The New Nintendo Switch OLED Doesn’t Need 4K, Let’s Be Real

The New Nintendo Switch OLED Doesn’t Need 4K, Let’s Be Real
Screenshot: Nintendo

For ages now, we’ve been hearing reports of an upgraded “Nintendo Switch Pro” that would, among other things, allegedly display games at 4K resolution. Tuesday morning, Nintendo surprised everyone by finally unveiling their next Nintendo Switch model, and while there are indeed improvements, they aren’t quite what the internet was hoping for. There’s no increased RAM or a new CPU. But it’s worth asking: Does the Switch truly need a high-powered 4K version at the moment?

Now, the existence of the OLED Switch does not preclude the announcement of a future, more powerful Switch. Historically, at least, Nintendo tends to release different versions of its portable hardware, making it likely that in due time, we’ll see something beyond a bigger screen and improved audio.

But looking at that same tried and true product strategy reveals a basic truth: Nintendo can absolutely just sell a bigger version of a handheld and have it do well. Look at the Nintendo 3DS, a successful system that sold millions upon millions of units.

Yes, there was the New Nintendo 3DS that was more capable than the base 3DS, but there was also a Nintendo 3DS XL, along with a New 3DS XL. On its face, “here’s a 3DS, but this time screen bigger” sounds stupid, but you know what? I have one. Actually, an New 3DS XL is exactly what I play those games on, whenever I have the itch to pull it back out again.

Before that, there was the first Nintendo DS, the best-selling handheld of all time. That, too, had an XL version which reportedly sold a couple million. So while the OLED Switch might be anticlimactic compared to what prior reporting had claimed was imminent, it shouldn’t be surprising. Nintendo has a playbook, and it largely sticks to it.

And really, what, exactly, would the Switch even use 4K for? Sure, the specs sound nice on paper, but the reality is that Nintendo largely does not produce high-fidelity games that require that kind of resolution. That’s not a dig; Nintendo just tends to make stylised games that do not require intensive graphical output. Yes, some games do push the limit of what the Switch can do, especially when it comes to ports. A more capable system definitely would have been nice. But for the most part? The Switch, as it is right now, works fine.

Nintendo has little incentive to mess with the formula until there’s a danger of dwindling sales, which does not seem to be happening anytime soon. Plus, your average player probably isn’t stuck to their ultra HD TV — they’re likely enjoying the game on the go because that’s the Switch’s biggest appeal right now. Despite having an OG Switch that can output at 1080p, nowadays I mostly play my Lite, which can only output at 720p.

Given the option, I willingly go with the less powerful one simply because it’s more convenient. Nintendo knows that its users aren’t looking for power or graphics: if that’s what you want, you’d be playing the Xbox or PS5 instead. If folks are in the market for their first Switch or are considering an upgrade, “larger screen” might be all they need to hear. It’s certainly worked for the cell phone industry.

All that said, I’m still bummed that we’re not even getting better battery life or improved Joy-Cons. Not having to fear perpetual Joy-Con drift would have made the asking price worth it alone. But hey, at least Metroid Dread will apparently sound nice?

Comments

    • The Nvidia technology inside the Switch needed a next gen upgrade so that it can support the portable screen resolution at low power, while also being able to output upscaled 4k.

      It felt odd when the trailer started showing it docked… when it’s only selling point is the screen.

      • I mean in one of their flagship games like Zelda and Pokemon.

        Nobody cares that it can output neo geo ports at 1080p/60

        • Smash Ultimate, Mario Kart 8D, ARMS, DKC: Tropical Freeze and Splatoon 2 all do 1080p at 60fps while docked.

          • None of which are graphically intensive or impressive games. In fact, I’d say Mario Kart or Splatoon are the most graphically intensive games you listed. Which is hilarious.

  • Yeah I think it was the Hope of having a decent resolution in docked mode and a nice frame rate. Oh well, will save my cash for when they eventually release an upgrade of specs

  • I wanted a better frame rate while docked and was hoping for something closer to 4K, so it doesn’t look so blocky on my olead tv

  • Framerate, Nintendo. Framerate. All your new games have framerate issues. All your unreleased games are GOING to have framerate issues. Fix the fucking frames.

