Apple has been rolling out software updates for the new Apple TV that are quickly turning it into a console-caliber experience. Meanwhile, Nintendo has just announced the new Switch. It is part living room console gaming device and part mobile gamepad. Both devices have plenty of content and a wealth of late night gaming potential, but which one is right for you and your family?
Models and pricing
Apple TV starts at $149 for the 32 GB model and goes up to $199 for the 64 GB model. You'll also need an HDMI cable for connecting Apple TV to your television set, which you can get from Apple for $19 (though you could probably find it cheaper (opens in new tab) elsewhere). To get the full gaming experience, you'll absolutely need a MFi Bluetooth controller. My personal favorite is the SteelSeries Nimbus (opens in new tab).
Nintendo Switch costs $299. It has a pull-out tablet with 32 GB of storage and a microSDXC card slot that supports up to 256 GB of additional storage. The docking station features three USB ports, two are USB 2.0 specifically designed for the removable controls, and one is a USB 3.0 port for connecting additional accessories. Out of the box, you won't need any additional cables or controllers to start gaming on the Switch.
The Apple TV is capable of 1080p and 60fps graphics on compatible television sets (or monitors). While Apple has not currently announced an update to the set-top box, it is nearly two-years old at this point, and it's possible that a 4K upgrade is in the foreseeable future.
Though we still don't have official information about the Switch's graphics capabilities, rumor has it that it is capable of up to 1080p. Nintendo did confirm to IGN that one of its launch titles, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, will run at 900p 30 fps.
The Switch's pull-out tablet has a 720p resolution on a 6.2-inch screen. Comparably, the size-similar 7.9-inch iPad mini (opens in new tab) has a resolution of 2048 x 1536, which is bigger than 1080p. (Sold separately from Apple TV, of course.)
The Apple TV comes with the Siri Remote, which features a trackpad and buttons that make gaming possible, at least at some level. Until December 2016, developers could only publish games that worked with the Siri Remote to the Apple TV app store. Now, though, you can get a much-better-for-gaming third-party Bluetooth controller. A dedicated gaming controller enhances movement and actions while playing games.
The Switch includes two Joy-Con controllers, which when separated and used individually, are small gamepads that measure approximately eight inches in length and maybe 2.5 inches in width. When connected to the Joy-Con grip, the left and right Joy-Cons become one unit for a larger duel-stick style controller. The Joy-Con controller system is somewhat revolutionary. The "HD Rumble" creates a lifelike tactile feedback to the point that one can actually feel whether there are two or three ice cubes in an imaginary glass.
Apple TV support Game Center, which means any game that has online multiplayer capabilities, and is available on tvOS, can be played online with others as long as you're signed into Game Center on Apple TV. If you're concerned about your little ones playing games with strangers, you can enable restrictions to multiplayer gaming.
In addition to online multiplayer, there are dozens of fantastic local multiplayer games so you and the family can enjoy some IRL fun together. Many of the local multiplayer games offer the ability to download an app onto your iPhone so you can use it as a secondary controller.
Nintendo is big on gaming together and is one of the few companies that consistently produces content meant for the multiplayer experience. With the Switch, local multiplayer gaming has stepped it up a notch. Switch is capable of connecting up to eight controllers together for one local game. Not only are there dozens of popular multiplayer titles coming to Switch this year, but Nintendo has also created special games just for its new console. Games like 1-2-Switch and Arms use the Joy-Con controllers to their full potential so players can engage in real-life face-to-face (or at least shoulder-to-shoulder) gameplay.
As for online multiplayer gaming, Nintendo announced when it unveiled the Switch that there will be an online service that will allow players to game together. Details are sparse, but we do know that the subscription service will allow us to play co-op and competitive games online.
Software and services
Apple TV has an operating system based on iOS. It also has an App Store, which means you can download a lot of different content. You can get weather apps, shopping apps, music apps, workout apps, movie and TV apps, and a lot more.
Switch, on the other hand, does not appear to have any additional content outside of games. Nintendo told Kotaku in response to questions about support for Netflix, Hulu, and other services:
Switch has the potential of becoming a set-top box with heavy gaming features, but at launch, we're only getting a game box.
Who should get Apple TV?
Apple TV has a lot of potential, as long as game developers and big studios see opportunity at the end of Apple's platform. It's ideal for families that want an entertainment hub connected to their TV without having to switch between devices. There are hundreds of games available on Apple TV, but currently, only a handful of them can be considered console quality. It is ideal for casual gamers that prefer simple mobile games to complex, time-consuming titles that cost a lot of money.
If you're a casual gamer and like the idea of having all of your entertainment, including gaming, in one place — especially if the iOS games you play offer free or inexpensive tvOS versions — get Apple TV.
See Apple TV at Apple (opens in new tab)
Who should get Nintendo Switch
While we don't have all the details about the Switch, we have enough to know that it's designed to be enjoyed by multiple players as much as solo, if not more. Nintendo clearly wants to remind families that gaming together can build bonds that last a lifetime (as long as you're not too competitive). The portability of the Switch questionable as the tablet is not yet field tested by the masses. But, it has potential to be a great transportable gaming device for parties.
Switch is perfect for single people that like to play games with friends, either online or in real life. It is a great device for bringing groups of people together for video game night. It's also ideal for families that love to play games together, instead of just watching dad or daughter grind through an RPG for hours at a time.
If you prefer a deeper console experience than casual mobile titles offer, but still like to game with friends and family, get Nintendo Switch.
See Switch at Amazon (opens in new tab)
Still don't know which to buy?
If you are still undecided about the best gaming device for your personal needs, why not head over to the iMore Nintendo Switch forums and get some feedback from the community? Our family loves to share their experience and will happily give their advice.