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Nintendo Switch OLED vs Nintendo Switch: How to choose

Considering a vibrant portable console like the Nintendo Switch OLED or a tried and true one like the original Nintendo Switch? We'll break down the specs so you can determine which is the best one for you.
Written by Maria Diaz, Staff Writer
The Nintendo Switch OLED and the Nintendo Switch alongside each other.
Image: Maria Diaz/ZDNET

If you're new to the Nintendo Switch experience, you may be wondering which console is the best addition to your gaming repertoire. 

Nintendo has been a household name in the growth of the current generation and, if sales alone are any indication, it continues to own one of the top spots in the heart of the gaming community. Its top two models, the Nintendo Switch OLED vs the Nintendo Switch make it hard to choose the right one.

As a run-of-the-mill millennial, some of my best core memories with my siblings happened around a Nintendo console in the early to mid nineties. I learned to tie my shoes while waiting my turn to play Super Metroid, and I peaked at the ripe age of six when I mastered Johnny Cage's Fatality, effectively earning a round of congratulations from my proud older brothers. 

For a long time now, playing video games hasn't been exclusive to kids: video games have evolved with us as we've grown; and so have the consoles. Here's how to decide which Nintendo Switch is for you. 

Also: The 5 best Nintendo Switch games: Must-have titles to play right now


The Nintendo Switch OLED and the Nintendo Switch alongside each other.
Image: Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Nintendo Switch OLEDNintendo Switch
Screen Size7-inch OLED6.2-inch LCD
Screen Resolution1080p (TV), 720p (handheld)1080p (TV), 720p (handheld)
Console Dimensions4.02 x 9.53 x 0.55 inches4.02 x 9.41 x 0.55 inches
Flash Storage64GB32GB
ProcessorCustom Nvidia Tegra X1Custom Nvidia Tegra X1
Colors-Black dock and red & blue Joy-Cons- Neon blue and red Joy-Cons

- White dock with white Joy-Cons- Mario red and blue edition

- Splatoon edition- Animal Crossing edition

- Gray

You should buy the Nintendo Switch if...

Someone holding a Nintendo Switch on a green-blue background.
Image: Maria Diaz/ZDNET

1. You want the one that changed it all 

Nintendo's been mostly getting it right with their gaming consoles for decades, and the Switch console was pretty close to a stroke of genius. Originally released in March of 2017, the Nintendo Switch was the perfect cross between a classic gaming console to go with a television, a gaming tablet, and the Wii U

Its portability is reminiscent of the Nintendo DS or the GameBoy, but the larger screen and ability to connect it to your TV make it next level. The device itself is sturdy, even if it doesn't appear to be. The Joy-Con controllers attach and detach on either side of the screen, which at first makes it feel like it's going to break on you when you hold it. Yet, it holds up surprisingly well: anecdotally, my Switch has held up to years of my toddlers and preschoolers playing Animal Crossing or Mario Party on it, with no signs of slowing down or falling apart.

2. You'll use it docked on TV mode most of the time

With the key differences between the two models being the OLED screen and the internal storage, it's now time to determine how you'll be using your Switch. If you're more of a portability fan and like playing on the go, or like being able to go from the bed to the couch to out of the house, then the OLED is probably more in tune to your gaming habits because it has a great display on the handheld device. 

Nintendo Switch with dock on a green-blue background.

Nintendo Switch with dock.

Image: Maria Diaz/ZDNET

If you find yourself wanting to play more on your TV, whether you have a gaming or TV room, a large TV that you want to enjoy, or if you want to get the whole family involved, then the original Nintendo Switch may be better suited for you, as you won't have to pay extra for a better screen that you won't use as often. 

Also: To get the most out of your game console, you need one of these TVs

3. You want to save $50 vs the OLED model

Nintendo did with the Switch what the PSP failed to do: it made a durable, visually attractive handheld console with great portability plus the ability to dock it and use it on your television. The Switch came after a line of popular gaming consoles from Nintendo, with its predecessors being just as unexpected and successful: from the Nintendo 64, to the GameCube, to the Wii

At $299, the Nintendo Switch isn't the cheapest console on the market; and, though it is for a different audience, it is more affordable than the Xbox and PS5. The OLED model retails at $349, so if you find yourself choosing the original Switch over the OLED, then you'll also be saving $50. 

