The Nintendo Switch is the iPad Apple could never make. iPads are brilliant. You can do all sorts of things with them. You can get your work done on them, edit photos, watch movies, pretty much anything you want. Nintendo Switches (really?) are brilliant. You can play games on them.
The concept of iPad gaming has always appealed to me. There’s this really powerful, really portable machine, that is more than capable of running some spectacular games. The trouble is that there are no spectacular games for the iPad. There are lots of very clever casual games, but nothing so deep that Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft should start worrying.
iPad gaming has two problems. Price and control. Currently the top selling game on the UK iTunes store is a game called The Escapists. It costs £3.99. I haven’t played the game, but I think I’m safe to assume that you control it by touching the screen with your finger. Most likely one finger.
Right now you’re probably wondering why I’m talking so much about the iPad. The reason for that is I’m writing a review of it’s newest competitor, the Nintendo Switch.
What It Is
The best description I can give you is that the Switch is the newest machine that runs Nintendo games. I’m not so mental as to claim it’s a handheld or a home console, or even if it is a console. I don’t know. It’s all of those things. It’s just easier to say that it’s a machine that runs Nintendo games.
As a piece of hardware, it’s nothing out of the ordinary. What’s special, is how all the different elements of it come together. It’s easy enough to display your iPad on your TV. You either do it badly over Air Play, or you buy a £40 HDMI adaptor. The Switch comes with everything you need to connect it to your television, in the box. There’s even an HDMI lead, which you will not find in the box of an Apple TV. The Switch knows if it’s in the dock, and acts accordingly. It’s the ease of use and attention to experience that Apple used to be famous for.
Essentially the Switch is a seven inch tablet. You can chose to play the games on the built in screen, or you can play them on your TV. The controllers can either be attached to it, or not. It has an internal battery, which means you don’t have to be tethered to an electrical outlet, but that battery isn’t big enough to get more than three to six hours of use.
I’ll leave it to you to decide whether or not it’s portable, handheld, or whatever else.
You’ve seen pictures of it already, so you know what it looks like. It reminds me of the last SatNav device I owned, back before smartphones were invented. It’s not thin, there’s clearly a fan in there, but it’s in no way too big.
Build quality is excellent. Nintendo of done a fine job of hitting the “just right” mark where it counts. It’s not to big or small, not too light or heavy, Not too fat or thin. I keep expecting to find a young blonde girl sleeping on it.
The Joy-Cons also feel to be of a very high quality. Controller size can be a sensitive issue for some people, and it all really depends on the size of your hands. Until somebody invents a controller that lets you customise button size and placement, it’s always going to be a problem some people face. For me, it’s just about right. I wouldn’t be upset if the buttons were a fraction bigger and more spaced apart, but I also accept that change might make it unusable for somebody else.
I have the neon versions, and boy are they bright. They almost actually glow. I’m very happy that I got the version I got, but it brings me to my first, very minor complaint. The Joy-Cons are designed to be used as a pair, or individually. When you use them individually, you can attach a small piece of plastic that has a wrist strap, and some nice shoulder buttons. They come in the box, but they’re grey. If you buy the grey version of the console, your grey controllers match your grey wrist straps and buttons. For the neon version, Nintendo chose to also include grey wrist straps. I can buy blue and red ones separately if I really want them. However, for some reason they’re sold in pairs, so I have to buy two blue ones and two red ones. If anything, I just feel bad because they’ve made me want to spend money because one bit of plastic isn’t the same colour as another bit of plastic. Its not really a complaint about the device.
While I’m on Joy-Cons and things that annoy me, I give you another one. In the box is the Joy-Con comfort grip. It’s a small plastic frame that holds the two Joy-Cons in some sort of regular controller configuration. For an extra £26.99 you can get yourself the “charging” comfort grip. Can you guess what it does? It charges the Joy-Cons, right? No. It allows you to attach a USB cable that charges the Joy-Cons. There’s no internal battery, just a USB port. I tried to justify it by saying that to include such a thing would force Nintendo to raise the launch price of the console, but now I know it’s just a USB port, I’m annoyed. It should have been in the box.
