Hands on: Nintendo Switch review


  • Innovative and fun, the Switch looks set to make Nintendo cool again.


  • Unique design
  • Interesting announced titles
  • Great tablet screen


  • Battery concerns
  • Online offering
  • Few confirmed launch day titles

Here we are, just a week away from the launch of the Nintendo Switch and the only emotion we’re feeling right now is excitement. This is a major launch for Nintendo, and one that will shape how the company fares for the next five years. To say that there’s a lot riding on this would be an understatement.

Thankfully, however, our time with the console has been great. The hardware feels much better made than the cheaply constructed Wii U and the Nintendo Switch games are just as fun as we thought they’d be. This is no Wii U 2.0.

So here we are gawping at an all-new Nintendo, that, while just as innovative (and arguably challenging) in its design as its predecessor, is being positioned as a far more mainstream device, one that Nintendo expects you to take with you practically everywhere.

But will you want to? Going on our first hands-on testing we can say the answer is a fairly comfortable “yes”, despite higher than expected pricing – provided that Nintendo can deliver a compelling online offering.


The Nintendo Switch is quite unlike any games console that’s ever come before it. In fine Nintendo tradition (if you can call the gaming equivalent of iconoclasm ‘tradition’), it’s done away with the concept of one fixed box sat under your telly with the Switch. Instead, it exists in two distinct states: firstly as a portable tablet device with a built-in kickstand, and secondly docked in a base that connects to your TV.

Paired with its breakaway, adaptable controllers it’s a bit like Nintendo’s answer to the Transformers, ready to be reconfigured depending on your current gaming need. Sat at home ready for a marathon session? Plug the tablet into the dock and beam your gameplay onto the big screen.

Sat on a train with a table in front of you and the Switch in your bag? Pop out the tablet unit’s kickstand, grab the nunchuck-like controller parts and get playing. Roaming a park? Plug the two controller sticks in either side of the screen and you can walk about and collect those Zelda rupees at the same time.


From the restrained core grey and black color scheme, as heavily displayed in pre-release marketing (blue and red Joy-Con controllers will also be available), to the choice to revert back to cartridges for play, it’s clear that Nintendo is subtly shifting its target audience. Sure, it’s not going to ditch its family-friendly appeal, but it knows it has to win over the older, so-called ‘hardcore’ gamer reared on a diet of sci-fi shooters.

So you’re left with an unassuming dock that would sit comfortably under a serious home cinema setup, and cartridges that are portable and sturdy, and which entertainingly trade on nostalgia – if hamstringing any chances of disc-based backwards compatibility.

The key idea uniting all these elements is that, essentially, wherever you are, however much time you have, you get the same great gaming experience, taking the home console fun that you enjoy wherever it’s most convenient for you to play.


Specs and performance

But how does that experience stack up against the competition? Has Nintendo managed, for the first time in decades, to get its hardware on a level footing with the PS4 and Xbox One competition? Though you can argue that the unique form factor negates such comparisons, the simple answer is “not quite”.

The Nintendo Switch is a solidly capable machine, but its internals appear far more power-efficiency focussed than geared towards pure processing grunt; certainly, at its first press event, there appear to be no games challenging the visual fidelity of Sony or Microsoft’s consoles. But that’s never really been the point of a Nintendo console, with the company far more concerned with innovative gameplay forms than photo-real visuals.

Under the hood of its core tablet unit you’ll find a custom Nvidia Tegra processor, broadly comparable to the Tegra X1 found in an Nvidia Shield TV. 32GB of storage space is onboard too (some of which is dedicated to the system software), along with 802.11.ac Wi-Fi.


The screen itself is, of course, a critical part of the equation – especially given how disappointing the Wii U’s comparable Gamepad proved to be. The Switch screen measures out at 6.2 inches, with a resolution of 720p.

It proves itself to be a very enjoyable screen to view. It has vibrant colors, a relatively sharp resolution, and is able to keep up with the breakneck nature of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, which we had hands-on time with. It’s not as impressive as the top-end smartphone screens, but it feels dramatically better than what the Wii U Gamepad offered.

