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Nintendo Switch OLED vs. Nintendo Switch: Side-by-side comparison

Nintendo Switch Oled Model Metroid Dread (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / iMore)

The Nintendo Switch OLED is the latest Switch gaming system iteration. Although it's not the "Switch Pro" with the improved processing power and resolution capabilities that many wanted, it does boast several improvements over the original Switch as well as the Switch V2. The most significant difference is the 7-inch OLED display, which has less bezel and makes images come through brighter and crisper. But what other differences are there? I'm here to go through every change, whether big or small and have provided dozens of pictures for side-by-side comparisons.

To compare against the OLED model, I used my Nintendo Switch V2, which has the bright green Joy-Cons and its accompanying black dock. My Switch V2 has been used for hundreds if not thousands of hours, so excuse the worn-down look of the casing and the dust in the dock's interior. Enough talk! Let's get to it!

Some things to know OG Switch vs. Switch V2 vs. Switch OLED

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Before you read any further, it's important to know that this is the third hybrid Switch iteration we've seen so far. The original Switch released in 2017, but then Nintendo quietly released an upgraded model in 2019 that looked identical but had much-improved battery life. A few retailers referred to this improved Switch as the Switch V2; thus, the internet named it. Finally, we have the Switch OLED that hit store shelves in 2021.

I'll be referencing these three devices to each other throughout this comparison, so it's important to understand the differences.

Is the new Switch OLED designed differently?

Nintendo Switch V2 and Switch OLED next to each other. (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / iMore)

It sure is. The most significant difference is the larger 7-inch OLED screen, which reduces the bezel around the console display by quite a bit. We recently learned with the Switch's 13.0.0 update that the Switch OLED model dock can also actually receive updates. This is interesting considering that the original Switch dock could not. Some have speculated that this means the Switch OLED dock could receive an update in the future that allows the system to handle higher resolution than it currently can. Otherwise, I'm not sure why we'd need a dock that could receive updates.

There are also changes to the kickstand, dock, and even the buttons on the console itself. Let's dive into these differences one by one.

Switch OLED vs. original Switch: Are the screens really that different?

The Switch OLED has the same resolution capabilities as previous Switch hybrids: up to 1080p when docked and up to 720p in handheld mode. However, anyone who holds a Switch OLED in their hands and compares it to an original Switch or the Switch V2 will notice a strong difference.

The screen feels a lot larger, and it technically is, but not as much as you might think. The Switch OLED has a much smaller bezel (black outline around the screen), and the screen itself is 7 inches rather than the 6.2 inches of the older models. Still, the effect of these changes feels huge. Additionally, the OLED display shows colors off so much more vibrantly with deeper blacks and brighter hues of every gradient, not to mention that lines around characters, words, and objects come through a whole lot sharper than they do on previous Switch displays. I did my best to get a picture of the difference, but images really don't do justice to what it looks like in person.

Switch OLED Dock

Nintendo Switch Oled Model And V2 Dock Interiors (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / iMore)

One of the things that surprised me was seeing that the Switch OLED model dock's inner cradle lets the Switch OLED model sit lower by a few centimeters. That might just be enough wiggle room to let it fit into a narrow media stand shelf a little more easily. The cradle is also reflective and glossy looking on the Switch OLED, while it is very drab and matte on previous docks.

Either side of the dock has the same openings, ports, and lights, although they are shaped a little differently from each other.

The small power light on the front side of the dock is much smaller on the new Switch OLED model. Additionally, the protective wall covering the Switch screen has a more rounded curve on top, while the previous Switch docks are more angular.

This top-rounded design continues on the backside of the dock. The opening on the back panel intended for cables to pass through has also gotten a nice curved upgrade that continues this round theme.

When you open the dock's flap, it's immediately obvious that some other changes took place. Some things have moved, and angled lines point to one side in the Switch OLED, giving it a more distinguished look.

The strangest thing about the new Switch OLED is that the dock's back flap isn't attached. It just pops right off instead of having a hinged door like the previous dock does. This can make it easy to lose, but considering that the dock will likely stay in one place for most of its life, this likely won't be much of a problem for most people.

The last big difference with the Switch OLED dock is the inclusion of a LAN port. This is the first Nintendo console to feature a direct Ethernet connection and should make playing online multiplayer games in docked mode a lot more consistent.

Unfortunately, the USB 3.0 port on previous dock models was swapped out for said Ethernet port, so you're down one USB connection on the Switch OLED dock.

Switch OLED buttons, kickstand, and microSD card slot

The cartridge slot and air vents have gotten a new look with the Switch OLED. They're relatively small differences, but altogether it makes the newer console look a whole lot fancier. That new cartridge slot is a whole lot harder to open, in my opinion, especially if you've just clipped your fingernails.

The power and volume buttons also have a slightly different look. Instead of being a circle like it was before, the power button now has an oval shape and is a little easier to press in (not that it was hard to do on previous Switch consoles). The volume buttons are narrower and have a more sleek look to them as well.

The kickstand is by far the biggest difference on the backside. I never liked the original flimsy flap that served on the first two Switch iterations. It looks like a garage hack job, and it wasn't very sturdy. However, the stand on the Switch OLED goes along the entire back of the console and gives the Switch a more professional-looking feel. During my time testing it, I haven't once felt like my Switch would fall over. The Switch OLED also has two new rubber nubs on the bottom to help steady it better when the kickstand is out. There is one rubber nub on the bottom on either side.

