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.)

  • Mr0303

    The system going into portable mode when the power goes out is a really nice touch.

    The joycons being rather small is pretty obvious especially for local multiplayer.

    “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild seems to have some noticeable issues in console mode” – that sounds rather serious. I guess the game review will go into more detail.

  • DarkVader

    How’s battery life an issue when it beats almost every previous Nintendo and Sony handheld as well as ipad. Can’t get this? I know this website is ran by Sony fans, wink,wink, but come on battery life comparisons are on Youtube ffs.

  • Heresy Hammer

    It just sounds like bad design overall.

  • Last time I checked i get about 6 hours on my iphone and vita. The Switch died at 3 or so.

  • catazxy

    Oh, so Michael finally got the Switch. Nice honest review, I was worried that we have another victim of the Hype Train.

  • Javier Vega

    Almost has the same issues as the Wii.

  • SuuLoliBoob

    Really? Maybe it’s because i have a different model/got fucked, but my Vita dies after maybe 2 and half hours playing a game like Digimon.

  • Uncle Ocelot

    Apparently tall grass causes the framerate to drop to the mid 20’s, I don’t know how when portable mode runs it fine. A patch is clearly needed.

  • SuuLoliBoob

    Good review! I honestly can’t wait to add the Switch to my collection of portable/handheld devices, the only real gripe i have is the 32gb micro SD card they give you and the whole “No game bundle”, they should have at least added the 1 2 switch.

  • I may be hyped for the system, but I take my reviews very seriously. Consumers and readers always come first.

  • We talke about this a little bit in our Interview with Image and Forms CEO (The guys doing Steamworld Dig 2 for the Switch) which went live today.

  • O jesus really? I play Dragon Quest Builders quite a bit and never have this issue, maybe it is game dependet or something?

  • catazxy

    Yeah probably, I constantly get 4-5 hours of play time.

  • SuuLoliBoob

    Yeah, it kinda sucks, but i did get it for like, $80.

  • Chris Mendivil

    What I’ve been wondering about is, does it have a web browser? One of the big issues with trying to play online on the go is that of you want to use wifi, most places want you to go to a landing page and agree to their tos.

  • Donwel

    I get at least 6 hours out of my Vita usually. Maybe you got a dud m8.
    Thinking about it though, if you have an OG model that’s been used a bit then the battery life might tank compared to the newer ones.

  • Donwel

    I’ve seen this “HD rumble” mentioned before. What exactly is it and how does it differ to normal (or SD I guess?) rumble?

  • DarkVader

    Search the battery test on YT, it’s been done more than once I think, and it came at or near the top. Btw the official battery life from Nintendo for Switch is more or less the same for 3DS XL.

  • Throughout this month, I will be stress testing the unit and give some definitives in April. Check out our hard core stress test review then.

  • Dale Frewaldt

    There’s no real innovative technology behind it, just innovative marketing in the buzzword name that Nintendo attached to it to charge a premium. Normal rumble uses a motorized spinning weight to approximate textile sensation. “HD Rumble” is more similar to magnetic rumble found in capacitive touch devices, and is essentially the same technology behind Apple’s touch tech. Rather than spinning a weight, a more nuanced rumble is created by magnetic vibration. The “HD” effect is created by spreading multiple pairs of these magnetic rumblers throughout the body of the Joycon controllers, allowing developers to create the sensation of weight distribution within the controller by vibrating these various rumblers at different places in different intensities.

  • Dale Frewaldt

    Let me guess, the tl;dr is “muh costs,” right?

  • Joe

    No web browser at launch. Maybe never so Nintendo doesn’t have to worry about pirates using it.

  • Joe

    Yeah my well used OLED Vita lasts about 2-3 hours as well. It’s probably the only weakpoint in what otherwise is still the best piece of gaming hardware I own.

  • Joe is correct, this was not an issue I thought about but I will keep this in mind when I run the system through a hard core stress test this month.

  • No, its more like we have played it and can vouch its more of a full title then a pack in. Ill be going over it in the review later.

  • totenglocke

    Well when it’s only targeting 30, mid 20s isn’t that big of a drop. Still, if it doesn’t happen in handheld mode, they definitely should patch it.