We weren’t able to try out the touchscreen capabilities of the screen at the event. Whether intentionally or not, the touchscreen appeared to have been disabled on most of the demos we tried.

Supporting Wi-Fi online play, up to eight Nintendo Switch consoles can link up for local multiplayer play, and when we used this to play Mario Kart there wasn’t any evidence of lag.

Battery life for on-the-go play is, of course, a concern. Nintendo quotes a very heartening six-plus hours of battery life when the Switch is disconnected from a USB-C power supply, although that’s very much dependant on the title being played – Nintendo admits, for instance, that you’ll get closer to three hours play when firing up The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild when out and about.

We’ll have to take the Switch out into the real world to see if that claimed upper number holds up.

Docked vs portable play

So, how do the two core gaming experiences (untethered on-the-go versus docked at-home play) compare? So far, very favourably.

The Switch outputs to a TV at a resolution of 1080p, with 5.1 audio output offered. Considering the home console standard really remains at 1080p (with the exception of the adaptive-up-to-4K resolution of the PS4 Pro), that’s competitive. Charging from the dock, it doesn’t of course come with any battery power limitations.

Going on the few games available to play at the Nintendo press event, it seems that only the most demanding of players will notice a difference between docked and portable performance. On a 1080p television there were more jagged edges visible on the console, but frame-rate seemed un-impacted by form factor.

The docking and undocking process is as seamless as can be. We got a chance to try out Breath of the Wild in both configurations, and even switching mid-gameplay presented no trouble to the console – you just hold a couple of buttons to confirm you’re using the attached Joy-Con controllers, and the game resumes exactly where you left off.

Online, interface and apps

Compared to the slick, richly web-connected interfaces of the PS4 and Xbox One, Nintendo’s most recent console interfaces have felt more than a little dated. The Switch attempts to shake this up by introducing its own online subscription service, but those looking for something comparable to PlayStation Plus or Xbox Live Gold may be left wanting.


Though Nintendo still needs to clarify some points, its subscription service’s ‘free’ monthly game offering seems quite stingy. It appears that you’ll only get access to one NES or SNES game (with Super Nintendo titles now offering online support) each month, with just one month in which to play them. The Xbox Live Gold alternative, for instance, offers multiple modern games for subscribers to download and keep each month, forever.

In addition, the online service offers lobby and voice chat, but again this appears clunkily limited to a phone app. With the likes of WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger already letting you hook up with friends for free on your phone, this hardly seems a reasonable alternative to a built-in console chat option.

Nintendo subscribers will also get digital store discounts, but that doesn’t seem like much of a draw of itself. The Switch will launch with a free trial to its subscription service – we’ll keep you informed as to whether it’s worth sticking with beyond that, when the paid service launches in Autumn 2017.

Unfortunately the console will include neither support for video streaming apps, nor feature a web browser of its own, two features that have been included on both of its main competitors.

If you’re looking for your Switch to be your all-in-one media machine then you’re going to be disappointed. This is a device that’s all about the games rather than a multimedia machine.


Nintendo has a habit of designing quirky controllers, from the motion-sensing Wii remotes and nunchucks to the trident-shaped N64 pad, with each bringing with it a new way to play. While the Switch’s Joy-Con controllers don’t offer any remarkable new input options, they are innovative in the way they can transform depending on your current needs.


It’s a bit like the Wii remote / nunchuck pairing in use – you have a left-hand element that includes an analogue stick and direction buttons (sacrilegiously moving away from Nintendo’s iconic ‘cross’ design” in favor of separate buttons) alongside a ‘minus’ options button, a Capture button for recording gameplay and a top shoulder trigger. The right-hand element has a second analogue stick, the X, Y, A and B input buttons, another shoulder button, a ‘Plus’ start button and a Home button for jumping to the main interface.

These components can be used together, separately or combined with a central Joy-Con grip unit for a more traditional play experience. The ability to use each part as a solo pad also goes some way to explaining the removal of the old-school Cross pad – with the analogue stick used as a movement input, the other buttons then potentially can be used for action commands, with the pad turned on its side like a spruced-up NES pad.

