After an initial unveiling last week, Nintendo’s Switch OLED model is now available to preorder through various retailers in the US. In a tweet earlier on Thursday, the company confirmed that orders for the new console variant would begin at 12pm PT/3pm ET.
If you’re hoping to grab one, here are the retail listings that are up as of this writing. We’ll add more as we see them, but given the intense demand for recent gaming hardware like the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, and Nvidia’s RTX graphics cards (from scalpers or otherwise), we don’t expect stock to be available for long:
The device itself is more of an iteration of the standard Switch than a generational upgrade like the PS5 or Xbox Series X. It will work with the same library of games and support the same family of accessories. The only notable exception is the Nintendo Labo series, as Nintendo says that “the system will not cleanly fit within all the design parameters” of that set of cardboard kits.
What’s new with the Switch OLED model
As the name suggests, the Switch OLED model’s biggest upgrade is its OLED display. This is the display technology used on high-end TVs and recent iPhones, among various other devices. Though we haven’t seen Nintendo’s panel specifically, OLED tech usually has significantly better contrast ratios—i.e., the difference between the brightest whites and darkest black tones—than traditional LCDs like the ones on the standard Switch and Switch Lite. Because its pixels are lit up and turned off individually instead of relying on the more imprecise backlights of an LCD panel, OLED displays can produce inky, near-perfect blacks.
Response times—i.e., the time it takes for a display to change from one color to another—are typically shorter, too, which can result in smoother motion in games. And viewing angles are often wider, so the image generally won’t appear as “washed out” when looked at from the side. That may be particularly helpful if you and a friend are huddled around the console in its “tabletop mode.”
OLED displays generally can’t get as bright as a good LCD panel at maximum, and we don’t know how accurate the new panel’s colors will be out of the box. But moving to OLED should make for a more vibrant image that passively upgrades every game you play on the new Switch.
One thing to at least keep in mind, though, is burn-in. The nature of OLED tech means that images that remain on-screen for excessive periods of time can be “retained” as persistent ghostly backgrounds, regardless of what you’re watching. Since many games contain static UI elements—ammo counters, a world map, a HUD, etc.—there’s a chance this could become an issue for a small number of people down the road. But there haven’t been widespread reports of burn-in affecting owners of many OLED phones or tablets, and it generally takes a long time for burn-in to take effect. So long as you don’t play one game for several hours a day consecutively for months on end, we wouldn’t expect this to be a problem.
Beyond that, the OLED Switch comes with a more spacious 7-inch display, compared to the 6.2-inch panel of the standard Switch and the 5.5-inch panel of the Switch Lite. The hardware itself is just 0.1 inches longer and .05 pounds heavier than that of the base model, however, thanks primarily to the significantly slimmer bezels surrounding the display.
The OLED Switch also overhauls the notoriously flimsy kickstand built into the base Switch. Whereas the current model’s stand sits off-center and only supports one angle, the OLED Switch’s stand covers most of the console’s back and supports a broader range of adjustments. This should make the console more secure and accommodating when used in tabletop mode.
When it does come time to play on the big screen, though, the OLED Switch comes with an upgraded dock, which now has a totally removable backplate and a wired Ethernet port. The latter should help if you frequently play online multiplayer games or just suffer from middling Wi-Fi at home. Nintendo says you’ll be able to use the new Switch with the original model’s dock and vice versa, though it remains to be seen if the company will sell this new dock separately.
Rounding out the new feature list, Nintendo says the speakers built into the new Switch hardware have been “enhanced” compared to those in the older model, though again, that’s something we’ll have to test to verify. There’s also double the internal storage, 64GB compared to 32GB in the base Switch and Switch Lite. That’s better, but it’s still not a ton, so you’ll likely want to invest in a good microSD card to hold a full game library.
Finally, the new Switch’s Joy-Cons will be sold with a clean-looking white and black finish alongside a more traditional red and blue color scheme.
