Nintendo Switch review: Pure fun on a big-screen TV or on the go

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Sarah Tew/CNET

It's worth noting that the console's debut was marred by concern regarding the left Joy-Con controller's reliability when using it with the Switch docked. Multiple outlets had reported issues with connectivity and performance. While I didn't experience these with the frequency that other reviewers have, I wasn't completely immune from them, either. But, Nintendo has recognized the issue and fixed manufacturing moving forward. If you buy your Switch new, it's a non-issue.

With the arrival of Splatoon 2 on July 21, 2017, the Switch also received a smartphone app for Android and iOS. The app is meant to be a companion for games on the system and a multiplayer hub where players can connect with friends and invite each other to matches. It's also meant to be the Switch's voicechat solution as wonky as it appears on its face. Yes, it's kind of awkward. But game chat is constantly-changing landscape. With the rise of third-party services like Discord being used for universal game chat, we don't necessarily think the Switch's current multiplayer situation is a dealbreaker.

Nintendo says that the Switch's online services will be free until 2018, when it will change over to a paid service for about $20 a year. That will also include special eShop deals and access to legacy games, though we still don't know how exactly that will be handled.

Because of the ever-changing nature of consoles, consider this review a constant work in progress. We'll continue to update our review as more games and functionality comes to the system.

Check out GameSpot's complete coverage of the Nintendo Switch.

What's good about the Switch

  • Versatility: The novelty that comes with taking the console on the go does not get old. So far it's been a mostly flawless experience. Switching is great.
  • The operating system: While there's not much to it, the Switch's OS is zippy, clean and lets you resume gameplay from sleep mode in seconds. Even a full powering on takes no time at all.
  • Local multiplayer: We've successfully played 2- and 4-player co-op in tablet mode, though the small screen size becomes very apparent here. The Switch also allows up to eight tablets to be locally connected for multiplayer, but we've never tried that many.
  • Screen capturing: A dedicated capture button on the left Joy-Con takes a screenshot of whatever you see onscreen. It works just as you'd want it to -- quickly and easily. You can also connect the Switch to your Facebook and Twitter account for quick sharing. As of now there doesn't seem to be option for recording video though.
  • Amiibos: Those adorable toy-to-life figures are still a thing for the Switch, so if you spent money on them in the last few years, you're in luck.
  • Nintendo has committed to indie games -- at least for 2017 -- announcing that over 60 titles will hit the platform by year's end. There are plenty of great indie games already available in the eShop.
  • MicroSD storage: You can bring your own flash storage to the Switch ensuring room for plenty of downloadable games.
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Grabbing a screenshot is quick and easy.

Nintendo

The Switch's problems

  • The Virtual Console is MIA at launch, and its unclear how it'll be offered when the Nintendo online service launches in 2018. 
  • Screen size: When using it as a handheld device the Switch's screen is fine, but as a tabletop display it's another story. Because of its small text, it's tough to play Zelda from any farther than around two feet away. Other games might be more lenient about distance, but a group crowding around a screen to play doesn't seem as practical.
  • The kickstand: The plastic flap that hides the Switch's microSD slot is also its kickstand. Unfortunately it's very flimsy and doesn't seem sturdy at all. At the very least I wish there was another one on the other side of the screen for balance. If it's on a hard, flat surface it won't just topple over for no reason, but getting it to sit right the first time isn't as easy as you'd think. Bumping into the table it's resting on could make it fall over, and I'd imagine some airplane turbulence might knock it down,too. Don't expect the stability of the sort of full-width stand you get with a Microsoft Surface or an iPad case.
  • No wireless audio: You can pretty much count out any kind of wireless audio solution for the Switch. Other consoles have made this a baseline feature, but don't expect to see it on the Switch.
  • "HD Rumble:" Nintendo might be overpromising with the vibration feedback in the Joy-Con controllers. It's tough to sniff out why it's so much better because right now -- save for a few mini-games in 1-2 Switch. Overall, it just feels weaker than other controllers out there. Maybe this will change.
  • Outdoor use: Sure, you can take the Switch with you anywhere, but the screen is really tough to see outdoors, especially anywhere it's sunny.
  • Onboard storage: With just 32GB of storage inside, it's almost guaranteed you'll eventually need to get a microSD card.
  • Joy-Con wrist-straps: Removing these plastic covers from the Joy-Con is surprisingly annoying.

Taking off a wrist strap bumper can be a pain.

Charles Wagner/CNET

Now's the time to buy a Switch

The Switch's first five months have been impressive and now that we're closing in on a year it's easy to give it a slam dunk recommendation.

If there's anything that still gives us pause, it's the uncertainty of a Virtual Console and the still yet-to-be-fully-detailed online service that will launch in 2018.

Aside from those few lingering concerns, the Switch continues to get better week by week. Its runaway away success guarantees that it will see support from first- and third-party developers for many years to come.

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