One criticism so far, based on early play, relates to the right-hand side of the Joy-Con, when it’s being used in a single-controller scenario. As it’s asymmetrically placed when in the Joy-Con grip, this means that all its buttons and its control stick can feel very cramped together when it’s used in a solo configuration.

Each Joy-Con offers an accelerometer and gyroscope for motion controls, while the right Joy-Con also features NFC for hooking up Nintendo’s amiibo figurines. Nintendo is coining what it calls ‘HD Rumble’ for the controllers, which it claims lets you feel vibrations as subtle as a few ice cubes shaking around in a glass.

The right controller element also features an IR Motion Camera that can detect the distance and shape of objects in particular games – Nintendo offers the example of being able to play rock/paper/scissors with the console, though it does hint at further AR or VR ambitions down the line.

When removed from the tablet, the controllers feel quite unlike any others we’ve played with before. They’re incredibly light and very small too, which may prove fiddly for big-handed gamers. But they also prove responsive – playing the motion-based mini-games of launch title 1-2-Switch worked a treat, while the split D-Pad’s buttons are low-profile enough to allow for lightning-fast Street Fighter special moves. When removed from the tablet, each Joy-Con part can have a clip-on set of shoulder buttons slid onto their sides, too.

Again, the flexibility of the controller options makes for a very dynamic system. In theory, for example, you can get four players around one Switch console with two complete Joy-Con controllers, if each player uses an individual left or right side pad. The combinations seem confusing on paper, but in practice should be quite intuitive. Less clear at this point is how many controller in total the Switch supports, once you start including the more traditional Nintendo Switch Pro pads into the mix.

Though it was hard to get a proper sense of the weight of the tablet and Joy-Con controllers combined, due to the security housing Nintendo had wrapped them in, even with the additional safety measures everything felt very light, and certainly portable-friendly. However, it’s worth noting that the controllers are charged via the Switch itself, so make sure you’ve juiced both as fully as possible in the dock before heading on out; there’s no way to charge them separately.

Games: the launch lineup and beyond

But what’s a games console without the games? The Nintendo Switch has a number of both first- and third-party titles ready to go in the console’s first year, including big franchise hitters like Mario and Zelda, although the day one launch lineup is looking a little spartan.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild appears the most compelling so far, set for release on March 3 alongside the Switch itself. It’ll be joined by 1-2-Switch, a title that makes full use of the controllers and little screen interaction to ensure players are looking into each other’s eyes, with mini-games including wildwest gunslinging.

ARMS, a multiplayer futuristic boxing game, uses the Joy-Con pads to throw punches, and will be ready “this spring”.


This is essentially Wii Sports boxing mode, spun out into an entire game, with rock-em-sock-em robot visuals. You’ll be able to pick different power-ups for each arm (controlled by a Joy-Con component in each hand), jumping and throwing flurries of punches at a split-screen opponent. At present, it’s hard to get a grip on just how much skill is involved, as opposed to the flailing limb equivalent of button-mashing – trying to tactically dodge a press event opponent who was windmilling, we didn’t stand a chance.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe makes the superb racer portable, and introduces new courses, items and racers – it’ll be ready on April 28.


If you’ve played Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U, you’ll know what to expect here – the game is all but identical, except for the addition of some new items and racers. What you gain, however, is the flexibility of the Switch – this is Mario Kart, in all its HD glory, on the go. Being able to sit around a table with eight other players, each potentially with their own Switch tablet screen, connected over local Wi-Fi, could bring that Blue Shell hyper-competitive play to a whole new level.

Paintball multiplayer shooter Splatoon 2 will be ready for the summer, while the surprisingly engrossing Snipperclips – Cut It Out Together! will launch in March; it’s puzzle game that enables you to cut shapes out and bring them into the game to help solve challenges.


So far, it’s our dark horse favorite from the whole event. Looking a little like Scribblenauts, players can take one Joy-Con component each, and use it to cut chunks out of each other’s paper player. This can then be used to line up with puzzle-solving shapes, or formed into tools to move items around the screen.