What isn’t new with the Switch OLED model
Months of reports, rumors, and speculation regarding an upcoming “Switch Pro” console led many onlookers and Nintendo fans to expect a device with major performance boosts over the base Switch and Switch Lite. While the new Switch’s OLED display upgrade is not insignificant—the display is the one thing you’re always looking at with a handheld console, after all—it appears those expectations have outpaced reality.
Internally, the OLED Switch is largely identical to the base Switch. A Nintendo spokesperson confirmed that the new model does not have a new CPU or more RAM. There’s none of Nvidia’s DLSS image upscaling tech. Its display is still set at a modest 720p resolution, which means the pixel density here is technically lower than before. When it’s docked up to a TV, the new model still outputs video at 1080p, not a sharper and more modern 4K resolution.
There’s still no Bluetooth audio support, and Nintendo hasn’t mentioned any major changes to its relatively fragile Joy-Con controllers. And while OLED is generally more power-efficient than LCD, the new Switch’s battery has the same 4,310 mAh capacity as before, and Nintendo estimates the same 4.5- to 9-hour battery-life range.
Exactly why the upgrades here aren’t as substantial as previous reports suggested is anyone’s guess. Nintendo and other tech-industry giants are still suffering from a global semiconductor shortage in their supply chains. The Switch itself continues to sell phenomenally well, with nearly 85 million units sold as of March 31, and the company’s profits have only grown throughout the ongoing pandemic. Whatever the case, Nintendo does not seem interested in bifurcating the Switch’s user base, hardware-wise, for the time being.
Is the OLED Switch worth buying?
Without the benefit of testing, we can’t definitively say whether the OLED model is worth the upgrade for current Switch owners. At first blush, however, it would appear to be a tough sell. Performance should be virtually identical in handheld mode, and unless you need that LAN port, there will be next to no difference when hooked up to a TV. (You can always use an Ethernet adapter with the current Switch dock, too.) While the upgraded kickstand, speakers, and storage capacity sound nice, they’re likely not enough to justify dropping another $350. So, if you just bought a new Switch, don’t feel bad!
Similarly, if you want to spend as little as possible on a new Switch and don’t care about playing on a TV, the Switch Lite undercuts the new model by $150, works with the same library of games, and should be just as powerful. It also has a genuine d-pad. Its display is noticeably smaller and still LCD, but if you’re willing to sacrifice screen size for greater portability, it still presents a strong value.
For enthusiasts, meanwhile, Valve’s just-announced Steam Deck may take much of the wind out of the OLED model’s sails. That brand new portable gaming PC will start at $399, but it differs from Nintendo’s handheld in significant ways, and we haven’t been able to get our hands on it just yet.
If you’re interested in buying your first Switch, though, or if you only own a Switch Lite and want to upgrade to a TV-capable model, it may be a different story. OLED is traditionally a genuine upgrade over LCD, and the roomier display looks like it is much more efficiently designed. Combined with the array of smaller improvements, a $50 premium over the standard Switch doesn’t appear that unreasonable, even if some estimates suggest the console only costs Nintendo $10 more to actually produce. You’ll just have to be OK waiting until October to get your hands on the console.
If you’re a Nintendo enthusiast, meanwhile, you’ve probably been F5-ing your way through retailer pages ever since the OLED Switch was announced.
It’s worth noting that the OLED Switch’s reveal doesn’t completely preclude Nintendo from ever releasing that processor-bumped, 4K-capable “Switch Pro” that has gotten fans in a tizzy. Nintendo has a history of launching several hardware variations, particularly with its handheld consoles. If something like that model ever does come to fruition, it would presumably be better-suited to handle the more graphically intense third-party games we’re seeing on Sony’s PlayStation 5 and Microsoft’s Xbox Series consoles. As it stands now, the Switch’s hardware can run many larger-scale non-Nintendo games, but those ports often include compromises to frame rates and overall fidelity.
Nevertheless, the OLED model is what we have. The Switch remains a nicely versatile system with an expansive library of worthwhile games, so for newcomers in particular, this newest variant should hold some appeal—if they can manage to secure one in the first place.
Note: Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.