Nintendo shook up the gaming world when it released the Wii over a decade ago. The new control scheme, the accessibility, and the ability to game in ways players had never really gotten to before, all lent themselves to an experience that is remembered fondly by all those who got to try it. Fast forward to 2017, and skip one generation ahead, and we have the Nintendo Switch. In practice, it’s a refinement of the Wii, but with the addition of portability. Does it give up too much to be portable, or is it the true evolution of the home console?
DESIGN 3.5 /5.0
The design of the Switch is very much a compromise. It’s no secret at this point that it’s a combination home console and portable console in one device. These have conflicting requirements, so copious compromise is expected. It’s a few devices that snap together, depending on your particular need at the moment. You have the left and right controllers, the switch console, which includes its own screen, and the dock, which includes the charging and A/V interface. You also get what is essentially a holder for the L and R controllers, which allows you to configure them in a more traditional PlayStation-style. Want to play on the big TV? Dock the Switch, then snap the controllers on the holder, and get going. Suddenly need to go out for a spell? Grab the Switch, snap the controllers on to the sides, toss it in your bag, and go.
The compromise is in pocketability. It’s not all that large, but you’re not realistically going to put this in any pocket. It’s too large, and the nubby joysticks that come out the front of the device are going to be a hindrance. Even in a bag, you’re going to have to be mindful of the sticks, as a controller is going to run you upwards of a thousand bucks. I’d probably devote an inner bag pocket for the Switch.
I’m also not the biggest fan of the dock. When docked, the console sits inside what is essentially an enclosure, completely covering the screen, while leaving the sides open for locking the controllers in place to charge. It looks a little cobbled together, and isn’t anywhere as sleek as the previous devices, save maybe for the Wii U. It just looks better as a handheld.
HARDWARE 3.5 /5.0
The Switch isn’t a powerhouse of a machine by a long shot. While the competition has hardware that’s pushing the limits of processing technology, the Switch is happy with an Nvidia Tegra X1 SOC, an octa-core processor going at a cheerful 1.020 GHz, and 4 GB of LPDDR4 RAM. Remember though, that the device is portable, and gameplay is more than just brute force, so it’s not a deal-breaker in the least.
The screen is a plentiful 6.2-inch affair, with a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels, giving you a reasonably sharp 237 pixels per inch, or more than enough to enjoy a little gaming on the go. When docked, you get a maximum of 1080p out of the HDMI port on the dock. This makes the most use of the 768 MHz clock speed, which throttles down to a calm 384 MHz maximum.
USER EXPERIENCE 5.0 / 5.0
Oh man, where do we start? As a handheld, it’s great! Tipping the scales at under 300 grams, or less than a DSi XL, it looks a lot heavier than it actually is. There’s no getting around the overall size, but it’s a fair price to pay for the large screen that comes with it. It’s plenty sharp enough to enjoy your games, and works fine in some sunlight, though you’re probably going to want to get seated somewhere comfortable for a gaming session. The controllers snap on to either side of the device, and are all you hang on to while playing. This might seem a little unnerving on paper, but the connection is solid, and the fit is snug. It’s comfortable enough, and despite being a little wide, feels fine even for extended periods.
On battery, and playing Breath of the Wild, we normally get upwards of two and a half hours of play, and to be honest, we’re a little too old to be playing for much longer than that on a handheld. There’s a lot of muscle in this little box, particularly for a portable gaming console, and it shows in the gameplay, which is basically a perfectly scaled-down version of the playing on a big TV. You could leven prop it up while you’re outside, disconnect the controllers, and use it like a tiny little console/TV combo on the go. Pretty cool.
Docked, the Switch really shines. Even though it’s not the most powerful console on the block, it’s no slouch. Game effects, speed, and immersion are all top-notch, even though this isn’t really what the Switch is about. This is a device that gives a unique gaming experience, and it does it well.
1-2-Switch, one of the titles available for the console, is a great showcase of the abilities of Nintendo’s newest wonderchild. The gyro and accelerometer system on the little tiny controllers are amazing. They allow such a fine level of control and feedback, that it’s just absurd the kind of things it lets you do. It’s a much, much more refined Wii, and all the better for it.
The main problem with the Switch right now is the lack of titles. There’s really only Breath of the Wild right now, and the rest of the titles are party games. Granted, those are really quite fun, but they aren’t games you’d really sit down and play on your own. Time will definitely change that, so just give it a wait, and the value proposition will increase, no doubt.
VALUE 3.0 / 5.0
Retailers are bringing the Switch into the country for about PHP 25,000, with one game. This is a little steep, but expected for being a product that is independently imported, this early in the cycle. That’s a lot of money for what is essentially one game. If it were closer to the PHP 15,000 it is worth in the US, and if there were a few more titles available, this score would jump up to a solid 5, just because there’s nothing like it. Wait for the price to drop, and more titles to come out, and you won’t regret it.
You should own one, but maybe not yet.
Also published in GADGETS MAGAZINE May 2017 issue
Words by Ren Alcantara