Nintendo Switch buying guide: What you need to know

The Nintendo Switch is nothing short of a sensation. After the mediocre reception to the Nintendo Wii U in 2012, the company knew it needed to re-imagine its home console offerings, and that solution ended up being the Switch. The gamble paid off, as sales for the hybrid console continue to climb even years after its launch.

In this Nintendo Switch buying guide, we’ll give you everything you could ever want to know about the console. We’ll cover buying a Switch, owning a Switch, and accessorizing your Switch. If you’re on the fence about buying one, we have tons of tips here to help you make your decision. There’s also plenty of info here for current owners who want to make the most of their gaming consoles.

Editor’s note: This Nintendo Switch buying guide is current as of December 2020. We will update it with new content regularly. While we mention the Switch specifically, this guide is also written with Switch Lite in mind. 

At a glance: What is a Nintendo Switch console?

Nintendo unveiled the Switch on March 3, 2017. The Nintendo Switch price was $299 at launch, which significantly undercut the prices of the Sony PlayStation 4 ($399 at the time) and matched the then-current price of the Xbox One S.

Unlike the PS4 and Xbox One S, though, the Nintendo Switch is what’s known as a hybrid console. This means you can connect it to a TV and play it in the normal home console style. However, you can also use it as a wireless handheld device — not unlike the Nintendo 3DS, another insanely popular Nintendo product.

In other words, the Switch offers the best of both worlds: the power to run home console games that look and play great on a television as well as the ability to play those same games on the go.

The Nintendo Switch is officially the company’s second-best-selling home console of all-time with over 68 million units sold to date. That puts it far behind the Nintendo Wii (~102 million units) but well ahead of the original Nintendo Entertainment System (~62 million units). It is not unreasonable to expect it will eventually outsell the Wii to become the biggest home console of all time from the brand.

Is the Nintendo Switch worth buying?

Nintendo Switch on a table

The popularity of the Nintendo Switch is not unwarranted. Its unique hybrid design is enticing for people who want some versatility with their gaming experience. Nintendo has also done a terrific job of releasing some stellar games for the Switch while also bringing over a staggering number of third-party titles.

That being said, the Switch isn’t without its faults. Its hybrid design prevents it from being as powerful as a PlayStation or Xbox, for example. Also, despite Nintendo’s exceptional efforts to bring over a plethora of third-party games, there are still plenty of major releases that are simply unavailable for the Switch.

Related: The best exclusive games for the Nintendo Switch

The bottom line is this: if you’re a Nintendo fan already, the Switch is an absolute must-buy, without question. If you’re a casual gamer, the Switch would likely be a good investment because you can use it for both your home console and handheld console needs without buying two separate devices. If you’re a hardcore gamer who wants access to every game and the ability to play them at the highest quality possible, the Switch is likely not what you’re looking for.

Keep in mind that the Nintendo Switch price is incredibly competitive when compared to other major consoles. This could also be a factor in your decision.

What experts are saying about the Nintendo Switch

Peak Design Everyday Sling 10L with Nintendo Switch popping out 3

While Android Authority doesn’t have an official review for the Nintendo Switch console, we do give it our endorsement. Most of the members of our staff here own a Switch, which is probably the best review any piece of tech can get from us!

Other major gaming publications also say the Switch is a terrific console. Here are some choice quotes:

  • The Verge’s Ross Miller in the original 2017 launch review:The most shocking thing about the Switch might be how many obvious pitfalls Nintendo has managed to elegantly avoid. Going from playing on the tablet to the TV is completely effortless, and there’s no sense of compromise whichever way you choose to play. Once you hold and use the Switch, it just makes sense.”
  • CNET’s Jeff Bakalar in a post-launch review: “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. Its runaway away [sic] success guarantees that it will see support from first- and third-party developers for many years to come.”
  • Engadget’s Devindra Hardawar in a post-launch review: “While I appreciate the raw power that its competitors offer, the Switch proved that power isn’t everything. Instead, it harkened back to a time when we played games on the couch against our friends, and it made it clear that a true console experience could travel with you during your commute. Once again, Nintendo redefined how we could think of game consoles.”
  • Polygon’s entire staff in the original 2017 review: “Compared to the Wii U on its merits, the Switch is a slam dunk. It takes the basic concept of the Wii U, of a tablet-based console, and fulfills the promise of it in a way Nintendo simply wasn’t capable of realizing in 2012. It’s launching with a piece of software that, more than anything in the Wii U’s first year, demonstrates its inherent capability of delivering what Nintendo says is one of the Switch’s primary missions: a big-budget, AAA game that exists across a handheld device and a television-connected portable. The hardware lives up to its name in how easily and smoothly it moves between those two worlds, in how dead simple it all is to make something pretty magical happen.”

