Nintendo released its new Nintendo Switch console on 3 March 2017 and it flew off the shelves. Its biggest launch game, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, has been so highly praised that it is deemed to be one of the best games of all time, but the Switch itself isn’t without its faults. Read on to find out everything you need to know about the Nintendo Switch as well as where to buy it.
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When was the Nintendo Switch released?
The Switch, which was codenamed the NX ahead of its official unveiling, was released on 3 March 2017. Pre-orders for the console went live soon after the release date announcement in January.
Nintendo reportedly sold 80,000 units in its first weekend on sale in the UK, which was a pretty solid start for Nintendo. That’s double the 40,000 Wii Us sold in the same period, but a bit below the Nintendo 3DS (113,000). It’s also significantly less than the Xbox One (150,000) and the PS4 (250,000). Still, it’s a promising launch, and has without a doubt put the company back on the map.
The Switch has seen even more success across the pond, reports suggest. According to New York Times reporter Nick Wingfield, a Nintendo representative has confirmed that the Switch exceeded first two-day sales in America for any system in Nintendo history. It’s particularly impressive when you consider the Switch’s March launch, compared with the Wii’s Christmas-friendly November launch. Still, it’s no guarantee of long-term success, so we’ll have to see if the Switch can maintain its momentum.
The first week sales worldwide amount to more than 1.5million, according to GamesIndustry.biz – seriously impressive stuff, Nintendo. And, excitingly, its success has already affected Nintendo’s plans going forward. The Wall Street Journal reports that Nintendo has doubled its production plans for the financial year starting April 2017, now aiming to produce 16 million Switch consoles, compared to original plans for 8 million. That alone would be more than the 13.5 million Wii U consoles sold to date, and doesn’t even count the 2-2.5 million Switches Nintendo has produced and shipped already.
Where to buy the Nintendo Switch
The Nintendo Switch retails for £279.99 or $299.99 if you’re in the US. That price will get you the main Switch console, along with a dock, a pair of Joy-Con controllers (one left and one right), a Joy-Con grip (to connect the controllers together), wrist straps, and an HDMI cable and AC adapter.
The slightly unexpected success of the Switch has caused some problems though, and that’s when it comes to stock. You might come up against a few hurdles before you manage to get your hands on a Switch. Amazon, for example, is having some Switch stock issues and seems to sell out regularly.
We’d recommend the following online retailers if you’re trying to buy a Switch today:
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There aren’t any official bundles at the moment, but there are two versions of the console to choose from, though the only difference is the colour of the Joy-Con controllers. One set comes with two grey controllers, while the other comes with one in red and the other in blue.
Accessory prices have also been revealed, and they seem quite steep. A new pair of Joy-Con controllers will set you back £74.99, while the individual controllers (again, one left and one right) are £43 each. They’re available in grey, blue, or red.
One of the first things to tackle is that the Switch both a home console and a handheld device at the same time. It’s a hybrid of sorts which is an evolution of the Wii U’s Gamepad. See also: Nintendo Switch vs Wii U review.
It might be helpful to think of the Nintendo Switch like the Nvidia Shield tablet. It’s a tablet device which appears to contain all the hardware which has a docking station which then plugs into your TV – this is how it switches from being a traditional home console to handheld.
“In addition to providing single-player and multiplayer thrills at home, the Nintendo Switch system also enables gamers to play the same title wherever, whenever and with whomever they choose. The mobility of a handheld is now added to the power of a home gaming system to enable unprecedented new video game play styles,” said Nintendo.
Here’s an overview of the Nintendo Switch specs, we’ll go into detail below. Also check out Nintendo’s hardware overview video.
• Custom Nvidia Tegra CPU
• Nvidia GPU
• 6.2in LCD touchscreen, 1280×720
• Video output up to 1080p 60fps via dock
• 32GB storage
• Micro-SDXC card slot
• USB-C for charging and dock connection
• 11ac Wi-Fi
• Bluetooth 4.1
• Stereo speakers
• Headphone jack
• Game card slot (Switch games only)
• Accelerometer, gyroscope, brightness sensor
• 4310mAh non-removable battery
• Up to 3 hours gaming, more than 6 for other usage
• 3 hour charging time
• 102mm x 239mm x 13.9mm (with Joy-Cons attached)
• 297g (398g with Joy-Cons)
The Switch has two removable ‘Joy-Con‘ controller sections which attach at either end of the Switch tablet. In this form it really does look like a new and improved Gamepad. Once in the dock, you move them to the ‘Joy-Con grip’ to form a controller in order to play games as per usual.
The Joy-Cons are packed with tech and features, and can be used independently or together. Each includes an accelerometer and gyroscope motion sensor, along with what Nintendo is calling ‘HD rumble’, which supposedly offers more subtle and realistic vibrations. The example Nintendo gave was being able to feel the sensation of individual ice cubes rattling around a glass.
The left and right Joy-Cons aren’t identical though. Not only do they have inverted button and analogue stick layouts, they include some different features. The left Joy-Con has a Capture Button, used to share screenshots and video online, while the right includes an NFC sensor for use with Nintendo’s Amiibo figures, as well as an IR motion camera that can “detect the distance, shape and motion of nearby objects in specially designed games” – such as how far away a player’s hand is, or what rock, paper, scissors shape it’s making.
Nintendo says the Joy-Con controllers will offer a 20 hour battery life and will take 3.5 hours to charge (via the Charging Grip or Dock when attached to the tablet). They weigh around 50g and the battery capacity is 525mAh.
The Joy-Cons and Pro controller are also compatible with other devices. They connect via Bluetooth, just like most other controllers, so can be used with Windows, Macs, and iOS and Android devices – though you’ll need some button re-mapping software for it to work with Windows games.