In one example, we cut our fellow player’s character into a shovel shape, so that she could scoop a basketball into a net. It’s very charming, and seemed perfect for playing sat next to another gamer in tablet mode, away from the big screen.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2, meanwhile, with its space-faring mechs, will keep RPG fans happy.

So where’s Mario? He’ll miss the launch, with Super Mario Odyssey arriving in time for Christmas. It sounds like it’ll be worth the wait, though, with Odyssey being the first ‘sandbox’ Mario game since Super Mario Sunshine on the GameCube, letting you explore wide-open worlds.

A number of third-party titles have also been teased, including EA’s FIFA, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, NBA 2K, Project Octopath Traveler, Street Fighter II Ultra, Sonic Mania, Super Bomberman, Just Dance, Disegea 5, Dragon Quest’s X and XI, Fire Emblem Warriors, and Minecraft.

The issue, as was the case with the N64 and Wii U, will be retaining third-party support. The Switch’s unique hardware, like that of the Wii U, forces additional design considerations upon developers, which can become costly in gruelling development cycles. The Switch seems far more accommodating in this respect than the Wii U ever was, but it’ll be interesting to see if the chicken-and-egg scenario between playerbase and game catalogue can find a happy balance this time around.

The situation should be helped this time around by the fact that the Unreal Engine now fully supports the hardware, which should reduce the complexity of developing for the console, but we’d still consider third-party support for the console to be unproven for now.

Early verdict

The Switch is a confident showing from Nintendo at this early hands-on stage. Rather than falling on its sword and following the straightforward ‘box-under-your-telly’ design ethos, Nintendo has taken bold strides to once again mix up the gaming experience. Hopefully, third-party developers will make the jump into the unknown with it.

Flexible and fun, without feeling like a toy, the Switch is proving that Nintendo’s ideas can remain joyously novel without alienating the more po-faced of gamers. While on-the-go battery life and performance remain a concern until we can try out extensive real-world play on the Switch, Nintendo’s new machine is looking very promising; it just needs the games to make use of this innovative hardware.

With a price point set at £279.99 / $299.99 / AU$469.95, the Switch is going to have a mighty fight ahead of it against the relatively affordable PS4 and Xbox One bundles – and that’s before we learn more about the Xbox Scorpio, which we’d expect to be far more powerful, but far pricier.

Sourse: techradar.com

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  1. Reply dingo February 23, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    Comments show way too much focus on hardware/daft comparisons to other consoles and PC’s and far too little focus on the importance of game playability, fun, time shared with family and friends….

    Nintendo cater for audiences that would usually never touch a console.

  2. Reply kissmojo February 23, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    In the end, it’s all about games.
    PS Vita already proved that, a complicated modern title “on the go” is not that attractive as you might be thinking, graphic intensive games do not feel good on a small screen and the controls are always awkward, that why many people prefer simple yet interesting games on their phones. As a “hardcore” gamer, I personally feel it’s a burden to carry another hand-held device just for gaming, and it’s somewhat embarrassing for my age to take out this device of my bag. Now, what kind of gaming device I really want? I would say some fantastic multi-local games might be the ONLY drive for me to buy the console, for the last 1 or 2 years, I don’t even turn on my PS4 or XBOX, only when my friends drop by and we play soccer or other multi-local games together, I believe that’s the very important for any hand-held gaming devices.

  3. Reply Christopher Chaisson February 23, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    $400 in Canada and I’m not seeing anything making it worth that price tag. I’ll stay with my PS4 and my PC.

  4. Reply Michael Maiani February 23, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    another nintendo concept that will most likely fail. Too many pricey accessories and kiddie gimmicks and games will kill this one too.

  5. Reply Mick Gerritsen February 23, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    It is not confirmed yet what the chip is inside the system

  6. Reply smartroad February 23, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    I was looking at getting one, then I saw the prices for the games and I am not paying £60 for Zelda. Maybe I am being a bit of a skinflint but that just feels way to much considering how much you are paying for the console as well. You can get collectors/directors cut/exclusive editions for the XBox One for less.

