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


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 or spend as much as $1,279 for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro Wi-Fi + Cellular. 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


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).



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.


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.



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.


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.


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?


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

Who should get a 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

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 Gil

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).