Although these quotes represent praise for the console, there were a lot of unanswered questions when the Nintendo Switch launched. Most of these problems have been addressed in the years since its debut, but some linger on. Check out the “Known Issues” section further down the page to find out more.

What our readers say about the Nintendo Switch

Professional reviewers are usually very trustworthy. However, sometimes you want to hear directly from consumers to get an “everyman” opinion. Thankfully, Android Authority readers have given us plenty of insight into how they feel about the Switch.

In this poll, we asked users how they feel about the Nintendo Switch in 2020. Here’s how it breaks down:

Nintendo Switch 2020 Readers Poll

The chart makes it clear that 74% of our readers love or like their Switch, even in 2020. If you include the people who are only lukewarm on the console, you get over 87% of our readers who are at the very least content with their purchase. That’s an overwhelming ratio.

If you want to see more info on how our readers feel about the Nintendo Switch, scroll down to the final section of this article. There, you’ll find some live polls surrounding buyer’s happiness with the console today.

The Nintendo Switch specs you need to know

PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch 11

As mentioned earlier, the Nintendo Switch’s specs are very weak compared to a PlayStation 4 Pro, Xbox One X, or high-end gaming PC. However, raw power has never been Nintendo’s focus when it comes to its systems, so specs really don’t matter much here.

That being said, there is some value in knowing the basic specs of the console. Check out the table below which has the Nintendo Switch specs as sourced directly from Nintendo.

  Nintendo Switch Specs
Display 6.2-inch LCD
1,280 x 720 resolution undocked
1,920 x 1,080 resolution docked
Plastic covering over display
10-finger multi-touch support
Processor Custom Nvidia Tegra CPU/GPU
Storage 32GB of onboard storage
~4GB is taken up by OS
microSD cards supported up to 2TB
microSDHC and microSDXC supported
Battery 4,310mAh
~3 hours to charge fully
USB-C cable for charging
Connectivity Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac)
Bluetooth 4.1
Audio 5.1-channel Linear PCM output (docked)
Stereo onboard speakers
3.5mm headphone port
Size Display alone:
173mm x 102mm x 14mm

With Joy-Con attached:
238mm x 102mm x 14mm

Weight Display alone:
297g (~11oz)

With Joy-Con attached:
398g (~14oz)

What comes with a Nintendo Switch?

What comes with Nintendo Switch Box

There are a total of eight items included with a Nintendo Switch, not including manuals, notices, and other miscellaneous paperwork. Essentially, there’s the console, a Nintendo Switch controller in the form of two Joy-Con (which can become two if a game allows for just a single Joy-Con), and everything you need to hook it up to a TV.

Here’s what comes in the box:

  1. Nintendo Switch console
  2. Left Joy-Con
  3. Right Joy-Con
  4. Joy-Con straps (pair)
  1. HDMI cable
  2. Nintendo Switch dock
  3. Joy-Con Grip
  4. AC adapter

What comes with Nintendo Switch

The above includes everything you need to play Nintendo Switch games either using just the Switch itself or docked with your television. Since the Switch is online-ready and has a robust store for downloading games, you don’t even need to buy a physical copy of a game to start playing. All you need is what’s in the box.

Depending on the retail outlet, there might be bundles on offer that come with different accessories, games, or other materials in addition to what you see above. However, every Nintendo Switch retail box will have the same core items.

Nintendo Switch: A very basic setup guide

Nintendo Switch front shot

Handheld mode

To get started playing the Nintendo Switch in its standalone handheld mode, you first need to attach the Joy-Con. Make sure you remove the Joy-Con strap from each controller (if needed) and then slide each Joy-Con onto either side of the main Switch display. It should look as it does in the image above.