  7. Reply Ben February 23, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    How about Nintendon’t !?!?

  8. Reply RaminNoodles86 February 23, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    two things concern me:

    1) Can I connect a pair of bluetooth headphones to this? For a device promoting its portability – and also the current trend moving away from headphone jacks and more people buying wireless headphones, it’s a shame if it doesn’t support that. I can’t imagine going back to having wired headphones when commuting on the London Underground and the risk of a wire tangling up with someones coat button

    2) Does the console have to be constantly connected to the internet somehow to play games? Normally, this would be a stupid question – but with Nintendo forcing users on iOS to always be connected, it’s a possibility they could throw this at us and then i’ll never be able to play this on my underground commute

  9. Reply Herbert Steinbergwitz February 23, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    You limeys seem to complain a lot. This overall is not a very expensive price when you consider it’s both portable and played on TV

    • Reply IAmFoxGod February 23, 2017 at 2:53 pm

      It isn’t great value for money. At the end of the day, you could go out on release day and buy an xbox one or ps4 for less money. These are arguably better consoles.

      • Reply Truth February 23, 2017 at 2:53 pm

        They are different kinds of consoles. Comparing the two is like comparing oranges to apples as they say. Yes, both are consoles but otherwise not even close to same.

        PC is a better comparison to those two and both price-point and hardware wise makes PS4/Xbox One look like children’s toys. That’s my thing PS4/Xbox One fanboys shouldn’t comment negatively on Nintendo when 3/4 of them are improperly educated on PC and touting the old PC is too expensive when that’s so far from the truth. Especially with PC having other qualities like being a computer and Steam.

    • Reply wowfood February 23, 2017 at 2:53 pm

      It’s because we’re still stuck in the mindset that the pound is worth so much more than the dollar. I remember when the PS3 came out and americans were complaining about it costing $600, when at the time the exchange rate made it over $1000 for us in the UK.

      At a launch price of £300, that’s only $360 now so nowhere near as bad as it was back then.

      Then again personally I’d only consider it if it were to sell for $250. At $300 it needs to come bundled with zelda. Also not a fan of how much the controllers cost.

      I’ll probably wait a while for a few more games to come out on it before I consider buying.

      • Reply Herbert Steinbergwitz February 23, 2017 at 2:53 pm

        Good point

  10. Reply shadowhedgehogz February 23, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    Overpriced, the price should be £198 like those preorders were originally going for. The hardware is not worth 280 quid.. That being said, I’ll get one when the price drops to that level, and I’m guessing it will easily do that this year, maybe even by Summer with Amazon Prime Day.

    Also what’s up with Bomberman and that weird camera angle?? Such a strange decision.

    Third party support will dry up for this relatively quickly IMO.. And the good games won’t be coming til late this year, i think it’s a waste to buy it on release.

    • Reply Scott Miller February 23, 2017 at 2:53 pm

      Totally agree, needed to be priced well under £200, I have every Nintendo console every made and will also buy this but my blind loyalty was sorely tested with the shambles of the WiiU, although I think it’s a great machine with immense potential Nintendo themselves failed the U, so they need to open up more to developers because this console right here is what’s going to make the biggest impact on mobile gaming since angry birds.

    • Reply Paul Barnes February 23, 2017 at 2:53 pm

      The hardware is not worth £280 because it’s launch line up is weak with great games when they arrive it will be worth it.The ps4 launched at £349 and was overpriced because it’s launch lineup was garbage.A console is only worth the money based on the strength of it’s game’s library in my opinion.My issue with the switch is not the price of the console it’s the lack of games that’s the problem.

      • Reply spwplays February 23, 2017 at 2:53 pm

        hm i think we could assume the PS4 would be getting all the forthcoming AAA games over the next few years with a good degree of confidence on launch. So most buying at PS4 launch did so with confidence that this purchase will allow them to play everything over the next 4,5,6 years. With the switch, all we can assume is it wont really run the latest AAA releases and will be stuck with a nintendo only console, with some ports of games that arent up to standard of xbox or ps4 not to mention PC. Take FIFA, its already said to be a PS3/ 360 type port, and FIFA is a relatively low GPU intensive game by todays standards.

