It’s smart, slick and polished as Nintendo’s seventh generation home console, easily sliding in and out of its dock. And the intuitive Joy-Cons have such potential that the future looks bright for the company. But with the Switch’s expensive peripherals and a small choice of launch games, can consumers justify the purchase right now?
Buying a new piece of hardware, whether it’s a console, television or PC, is always a difficult choice. There are a multitude of options to choose from, with plenty of accessories and peripherals to make the decision unique to you. Spending that hard-earned cash is easy, it’s just deciding where you should spend it that’s tough. For consumers, the Nintendo Switch is certainly an expensive gaming device should you add on the peripherals and accessories that cost a good deal more. However, since playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, there’s been no need for anything extra – it’s been an enjoyable experience just using the standard Joy-Con Grip and portable Switch console.
Inside the box, users will find the Switch console, its associated Dock, a pair of Joy-Cons with two wrist straps, a Joy-Con Grip and your standard HDMI cable and AC adapter. As covered in our preview, setting up the console is straight-forward, with the user interface relatively minimalist. On the home page, you’ll find a section for news for important Switch information and how-to guides, the Nintendo eShop, your Album catalogue for when you want to take in-game screenshots to store on a MicroSD Card, controller settings for syncing the Joy-Cons and checking their battery life, the console’s system settings and its sleep mode function. There’s also a handy quick settings button if you hold down the home page button for a few seconds, which features easier access to airplane mode.
While Nintendo has stated that the battery life between the Switch console and the Joy-Cons will vary depending on which game is being played, their estimations were pretty much spot on. When playing the Switch in portable mode with Zelda: Breath of the Wild, it clocked in around 2.5 hours for me – on full brightness and enabled system settings – before requiring to charge. The console also appears to charge faster than it depletes too, making it a great way to play on the move. Playing a game that’s not as heavy duty as Breath of the Wild, Nintendo estimates around 6 hours of portable play time.
When it comes to the Joy-Cons battery life, Nintendo were again correct in their estimations. With the Joy-Con Grip in use, I played Breath of the Wild for around 19.5 hours before the Joy-Cons required another charge, while Nintendo estimates you can play with them for 20 hours. To charge each Joy-Con, simply attach them to the Switch and continue playing or place them inside the dock to gain full charge inside three to four hours. Of course, the Joy-Cons won’t fully charge when attached to the Switch itself, so as not to deplete the console’s battery life further than anticipated.
But do the Joy-Cons go the distance? Putting them to the connectivity range test, the left controller used mainly for directional assistance can only be taken approximately eight metres away from the console when docked. Due to various household items – such as bundles of wires – possibly distorting the sync connection, this estimation could potentially be farther once the issue has been suitably resolved. The right controller primarily used for the A, B, Y and X buttons can go much farther, and can even still confirm and go back pages when used upstairs in a room. Nintendo estimated the Wii U GamePad could go approximately 26 feet (7.8 metres) in worst-case scenario, so it’s certainly good to know that the Joy-Cons can equal that distance even with the de-sync issues that have been experienced. And as alluded to in our review for Breath of the Wild, the Joy-Con de-sync issues have noticeably reduced since an in-game and system patch was released.
To utilise all the features of the Nintendo Switch, users will need to connect their Nintendo Account in the user settings menu. Should you not own a User ID and password for a Nintendo Account, you can connect with your Nintendo Network ID (NNID) or a social media account by confirming your login credentials. Once you’ve connected your account, you’ll be able to access your friend list, including sending and receiving requests. As we’ve previously reported, the Nintendo Switch uses friend codes once again, but should you have exchanged details with friends who already have Miitomo or Fire Emblem Heroes connected to their accounts, you can add friends by sending them a request without needing to enter their friend code, providing they also have a Nintendo Switch.
Continuing the minimalist theme, the Nintendo eShop and its menu is rather sparse. At present, there’s no accompanying music, though users do have the option to access recent releases, the “coming soon” page and to enter a code for redemption. When you first connect to the eShop, users will need to confirm their email and set a password; saving anyone from accessing your funds if it’s a shared household console. Of course, if you own a Nintendo 3DS or Wii U, you’ve also got the option to merge funds between consoles. Doing so will allow you to use the funds associated to the Nintendo Account and NNID with any console you own, much easier than trying to keep track of funds on separate devices.
As a family-friendly company, Nintendo has developed the “Nintendo Switch Parental Control App”, which is optimised for parents to keep an eye on their children’s playtime activity. Once again, it’s really easy to connect your smartphone and the app to the console, all it requires is a simple 6-digit code. Parents can then set restrictions on play-time for week days and weekends, as well as restrict their child from accessing online functions or social media. The app is currently the only way to log your in-game playtime, so it’s certainly a workaround for the moment. The only thing to note, though, is that the app only allows you to set a universal play-time limit, so should you have children of different ages and varying bedtimes, this becomes tricky. For the future, it would be great if parents had the ability to set individual time limits for ease of use.
While the physical size of the console is able to beautifully and comfortably fit within your hands, the memory size it comes bundled with is largely disappointing. You’ll only have 25.9GB when setting up straight out of the box, which reduces again from the day-one updates. And as the system doesn’t come bundled with a MicroSD card, you’ll have to purchase one or several – make sure they are UHS-I or higher – if you’re likely to use the system for digital purchases on the eShop, or want to save your in-game captures and transfer them to another device.
The Nintendo Switch is easy to use, to set up and play with. Its overall portability will likely come into its own when additional games are released such as Splatoon 2. For consumers with a Wii U, it may be quite difficult to justify a purchase of the console for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild at the moment. Yet its potential for future gaming is likely to raise the bar on innovation. If you’re still considering a purchase, it may be worth waiting until there’s a must-have game for you.