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'Nintendo Switch Hardware Review'

Mon 06/03/17 at 08:10:
pb
Moderator
"possibly impossible"
Posts: 24,861
Nintendo are never one to follow, always trying to innovate. Take their latest console, the Switch, half home console and half handheld, it seems to marry both sides of the market that the company has been heavily involved in over the years.

Natural Evolution
It could be argued that this is natural progression; the Wii U, Nintendoís last console, had a screen that could be used instead of the TV, thought that was tethered by a weak wireless signal which meant that even leaving the room to play a game was impossible. The console before that had Wii Remotes, motion sensitive batons which promoted new and exciting ways to play games, especially in multiplayer.

Consider Switch the next evolutionary leap, then, in Nintendoís console history. It takes the Wii remotes and makes smaller but far more accurate motion sensors, this time with real analogue controls built in, then it takes the off-screen play idea and transforms it into a proper handheld device, capable of not only leaving the room but also the house, both as a dedicated handheld and a portable TV with separate controllers.

My first real impressions of the Switch, earlier in the week, were that it was a little smaller than the pictures made it out to be and immediately much better looking than the plastic shiny shell of the Wii Uís screen-controller. The quality turned out to be the same across the board, from the stand which houses the console for TV play to the slide in wrist straps which hark back to the Wii days but also bring improvements to the controllers themselves.

What's in the box?
In the box you get a neatly packed screen and Joy-cons (Nintendoís name for their latest controllers), the stand, power cable, HDMI lead and a grip which transforms the 2 controllers in to a single, slightly more traditional device. It takes all of 5 minutes to set up, if that, and then the fun begins.

If youíre getting a Switch the best thing you can do is avoid the temptation of sliding the controllers in before you turn on the system. For one, the initial menu will guide you through the rest of the set up, including the sliding in of said Joy-cons, and secondly because it means that finally sliding them in gives you the same satisfying Ďclickí from the adverts, cue grin.

Setup is intuitive and soon has you up and running, with 2 further day one firmware updates bringing the eStore and large SD card support online. The UI has a clean, easy to use feel to it, with option icons lining the bottom of the screen, games centre stage (blank until you insert a cart or download a game) and information boxed off to the left.

The eStore has been online for over 24 hours now, so Iíve played around with it for a bit, but itís certainly not the most comprehensive of stores at present, lots of coming soon titles and some launch indie games to download, as well as Nintendoís big hitters like Zelda, Bomberman and 1 2 Switch.

Talkin' bout a Resolution
In docked mode the console runs at 900p with the UI, upscaled to 1080p. It should be able to provide 1080p standard on any game that requires it but the 900p compromise may be to keep the UI fast and responsive. When taken out of the dock the console only needs to run in 720p, the resolution of the screen, so the GPU clock is reduced to save power. Unfortunately, even with this power-saving trick, the handheld lasted just over 3 hours.

Handheld mode is a seemless transition from TV mode, where lifting the console out of its dock will switch the picture from the TV to the small screen. Gameplay continues from this point, either with the joy-cons attached to the sides (to form a Ďproperí handheld gaming device) or using them as you would with the TV and using the main device as a portable screen.

The second option is great for taking the console around to a friendís house and playing multiplayer games with the screen propped up on a table. Viewing angles from the side are good enough for this to work but I did find that moving above the screen washed the colours out considerably, so youíd need to ensure the screen was at full height. A

Although the docking station isnít currently available separately, itís thought Nintendo will bring these out as added extras, allowing you to dock the Switch on different TVs. Without the docking station you wonít be able to connect to a TV, even though the consoleís main connection is through the standard USB-C port.

We need more power, capt'n
As mentioned, battery life in portable mode is a little disappointing, though itís not all that different from the 3DS. Nintendo states 3-6 hours depending on the game, I found that just over 3 and a half hours on a medium brightness was all it could take play Just Dance, for instance (a game which streams from the internet at times and therefore will require the power-sapping wireless connection). Indies may require less power, so last longer but Iíve not had a chance to test the power of other games in this mode as yet.

The console, when docked, can manage 1080p though, as previously stated, the UI runs at 900p. Itís also clear that 1080p/60fps gaming will depend on the sort of game being played. At launch, I only know that Fast RMX manages this. That said, graphical fidelity has never been a top priority for Nintendo hardware and the focus is purely on fun and innovation. Even Zelda is running at native 900p resolution but still looks great, despite this, which bolsters Nintendoís claims that it really doesnít need to be competing for graphics.

Switching to the Summary
Overall, then, the Switch is Nintendo at its finest. Good quality solid feeling hardware that tries to push gaming in a different direction and provides a new way to think about playing games. If youíre anything like me, someone who doesnít always have time to play a game on the main TV, then the idea of taking your main games catalogue on the move with you rather than some cut down mobile version is pretty amazing. Now all we need is a continuous catalogue of quality software to go with it.
Mon 06/03/17 at 13:27:
Staff Moderator
"Meh..."
Posts: 1,465
Pretty much does it for me, I won't be getting one. I have a 50 inch 4K TV, not sure how 900p is going to represent... My TV upscales, but there has to be something worth upscaling for a screen that size, otherwise it just looks flat.

Nintendo may believe that pixel count is unimportant, but with TV's getting bigger and crisper, not sure how long that argument will hold water. I get that they had to make compromises to keep size and battery life at an optimum for handheld, but that to me just smacks of them making a "pretender" as a home console rather than going all the way (i.e. it's a handheld that you can connect to your TV rather than a home console with a handheld option).