    • Just a little upgrade in power would have been nice. Doesn’t even need to be 4k, just some extra kick.

      • I don’t even care about the 4K. I’d be happy if I could use a version of the switch the way I currently do, but without the framerate drops in pretty much every game I play on it. I really want to enjoy the latest Hyrule Warriors, for example, but currently either docked or handheld, it’s just… frustrating as fuck how badly it runs. It’s the only system the game is fucking available on and that system can’t handle it.

        There’s your use-case for a better machine.

        • It’s a problem when my five year old iPad Pro I read ebooks has got more going for it hardware wise than the Switch does. It really needs a revision for at least stable performance instead of potato performance.

  • I wouldnt expect 4K in a handheld but to have ZERO new performance improvements is frankly ridiculous and unremarkable.

  • The desire for 4K isnt for handheld mode. I never use my switch like that – why would I? Its for the bigger and bigger televisions everybody has these days. 55inch is now the standard.

  • The Switch’s achilles heel isn’t the GPU, its the CPU. I’ll let this slide if the ARM cores are at least upgraded to something relatively modern, even if the GPU doesn’t.

    But in a land of $700 consoles putting out mostly 4k/60, even as a handheld, it feels a bit rich to be selling a $550 console for 480p/20 most of the time.

    • I don’t think you can really compare the 2 quite so directly – The Switch is sold at a profit, while the Xboxs and Playstation 5 aren’t, making the profit instead on software or peripheral sales. They have pretty different strategies, and when Nintendo want to make a profit on console sales it forces them to sell a significantly lower performance product for a similar price, or attempt to take up a totally different market.

      Criticisms of that strategy are fair game of course, but Nintendo won’t ever be close to competitive specs wise as long as they maintain this stategy.

      It will be interesting to see what Nintendo can do in the future if those DLSS like upscaling features that were runoured for the Switch Pro make it into a next gen console – if some kind of training for the DLSS AI was just a compulsory part of developing for the console I imagine Nintendo could get away with far less powerful specs but a fairly similar result visually. If Sony and Microsoft both stick with AMD in the future, Nintendo stick with NVidia and AMD can’t come up with something as effective as a future version of DLSS I imagine Nintendo could all but make the specs question irrelevant for all but the most demanding games and the pickiest of players.

      • No one is asking them to be competitive. Stop making the Switch out of cheap plastic garbage for starters.

        • Obviously I can only talk about my own experience, but I’ve been very happy with how my Switch has held up. It’s not perfect of course, but I don’t think it’s poorly built at all.

  • I don’t think we will get a faster Switch until they go to a whole new console.

    It would be a problem for developers and push them even more towards making games that would be effectively unplayable on the standard switch.

    I reckon we will see a new handheld for Xmas 2022, that will be backwards compatible but will be a new machine that will have software that will only work on it and not on the current Switch.

  • I could care less about 4K, tbh the few times I have played my switch connected to the tv, the 1080 signal looks fine to me…. but man, I imagine many of the bigger games that come out in the next few years are going to be SLIDESHOWS

  • Well either way since the Nintendo Switch OLED is not 4K compatible in TV mode.
    I’ll be getting the Nintendo Switch OLED console anyway when it comes out on October 8 this year so I can transfer my games save data over to the Nintendo Switch OLED because right now my Nintendo Switch has got a small crack on the back of it’s base because at any moment if the back snaps off then it’s totally screwed.
    But with a 7-inch OLED screen enhanced audio for better sound wide adjustable stand which is better than the original kickstand on the original Nintendo Switch that causes it to snap off and a built-in wired LAN port.
    I’ll still be continuing my Nintendo Switch Online membership one way or another.

  • I have a switch lite. I sold my og switch because I never played docked, and the console was a little too big for long hand held sessions. I want an OLED switch lite. Maybe just a switch with lite size joycons. Either way the switch lite is the console I always wanted. The Vita got close but the lite is perfect.

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!