It's the small details that might just make Switch OLED worthwhile

Hands-on with Nintendo's hardware refresh. 

By this point, of course, we know full well what the Switch OLED isn't. There's nothing by way of extra grunt, nothing to cater for 4K monitors when playing docked and not much else feverishly associated with the idea of a Switch Pro. Instead, this is a mild hardware refresh, something along the lines of the 3DS XL yet perhaps milder still, with the form factor instantly familiar and only that bigger 7-inch screen with its slimmer bezel giving the game game away that this is a different model at all.

Still, that screen! I'm not going to get carried away by what, at this point, is far from cutting edge technology, but it is at least a noticeable step up from the existing model. 7-inches is better than the current Switch's 6.2, and that slimmer bezel feels like a bigger improvement still. When it's in your hands, that screen is pretty much all you can see, which of course does wonders for immersion (the light sensor that creates a slight intrusion on the original Switch has been well hidden in the OLED model too - I poked around but couldn't find where it's been secreted in my short time with the new system).

Then of course there are the other benefits of the OLED screen. Perhaps sending along the colour blind member of the team wasn't the best approach, but Nintendo is being selective with who's able to access the machine and remains reluctant to put it in front of the likes of Digital Foundry who might be able to go a little more in-depth, and weeks after it was first shown off Stateside, photography of the Switch OLED remains prohibited. Still, even with my limited vision I could spot the lysergic pop of Hyrule's greens in Breath of the Wild, the deeper blacks in Mario Kart 8 and the enhanced intensity of Super Mario Odyssey's palette.

There are other benefits that come with an OLED screen, such as an improved battery life (though of course how that works out in the wild remains to be seen), but after an hour with this new Switch it wasn't really the screen that left a lasting impression - it was the little details, and the nips and tucks here and there. The headline, really, is the new kickstand that now spans the width of the console and feels a more integral piece of the machine rather than some awkward appendage as it is on the existing Switch. The hinge is a meaty thing, the stand itself allowing the OLED Switch to be posed at whatever angle you please.

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Beneath that stand are the repositioned speakers, now seemingly facing downwards rather than backwards as is the case on the older Switch model, and resulting in a much fuller, deeper sound when playing portable without headphones (something I admit I've rarely done in all my time with the Switch). Some of the best improvements are found on the new dock, too, with some more padding inside to prevent any scratching and - forgive me for getting excited about this - a neat cutout swoosh on the rear that acts as a cable tidy for when you're juggling leads coming from the new ethernet port, while the whole thing feels much more substantial and heavyweight.

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Is all that enough to justify an upgrade? It depends, I suppose, on your own particular use case. I've had my own Switch since launch day, carrying it by my side when travelling was a thing, and it shows - there are bumps and bruises and whole lumps of plastic torn from the top of the thing. I'm due a new one, and given the choice I'd of course opt for the more premium model once it's available. That's not to say there's not some mild disappointment, and not just because of the lack of some of the more out-there features people had been hoping for with this model. Even a few extra basic features such as Bluetooth wouldn't have gone amiss, especially given the premium price point, and given how long we are into the console's lifespan and are still lacking basic functionality in the front-end, such as folders, makes me think what the Switch needs right now is maybe more than just a simple hardware refresh.

Still, it's small steps, and anyone familiar with Nintendo's way of doing things will also be familiar with what to expect. And ultimately the only way to get those gorgeous new white Joy-Cons is by buying the Switch OLED to which they're attached. Ah, Nintendo, you sure know how to get suckers like me.

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About the author

Martin Robinson

Martin Robinson

Deputy Editor

Martin is Eurogamer's features and reviews editor. He has a Gradius 2 arcade board and likes to play racing games with special boots and gloves on.

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