      • Reply shadowhedgehogz February 23, 2017 at 2:53 pm

        Yeah i agree the launch lineup isn’t very good, but the hardware is also just plain not worth 280 quid.. I know for a fact that if Sony released a similar system it would have noticeably more powerful hardware even if it cost just a bit more, they proved this with 3DS -> Vita.

  11. Reply John McNichol February 23, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    What are these, gamepads for ANTS!?

  12. Reply luvs2pwge✓MissSaudiArabia February 23, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    Buy a PC

    • Reply Hermione Granger February 23, 2017 at 2:53 pm

      buy a ps4!

    • Reply Ken Dunkin February 23, 2017 at 2:53 pm

      You do know that Nintendo has always been in their own market. That is why their is no competition with them and Microsoft, and Sony. So for you to say buy a PC, you know nothing of the market, and to say that is just a random comment which makes no sense. You say that because you probably think it’s cool to say “Buy a PC” #knowyourfacts

      • Reply luvs2pwge✓MissSaudiArabia February 23, 2017 at 2:53 pm

        Buy a PC

    • Reply Truth February 23, 2017 at 2:53 pm

      Buy both. Nintendo and PC are a perfect combination. All the goodness of Fire Emblem, Zelda, and others along with the superior power of a PC. Xbox and Playstation are unnecessary, but Nintendo has titles the even PC can never have.

      • Reply Shaune Clement February 23, 2017 at 2:53 pm

        Playstation and Nintendo come under the same category in regards to owning with a PC. Playstation has far more titles that will never come to PC than Nintendo do.

        • Mick Gerritsen February 23, 2017 at 2:53 pm

          Nintendo has like 10-15 exclusive game franchises, and playstation has like… 3?

        • spwplays February 23, 2017 at 2:53 pm

          Nioh, Bloodborne, Horizon Zero Dawn, Uncharted, Bloodborne, Yakuza 0, The Last Guardian, Gravity Rush 2, Kingdom Hearts 2.8, mlb the show, Persona 5, Crash Bandicoot, Danganronpa, Gran Turismo,

    • Reply Tyson Stevens February 23, 2017 at 2:53 pm

      Completely different markets. You’re the philistine.

      • Reply luvs2pwge✓MissSaudiArabia February 23, 2017 at 2:53 pm

        You are a philistine

    • Reply shadowhedgehogz February 23, 2017 at 2:53 pm

      I already have a good PC, which at least negates the need for Xbox Scorpio.. since we get all those games now anyway.

    • Reply Paul Barnes February 23, 2017 at 2:53 pm

      Buy a pc how about no! I wish pc fanboys would stfu lol.

      • Reply luvs2pwge✓MissSaudiArabia February 23, 2017 at 2:53 pm


  13. Reply alex February 23, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    thanks for the review was a good read
    i havent baught a nintendo (ever) am stil worried about the size of the pads and the price but i do like it.
    eitherway im gonna wait till theres a few more games before i part with my coins

  14. Reply Apex Gaming February 23, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    Memory is up-gradable via Micro SDXC also.

    • Reply Jeremy Malisse February 23, 2017 at 2:53 pm

      Is this confirmed because it would be a HUGE boon for me. I hate the 32GB limits of the Wii U. It really isn’t enough when you are forced into region locking and have to buy all your games digitally if living outside the US temporarily.

      • Reply Apex Gaming February 23, 2017 at 2:53 pm

        Yes, it is confirmed. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/

      • Reply Paul Barnes February 23, 2017 at 2:53 pm

        The 32gb limit on Wii U isn’t really a problem when you can get a portable hard drive with a y cable for cheap so not a major problem.The good new with the switch there’s no region lock so that should please some people at least.

        • silverstory February 23, 2017 at 2:53 pm

          they also mentioned that USB for the switch isn’t supporting external hard drives for now but I hope it can in the near future.

          Nintendo seems trying to do what PS4/X1 OS updates by adding features in the long run, I hope.

  15. Reply Humoeki Humoeki February 23, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    Great review

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