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Nintendo Switch UK Review: Hands-on with the Nintendo’s console hybrid

Written by  Ryan Cleeves Feb 13, 2017

The Nintendo Switch is in our office, and we've had almost an entire week to play around with its hardware.

Now, we haven't got any games to play on it yet (boo!) and there's a pretty significant day one software patch we're yet to see, but we've given those Joy-Con controllers, and the Switch itself, a pretty good run for its money. Obviously, this is still just a very brief preview (and my initial hands-on impressions from January's Switch event can be found below) but stay tuned for our full verdict next week.

Initial impressions, however, are fantastic. First up, there's plenty of stuff crammed in that £280 box. Obviously, there's the Switch itself with the dock, a pair of Joy-Con controllers (with straps) and the controller grip. There's also the AC adapter and HDMI cable, too. That's more than enough to get you going, but you'll have to fork out a little extra for more controllers if you plan on being sociable with your Switch. Obviously, you'll need some games to play at launch, and considering the Switch doesn't ship with any in the box, that's an added cost to consider.

Image of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo Switch)

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo Switch)

 
 
Image of 1-2 Switch [Switch Download Code]

1-2 Switch [Switch Download Code]

Now, the Switch's hardware still impresses. Still, I'm wowed by the seamless transition from console to handheld (which I expect will be even better once we get some games to play). Plonk the Switch into the dock and it'll increase the resolution from 720p to Full HD, while giving it a little bit of a performance boost. Those Joy-Cons on either side feel just as great as ever, and I'm itching to finally get stuck into Zelda: Breath of the Wild when it releases next week.

For now, that's all I can say ahead of my official review next week. You can still read my early hands-on impressions from January, as well as a full specs breakdown, below.

Nintendo Switch: Full specs breakdown

For starters, there's that 6.2in LCD screen with its 1,280 x 720 resolution. It's seriously light at just 297g sans Joy-Con controllers and is 113.9mm thin. There's 32GB of storage on-board, yet the CPU/GPU is still being listed as 'Nvidia customised Tegra processor'. It'll be nice if Nintendo could go into a little more detail here, but I'd imagine it'll be the same architecture inside Nvidia's latest Shield TV tablet.

Regardless, here are the headline specs you need to know before reading the rest of my hands-on review of the Nintendo Switch.

Screen 6.2in 1,280 x 720 LCD
CPU/GPU Nvidia Tegra processor
Storage 32GB
Battery life Approx. six hours (4,310mAh)
Charging time Aprrox. three hours
Weight Approx 297g (398g with Joy-Con)

Nintendo Switch Preview

Letting that inner child loose remains at the heart of Nintendo. The Japanese tech giant is well versed in creating those giddy experiences that leave you grinning from ear to ear, with the type of family-friendly ventures that stick with you for a lifetime (Mario Kart 64 anyone?). It’s a standout position, which bucks the hyper-realistic trends of its competitors.

You’ll be pleased to hear then that the Nintendo experience remains unchanged with the Nintendo Switch, and in the same way the Wii pushed gaming convention aside back in 2006, the Switch is again leading the way at the forefront of console evolution.

Nintendo-Switch-Console

Nintendo Switch Preview: Console

Versatility is the name of the game with the Switch, and then some. This a console like no other, and by plonking the full console experience in the palm of your hands, Nintendo is hoping to create a whole new genre of machine. It’s a portable home console at its core, but blurs that once firm line between couch gaming and on-the-go play.

And if you were worried about how the Switch manages the switch between living room and mobile gameplay, there’s no longer any need to be concerned, because Nintendo has nailed the experience, and in spectacular style.

Image of Nintendo Switch - Neon Red/Neon Blue

Nintendo Switch - Neon Red/Neon Blue

If you’re sitting at home and want the proper big screen experience, just plonk it in the TV dock, grab a controller and it’ll be a TV-connected console. Heading to work? No biggie, simply lift it out, slide the pair of controllers into either side of the Switch and you’re all set to play Zelda on that otherwise tedious train journey.

Moving from the big screen to its surprisingly bright 6.2in 1,280 x 720 display is seamless. There are no load times, games don’t pause to reload at the different resolution – they’re just there, ready to go, whether you’ve just docked or undocked the console.

It’s certainly true that the Switch is a bigger beast than the 3DS and it weighs more, too, but it’s by no means unwieldy.

Nintendo Switch review: Joy-Con controllers

Those dinky little controllers on either side are called Joy-Cons. The stars of the show, they slot in at the sides of the tablet for on-the-go goodness, or the Joy-Con Grip when you’re at home, but they can also be detached and used separately for some co-op action in supported games.

Each one is a controller in its own right, and comes complete with the usual analog stick, four action buttons and a pair of shoulder triggers, plus a gyroscope and accelerometer internally. Now, those diddy controllers do sit nice and snug in my small hands, but the buttons might feel a little cramped if you’ve got larger hands. They’re wonderfully light, though, which is just what you need from a controller you’re expected to waggle around.

What I was really impressed with, though, was the Joy-Cons’ “HD Rumble”, which produces intriguingly subtle haptic feedback flourishes during gameplay. This is no vague rumbling: it’s so sophisticated that you can feel even the subtlest movements of virtual balls buried inside the controller should you give the Joy-Con a little shake.

nintendo-switch-skyrim

Nintendo Switch Preview: Games

The console itself impresses, but the lineup of games that will be available at launch is a concern. If it wasn’t for that system-selling Zelda: Breath of the Wild, there’s not much to get your teeth into.

Other than Zelda, there’s the mini-game-infused 1-2-Switch, which seems too much like a freebie than the fully-fledged £40 title it is. I enjoyed playing it at the preview event back in January, with some silly cow milking head-to-head action thrown in, but to me it feels a bit too much like a glorified tech demo to be taken seriously. It does use those intriguing Joy-con controllers to great effect, though, so should Nintendo keep 1-2-Switch afloat with added mini-games after launch, I might be convinced.

There is a trickle of titles making their way to the new system in 2017. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, a port of the Wii U version with all the extras, is coming in April while shooter sequel Splatoon 2 and 3D platformer Super Mario Odyssey arrive later in the year. Nintendo is playing the long game here, and there should be plenty of games to play come Christmas. For the time being, though, it’s slim pickings. Nintendo really needs to get to work on a solid Switch lineup.

Nintendo Switch Preview: Early verdict

I was unashamedly pessimistic before heading off for my lengthy hands-on time preview session with Nintendo’s Switch. Those unimpressive headline figures like that sky-high price and non-Full HD screen left me feeling pretty disappointed. But once I finally picked up those splendid Joy-Con controllers, my cynicism fell away completely.

There was a moment while milking a virtual cow (I wouldn’t make a good farmer) when I realised there’s simply no company quite like Nintendo. Everything I once loved about console gaming, way back in the days of the Nintendo 64, came flooding back to me. Only Nintendo could have done that.

It may not be as flashy as the PS4 and Xbox One, or as powerful, but those fun-filled family-friendly competitive gameplay experiences will stick with you far longer than one more lens flare or water reflection. And in the end, that’s all that counts. I spent five hours with the Switch on a snowy Friday morning, and could easily have spent five more.

Image of Nintendo Switch - Neon Red/Neon Blue

Nintendo Switch - Neon Red/Neon Blue

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