Nintendo Switch Hardware Review – In Progress

The joys of new hardware. With each generation you see some real design principles shine through that reflect the era in which it was released. The Nintendo Switch feels like a logical leap into the modern era with its sharply lined base and screen, combined with its ultra thin and slightly rounded Joy Con controllers.

The Joy Con controllers provide some great feedback with the HD Rumble, which is something I am sure we will see developers take full advantage of in the coming year. The button layout is nice but depending on your hand size, the Joy Con’s will feel incredibly small, and the blade shape might be a disaster for those with larger hands. For comparison think about holding an iPhone or iPad or latest Android phone in your hands for extended periods of time, just lighter and smaller. Personally I add cases to all phones I use to beef up the thickness as it tends to cut into my hand with extended use.

It must be noted that there is a lot of potential for versatility with the Joy Con’s when they are removed from the unit and controller hardware, which can be done with the quick press of a button on the back of the controller, followed with sliding them off of the system. You will be able to use the Joy Con Strap to make the experience a bit better when using single Joy Con’s as controllers.

This makes games like 1-2-Switch a better overall experience as the added width to the control makes it more comfortable, especially with mini-games that require quick movements or faking the opponent out (See the Boken Mini in 1-2-Switch for example.) One major problem is the potential for de-syncing of the left Joy Con. What causes this is totally unknown to me, but it seems to be an issue with the left Joy Con specifically.

One thing that stands out is just how easy it is to dock and un-dock the unit and keep playing. It’s so seamless that if something happens and your power goes out, the system will automatically kick over to portable mode. As I live in Los Angeles where brown-outs happen from time to time, this is a god send.

Another issue is the overall dock design, I wish you luck fitting it within your entertainment center. You will be most likely putting this on a desk or next to your TV, as you will be needing room to remove the system. This is where a “front loader” style would have been amazing to have instead of the “Famicom” style it currently uses.

The screen and the main unit are extremely durable, which is great considering all of Nintendo’s marketing went into the “play anywhere” direction and not a home console direction. While the hardware is solid in design, it might not be so solid in its technical specs.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild seems to have some noticeable issues in console mode, but seems to fair better in handheld mode. This could be an issue that needs to be patched with the game, or it could be the hardware taxing itself a bit to much.

Now depending on the environment and the settings of the system, you might not be getting the best portable experience. That is not to say that colors can’t be vibrant and beautiful on the system, because they absolutely can be. You should just expect to be running out of battery fast.

The built-in storage clocks in at 32GB, with the operating system itself reserving 7GB. I can see this being an issue later on but the multitude of cheap storage solutions available makes it a non-issue for the most part.

The user interface is fast and intuitive, if not a little boring. This should make it easy to access by almost everyone which is a staple in terms of Nintendo’s overall goals for their hardware. Most of the functionality is not yet available so we will have to spend some more time with the unit before we can really go into it further.

Currently, the Nintendo Switch is a system built on negotiations with the end user.

You can have thin portable design, but you will not get an optimal gaming experience in your home theater. You can have a portable console that plays on the TV with ease, but there will be quite a few hiccups in frame rate when you do.

The Portable experience can be amazing, but you will only get a couple hours to play it before the battery tanks. I hope the third parties swoop in here, because these are potentially easy fixes, but not form factor ones.

The Verdict: 7.5

The Good

  • Great Portable Gaming.
  • HD Rumble is amazing.
  • Lots of potential.

The Bad

  • Docked Gaming Suffers from compromises in design.
  • Battery life is an issue.
  • Joy Cons can be to small for some.

(Writers Note: We ended up getting snubbed on a review unit, and we had to borrow one from an associate to get this review out. We will be doing an extended review next month after I have finished my game reviews on the system. I will be running a hardcore gambit on the system that may or may not involve me risking the system destruction.)