The Switch was the first Nintendo console I ever bought at launch. Almost four years later, it’s clearly seen better days, which I wouldn’t mind if it could survive out of the dock for more than a couple days at a time.
Two things have me thinking about the Switch’s terrible battery life again. The first is that there’s talk of a new Switch Pro model this week after Nintendo made a non-comment about it during its most recent investor call. The second is that I’ve been playing a bunch of Cyber Shadow on Switch (which is very good, by the way), and running up against the low battery life warning time and again is really killing my vibe. A Switch Pro with better graphics would be fine, but what I really want is one that delivers the weighty form factor of the current base model with battery and power settings that make it so there’s not a 50/50 chance my handheld will be out of juice whenever I decide to pick it up and start playing again. Apparently I’m not alone.
The launch Switch is supposed to average two to six hours of battery life, already a pittance compared to the four to nine of the revised 2019 model. But I swear it’s gotten much, much worse in the years. Now I’m lucky to get just a couple hours out of a charge, even on less intensive games like Cyber Shadow. In rest mode things are barely any better. I don’t marathon games in handheld mode, but I do start and stop a ton throughout the week, picking my Switch up for a few moments here and there between cooking, cleaning, or stopping my one-year old from breaking everything in the house. I could try turning off the console completely, but it’s clear by how tedious that process is that Nintendo doesn’t want me to.
Now, more often than not, I bring the device out of rest mode only to find the battery all but died during the interim. The Switch’s rest mode has never been as energy efficient as the PS Vita’s, but surely it can last more than 48 hours on a half charge. Here’s my most common use case as we creep up on a year of working from home and self-quarantine during the pandemic: I unplug my Switch from the charger, play for an hour or two scattered across work obligations and toddler naps, and then get swamped with taking care of all the other stuff I barely have time for in the day but which sustains life and some sense of normalcy within our home. Before I know it a day, two, maybe even three have gone by. I didn’t plug my Switch back in because, like a lot of people, I forget to do stuff, especially during These Times.
What might be an otherwise minor gripe this late into a console’s life is compounded by all of the other little ways the Switch has worn and torn these last four years. There are scratches on the screen from repeatedly moving it in and out of the Switch dock. The Joy-Cons still occasionally have drift issues, or sync issues, or the issue of them simply not feeling great to actually use. The WiFi receiver also seems to be shot. If I’m more than 3.05 m away from the router, online capability and download speeds grind to a halt. The Switch is fantastic, but it hasn’t held up as well as I’d hoped.
Which brings us to the Switch Pro, the upgraded model which may or may not come out sometime later this year, and may or may not include things like 4K graphics. I, however, would settle for one that simply has a more efficient battery and rest mode that, well, actually lets the console rest. A “Switch Pro” sounds like it has to be bigger, better, and more powerful, but we’re in the era of console upgrades operating more like smartphones. I’d settle for an entire line of new Switches, each optimising a different feature, not unlike the way Nintendo went bananas with SKUs for the DS (DS Lite, DSi, DSi XL) and 3DS (the 3DS XL, New 3DS, New 3DS XL, and 2DS). Maybe one is more expensive and beefier, specializing in improving the docked console experience. Maybe another maximizes the size of the screen. I’ll take the one that still turns on and lets me finish a new level a week later.