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Nintendo Switch Hardware Review

It’s smart, slick and polished as Nintendo’s seventh generation home console, easily sliding in and out of its dock. And the intuitive Joy-Cons have such potential that the future looks bright for the company. But with the Switch’s expensive peripherals and a small choice of launch games, can consumers justify the purchase right now?

Buying a new piece of hardware, whether it’s a console, television or PC, is always a difficult choice. There are a multitude of options to choose from, with plenty of accessories and peripherals to make the decision unique to you. Spending that hard-earned cash is easy, it’s just deciding where you should spend it that’s tough. For consumers, the Nintendo Switch is certainly an expensive gaming device should you add on the peripherals and accessories that cost a good deal more. However, since playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, there’s been no need for anything extra – it’s been an enjoyable experience just using the standard Joy-Con Grip and portable Switch console.

Inside the box, users will find the Switch console, its associated Dock, a pair of Joy-Cons with two wrist straps, a Joy-Con Grip and your standard HDMI cable and AC adapter. As covered in our preview, setting up the console is straight-forward, with the user interface relatively minimalist. On the home page, you’ll find a section for news for important Switch information and how-to guides, the Nintendo eShop, your Album catalogue for when you want to take in-game screenshots to store on a MicroSD Card, controller settings for syncing the Joy-Cons and checking their battery life, the console’s system settings and its sleep mode function. There’s also a handy quick settings button if you hold down the home page button for a few seconds, which features easier access to airplane mode.

While Nintendo has stated that the battery life between the Switch console and the Joy-Cons will vary depending on which game is being played, their estimations were pretty much spot on. When playing the Switch in portable mode with Zelda: Breath of the Wild, it clocked in around 2.5 hours for me – on full brightness and enabled system settings – before requiring to charge. The console also appears to charge faster than it depletes too, making it a great way to play on the move. Playing a game that’s not as heavy duty as Breath of the Wild, Nintendo estimates around 6 hours of portable play time.

When it comes to the Joy-Cons battery life, Nintendo were again correct in their estimations. With the Joy-Con Grip in use, I played Breath of the Wild for around 19.5 hours before the Joy-Cons required another charge, while Nintendo estimates you can play with them for 20 hours. To charge each Joy-Con, simply attach them to the Switch and continue playing or place them inside the dock to gain full charge inside three to four hours. Of course, the Joy-Cons won’t fully charge when attached to the Switch itself, so as not to deplete the console’s battery life further than anticipated.

But do the Joy-Cons go the distance? Putting them to the connectivity range test, the left controller used mainly for directional assistance can only be taken approximately eight metres away from the console when docked. Due to various household items – such as bundles of wires – possibly distorting the sync connection, this estimation could potentially be farther once the issue has been suitably resolved. The right controller primarily used for the A, B, Y and X buttons can go much farther, and can even still confirm and go back pages when used upstairs in a room. Nintendo estimated the Wii U GamePad could go approximately 26 feet (7.8 metres) in worst-case scenario, so it’s certainly good to know that the Joy-Cons can equal that distance even with the de-sync issues that have been experienced. And as alluded to in our review for Breath of the Wild, the Joy-Con de-sync issues have noticeably reduced since an in-game and system patch was released.

To utilise all the features of the Nintendo Switch, users will need to connect their Nintendo Account in the user settings menu. Should you not own a User ID and password for a Nintendo Account, you can connect with your Nintendo Network ID (NNID) or a social media account by confirming your login credentials. Once you’ve connected your account, you’ll be able to access your friend list, including sending and receiving requests. As we’ve previously reported, the Nintendo Switch uses friend codes once again, but should you have exchanged details with friends who already have Miitomo or Fire Emblem Heroes connected to their accounts, you can add friends by sending them a request without needing to enter their friend code, providing they also have a Nintendo Switch.

Continuing the minimalist theme, the Nintendo eShop and its menu is rather sparse. At present, there’s no accompanying music, though users do have the option to access recent releases, the “coming soon” page and to enter a code for redemption. When you first connect to the eShop, users will need to confirm their email and set a password; saving anyone from accessing your funds if it’s a shared household console. Of course, if you own a Nintendo 3DS or Wii U, you’ve also got the option to merge funds between consoles. Doing so will allow you to use the funds associated to the Nintendo Account and NNID with any console you own, much easier than trying to keep track of funds on separate devices.


Here’s what the Nintendo eShop looks like on the Switch.

As a family-friendly company, Nintendo has developed the “Nintendo Switch Parental Control App”, which is optimised for parents to keep an eye on their children’s playtime activity. Once again, it’s really easy to connect your smartphone and the app to the console, all it requires is a simple 6-digit code. Parents can then set restrictions on play-time for week days and weekends, as well as restrict their child from accessing online functions or social media. The app is currently the only way to log your in-game playtime, so it’s certainly a workaround for the moment. The only thing to note, though, is that the app only allows you to set a universal play-time limit, so should you have children of different ages and varying bedtimes, this becomes tricky. For the future, it would be great if parents had the ability to set individual time limits for ease of use.

While the physical size of the console is able to beautifully and comfortably fit within your hands, the memory size it comes bundled with is largely disappointing. You’ll only have 25.9GB when setting up straight out of the box, which reduces again from the day-one updates. And as the system doesn’t come bundled with a MicroSD card, you’ll have to purchase one or several – make sure they are UHS-I or higher – if you’re likely to use the system for digital purchases on the eShop, or want to save your in-game captures and transfer them to another device.

The Nintendo Switch is easy to use, to set up and play with. Its overall portability will likely come into its own when additional games are released such as Splatoon 2. For consumers with a Wii U, it may be quite difficult to justify a purchase of the console for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild at the moment. Yet its potential for future gaming is likely to raise the bar on innovation. If you’re still considering a purchase, it may be worth waiting until there’s a must-have game for you.


