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Should you wait to buy the Nintendo Switch OLED?

A new Switch with a larger OLED display is coming in October. Here's why you might want to wait. Or not.

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The Nintendo Switch and Switch Lite are here now. Or do you wait for the OLED version?

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Nintendo Switch is getting a few key upgrades in a new OLED-screened model coming Oct. 8. But does it mean it's a system you need to wait for?

The Nintendo Switch has been around for over four years. There have already been a few upgrades since 2017: A version of the original Switch with better battery life arrived in late 2019, along with the lower-priced, handheld-only Switch Lite. The Nintendo Switch OLED arriving in the fall isn't the completely all-new Pro version we expected, but it does have some of the upgrades on our wish list.

The OLED version looks like the best version of the Switch, if you want to dock it with a TV and use it with multiplayer games. But its relatively minor upgrades and higher price also suggest you may not be missing all that much. I haven't tried or seen the new Switch yet, but here's my buying advice right now.

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Do you want a TV-dockable Switch? OK, maybe wait

Now that it's clear that Nintendo has a new Switch coming in the fall, it makes sense to pre-order one of those if you're interested in the best Switch with the best screen. The $50 price bump over the original Switch feels justified, considering it has a few things you might want: that larger 7-inch OLED display (which is still 720p resolution, though), better speakers, a more sturdy and flexible kickstand for tabletop gaming and more internal storage. Also, a dock with an Ethernet port.

The new Switch could feel a lot better. Or maybe it'll feel incremental. Either way, I would wait and see what that new model was like, if possible.

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Just a reminder: The Switch (bottom) has removable controllers and docks with a TV; the Switch Lite (top) doesn't, but plays the same games on the go.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Just want a basic Switch without docking? Go for the Lite now

If you want the most affordable Switch and don't care about docking with a TV (or multiplayer games, or things like Ring Fit), the Switch Lite, which is basically a handheld-only version of the Switch hardware. It's lighter, feels even sturdier than the original Switch and at $200, it's a lot less than the other Switches. It's a great on-the-go device and still has a MicroSD card slot for extra storage, but the dockable Switch offers a lot more value for families. (It's also a very good "second Switch" for a home that needs one.)

The case for getting the original Switch now and not worrying

I wouldn't buy the TV-dockable Switch right now with the OLED version so close to release, but there are reasons not to regret the move. One: It's summer vacation and you want your satisfaction now. Two: The OLED Switch won't really do anything different as far as game-playing (it should play games just the same on a TV when docked). Three: The original Switch is a little less heavy than the OLED version according to Nintendo's spec chart and you save $50. Four: the TV-dockable Switch (V2, released in 2019) has the same battery life as the OLED version.

The case for being happy with the Switch you have

If you already own a Switch, don't worry about the OLED version unless you have money to burn. The OLED version isn't the "Switch 2" or "Switch Pro" or "Super Switch" we expected, with reported 4K gaming and a new chip. But that could still arrive down the road. This won't be Nintendo's last Switch: look to the 3DS, DS and Game Boy, and how many times Nintendo released minor revisions to the hardware over the years. If you own a Switch already, you're probably better off waiting out this OLED upgrade and seeing what comes next... but sure, new gadget envy happens.

Availability unknowns

Look at the PlayStation 5: Sony's new console has been extremely hard to find even after six months due to a global chip shortage, which pushed some people to just buy the more affordable (and available) PlayStation 4. 

We don't know how easy it will be to buy a new OLED Nintendo Switch when it's available, which means it could still be a headache to acquire in October. Is that too much stress? Does the larger display not interest you? Then don't bother trying to get one. The differences look relatively minor.

Nintendo's leaning its games, more than brand-new hardware, to make the Switch a great console. That equation looks like it isn't changing in 2021, even with a slightly new version of the console. And right now, maybe that's enough.