand (Image credit: Nintendo)
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Nintendo Switch kickstand

The kickstand on the Switch is smaller, more fragile and basically just not good (Image credit: Future)

Nintendo Switch OLED vs Nintendo Switch: display

Here's the interesting part. The new Nintendo Switch has an OLED screen.

These display panels have emissive pixels, which means black parts of the screen image will look perfectly inky black even if you play under the covers in perfect darkness. 

With a standard Nintendo Switch, blacks end up looking slightly grey in these conditions. The OLED Switch will be much better for bed-time gaming than the old model, and should help Nintendo's already colorful artstyle stand out even more.

Its color depth will also be much improved. The LCD Switch offers sRGB-grade color - a color standard devised in the mid-90s to standardize how things look on printers, monitors and the internet. 

An OLED screen is likely to be able to let Nintendo widen out its color range to a wider standard like DCI P3, which is what Apple iPhones now aim for. It means bolder, deeper colors in games and a more vivid look to movies.

This is also the largest screen put into a Switch console yet. It measures 7 inches across, up from the 6.2 inches of the original Nintendo Switch design and the 5.5 inches of the Switch Lite.

There is no change in resolution. The Nintendo Switch OLED remains a 1280 x 720 pixel display. Many had hoped for a bump to 1080p (and there was even rumors of a 4K offering) in this "next generation" design.

Zelda being played on an original Nintendo Switch

The Nintendo Switch uses a LCD panel for its display, which isn't as vibrant as OLED panels (Image credit: TechRadar)

We also have some concerns about this display panel. In March, we reported Nintendo was planning to use Samsung Display panels for a refreshed version of the Switch.

Almost all Samsung OLED panels use a display technology called PenTile. This is where the display pixels share sub-pixels, the tiny red, green and blue pin pricks of light that make up each color.

PenTile panels offer reduced sharpness compared to LCD panels of the same resolution thanks to the sharing of sub-pixels, usually exhibiting as a slight fizziness to text and other high contrast objects.

Samsung has made plenty of non-PenTile RGB OLED displays in the past. It used them in its long-discontinued OLED TVs, and in a few phones in the 2011-2012 era under the Super AMOLED Plus banner.

Samsung's RGB OLEDs have pretty much disappeared in the intervening years. But since then its use of PenTile OLEDs has never seemed a big deal as most OLED devices these days have exceptionally high pixel density, so a slight relative loss in sharpness is largely imperceptible.

Person playing Pokemon on the Nintendo Switch OLED

The Switch OLED's display is bigger, brighter and more colorful (Image credit: Nintendo)

But the Nintendo Switch OLED really does not offer high pixel density, at 209 pixels per inch. The next Switch screen may look a little fuzzy close up then, which again, is something we'll look into at review. 

Sony's original Vita OLED screen, which was later replaced with an LCD version, used an RGB sub-pixel matrix, not a PenTile one. Let's hope the OLED Switch does too.

Either way, the new screen is also likely to be capable of significantly higher peak brightness than the ~320 nits of the standard LCD Switch. Even lower-cost OLED panels in phones today tend to reach 500-650 nits, while some are capable of searing brightness beyond 1000 nits.

Nintendo is likely to keep fairly tight control over brightness, though, as higher screen power causes greater power drain, and it is clearly keen on retaining the solid battery life of the Switch 2019 refresh. The Switch OLED comes with a light sensor to better control the display's auto-brightness setting. 

However, a high peak brightness OLED screen could open the door for HDR, high dynamic range, video. This is not viable in the current Switch as it doesn't have the display for it, and the original Switch’s HDMI 1.4 connector is not geared-up for HDR (even if it theoretically has the bandwidth for 10-bit color at 1080p).

Don't bet on this, though. Digging deep into techy stuff like HDR just isn't very "Nintendo".

Nintendo Switch OLED vs Nintendo Switch: power

While the OLED screen of the new Switch will mean games look richer, bolder and more immersive than before, the console is unlikely to make any huge changes to how you play.

Nintendo has confirmed that the Switch OLED has the same Nvidia Custom Tegra processor and RAM as the current Switch, which means there is no upgrade in power under the hood. 

That means it won't unlock any new potential for developers to bring more comprehensive games to the new console.

What it does mean though, is the Switch OLED will be able to play all the same games as the Switch - and vice versa.

Nintendo Switch (OLED)

The Switch OLED is an improvement, but it's not the revolution some were expecting (Image credit: Nintendo)

First impressions

If you were hoping for a Nintendo Switch Pro with a 1080p screen and 4K output to your living room TV, the Nintendo Switch OLED announcement is sure to be a slight disappointment.

Games will feel the same, but they should at least look prettier when playing in handheld mode. An increase in screen size with no significant bump in the bulkiness of the console almost makes you glad the original Switch had screen borders beamed direct from 2012.

The Ethernet port on the dock is welcome, as is the increase in storage to 64GB. Let's just hope the new Nintendo Switch has an RGB OLED panel, because PenTile fizz at this pixel density is real, folks.