27 thoughts on “Nintendo Switch Hardware Review”

  1. Review is good, though it’s not right to question if the purchase is justified. Because that’s just a ‘personal’ preference. People don’t even need a game to justify their purchase, as I did many years ago with my Nintendo 64.
    Is it good or not? That’s the right question, and you Colette already answered it with that 8/10. The console is that good, there is one excellent game for it, a couple good and some average, that’s it.
    This console is Nintendo’s future, and anyone appreciating their offering is going to jump on it.
    Luckily the console is that good so clouds are clear on the horizon, and the sun is already shining upon us after all those tribulation with previous Nintendo offerings. We reached a new condition: pleasure.

    1. You’re correct. It’s a personal preference. :) But thank you for reading and commenting. I’ve never done a hardware review – so I will keep that in mind!

  2. Alright. Well, the way I see it now, it’s pretty much a Zelda machine. The console looks better than the Wii U from my point of view and it looks promising. But, Nintendo still has work to do in other areas. Since it does lack power as a home console and not everyone is going to care about the portable feature, they need games. And by that, I mean third party support. With paid online (which is apparently pretty cheap and not $60) it looks like the online experience will be better now. They fixed the account system and there is no region lock which I appreciate. Going back to cartridges is pretty neat imo. But the lack of storage space will be a bother to people that want games digitally and you will likely need multiple SD cards. But I suppose that’s a sacrifice made to keep the price down. If someone is thinking of using this mainly as a handheld, it can be really good. A full console experience on the go seems pretty great with the HD screen and all. Clearly, a lot of sacrifices had to be made for this to also be portable. So it is kind of lacking as a home console. And as I said, the way to make up for that is for this thing to get supported with AAA third party titles. So you can play all those games on the big screen. They won’t be as graphically impressive as the other consoles, but I think people would be willing to overlook that if it means playing Nintendo games on the same system as well. And for those that take advantage of it being portable, that means any game that comes to this can be played anywhere. And despite lacking power, that’s an advantage it has over other consoles.

    It would be a waste if the Switch ended up the same way as the Wii U. It looks to have a lot of potential. Nintendo had better do it right with this console.

  3. Extensive and well written as always! Can’t say you missed anything. System and graphics performance are hard to judge at the moment, since Zelda is a port, and there are few other really hard graphic focused games on Switch right now. Fast RMX looked quite good if you’re after something else than Zelda :)
    I was surprised when I discovered I could add FE Heroes-friends :P Not all of my friends with a Switch showed up at once, but they appeared today :D ;)
    Can’t wait for your next review! Keep it up!

    1. Thank you! :) I can’t compare the graphics as of yet due to only seeing two games, one of which is a direct port of a Wii U game. I’d love to play Breath of the Wild on the Wii U just to see the technical / graphical differences though!

      1. You and me both, but retailers hereabouts are taking way over the top prices for the Wii U-version of Zelda. They probably know those left on Wii U will buy it no matter what :P

                  1. Never heard of CDON+? And CDON in Norway isn’t that great because they ship things from Sweden. I still haven’t gotten the Switch I ordered from them. It’s on the way they say :P

                    1. Nintendo First Order Commander Quadraxis

                      ||Of course, Sweden is the center of Nintendo HQ in our territory…||

                      ||Cdon+ is like Amazon Prime and similar, I only got it because I got it for free 12 months with a certain advantage so I get 1-3% back for every item I get…||

                        1. Nintendo First Order Commander Quadraxis

                          ||No, it will arrive later this year around June/July, I have some Commander training to do and the warriors need to establish a solid perimeter and defence meanwhile…||

          1. I do think it excel there. Certainly I don’t see a Vita or any Playstation as top hardware offering. Even the Dual Shock is somewhat awkward (still good), PS2 was rough, PS1 was good only after the revision that included the Dual Shock, but before it wasn’t that good for 3D games, just more easy to develop for than Saturn. Xbox 360 were bricks and the XB1 had a somewhat bad joypad with PC hardware.
            Nintendo hardware was ever top in my opinion, except with Wii (for the real lack of power, 20x less than competition), Virtual Boy (just an experiment), and Nintendo 64 (too small cartridges), Wii U (awkward GamePad). But NES, GameBoy, SNES, GameBoy Pocket, GameBoy Advance, DS Lite, GC, 3DS, Switch were top offering.
            They lacked in the software side because of lack of third party support. Internal competition with Nintendo (they sell in the millions toggling third parties a big slice of the cake) always posed a big problem. And its marketing always helped them and never third parties (the exact contrary of Sony).

        1. King Kalas X3 {Greatness Awaits at Sony PlayStation 4! Hopefully it will also await us at Nintendo Switch if Nintendo doesn't FUCK things up again!}

          The Switch is definitely pretty barebone because of the minimalist approach. I hope updates make it less minimalistic, though, because it’s boring without any kind of music to make you enjoy your stay on the home menu, settings menu, user profiles menu, news menu, eShop menu, etc. While it does make you play your games more, it’d be nice to have something to hear when I am going through the dull menu screens. It’d be nice if putting a game on hold didn’t put it fully on hold & it let the music of the game you are playing seep from the game & into the system’s menus. ESPECIALLY since I have to leave my bloody game to turn off the Joy-Cons to conserve energy when I go idle & don’t want them to drain. An update that allows you to turn them off while in the game like Sony does on PS4 would be very welcome at a later point.

          1. King Kalas X3 {Greatness Awaits at Sony PlayStation 4! Hopefully it will also await us at Nintendo Switch if Nintendo doesn't FUCK things up again!}

            Right now, it’s not too much of a hassle but it will be once we start getting apps like Netflix or Hulu on the system. :/

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