Also: Best Nintendo Switch Accessories

Since 2017, the Nintendo Switch has remained steady in popularity, with normal highs and lows around the pandemic or a big game release. But there have been talks in the gaming community about a new and improved version for years now, with Nintendo only giving hints here and there -- until the OLED model came out.

You should buy the Nintendo Switch OLED if...

Nintendo Switch OLED
Image: Maria Diaz/ZDNET

1. You prefer handheld vs docked TV mode

Imagine taking the Nintendo Switch described above and giving it a vibrant OLED screen with smaller bezels, true black and double the internal storage; that's what Nintendo did with its Nintendo Switch OLED model. 

Review: Nintendo Switch OLED review

You're not likely to hear "great graphics" mentioned in the same sentence as Nintendo very often; the company knows its target market and isn't trying to outcompete PlayStation or Xbox in visual acuity. But with innovation often comes improvement, and the 7-inch OLED screen produces clear, crisp graphics that take it a notch above the original Switch, especially for portable users.

Obviously you won't enjoy the added benefits of the OLED screen if you prefer using the Nintendo Switch on TV mode. And, unfortunately, Nintendo has yet to incorporate 4K resolution into the Switch -- both models only reach up to 1080p in TV mode and 720p on the handheld screen.

2. You want perfected audiovisual vibrancy and more storage

At 64GB, the Switch OLED has double the internal memory as the classic Nintendo Switch (32GB), but you can also add up to 2TB of extra storage by inserting a microSD card, so the storage doesn't have to be a major selling point. 

Nintendo Switch OLED with docking station.

Nintendo Switch OLED with docking station.

Image: Maria Diaz/ZDNET

The Nintendo Switch OLED also features completely redesigned speakers versus the previous models. If you've ever used the original Switch at full volume, you may have noticed some distortion in the game audio. This is eliminated in the OLED version, with closed-type speakers that offer a more vivacious, clearer, and stronger audio experience overall.

The OLED Switch model also comes with an improved kickstand for greater stability, and a new dock with a wired LAN port. 

3. You prefer a larger screen

The original Switch model also looks more dated when compared to the OLED version; the screen on the former is a 6.2-inch LCD while the OLED Switch has a 7-inch screen, all with near-identical dimensions. This means that the bezel on the OLED is greatly reduced from the original Switch's chunky edges, giving it a more modern look. 

The OLED and Switch screen sizes alongside each other.

Though both models are almost identical in dimensions, the bezel on the OLED (left) shrunk in comparison to the original Switch (right) to allow for a bigger screen.

Image: Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Performance and power both remain the same on both the standard Switch and the OLED Switch; neither RAM, battery life, or processor were improved from one model to the next. You can use the same Joy-Con controllers on both versions, as both the original Nintendo Switch and the Switch OLED use the same rail system to attach or detach them. Both Switch models plus the Switch Lite are compatible with all Switch games. 

While I wouldn't upgrade to the Switch OLED model from my current Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Switch Lite consoles, I would certainly pick the OLED over the original if I were in the market for my first Switch. The extra $50 for a better screen with perfect blacks, a sleeker design, and greatly improved audio experience is well worth it.

Admittedly, the Nintendo Switch OLED is an iteration that didn't live up to the hype. Nintendo fans were expecting more of a Switch 2.0, possibly with 4K resolution in TV mode and 1080p in handheld mode, improved Joy-Cons, and better processor.

However, Nintendo has given no hints of a new console release in the near future, so the Nintendo Switch OLED remains its best model available right now. 

Can you play the same Nintendo Switch games on all models?

Nintendo has maintained congruency across all its Switch models, making it so that all Nintendo Switch-compatible games can be played on the Nintendo Switch, as well as the OLED and Lite versions.

Is the Nintendo Switch being discontinued?

There are no signs of stopping for the Nintendo Switch. Though the past three years have been riddled with rumors of a more powerful 2.0 or "Pro" version, Nintendo is staying mum on the matter, but continuing forth with sales of its Switch consoles. With over 111 million units sold, the Nintendo Switch is third out of all of Nintendo's gaming consoles, behind only the GameBoy and DS. 

Alternatives to consider?

Though these are Nintendo's current top console models, there is also a Nintendo Switch Lite. This is a smaller version with a 5.5" screen geared more towards the portable users. It's a one-piece model, so there are no detachable Joy-Con controllers. 

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