Nintendo Switch vs iPad: Which should you buy?

The iPad is one of the most popular tablets on the market with three different sized screens and multiple storage options. Thanks to the App Store, you can download apps and games of all types. On the other hand, Nintendo has announced the upcoming launch of the Switch. It may be considered a dedicated gaming console, but it has a removable touchscreen display so you can take your gaming mobile. So which one is right for you?

Models and pricing

iPad

There are a wide variety of options for iPad, ranging in size, storage capability, and price. You can start as low as $269 for the iPad mini 2 (opens in new tab) or spend as much as $1,279 for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro Wi-Fi + Cellular (opens in new tab). The lowest-priced model, the iPad mini 2, is the closest, in comparison, to the Switch's specs. It has a 7.9-inch display with 1536 x 2048 pixel resolution. You can play any compatible game on an iPad of any size by using the touch screen display, but you can also up your game a little by adding on a third-party Bluetooth controller, like the Gamevice Controller for iPad mini (opens in new tab)

Switch

Nintendo Switch

Switch costs $299. The pullout touch capacitive display comes with 32 GB of storage, but is capable of an additional 256 GB using a microSDHC or microSDXC card. The screen has a display resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels. Because the pullout screen is part of a larger, more advanced gaming console, it has a lot of features that really supe it up. There is a game card slot so you can play as many physical games as you want without affecting your storage. It also comes with a set of Joy-Con controllers, which can be snapped to the screen, or removed for remote game playing. You can also connect up to eight controllers to one Switch for an epic multiplayer game in real time (as opposed to having to pass-and-play on iPad).

Performance

iPad

The lowest-priced model of iPad has a screen resolution of 1536 x 2048, while the top tier model has a screen resolution of 2732 x 2048. The iPad mini 2 is outfitted with an A7 chipset with a dual-core 1.3 GHz Cyclone ARM CPU and a PowerVR G6430 quad-core GPU. The iPad Pro features an A9 chipset with a dual-core 2.26 GHz Twister CPU and a PowerVR Series 7 12-core graphics GPU.

The iPad line has a supposed battery life of up to 10 hours, though practical use will vary depending on what you've got running on your tablet. It could drain as fast as a few hours, or last even more than 10. All of the iPad models suffer from this inconsistency in battery use, but that is more the fault of the power drain from apps and games than anything else.

When it comes to controls, different games will perform differently on the iPad. Much of the variation comes from what developers decide to design for their games. Some classic ports on iPad have terrible controller performance, likely because they weren't originally designed for the touch screen and subsequently weren't properly redesigned when ported. Even with a third-party controller, performance on iOS will vary.

Switch

The pullout touch screen on the Switch has a display resolution of 1280 x 720, and when mounted in the dock and connected to your TV, it has an output capability of 1920 x 1080 at 60 fps. We also know that it is powered by NVidia's Tegra X1 processor.

Nintendo claims that the Switch can survive for anywhere between 2.5 and 6 hours of constant play before needing a charge, depending on the game you're playing. The company also confirmed that Zelda will cause you to need a recharge after about three hours.

The Switch's Joy-Con controllers promise to be a revolutionary gaming experience. The "HD Rumble" haptics technology is so on-point that gamers can actually distinguish between one, two, or three imaginary ice cubes dropping into an imaginary glass.

As for controller game performance, it is highly unlikely that Nintendo will support a game that hasn't been put through it's paces to ensure its quality is top notch.

Games

iPad

iPad (Image credit: iMore)

The iOS App Store has more than 1 million iPad compatible apps, and the numbers grow every single day. There is no way to tell how many of those are games, but lets just say it's a lot. When the iPad first launched in 2010, There were already 3,000 compatible apps. That's a lot of content to play around with right out of the gate.

As for quality, it ranges from simple endless runner games that you can play with one tap to complex, open world adventure games that require a lot of time and skills. Some games are downright poor quality and you end up wishing you didn't spend money on them in the first place. Others are so amazing you can't believe they run on a mobile device. The best way to keep track of what games are worth your time and money is to follow the trends from your favorite blogs. We've got a great list of the top iPad games.

Switch

Nintendo Switch Multiplayer (Image credit: Nintendo)

Nintendo announced that there are more than 80 games in the pipeline dedicated to the Switch, but only about 10 titles are schedule to be available at launch. If Switch does well, we'll see more titles in the future.

When it comes to quality, you're not going to see the same broad variation as you do with App Store games. They are always going to be great quality. You won't be nickel and diming your way through any bottom-of-the-barrel titles. Even if you don't like a game, someone does. Any game coming to the Switch won't suck because of poor quality, though they might suck for other reasons (like, being boring or having a confusing storyline).

Software and Services

iPad Pro Poetic Pencil case

The iPad enjoys the benefit of the Apple ecosystem. That means, you can find music, podcasts, books, movies, TV shows, apps, and games to suit your entertainment needs. You can read full digital versions of books or listen to audiobooks, download entire albums or stream music without downloading it, buy movies and TV shows from iTunes or watch content from your cable provider, and take advantage of a wealth of apps and games that covers the broadest spectrum of categories.