Note that the Joy-Con won’t slide on the wrong side. If you feel like you need to force it on, you are putting the wrong Joy-Con in. Swap them to the other side of the Switch instead.

Once the two Joy-Con are attached, power on the Switch by pressing the power button, which is on the top left of the console. When the device powers on, you’ll need to hit one button three times in a row to unlock it. Once there, just pick a game and start playing! Don’t have any games? Scroll down a bit further for help with that.

TV or docked mode

To play the Nintendo Switch on your TV, you’ll need to connect the included HDMI cable to the dock. There’s only one HDMI port on the dock, so it’s easy to find where it goes. Plug the other end of the HDMI cable into an empty port on your TV. Make sure your TV’s input is set to that same port.

Drop the Switch (either with or without the Joy-Con attached) into the dock so that it slides onto the USB-C plug at the bottom. Once it does, you should almost instantly see the Switch’s unlock screen on your television.

Either detach the Joy-Con or use a compatible Switch controller (see the accessories section for more on this) to unlock the Switch just as you would in handheld mode. That’s it, you’re ready to play!

What is the Nintendo Switch battery life like?

Nintendo Switch buying guide: What you need to know 2

There are actually two versions of the Nintendo Switch and the biggest difference between them is battery life. You can tell which version of the Switch you own by using the following info:

  • Is your Switch’s model number HAC-001 and does its serial number start with “XAW”? You have an original version of the Switch produced between March 2017 and August 2019.
  • Is your Switch’s model number HAC-001(-01) and does its serial number start with “XKW”? You have the updated version of the Switch produced between August 2019 and today.

Nintendo claims that the original version of the Nintendo Switch gets anywhere between 2.5 to 6.5 hours of playtime on a single battery charge. The updated Switch can allegedly get 4.5 to 9 hours of playtime.

There are two versions of the Switch, and battery life is the biggest difference between them.

Now, there are two things to address here. Why is there such a difference in Nintendo Switch battery life between the two models, and why are the time limits so vague? The answer to the first question is simple: Nintendo updated the system-on-chip in the newer version and also upgraded the memory. This allows for better battery efficiency even though the battery is the same size in both versions of the console.

As for why the playtime limits are so vague, this is due to the types of games you’re playing. Different games require different levels of graphics processing power which in turn either accelerates or decelerates battery drain. As such, a graphics-heavy game like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt will drain the battery faster than a simpler game like Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

In general, though, we find that the Nintendo Switch battery life ends up being very close to Nintendo’s estimates. Your mileage may vary, of course, but you should expect a minimum of two hours of playtime on a single charge, regardless of what you’re playing.

Is the game library strong for the Nintendo Switch?

Nintendo Switch on top of PlayStation 4

Nintendo exclusively owns some of the biggest names in gaming. Mario, Zelda, Pokémon, Metroid, Animal Crossing, Splatoon, Super Smash Bros., Donkey Kong, and many more franchises will only ever appear on Nintendo consoles. As such, if even one of those properties is interesting to you, you’ll need to own a Switch to play the latest titles.

Outside of Nintendo’s own games, there are a surprising number of other options for players. The Switch has becoming Nintendo’s most inclusive console ever when it comes to giving players the games they want.

First-party Nintendo Switch games:

Some of the biggest overall game releases of the past few years are Nintendo-owned franchises that it develops and publishes. They are only playable on a Nintendo Switch (and, in some cases, the Wii U).

  • Mario Kart 8: Deluxe — The best-selling Switch title and part of a franchise that’s a cultural phenomenon.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild — Winner of dozens of Game of the Year awards and already on a few “Best Games of All Time” lists.
  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons — The game that everyone is talking about and helping to make the Switch console hard to buy anywhere.
  • Nintendo Labo — A kit that allows you to create physical gadgets out of cardboard, encouraging children to gain interest in STEM fields.

Those are the major highlights, but there’s also Super Mario Odyssey, Splatoon 2, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and more games that have sold millions and millions of copies. These are all developed and published by Nintendo and can’t be played anywhere else.