  • scemar

    the joycons sound cool but let’s be real here

    there’s a 90 to 10 odds that they’ll become under-utilized legacy equipment

    same as the 3D on the 3DS or the screen in the WiiU, they only served to inflate the price of the system
    (cost of a wiiu screen is $140, and a 2DS is $100 cheaper than a 3DS)

  • OldPalpy

    Here are the results from Digital Foundry while running Zelda
    0% Brightness, 50% Volume: Three Hours, Five Minutes
    50% Brightness, 50% Volume: Three Hours, Three Minutes
    100% Brightness, 100% Volume: Two Hours, Thirty Seven Minutes
    It’s only going to beat the 3DS and Vita while either running idle or lowend games that allow the CPU/GPU to downclock.

  • OldPalpy

    It’s suppose to be running at 900p in docked mode right? I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s causing the problem even if it’s hardware is fully unlocked n that mode because it’s having to push around half a million extra pixels.

  • steamblader

    According to Budisness Insider this will be remedied in the day one update. The switch will get a “web applet” solely for this purpose.

  • Shit console confirmed.

    Just buy a PS4,ride out this gen with it, and play it until PS5.

  • DizzyGear

    How sturdy does the tablet/controller combo feel with the controllers attached to the side? Just looking at the design i feel like that the sliding mechanism may wear out after repeated use and that the whole construction may end up feeling wobbly after a while.

  • Malcolm_Ecks

    Seems to be about the same as the 3DS, which for being a console hybrid is a tad disappointing. What upsets me is the fact that the OC takes 7GB of the 32GB space. Yes you can get extra memory for a decent price, but at that point it costs as much as a PS4.

  • Malcolm_Ecks

    Yeah the Zelda frame drop is a bit of an issue. If it translates to post launch that won’t be fund for those who pre-ordered.

    And knowing Bethesda’s record of releasing games in a barely finished state expect Skyrim to be a mess…

  • alterku

    This isn’t the first game I’ve heard about having problems in console mode. Definitely a wait and see. If the performance can’t be fixed I have no interest at all.

  • Chris Mendivil

    I was actually considering getting the Switch as a replacement for my ageing tablet (as one might with a Vita), but it’s Nintendo we’re talking about here, and they’re almost as well known for trying to obsessively controll everything as they are well known for Mario.

  • Jacob Waters

    Why a review score on an “in progress” review?

  • Jumanji Joe

    I’d consider buying this is jewtendo didn’t purposely limit production so they could fudge about demand.

  • EvanPearks

    How can you give a score to a system you tried at a best buy?

    “Snubbed”. No you guys didn’t get snubbed, you guys just aren’t big enough to get a proper editor, nonetheless a console from nintendo.

  • DarkVader

    And that’s absolutely amazing! just the ability to play a massive console game like BOTW on the go for ~3hours, smaller games will beat 3DS battery life, this thing is a marvel of engineering tbh.

  • OldPalpy
  • Chad Tyler Meadows

    Aww are your little fanboy feelings hurt? Grow up, you retarded child.

  • lel it’s not amazing. It’s a joke. Why would I spend $300 for a portable with a three-hour battery life just to play a console game when I could take my DS with a 15-hour battery to travel and play actual console games when I got home?

    I don’t care how good BotW is, it’s not so good I need to be able to play it at all times, anywhere I go (for 3 hours, tops); anyone who already has a handheld doesn’t need this console.

  • CRES

    I think the 3DS’s Gyroscope was more of an under-utilized feature than it’s 3D. Seriously, I play most of my games in 3D, and some of them look amazing that way. Others are negligible, and only a small handful are actually eye bleedingly bad.

    On a side note: I really hope the Switch doesn’t replace the 3DS. I’d rather have another two screen system, because let’s face it there are several games that greatly benefit from that set up like Strategy RPGs and any kind of Metroid-vanias or dungeon crawlers. And seriously, if the DS line disappears, so does Etrian Odyssey, and that would be a crime against existence.

  • SiliconNooB

    There has been a lot of Youtube footage showing Breath of the Wild turning into a slideshow.

  • SiliconNooB

    The drops are far worse than mid-20s – look it up on Youtube.

  • UnpluggedBeta

    Makes me wonder if they’ll add an option to lock it to a lower resolution.

  • UnpluggedBeta

    Well, I would guess it’s because it’s an “in-progress,” score for an “in progress,” review; heh.

  • DarkVader


  • Mr0303

    That may be. I haven’t been following the game, since I’m not particularly interested in it.