Nintendo Switch Hardware Upgrade Review

In the Switch family of game consoles we can already count on a newcomer: the “OLED model”, which will be available on 8 October. After the original Switch in 2017, its 2019 update and then the Switch Lite, this is the fourth representative of Nintendo’s console. The Japanese manufacturer released a trailer and the technical specifications of the new model on 6 July, while the specialised press had been speculating for months about a possible “Switch Pro”. Here is a summary of the main features announced for this model.

A better screen

Nintendo Switch

The console benefits from improvements in handheld mode. The Japanese manufacturer has opted for a better screen that gives the model its name. It is based on OLED technology, which does not use backlighting, unlike the LCD screens of other switches. This display has the particularity of using the light emitted by each individual pixel. This results in better contrast, especially with deeper blacks, as the light from the pixels is turned off.

This technology is currently used in high-end TVs and smartphones. In particular, it will be more flattering for darker games, such as Metroid Dread, a game set in a sci-fi world, which is shown in the trailer for the Switch’s OLED model and will go on sale the same day.

In addition, the screen will be slightly larger.
It will increase in size from 6.2 inches (15.4cm diagonal) to 7 inches (17.7cm diagonal).
In portable mode, the sound will be increased, and a stand on the back of the console will allow it to be placed on a flat surface for gameplay.

More of an upgrade than a revolution

In addition to a new white colour, the console features two notable upgrades: double the storage memory, from 32GB to 64GB, and an ethernet port in the dock that will delight gamers looking for a more stable connection for their online games or who want to speed up the download time of their games.

However, there is no improvement in terms of power. The processor remains similar to the previous Switch model (NVIDIA Custom Tegra). The console also doesn’t go to 4K and remains in the same HD format in handheld mode (720p) and in “full HD” on the HDMI output (1080p).

This new model is almost identical to the console’s 2019 revamp (with its new, less power-hungry Tegra X1 chip) than the supercharged “Switch Pro” fantasized by some fans.
This model will be compatible with all Switch games and accessories.

The console will be priced at $349, as indicated on Nintendo’s US website, and presumably €349 in Europe. If confirmed, this would make it a more premium model than the current Switch, which retails for €300 for its classic version, and €200 for its “Lite” version.

In March 2021, Nintendo announced that the Switch had sold more than 84 million units. It is currently Nintendo’s fourth best-selling console, behind the Wii (101 million units sold), the Game Boy (118 million) and the Nintendo DS (154 million).

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Steam Deck Portable Gaming PC Review

The rumour had been circulating since May and an enigmatic statement by Gabe Newell. The head of Valve, publisher and developer of PC video games, suggested then, in front of New Zealand students, that his company wanted to get a foot into the console market. This “foot” will be the Steam Deck, a game console officially announced on Thursday 15 July and available from December.

Steam Deck Portable Gaming PC

The Steam Deck is a full-body system that allows gyroscopic control, with two joysticks, a directional cross, A, B, X, and Y buttons on the sides, triggers on the top, and a 7-inch LCD touchscreen in the center, the same size as the future Switch model.

The main difference with the Switch is that the Steam Deck is not a game console, but a PC. While it will by default run SteamOS 3.0, Valve’s Linux-derived operating system designed in conjunction with the Steam online shop, it will be able to run anything that can be installed on a PC, including competing shops, or even Windows.

However, this new version of SteamOS comes with Proton, a “compatibility layer” capable of running both Linux and Windows games, making the Steam Deck theoretically compatible with Steam’s entire catalogue of 46,000 games. It should be noted that it will, of course, be possible to use Steam credentials to play games already purchased on PC, without having to pay for them again.

A bigger, heavier and more powerful Switch

In terms of power, Valve promises “more than enough performance to run the latest games”: the machine will run on Zen 2 and RDNA 2 architectures, which are also used by the latest-generation Xbox and PlayStation consoles, and should be all the easier to achieve as its screen only offers a resolution of 1,280 pixels by 800 (comparable to the Switch’s). Its battery life should also be affected by this: Valve says it will last between eight and two hours, probably with heavy use.

Despite its family resemblance to Nintendo’s console, the Steam Deck should consequently be considerably larger: Valve has announced a weight of 669 grams (compared to the Switch’s 400), a width of 30 centimetres (compared to the Switch’s 24) and, from the shape of its handles, a depth of 5 centimetres, all of which – where Nintendo has preferred to offer a flat console.

The Steam Deck is also reminiscent of the Steam Controller, the gamepad marketed by Valve between 2015 and 2019: it will be equipped with pairs of configurable buttons behind each of its handles, as well as two small trackpads, located at thumb level, which will allow, in games that require it, to move a cursor or aim as one would with a mouse.

While the machine is equipped with a USB-C port and microSD card slot, a docking station with additional USB ports, an Ethernet port and HDMI ports for connecting the machine to external displays can be purchased separately.

Available later this year

It is not yet known whether the Steam Deck will be sold in shops: at the moment it can only be ordered online. Although the machines will be shipped from December, pre-orders open on Friday 16 July at 19:00.

The basic model, which retails for 419 euros, only offers a very small hard drive (64 GB, not even half the space needed to install the latest Flight Simulator), but two other models, equipped with the latest generation of NVMe SSD, offer more reasonable storage space: 256 GB for the 549-euro model and 512 GB for the 679-euro model.

This is not the first time Valve has tackled the hardware market. At the end of 2015, the American company launched, in collaboration with several computer manufacturers, a range of gaming systems called Steam Machine: these boxes, actually mini-PCs running SteamOS to be connected to the TV and delivered with a Steam Controller, were not as successful as expected and quickly disappeared from Valve’s online shop.

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