Switch

Nintendo Switch

Nintendo made it clear that it focused all of its attention on making Switch the perfect gaming console, not a general entertainment device. In a message to Kotaku, a Nintendo spokesperson said,

All of our efforts have gone toward making the Nintendo Switch system an amazing dedicated video game platform, so it will not support any video-streaming services at launch. However, support for video-streaming services is being considered for a future update.

That means it's possible that the Switch will have additional content sometime in the future, including streaming services and even an internet browser, but whether that happens, and what will be available on the pullout screen, remains to be seen.

Who should get an iPad?

iPad

The iPad will always be curtailed as a gaming device due to the specifications of the technology. The amount of storage and processing power needed to support the complexities of traditional console games is prohibitive on an iPad. Gaming is something that tablets have never been able to keep up with compared to dedicated consoles.

That being said, not everyone needs that level of gaming. There are hundreds of top notch games in the App Store that scratch just about every itch for casual play. There are fantastic puzzle-solving games like The Room series, strategy and adventure games like Don't Starve, and even open-world explorative games like Minecraft Pocket Edition. There is no lack of variety in the App Store.

If you don't see yourself settling down for a six-hour gaming session on a regular basis, and you don't have friends or family that want to play real-time multiplayer games with you in the same room, The iPad will satisfy your gaming needs, plus provide you with a whole lot of additional content to get into.

See iPad at B&H (opens in new tab)

Who should get a Switch

Switch

The Switch is going to excel at mobile gaming where the iPad and other tablets have never been able to. It is designed to provide you with a full console experience, even when you take your games on the go. Even other mobile game consoles, like the Nintendo DS or PlayStation Vita offer mobile games. The Switch is a living room console that you can take with you. No, it's not going to be as advanced as something like Xbox or Playstation 4 or Xbox One, but you're going to be able to play games like Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Mario Cart 8, Dragon Quest XI, FIFA, and even Skyrim. So, yeah, game-wise Switch is going to be awesome.

That being said, it doesn't currently support anything other than games. There is a possibility that Switch will offer some additional content, like streaming media apps and internet access via a web browser, but it will never have the level of content that the App Store provides for the iPad.

If you want a dedicated gaming devices that makes it possible for you to play full featured, complex games, even on the go, and don't need additional content like productivity apps or digital books getting in the way, the Switch is the one for you.

See Switch at Amazon (opens in new tab)

Still on the fence?

If you are still undecided on whether to get an iPad or Switch, why not head over to the iMore Nintendo Switch forums and get some feedback from the community? The iMore community loves to share their experience and will happily offer some advice.

Lory is a renaissance woman, writing news, reviews, and how-to guides for iMore. She also fancies herself a bit of a rock star in her town and spends too much time reading comic books.  If she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can probably find her at Disneyland or watching Star Wars (or both).