Another awesome thing about the kickstand is that it can hold the Switch OLED up in several slightly different degrees. All you have to do is use your fingernail to pull open the flap and then move it as far as you'd like. There is just a perfect amount of resistance so that it doesn't take any work to get it at the angle you want, but enough resistance that it won't extend any further on its own.

As with the original model, the microSD card slot is under the kickstand on the left backside of the console. It feels well protected this way. Not to mention the Switch OLED's kickstand is a lot easier to lift to access the microSD card slot. In comparison, the kickstand on my Switch V2 tends to stick and is hard to open, so I've chipped off quite a bit of the plastic where my fingernail has had to go in.

(Image credit: Rebecca Spear / iMore)

The Switch OLED's 64GB of internal storage is twice that of any previous Switch. However, this still isn't a lot of room. That's only about enough space for five to six large games, so you should invest in a memory card. The size of microSD card you need will depend on what kind of games you intend to play and if you are mostly purchasing digital or physical games, both of which have their pros and cons.

Switch OLED vs. original Switch: Battery life and processing power

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The Nintendo Switch OLED has the same battery life and processing power as the Nintendo Switch V2. That means that they load up games at the same rate and offer the same frames per second (FPS), which on average is about 60 FPS on the Switch, Switch V2, Switch Lite, and Switch OLED model. But this changes depending on the game you're playing and the settings in place.

Like the Switch V2, the Switch OLED model can play anywhere from 4.5-9 hours before the battery dies. That's an improvement over the original Switch, which could only go for 2.5-6.5 hours. However, Nintendo does clarify that while playing larger games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which drain the battery faster, the battery only lasts about three hours on the original Switch and then five and a half hours on the Switch V2 and OLED model. I already knew that this was the amount of time my Switch V2 could run for. So, I sat down and played Breath of the Wild on my freshly-charged OLED model to see how long it could last. Just as Nintendo claimed, my Switch lasted for almost exactly five hours and 28 minutes.

Do Switch accessories work with the Switch OLED?

It depends on the accessories. For instance, the Switch OLED is slightly bigger than previous Switch versions, so it only can use Switch OLED screen protectors and Switch OLED cases rather than the ones used on previous Switch devices. However, it still works with Joy-Cons, the Pro Controller, and anything that matches the larger size of the new console.

New Switch OLED vs. original Switch: Are the Joy-Cons improved?

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Earlier this year, Nintendo U.K.'s website already confirmed that the OLED model's Joy-Cons aren't an improvement over previous ones, saying "the Joy-Con controllers included with Nintendo Switch (OLED model) are the same as the controllers currently available."

This, unfortunately, means that they are susceptible to Joy-Con drift, a frustrating issue where the joysticks send signals to the Switch console without you touching them. This then can make characters move during games without you wanting them to. Nintendo has been making slight changes to the controllers over the years to fix this, but there are still reports of it happening. Hopefully, you never experience this yourself. However, there are several fixes for Joy-Con drift you can try from home if you need to.

Which Switch should I get? Switch OLED or Switch V2?

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That really depends on what you intend to do with your Switch. If you don't have a Switch yet at all, getting the Switch V2 will give you the best processing power and battery life of any Switch so far while being $50 cheaper than the Switch OLED. However, if you like the idea of that larger OLED screen, then paying that extra amount for the Switch OLED will give you everything the Switch V2 offers, but will also make your games look a whole lot nicer in handheld mode. My one stipulation is that if you're upgrading from the original Switch, it might be worth getting the OLED model just for the much-improved battery life and screen combo.

Of course, all of the Nintendo Switch gaming systems have been incredibly popular this year and are hard to get a hold of. So if you want to get something for the holidays, you might just need to grab whatever you can get your hands on.

Which Switch should I get? Switch OLED or Switch Lite?

(Image credit: Rebecca Spear / iMore)

The larger hybrid Nintendo Switch consoles are far more useful and sharable than the smaller handheld-only Switch Lite. As such, I always recommend people spring for the larger system when they can. That's because it can actually dock to a TV for multiplayer gaming for the whole family to get in on. Meanwhile, the Switch Lite doesn't have the proper internal hardware to allow it to dock to a TV at all. The Switch Lite also doesn't have detachable Joy-Cons, so you'd have to purchase them separately for multiplayer games or for games that require motion controls.

Not to mention that certain Switch games work better on regular Switch and either aren't supported or don't work well on Switch Lite. So you don't have to second guess whether or not a game will run smoothly if you get the Switch OLED.

How to tell you're buying the Switch OLED

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The Switch OLED is the first Switch iteration to have a box that is taller vertically than it is wide. It comes in either a black dock with red and blue Joy-Cons or a white dock and white Joy-Cons for the first time ever. Since white has never been an official Switch color before, that's the biggest giveaway. Well, that and the large "OLED" word that appears just under the Switch's image.

In case you're wondering, the original Switch box featured a console on a white background, while the Switch V2's box is on a red background. So if you know what you're looking for, you can easily tell the boxes apart.

Switching it up

The Switch OLED might not be the major upgrade that some people were hoping for, but it does bring several improvements to the Switch design. That OLED display in particular is incredibly pretty to look at and really does make a difference when you see it for yourself. However, if that's not enough to entice you, you might be happier sticking with the Switch V2 or the Switch Lite.

Rebecca Spear
Rebecca Spear

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.