Exclusive third-party titles

There are also a lot of Nintendo Switch games that are not created by Nintendo but can only be played on a Switch. These include all the Pokémon games, the popular multiplayer Tetris 99, Yoshi’s Crafted World, and the Xenoblade Chronicles franchise. There are also numerous independent games you can buy through the Nintendo eShop that are unavailable on any other system, such as The Stretchers, the Box Boy franchise, Ninjala, and more.

Third-party ports

Since Nintendo owns some of the most popular game franchises of all time, the company has never felt the need to work hard on getting third-party developers to port their games to Nintendo consoles. That’s why a lot of the major titles in gaming never landed on the Wii U, the Wii, the GameCube, and on and on back through the years.

Related: The best RPGs for the Nintendo Switch

That’s changed with the Nintendo Switch, though. Now, a lot of games that one would have never thought would ever come to a Nintendo console are here. Here is just a small collection of examples:

That list will expand as time goes on as the Switch is still Nintendo’s primary focus and won’t be getting a replacement any time soon.

Retro games

Nintendo’s massive back catalog of games for older consoles is a literal goldmine of content. Recently, Nintendo has been doing a much better job of allowing gamers to play games from as far back as the original NES on their Switch.

However, Nintendo keeps all this content behind a subscription-based paywall called Nintendo Switch Online. The good news about this is that your monthly subscription gets you access to nearly 100 NES and SNES games, which you can play as much as you wish with no extra fees. The bad news is that if you just want to buy one of those games à la carte, you are out of luck, as Nintendo has done away with the Virtual Console service we saw on previous systems.

For more information on the Nintendo Switch Online service, check out the next section of this post. There’s also a lot more info there related to its retro gaming offerings.

More gaming guides:

Nintendo Switch Online: What you need to know

A picture of the Razer Nari Ultimate gaming headset next to a nintendo switch.

As with every other modern console, the Nintendo Switch relies on an internet connection to deliver updates, downloadable content, game news, and more. It also has an online store where you can purchase new games, watch trailers, and even play free demos. This is called the Nintendo eShop.

In addition to this, there is also the Nintendo Switch Online subscription service. This gives you access to multiple features including the previously-mentioned retro games collection. On top of that, it allows you to connect with friends through online chat, share game data, participate in multiplayer activities, and more.

To be clear, though, you do not need a subscription to Nintendo Switch Online to play games on your Switch. You can buy games, get system updates and downloadable content, set parental controls, and enjoy many other aspects of your Switch without paying any monthly charge.

If you are interested in Nintendo Switch Online, here’s what the service offers and what it costs.

Nintendo Switch Online: Multiplayer

The biggest aspect of Nintendo Switch Online is that it offers online multiplayer for most games. If you want to play Tetris 99, Splatoon 2, Mario Kart 8: Deluxe, or Super Smash Bros. Ultimate online with your friends, you need a Switch Online subscription. There is no way around it.

The two major games that are an exception to this rule are Overwatch and Fortnite, which do not require a Switch Online subscription for online multiplayer. It’s safe to assume any online multiplayer games you are interested in outside of those two will require a paid subscription.

Also, it should be noted that a subscription is only needed for online multiplayer. Local multiplayer does not require a subscription. This means that any couch co-op games you have will work just fine without the monthly fee. It also means you can play all multiplayer games for free if you and your friends are in the same place and on the same network.

Online communications

Unfortunately, the way Nintendo set up online communication through Nintendo Switch Online is incredibly clunky. With an Xbox or PlayStation, you connect a headset of some kind to the system and then chat with your friends while you play. It’s simple and straightforward.

With the Switch, you instead need to use a smartphone app. All your chats happen through the app, not the console. Any headsets, microphones, or other peripherals get connected to your phone.

While this sounds like it’s not a big deal, it’s very cumbersome. A lot of gaming headsets on the market are geared towards consoles, not smartphones, which makes your accessory purchases confusing. It’s also annoying for Fortnite players since their chats do happen through the Switch console itself, not the app. It’s all very messy.

The basic gist, though, is that your multiplayer experience on the Switch will inevitably require you to download the app on your Android phone, iPhone, or iPad.

