Switch Notes

I’ve had a Nintendo Switch for a week now and wanted to share a few notes about the system.

Quickly on games, I have The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, 1-2-Switch, and Snipperclips. BotW is astounding. I think 1-2-Switch has much more potential than might seem at first glance. Picture it more as a party game like Cranium than even Wii Sports. Snipperclips is a gem.

I’ve played a little bit on the TV, a bit on the couch while the kids were watching cartoons, some more in bed, and some in the car waiting to pick up my youngest daughter from pre-school each day. I like playing on the big TV but it’s funny how often the convenience of being able to move it elsewhere wins out.

The console by itself is understated. So understated I don’t even want to apply an adjective to how understated it is. It’s very simply just a small, black, functional tablet. There’s no logo on the front. The power/sleep and volume buttons on the top are inset so you barely notice them. The bezel around the screen is a little wide but, as with the original iPad, that winds up being a plus as you don’t ever obscure the screen with your hands when you hold it.

The console is very thick by the standard of modern iPads. This, again, winds up being a plus. Nintendo has learned over the years that human hand is a weird blob. Every controller since the original NES’s uncomfortable rectangle has tried to adopt a more organic shape. The Joy-Cons are small but they’re a good thickness to hold in a way that somewhat reminds me of an OXO vegetable peeler. If the Switch were as thin as an iPad, the controllers wouldn’t be comfortable to use. (It’d also probably be more expensive.)

With the Joy-Cons off the console fits in my back pocket. In practice as far as portability goes you’ll want a bag to stow it in. I bought Nintendo’s case and it seems nice so far. It has a flip-up section that can prop the Switch up and includes a screen protector which I don’t plan to use.

Most initial reviews I read spent a lot of ink complaining about how flimsy the kickstand is. And yeah, it is flimsy, but in my experience it works fine if you’re propping it up on a flat, stationary table, which is what I expect of it. It doesn’t work if you’re trying to play in bed. An airplane tray table might work. Nintendo could have done better here but I think it’s fine.

I don’t have a good assessment of battery life yet. I haven’t had it run out on me in normal use, but that’s only after one week.

The Joy-Con colors are perfect. The gray is the exact right shade. Some photos make it look a little light but it’s a very nice black-on-almost-black look. When the Switch was initially unveiled, I fell in love with that look and they totally nailed it in production.

But those colors! I ordered the console with gray Joy-Cons but also picked up a spare set of neons, and they’re fantastic. They really are neon. Some of the product photos you see make them just look red and blue but in person they are very intense. Again I think Nintendo nailed it here. There’s something neat and very distinctive about how it looks from the back with the black console with white logo flanked by the two different colors. (Reportedly using two different colors was an accident. Nintendo’s staff had made up a bunch of shades to try out and someone stuck a mismatched set on by mistake and they all agreed it looked good.)

Snapping the Joy-Cons onto the Switch is amazingly satisfying. The console makes its signature “snap” sound and there’s a fantastic clicking feeling when they lock into place.

Installing or removing the Joy-Con grips isn’t nearly as good. You have to double-check to make sure you’ve lined up the + or – to put them on, and then removing them is tricky because they’re so thin and you wind up pressing buttons as you do. Once on they do add a little more bulk to the individual Joy-Cons. Many people say their preferred way to play is by using the Joy-Cons separately, one in each hand, rather than on the grip. I haven’t spent enough time doing either on the TV to comment yet.

The left Joy-Con has four buttons instead of a plus-shaped directional pad. It’s that way because the d-pad buttons need to be able to function as ABXY when the Joy-Con is being used sideways. That’s fine, but it leaves those buttons with no good name. You can’t clearly tell someone to “push left” or whatever.

Inserting the Switch into the dock is simpler than I expected. I thought you’d have to center it precisely or guide it down a set of rails, but really you just drop it in and the little bumpers inside seem to match up nicely every time.

I’m probably jinxing myself by saying so, but my home theater system’s HDMI CEC setup recognizes the Switch and adjusts accordingly. If the TV or stereo receiver is off, pressing a button on the controller will cause everything to turn on and adjust to the right input. If I later awaken the Apple TV, they switch to those inputs.

One of my left Joy-Cons did have the desync issue. I think the other one does, too. To summarize, Joy-Cons have little radios in them which send commands to the Switch. Radio doesn’t like to pass through water. Human hands are mostly water and are big enough to cover the whole Joy-Con. Thus, your hand can interfere with the Joy-Con’s signal resulting in times where Link is running toward a cliff, you tell him to stop, but he doesn’t and you die. Annoying. Reportedly the Joy-Cons are manufactured at one of a few different factories and some batches have the issue and others don’t. I experienced this immediately and called Nintendo’s support number. They picked up and put someone on the phone right away with very little hold time. The guy asked me a few questions, confirmed that this was an issue, and emailed me a UPS label. I dropped the Joy-Con off on a Saturday afternoon and had back the same unit, repaired and working perfectly on Wednesday. I’d have preferred for my brand new video game system to not have a manufacturing flaw but Nintendo handled this as well as I could have possibly expected. I’m sure future Joy-Con production runs will have been thoroughly tested. Such is the price of being an early adopter.

That’s all for now, I think. I’ll be taking the Switch to a skiing trip with family this week and then on an airplane and the end of the month, so I’ll really get to put it through its paces as a portable system.

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