New Nintendo Switch screen is polarized differently from the original and it's not all for the better

Sunglasses on new Nintendo Switch V2
Sunglasses on new Nintendo Switch V2 (Image credit: Russell Holly / iMore)

A fun trick I used to play as a kid, was holding up a pair of polarized sunglasses to a screen and turning them sideways. At some point, your view through the lenses turns dark and you can't see anything at all. It's really a fascinating thing to watch. However, while it's a fun experiment, this is not something you want to have to deal with when trying to use a screen of any sort.

Many screens are polarized to some extent, especially ones that will be used outside (like the ones found on smartphones). When someone says that a screen is polarized what they are saying is that the screen has been designed to reduce glare and thus make it easier to view in bright sunlight. This is done by placing lines across the display in a specific orientation. That nifty little screen trick I mentioned above happens when the polarized lines on a pair of sunglasses line up in such a way with a screen's lines that the light gets canceled out.

Sometimes when looking through a polarized lens at a screen instead of seeing empty darkness, you'll find a screen has a rainbowy look to it. This is caused by the polarized lenses canceling out some of the light waves and causing the remaining light to refract. Much like how moisture in the air causes sunlight to refract and create a rainbow.

So how does this relate to the Nintendo Switch V2?

Looking at the new screen while wearing sunglasses is downright unpleasant.

With a system like the Nintendo Switch that's designed to be played both indoors and outdoors, it's only natural that gamers would end up playing the Switch outside with polarized sunglasses on. In the last couple of weeks, I've heard mixed reviews on what people think of the new Switch's screen, which has seen some changes from the original. I was curious to see what people were talking about so I placed my new Switch with longer battery life and my original model side by side.

When viewed from the sides the screens seem to look about the same. Nothing much has changed in regards to viewing angle. However, I immediately noticed that the new screen has a warmer color tint and is brighter than the original. This in and of itself didn't bother me. However, the real problem came when I peered at either screen through a pair of polarized sunglasses.

Original Nintendo Switch Screen (Image credit: Russell Holly / iMore)

New Nintendo Switch V2 screen (Image credit: Russell Holly / iMore)

Source: Russell Holly / iMore(Left) Original Nintendo Switch model as seen through a polarized lens. (Right) New Nintendo Switch model as seen through a polarized lens.

When I was standing inside wearing my shades I saw that the original model had a slight bit of rainbow aura but the new Switch was incredibly rainbowy. While looking at the original's screen was a little odd, looking at the new screen was downright unpleasant for my eyes.

I then brought both devices outside to see how they'd do in the sunlight. Without the sunglasses on I couldn't really tell a difference between the two Switches. They seemed to block out the same amount of sunlight and both screens seemed equally visible. Then I pulled the sunglasses over my eyes. The original Switch was a little strange looking, but I was able to play with it alright.

New and old Nintendo Switch screens (Image credit: Russell Holly / iMore)

So, I turned to the new Switch. It was so hard to look at that I immediately pulled the sunglasses off my head. You know that feeling where you stare at a 3D movie without wearing 3D glasses? That's basically what it felt like. It's definitely not conducive to playing outside with polarized sunglasses on. I was curious, so I turned the two consoles sideways. Both screens became very easy to see. But of course, you're not going to be playing your Switch sideways like an idiot.

This discovery was really upsetting for me given that I like to wear my sunglasses outside. I'd been able to get away with playing my original Switch while peering through my darkened lenses, but it won't be something I'm willing to do with my new model.

The thing is, many companies account for this problem. They make it so that the line orientation is at an angle to prevent this wave cancellation or light refracting from happening when looking at a screen with polarized lenses from the intended viewing angle.

Nintendo Switch screen

Nintendo Switch screen (Image credit: Russell Holly / iMore)

If Nintendo had simply rotated the line orientation, it would have been easier to view the new screen with polarized lenses, which is something they should have considered given that they market the Switch as something you can play outside.

What about you other on-the-go Switch gamers? Is this something that's going to affect you? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Rebecca Spear
Gaming Editor

Gaming aficionado Rebecca Spear is iMore's dedicated gaming editor with a focus on Nintendo Switch and iOS gaming. You’ll never catch her without her Switch or her iPad Air handy. If you’ve got a question about Pokémon, The Legend of Zelda, or just about any other Nintendo series check out her guides to help you out. Rebecca has written thousands of articles in the last six years including hundreds of extensive gaming guides, previews, and reviews for both Switch and Apple Arcade. She also loves checking out new gaming accessories like iPhone controllers and has her ear to the ground when it comes to covering the next big trend.