20 Comments
  • They are two different things, one is a gaming console in a tablet form factor, the other is just a tablet.
  • " though they might suck for other reasons (like, being boring or having a confusing storyline)." What?! How is this relevant? How are these two products comparable? One is a gaming console that disconnects from the dock for portability reasons. The other is a tablet. In now way are these the same products. They can co-exist. They aren't mutually exclusive.
  • This is baffling. It's baffling that iMore have decided to pick up on the Switch to report on, and even more baffling that you are (without any hint of irony apparently) trying to pose the iPad and Apple TV as comparable in some way. They're very different and fill different niches.
  • Get both. That said, not much point to an iPad mini if you have a Switch. You're better off with an Air 2: more power and better screen. Really it comes down to this: Are you a Zelda fan? No? Skip the switch. Yes? Get the Switch. And I like the Switch coverage and comparison articles. This comes up in conversation. Refreshers on specs adds to the context. Nintendo is moving to mobile and I'm curious what iMore's take on this process will be.
  • Between these types of articles and Rene's ridiculous How-To pieces....I'm very close to deleting my Mobile Nations account and sticking with 9to5Mac or iClarified. Sent from the iMore App
  • This product is going to fail so badly... I wouldn't be surprised if Nintendo exits the hardware market altogether and just focuses on software. In fact I can see a world where Sony and Nintendo join forces (as the underdogs) once Microsoft finishes the merger of Xbox and Windows as a single gaming platform. Wouldn't that be interesting...
  • Serious question: What's the credibility behind this thought?? Or rather, what is it about the switch that made you construct your opinion?? No I'm trolling or being a ****, I'm just really curious why you believe that.
  • Honestly no credibility per se... But as a gamer and a parent and someone who follows tech... I don't see anything particularly interesting or revolutionary with the new Nintendo. They lost the wild mindshare when the novelty of the Wii wore out over the traditional "specs and features" of the other consoles. I could be totally wrong and Nintendo may have a sleeper hit but I just don't see the market clamoring for a device more limited in functionality than anything that came before it. As to the other... Nintendo is making a strategic shift back to the small screen experience effectively conceding the living room to competitors. Considering the flush of other similarly sized "screens in hand" toys out there - of which only Apple's are actually successful - it seems unlikely that that the course could be pursued forever. Nintendo can't afford to have two full hardware generations fall into obscurity. Not because of the hardware, but because they need people to care about their IP. So if their hardware is going nowhere they have a couple of options: Partner with a successful hardware platform or open their IP to cross platform. My guess is they'd choose to partner because that's closer to their traditional business model. It's all conjecture and what-if - for fun :)
  • I respect your conjecture for fun and would just like to add my two cents: Nintendo is not "conceding the living room" or making a "strategic shift back to small screen" as you put it. In fact Nintendo's 3DS was wildly successful, and can be credited with powering Nintendo's net profits for the last quarter from the new Pokemon launches. And the Switch looks to continue that and at the same time giving you one of the best options for the living room. We will see, like you said, but I truly believe that following the success of Pokémon Go and Super Mario Run, it shows that the general public still holds some love for Nintendo's IP. That, and the fact that Nintendo can't keep up manufacturing enough Switch's to meet preorder demand and I'd say they may have a hit here. Sent from the iMore App
  • I hear you but I'll argue that in no way that is this one of the best options for the living room. It's graphically inferior (though graphics aren't everything) and has no services beyond gaming (to me the bigger issue). It's purpose built to be portable which means compromising in other areas. I have no hate for Nintendo but I just don't see this platform as a long term success for them. Not to the level of the Wii anyways. Short term and possibly niche success, sure, and maybe Nintendo is okay with that. And maybe I'm completely wrong and I'm just too old to appreciate Nintendo's appeal to young families. That said... can you imagine the money Nintendo would rake in if they allowed their IP to be sold on every platform? Cross platform Mario, Metroid, etc big budget and silly party games alike, playable with your friends no matter what gaming thing they own in their living room or their hands? THAT would be game changing. Good discussion :)
  • Why is this even a question? They aren't interchangeable and don't do the same things. Oh, it's click-bait. Fell for it. Sent from the iMore App
  • I know I'm pretty much arguing with a mule here, but why on earth do you guys continue to discuss the switch and the iPad in the same post. I said it before and I'll say again, THEY ARE BOTH DIFFERENT DEVICES CATERING TO DIFFERENT CIRCUMSTANCES. The iPad a device to compose essays, research papers, carry my textbook, take advantage of cloud services for productivity and of course movies, causal games and video. The switch is a gaming console that I guess will eventually become more of an entertainment console once we see video services (Netflix, Hulu, Crunchyroll, etc). I seriously can't understand why you guys continue with post like this. Sure the iPad can do more, but as an iPad owner it isn't stopping me from getting switch (so glad I was finally to pre-order mine).
  • Congrats on the preorder! Still haven't been able to get mine, but perhaps I'll have to wait till launch. Sent from the iMore App
  • For all who say they "cater different people" yes they do BUT for some people like me I use iPad mostly for media consumption and games, in that case they come close but if you want more productive side you have to go with iPad alone there's no comparison there but for just pure media consumption they come head to head..
  • Uhh. . . I use my iPad exclusively as a gaming and entertainment consumption device when school isn't in session as well and no, these device do not come close or "head to head." Even if you personally use the iPad exclusively for entertainment and gaming, it doesn't suddenly make it a gaming console, which is what the switch is. Obviously the primary focus of the iPad isn't gaming either, so that alone should send a loud message. The way I see it, Apple hasn't even been positioning the iPad as an entertainment device in marketing but rather a productivity device for the "pros" (ugh!), which yet should send another message that the iPad and the Switch are in fact 2 different devices.
  • Like I said it does for me I'm special snowflake. :) For me both has screens and both has games thats it.
  • Pretty dum article, it's like comparing a washing machine to a TV. Think it sorta depends on what you need. Do you want to watch tv or do you want to wash you're clothes in a more comfortable way.
    In this case it's basically the same, if you want a dedicated gaming device that runs console games, got great controllers etc. Then the Switch is a good choice. If you're more into watching movies on a tablet etc. then the ipad is a better choice. It's really two different devices with different purposes.
  • Steve, I was about to comment this EXACT thing... this article might as well be "should I buy a car or a blender?"
  • Why so much Nintendo coverage? I feel like a better comparison would be iPad vs Nvidia Shield tablet. Don't see that though. Sent from the iMore App
  • They used to have this site called Connectedly, where general tech updates would be posted. Smart machines, designer stuff, general geek things related to our tech connected lives... but for some reason they gave up on it before giving it a chance to mature. So now they kinda have to cross post and get a bit spammy across all the Mobile Nations sites for these non-related topics because it's interesting (to some) but has no where else to go...