Switch vs Switch OLED – 10 Differences You May Not Know
The Nintendo Switch OLED might not be the big Switch upgrade we’d all been hoping it would be, but there’s still plenty of improvements that Nintendo is making to the Switch hardware with it. No, it’s not the 4K-ready DLSS-feature Switch Pro leaks claimed it was going to be, and that’s surely disappointing- but get past that disappointment, and there’s a fair bit in the device that looks cool. With the Switch OLED launching in just a few months, here, we’re going to talk about the biggest ways it differs from the base Switch model.
The biggest improvement in the new Switch model is, of course, its new screen. I mean, it’s called the Switch OLED model, so it’s pretty clear what the flagship feature of the system is. The base Switch and Switch Lite both use an LCD screen, but with an OLED screen, the Switch OLED is promising a more vibrant screen with sharper image quality and brighter colours. As anyone who’s used an OLED screen will tell you, that’s a pretty big improvement.
The screen being OLED instead of LED isn’t the only way it’s improving with the Switch OLED. Another big change is its size- which is one thing the leaks did get right about the system. The Switch OLED’s size is the same as the base Switch, but its screen is bigger, with the bezels being removed. As a result, the Switch OLED’s screen is 7 inches, as opposed to the 6.2 inch screen of the base Switch, and the 5.5 inches of the Switch Lite. In terms of resolution, however, the Switch OLED still caps out at 720p, same as the Switch and the Switch Lite- though honestly, 720p is more than enough for a 7 inch screen.
Nintendo may have gone the handheld only route with the Switch Lite, but the Switch OLED, in spite of its screen making it abundantly clear that it’s still geared toward handheld mode improvements, is keeping up with the base model’s hybrid design. And it’s got new dock, too. In terms of functionality, the new dock is largely the same, but it’s got a new design, with the new white colour being the biggest change. As is the case with the current Switch dock, the new Switch OLED dock will also be sold separately- and yes, it’s going to be compatible with the base Switch model as well.
Beyond the cosmetic changes to the design and the colour, how else is the new dock different from the old one? There’s one crucial change to speak of- unlike the current dock, the Switch OLED dock has an ethernet port, replacing one of the three USB ports that the current dock has. Given the fact that online play has been problematic in Switch, the inclusion of an ethernet port is an extremely welcome one. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’s multiplayer components aren’t magically going to become buttery smooth, but in console mode, they are at least going to be notably better.
It’s not just the dock that has a new look- the Switch OLED itself also has a new design. It’s not a major reinvention by any means, and largely serves as a minor alteration of the current Switch model, but the changes are definitely noticeable. The prevalent white colour theme seen in the docks extends to the tablet itself as well- more specifically, the Joy-Cons (which, sadly, are the exact same Joy-Cons as the base Switch other than the new colour scheme). Of course, for those who prefer the classic Neon Red and and Neon Blue Joy-Cons that the Switch has become almost synonymous with, Nintendo is selling those with the Switch OLED as well.
In terms of physical design, the Switch OLED has one more significant improvement that is geared specifically for tabletop mode. While the base Switch has a rather flimsy kickstand, the Switch OLED has replaced that with a much wider backflap. It’s much more sturdy and allows for much greater flexibility in how you want to place the system. To anybody who’s ever used a Surface, this will be quite familiar. The base Switch’s kickstand is perhaps one of its bigger weaknesses, to the extent that many prefer to not use the system’s tabletop functionality at all because of it, so it’s great to see the Switch OLED tackling that problem with what’s clearly a big improvement.
Nintendo is also touting audio enhancements in the Switch OLED, though curiously enough, they haven’t given many details on exactly how the tablet’s audio is better than the regular Switch or the Switch Lite. It seems like the upgrade is a pretty simple one, with improved onboard speakers that will just lead to better audio in general. Again, though, just like with the improvements made to the tablet’s screen, the better speakers in the tablet are yet more evidence that Nintendo is very much focusing on improvements to handheld gameplay with the Switch OLED.
Games on the Switch are far smaller in terms of storage requirements than what we’re used to seeing on consoles or PC (to say the very least), but even so, more internal storage is always appreciated- and the Switch OLED has you covered on that front. While the base Switch and Switch Lite both have 32 GB of internal storage, the new Switch OLED doubles that with 64 GB of internal memory. Of course, you can also expand the storage with microSD cards to up to 2 TB.
The Switch OLED does have a better battery than past Switch models- though with some caveats. The base Switch model that launched in 2017 had a battery life of about two and a half to six and a half hours, but it got a minor revision in 2019 that replaced the older model. That new model improved the battery life to four and a half to nine hours. The Switch OLED touts those same numbers, so while its battery life is better than the original model that the Switch launched with by quite a large margin, if you were to buy a base Switch model right now, that’d have the same battery life. Meanwhile, the Switch Lite has a battery life of approximately three to seven hours, so the Switch OLED is a step up from that for sure.
The price is, of course, the biggest factor that influences purchasing decisions, and the Switch OLED’s price does reflect the hardware improvements it makes, retailing for $349.99. That’s $50 costlier than the base Switch, which is sold for $299.99. The Switch Lite, meanwhile, is still the cheapest model with a price of $199.99. The question of whether the Switch OLED warrants its price is one that many are doubtless going to ask – the $50 difference between it and the base Switch might not sit well with many, given how conservative of an upgrade it seems to be – but for those who are thinking of buying their first ever Switch rather than upgrading from a previous model, the price does seem like a reasonable one.