It’s also possible that in the future the Switch will be backwards-compatible with some Wii and Wii U controllers. Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima told Time that “Support for certain controllers may be considered for a future update.”
The Switch has a 6.2-inch 720p capacitive multitouch display with a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels – that’s the same size as the screen on the Wii U Gamepad, but a step up from that screen’s resolution of 854 x 480.
Note that the Nintendo Switch doesn’t offer a second screen experience like the Wii U as the tablet needs to be plugged into the dock – “Nintendo Switch is dedicated to deliver a single-screen experience,” said Nintendo.
The controller does look a little awkward but there is also a Nintendo Switch Pro Controller which you can use with the Switch console in its different modes.
The Nintendo Switch does even more than this as shown in the preview trailer. For example, when you’re on a plane you can remove the controller sections, prop the tablet on its kick-stand and game away without having to hold it. You can also share one each to play multi-player and even share them between lots of people for ‘a variety of gameplay options’.
You can also connect up to eight Switch consoles together for wireless local multiplayer, and there will also be online multiplayer options in many games. Nintendo will be offering a paid online service, though it will be free until autumn 2017.
According to Nikkei, Nintendo will charge around 2,000- to 3,000 yen ($17.60 to $26.40) for the online service making it a lot cheaper than the PS4 and Xbox One equivalents.
What we do know is that it will provide users with ‘exclusive deals’ and a free NES or SNES game every month. There was some confusion over the firm’s wording on the game but it’s been confirmed that you will only have access to it for a set period of time, not just download to keep.
Also on the software side of things, the Switch hasn’t launched with streaming services like Netflix or a web browser, so initially it won’t rival tablets like the iPad but should do at some point.
You’ll get parental controls whether you subscribe or not, allowing you to do things like set time limits a restrict online access – all from your phone. Watch the video below for an overview:
As for battery life, the Switch offers between two-and-a-half and six-and-a-half hours of gameplay while undocked, depending on the game. As an example, in our testing we managed three hours of portable gameplay from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, one of the console’s more technically intensive games.
The Switch can be charged by USB-C, and you can continue to play it as a portable while it’s charging. You’ll need a power bank though as the 4310mAh battery isn’t removable.
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The Nintendo Switch also brings back the game cartridge. Like the 3DS, the Switch games will come on small memory cards which slot into the back of the tablet.
Those cartridges boast one unique feature though: they’re coated in denatonium benzoate, a bittering agent. Why? To stop people putting the cartridges in their mouths, and discourage kids or pets from eating them, because they apparently taste absolutely revolting. We haven’t tested it for ourselves because we care about our copy of Zelda too much though.
A blog post by Nvidia confirms the console runs on its technology – interesting since the Xbox, PlayStation and Wii U all use AMD.
“The high-efficiency scalable processor includes an Nvidia GPU based on the same architecture as the world’s top-performing GeForce gaming graphics cards,” said the firm.
The post also says the console uses a fully custom software system including ‘a revamped physics engine, new libraries, advanced game tools and libraries’.
“We’ve optimized the full suite of hardware and software for gaming and mobile use cases. This includes custom operating system integration with the GPU to increase both performance and efficiency,” added Nvidia.
Eurogamer has since claimed to have confirmed specs that were shared with developers at an exclusive preview event, giving more specific insight into the Switch’s innards.
The report confirms earlier claims that the tablet is powered by a custom Nvidia Tegra X1 chip, making it more powerful than the Wii U, but some way behind the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
The new report also corroborates earlier claims that the Switch enjoys a performance boost while it’s docked, but what might be surprising is just how significant the difference is – while it’s on battery power the device’s GPU will reportedly run at 307.2MHz, just 40% of its docked speed (768MHz).
That difference is so that the Switch can display at 1080p on a TV while connected, and the dock activates an additional fan to help keep the system cool while running at the higher speed.
The dock is apparently designed to be cheap to produce, with the intention that some time after launch Nintendo will sell additional docks for people to connect to multiple TVs, making it easier to use the Switch in any room of the house that has a TV.
As with the launch of any major console, the Switch has a few hardware problems out of the gate. The most widely publicised of these is a connectivity problem with the Joy-Con controllers, which sporadically lose their Bluetooth connection to the console for a few seconds.
The company’s support page recommends players keep their console unobstructed, not keeping it behind the TV or inside a cabinet (or behind a fish tank, for that matter), while also suggesting you keep it away from other wireless devices like tablets and laptops – or even turn them off. Given the average modern house is filled with wireless devices – often including the TV itself – it’s going to be a difficult problem for most people to solve.
Thankfully, Nintendo has confirmed it is investigating the problem. Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime told Time that the company is in a “fact-finding mode,” asking consumers to detail their problems so that it can better understand the issue. In a separate statement, Nintendo said that “The number [of Joy-Con replacement or repair requests received] is not significant, and is consistent with what we’ve seen for any new hardware we have launched.”
Other problems are less significant. Some users have reported finding dead pixels on their Switch screens, but Nintendo apparently won’t issue replacement devices, instead arguing that stuck or dead pixels are simply “a characteristic of LCD screens.” If you have a device with dead pixels, your best bet is probably to try and get a replacement from the retailer, not Nintendo itself.
Another problem comes from console skin manufacturer Dbrand, which has warned users not to apply any skins to their consoles. Dbrand says it has tested a variety of different skins and adhesives across 11 consoles, and warns that applying any skin will peel off the outer surface of the Joy-Cons and console, as seen in the below photo. Dbrand is refunding everyone with pre-orders for Switch skins, and we’ll have to wait and see if any other manufacturers find a method that works.