After a late-night reveal by Nintendo, the Nintendo Switch has been showcased in all its glory, boasting a hybrid design that’ll provide both console gaming and on-the-go gaming with a single console. Is Nintendo’s upcoming console something you should get excited about, or is it full of gimmicks? We’ve spent a few days playing with the Switch to find out. Here’s our Nintendo Switch hands-on review. Read next: Best games coming to Nintendo Switch.
Last updated to include our unboxing and setup video, which can be seen above – and read our Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild hands-on to find out what we thought after five hours with the Switch’s biggest game.
Nintendo Switch review: UK pricing and release date
The Nintendo Switch will arrive on 3 March with a price of £279 and is available for pre-order now from the official store and retailers such as Amazon, Gamestop and GAME. It’s $299 in the US and although there seems to be a fair bit of negative reaction to the price, we don’t think it’s too bad – especially if you consider the console could potentially replace your DS. Also, let’s not forget that Brexit has been driving the price of many tech products up so this might also be a factor.
Yes it’s more expensive than the PS4 but that’s not comparing launch prices. Nintendo could have gone for a budget price, some thought it would be £199, but we’re ok with it. If you can hold on, the price is likely to drop within a few months of the console going on sale.
For £279 you get the main console, the dock, a pair of Joy-Con controllers, a Joy-Con grip (to connect the controllers together), wrist straps, an HDMI cable and AC adapter.
What is a little bit disappointing is the price of accessories, because for starters an extra pair of Joy-Con controllers will set you back a whopping £74. One on its own is £43 and you’ll need to buy wrist straps at £4.99 each to avoid your TV getting smashing from an airborne accident. An extra grip for the Joy-Cons is £25.
If you fancy it, the Nintendo Switch Pro controller is priced at £65 and a spare dock to easily use the Switch with another TV or monitor is a whopping $89.
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Nintendo Switch review: Design and build
The new Nintendo is like no other console we’ve seen before and is a little hard to describe in terms of design. That’s because the Switch has been designed so you can use it in various different ways, not just a box that plugs into your TV and stays put.
The main part of the device is essentially a tablet so requires docking to turn into a console you play on the TV, hence the ‘TV mode’. Other modes are ‘Handheld’ and ‘Tabletop’ – see below. We used the Switch in console mode for a couple of games like Zelda and Splatoon and moving the tablet in and out of the dock is easy. You can even do it mid-game without pausing if you wish.
With the console docked you can use the Joy-Con controllers attached to the grip as a sort of make-shift traditional controller, or use one each for some multiplayer games. You can also use the Pro controller, of course.
Undock the Switch from the, er, dock and don’t attach the Joy-Con controllers and you’ve got Tabletop mode. Thanks to a kickstand on the back of the device, you can easily set it down on any flat surface and get gaming.
This is pretty cool and not something you can do with the PS4 or Xbox One. However, it is a little fiddly in the sense that you’re playing games on a relatively small 6.2in screen so you can’t sit too far away and play comfortably.
It’s also fiddly because the Joy-Con controllers are very small. Holding them sideways to play is awkward because of the size and the way the joystick and buttons are so close together. With one being Left and the other Right, you don’t get the same experience on each using them this way due to necessary button placement.
The Nintendo Switch in handheld form is what makes the console so unique when compared to the likes of the PS4 and Xbox One. While Sony offers PS4 Remote Play via PC and Mac, and Microsoft offers something similar for the Xbox One, neither can offer a fully fledged portable gaming experience like Nintendo can. When combined with the two Joy-Con controllers, the Nintendo Switch is lightweight and surprisingly comfortable to hold. It resembles a thinner, more attractive Wii U GamePad with a 720p HD output, joysticks on either side along with the standard ABXY buttons and directional pad.
See also: Nintendo Switch vs Wii U review.
The edges of the Switch with Joy-Con controllers are curved, allowing for longer play times without any kind of discomfort – although we have our reservations about the layout of the Joy-Con controllers, which we’ll come to in more detail below. The gaming experience in handheld mode is impressive, as it offers the full game on-the-go without any real compromise apart from the downgrade in screen resolution and a finite battery life.
The Joy-Con controllers, despite having a rather silly name, are actually impressive – especially the built-in advanced HD rumble motor, which boasts similar levels of precision to Apple’s haptic engine.
This doesn’t only enhance standard gameplay vibrations, but opens a whole new kind of game: in one of the 1-2 Switch mini games we tried, you use the Joy-Con controllers to guess how many ball bearings are inside your virtual box by moving the controllers and feeling the balls ‘roll’ around. This would simply not work with a standard vibration motor, but the motor within the Joy-Con controllers tricked our brains into believing there were ball bearings rolling around inside, and we even managed to guess the right number.
However, the Joy-Con controllers do have their downside – the layout is a little awkward, especially when playing certain two-player games where each person has one Joy-Con controller each. As they’re used as left and right controllers for the main console, the analogue stick and buttons are in different places on each side. While one controller is fairly centred, the other features an awkwardly placed joystick and buttons, making long periods of two-player gameplay a little bit uncomfortable.
Joy-Con grip controller
As mentioned, one of the ways to use the Joy-Con controllers and will be the main way to play when the Switch is in console mode – especially if you don’t buy the Pro controller.
You sort of build it by sliding each Joy-Con controller onto the grip. This creates a traditional style controller that you hold with two hands but it’s quite an odd one. As you can see, it’s very square and although it’s more comfortable than we were expecting, the section in the middle could do with being wider so your hands are further apart.
It’s also a shame that the grip supplied with the console doesn’t charge the Joy-Cons at all, merely holds them in place so you’ll need to think about how you’re going to keep them topped up (Nintendo will only sell a charging grip).
The Nintendo Switch offers a few lesser-known types of controller at an extra cost: the Pro controller, and an accessory that’ll change your Joy-Con into a mini steering wheel for use with games like Mario Kart 8. The Pro controller looks similar to the standard controller provided with the Wii U, offering a gameplay experience similar to other consoles with four bumper buttons, two analogue sticks, ABXY buttons and a directional pad. What is unclear at this time is whether the controller will only be supported by certain games, or whether it’ll have universal game support.
The mini steering wheel for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe edition is much more impressive (sold separately). Simply pop the Joy-Con inside the wheel and it’ll provide you with a more natural driving experience. While the standard Wii U steering wheel was rather unwieldy and awkward to use, we found the new controller to be much more responsive and easy to use – in fact, it quickly became our preferred way to play Mario Kart during our time with the Switch.
It’s worth bearing in mind that the new steering wheel is much smaller than the old one, meaning those with big hands might not be able to hold it with both hands like a normal steering wheel.
Read next: Best upcoming games of 2017