Despite my whinging about what’s included in the box, the Joy-Cons are brilliant. I can’t think of an equally versatile game controller. Letting you use them in so many configurations makes for a user experience like nothing before.
Unlike the PS4 and Xbox, but like the iPad, the Switch has a build in screen. It’s a 6.2” 720p display, and its nice and bright, with rich colours. I don’t know if it meets anybody’s definition of retina, but I can’t see the pixels. It’s the screen that makes the Switch so portable. When we’ve had our hands on it for a while, I’ll be interested to see if people mostly use it plugged into the TV or as a standalone device.
The Switch is a tablet so there’s not much to it. It’s a black slab with a screen.
There have been reports of people suffering from various hardware issues, none of which I’ve experienced myself. This sort of thing is to be expected when a new product launches. As the product ages, Nintendo will get better at building it. If you don’t already have a Switch, the chance are you’ll have to wait a little while until they make more. Those will be better made than the one I bought. By the time Christmas comes around they’ll be up to speed. Hopefully Nintendo will do their best to help everybody affected.
Just like the outside, there isn’t much on the inside. There are no apps to speak of, and not much functionality beyond running games. We knew that this would be the case before launch so it’s not a disappointment. I’m sure you’ll be able to run Netflix on it soon. Until then, you’ll have to make do with every other device with a screen running it.
There is a download store, and it reminds you of news reports from soviet era supermarkets. I’m sure there will be games to put on the shelves one day, it’s just that they aren’t many at the moment. I can tell you that what is there looks nice and it works.
Every console is only as good as its games, and when it comes to games, Nintendo have a good hand to play. Some people seem really worried about third party software support, but I don’t think it’s worth it. Remember this, the Switch is the only console you can play Nintendo games on. If you want to play Call Of Duty you need an Xbox or PS4. If you want to play Mario games, or Zelda games, you need a Switch.
The Nintendo Switch is a brilliant console which Nintendo deserve to do well with. Should you get one as soon as you can? Only if you want to play one of the games available. Whatever console we’re talking about, it’d be daft to buy it if there wasn’t a game you wanted to play. There’s lots to come but it isn’t there yet. Think of this as a soft launch, and by Christmas, there will be all you need to have a very happy Switch time.
I’m of the opinion that Nintendo have done really well with this machine. The fact that it is portable around my house and can be played without the use of a television, means it’s going to get more use than my PS4.
A serious gamer couldn’t live on the Switch alone, but they couldn’t live on just a PS4 either. All gaming platforms have exclusive content, it’s just a matter of which ones you want to play. The fact that the Switch isn’t as powerful as bigger consoles doesn’t matter in the slightest. Apart from a couple of build issues, there’s absolutely nothing to complain about here.
If you really want a handheld PS4 you still have a few more years to wait. However, if you want a portable, easy to use, reasonably priced machine, the Switch is it.
I asked on Twitter (@techsupportrich) if any of you had any questions about the Switch, and it turns out you did. Here are my answers.
Q. In your opinion, do I need this console at the current price point as much as I want it?
A. Like I said, it depends how much you want to play the currently available games. Only you know the answer to that.
Q. Does the charging adaptor really work on a MacBook Pro as well?
A. Yes, no, and why. Yes it will, because it’s a USB C power adaptor. No, because different models of MacBook have different power requirements. The power needs of a 15” MacBook Pro are far greater than a Nintendo Switch. Why would you want to do this? Didn’t your MacBook come with a power adaptor? Besides, it’ll be plugged in behind your television. Is that somewhere you really want to keep swapping cables around?
Q. How does the new physical media feel, going from disk to such a small cartridge?
A. Good. Discs scratch. Cartridges don’t. They’re also smaller and easier to carry around. I hate discs.