Time will tell I guess...

Good review though.

EDIT
I saw a trailer for the new Zelda game on TV last night. Didn't look great on my tv, in fact I'd go as far as to say it looked pretty ropey. Flat, pixelated, pretty poor all round.

COULD just be badly produced footage, but honestly, I'm not impressed.



Post edited by chasfh on 07/03/2017 at 10:27.
Mon 06/03/17 at 08:10:
pb
Moderator
"possibly impossible"
Posts: 24,861
Nintendo are never one to follow, always trying to innovate. Take their latest console, the Switch, half home console and half handheld, it seems to marry both sides of the market that the company has been heavily involved in over the years.

Natural Evolution
It could be argued that this is natural progression; the Wii U, Nintendoís last console, had a screen that could be used instead of the TV, thought that was tethered by a weak wireless signal which meant that even leaving the room to play a game was impossible. The console before that had Wii Remotes, motion sensitive batons which promoted new and exciting ways to play games, especially in multiplayer.

Consider Switch the next evolutionary leap, then, in Nintendoís console history. It takes the Wii remotes and makes smaller but far more accurate motion sensors, this time with real analogue controls built in, then it takes the off-screen play idea and transforms it into a proper handheld device, capable of not only leaving the room but also the house, both as a dedicated handheld and a portable TV with separate controllers.

My first real impressions of the Switch, earlier in the week, were that it was a little smaller than the pictures made it out to be and immediately much better looking than the plastic shiny shell of the Wii Uís screen-controller. The quality turned out to be the same across the board, from the stand which houses the console for TV play to the slide in wrist straps which hark back to the Wii days but also bring improvements to the controllers themselves.

What's in the box?
In the box you get a neatly packed screen and Joy-cons (Nintendoís name for their latest controllers), the stand, power cable, HDMI lead and a grip which transforms the 2 controllers in to a single, slightly more traditional device. It takes all of 5 minutes to set up, if that, and then the fun begins.

If youíre getting a Switch the best thing you can do is avoid the temptation of sliding the controllers in before you turn on the system. For one, the initial menu will guide you through the rest of the set up, including the sliding in of said Joy-cons, and secondly because it means that finally sliding them in gives you the same satisfying Ďclickí from the adverts, cue grin.

Setup is intuitive and soon has you up and running, with 2 further day one firmware updates bringing the eStore and large SD card support online. The UI has a clean, easy to use feel to it, with option icons lining the bottom of the screen, games centre stage (blank until you insert a cart or download a game) and information boxed off to the left.

The eStore has been online for over 24 hours now, so Iíve played around with it for a bit, but itís certainly not the most comprehensive of stores at present, lots of coming soon titles and some launch indie games to download, as well as Nintendoís big hitters like Zelda, Bomberman and 1 2 Switch.

Talkin' bout a Resolution
In docked mode the console runs at 900p with the UI, upscaled to 1080p. It should be able to provide 1080p standard on any game that requires it but the 900p compromise may be to keep the UI fast and responsive. When taken out of the dock the console only needs to run in 720p, the resolution of the screen, so the GPU clock is reduced to save power. Unfortunately, even with this power-saving trick, the handheld lasted just over 3 hours.

Handheld mode is a seemless transition from TV mode, where lifting the console out of its dock will switch the picture from the TV to the small screen. Gameplay continues from this point, either with the joy-cons attached to the sides (to form a Ďproperí handheld gaming device) or using them as you would with the TV and using the main device as a portable screen.

The second option is great for taking the console around to a friendís house and playing multiplayer games with the screen propped up on a table. Viewing angles from the side are good enough for this to work but I did find that moving above the screen washed the colours out considerably, so youíd need to ensure the screen was at full height. A

Although the docking station isnít currently available separately, itís thought Nintendo will bring these out as added extras, allowing you to dock the Switch on different TVs. Without the docking station you wonít be able to connect to a TV, even though the consoleís main connection is through the standard USB-C port.

We need more power, capt'n
As mentioned, battery life in portable mode is a little disappointing, though itís not all that different from the 3DS. Nintendo states 3-6 hours depending on the game, I found that just over 3 and a half hours on a medium brightness was all it could take play Just Dance, for instance (a game which streams from the internet at times and therefore will require the power-sapping wireless connection). Indies may require less power, so last longer but Iíve not had a chance to test the power of other games in this mode as yet.

The console, when docked, can manage 1080p though, as previously stated, the UI runs at 900p. Itís also clear that 1080p/60fps gaming will depend on the sort of game being played. At launch, I only know that Fast RMX manages this. That said, graphical fidelity has never been a top priority for Nintendo hardware and the focus is purely on fun and innovation. Even Zelda is running at native 900p resolution but still looks great, despite this, which bolsters Nintendoís claims that it really doesnít need to be competing for graphics.

Switching to the Summary
Overall, then, the Switch is Nintendo at its finest. Good quality solid feeling hardware that tries to push gaming in a different direction and provides a new way to think about playing games. If youíre anything like me, someone who doesnít always have time to play a game on the main TV, then the idea of taking your main games catalogue on the move with you rather than some cut down mobile version is pretty amazing. Now all we need is a continuous catalogue of quality software to go with it.

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