Why the Nintendo Switch OLED is an exciting prospect

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While it wasn’t quite a Nintendo Switch Pro announcement, the updated Nintendo Switch (OLED Model) is still a pretty exciting step forward for the device. Nintendo announced the new model today from quite literally out of nowhere with a trailer.

The new model not only features an OLED screen which is bigger but also a wider kickstand for tabletop mode, an expanded storage capacity at 64gb and what Nintendo is calling “enhanced audio” from the console's speakers. 

They are marginal updates compared to the specs rumoured for a Nintendo Switch Pro. It’s likely the Nintendo Switch (OLED Model) will act as a mid-gap between the current hardware and whatever form the Nintendo Switch Pro might take. 

We need to talk about the OLED screen though. What might seem like a minimal update to many, is actually a pretty big deal in the long run, and sets up the Nintendo Switch for future iterations as well. 

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OLED vs LCD

For the uninitiated, the difference between the two likely isn’t that obvious. Both look and play great with games, although there are some very subtle differences. LCD stands for liquid crystal display, which involves the use of liquid crystals to form the images seen on screen. Most phones, tablets, devices and TVs use LCD technology as it is typically cheaper.

OLED stands for organic light-emitting diode. It involves placing a series of organic thin sheets between two conductors, which displays an image on the screen. OLEDS are thin and efficient and they create an incredibly crisp and colourful image. OLEDS also have a wider viewing angle, faster refresh rates and a higher contrast. They are pretty much the perfect screen for gaming on. 

MGS GZ on PS VIta Remote Play 3
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The PlayStation Vita released with an OLED screen in 2011.

Having said this, LCD is still better in some ways. There isn’t really a clear-cut winner between the two types, as both have their own strengths. With the Nintendo Switch though, it will lead to better viewing experiences thanks to the OLED’s more versatile colour range. This is especially important with Nintendo’s range of first-party titles, which typically are very vibrant. 

It’s a technology split we’ve seen in the past, although Sony technically did it the other way around. The original PS Vita launched with an OLED screen, and then the PS Vita 2000 series launched with an LCD screen. This move was a way of bringing production costs down and increasing the battery life of the Vita console. Unfortunately, the LCD screen never looked quite as good as the OLED.

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Looking forward 

The most exciting thing about Nintendo’s OLED upgrade is that it hints at what could be coming. The Nintendo Switch Pro, which is rumoured to feature 4K support through DLSS, has been speculated for some time. Many believed the next major Nintendo Switch announcement would be a Pro release.However, Nintendo could well still be working on a Pro, and the OLED screen and other minor updates could arrive in that new console as well. 

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A Nintendo Switch Pro with an OLED screen would provide one of the most impressive visual gaming experiences on the go. A portable 1080p or even 4K screen would perfect show off the vibrant OLED screen. While the former is unlikely, even a 1080p would be a lot more visually pleasing with an OLED. The wide-viewing angle is also a great addition for portable multiplayer, allowing more players to see from a wider range of angles. 

The Switch Lite and Switch OLED also shows Nintendo’s attitude to mid-generation updates. The Nintendo Switch feels outdated alongside even the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, so Nintendo is going to need to update the Switch during its life cycle. Product development strategy - thank you business degree - allows businesses to modify a product for their existing market, increasing sales from existing and new customers alike. This feels like the best strategy for Nintendo, rather than outright releasing a Nintendo Switch 2.

Honestly, OLED screens just look really fantastic. For all its shortcomings, the PS Vita looked fantastic in motion. The likes of Everybody’s Golf, Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Gravity Rush looked absolutely stunning. Colour and movement popped, even on the screen’s fairly modest 5-inch space. Nintendo’s games are about to get even more stunning on the go. 

Read More: Nintendo Switch Pro shouldn’t release until Joy-Con drift is fixed