Cloud game saves

Another major aspect of the Switch Online service is the ability to save your games to the cloud. Without a subscription, your game saves are on your Switch’s hard drive (or microSD card) and thus not protected if something happens to your Switch. If you’re the kind of person who wants to make sure their game saves are always safe, you’ll need this subscription.

If you subscribe to Switch Online and save some games to the cloud and then cancel your subscription, you’ll no longer be able to access those saves. You can re-subscribe and gain access to them, but you’ll need to do it within six months. Six months after you stop paying for Switch Online, Nintendo deletes all your cloud saves.

There are a select few games that do not support cloud saves. The reason for this is usually that it would go against the nature of the game to include the service. A few examples of this are Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Splatoon 2, Dark Souls Remastered, and a few more.

The NES and SNES games collection

The first year that Nintendo started offering the Switch Online service, it slowly rolled out access to various Nintendo Entertainment System games. After a year of that, it dumped a huge collection of Super Nintendo Entertainment System games. Combined, there are nearly 100 games you can play with your subscription.

Nintendo has enhanced the games to allow for things the original systems just couldn’t offer. This includes online multiplayer, the ability to save and restore at any point during gameplay, and even the ability to rewind your game. There are even options to make your experience more authentic by playing in the original 4:3 aspect ratio and adding artificial CRT scan lines.

Although Nintendo hasn’t confirmed anything yet, it is very likely that Nintendo 64 games will be the next addition to this service. You can always check what games are on offer with this service by heading here.

Miscellaneous perks

Being a Nintendo Switch Online subscriber can sometimes earn you some fun stuff. For example, subscribers of the family plan recently received some unique skins for their Splatoon 2 characters. Nintendo also made physical NES and SNES controllers for use with the Switch’s retro games and only offered them to Switch Online subscribers for purchase (they sold out almost immediately). Chances are good there will be many more unique perks along these lines in the future.

Nintendo Switch Online: Pricing

There are two different types of plans in the Nintendo Switch Online service: individual and family. Obviously, the individual plan only works with one Nintendo account, while the family plan allows you to share your perks with other people.

No matter the plan you select, you get a free seven-day introductory trial before your payments begin.

Individual plans

For plans with just one account, you can pay each month, each quarter, or each year. As one would expect, you save a bit of cash by making longer commitments to the service:

  • One month: $3.99 each month, plus applicable taxes
  • Three months: $7.99 each quarter, plus applicable taxes (saves you $3.98 every payment period)
  • Annually: $19.99 each year, plus applicable taxes (saves you $27.89 each payment period)

The yearly subscription is definitely the best deal for an individual plan. However, if you just want to try out the service, the monthly plan is pretty cheap, too.

Family plan

The family plan requires a year-long investment. You cannot pay-per-month. This allows you to share your Nintendo Switch Online benefits with up to eight people.

The cool thing about this plan is that you can share your benefits with literally anyone. If you can find seven friends willing to chip in, you could all get Nintendo Switch Online perks for less than $5.00 per year each. That’s not a bad deal at all.

Keep in mind, though, that the purchaser of a family plan needs to be over 18 years old. The people he or she shares the subscription with, though, can be under 18.

Nintendo Switch Lite: What is it and what’s different?

Nintendo Switch Lite on a sofa

More than two years after the launch of the original Nintendo Switch, the company announced a new variant of the console: the Nintendo Switch Lite. As the name suggests, this console is a watered-down version of the original. This means you get fewer features but also a lower price.

However, the Nintendo Switch Lite does not skimp out on the game library. The Switch Lite supports nearly every game the original Switch supports (with the exception of games that require Joy-Con usage, such as 1-2-Switch). If you buy a physical game for your main Switch, that cartridge will also work in your Switch Lite. Additionally, if you use the same Nintendo account on both systems, you’ll have access to the digital games you’ve paid for through the Nintendo eShop. If you’re a member of Switch Online, your perks will also transfer to the Switch Lite (assuming you are signed in under that account).

There are a few differences present on the Nintendo Switch Lite as compared to the “real” Switch, though.

Differences with Switch Lite

  • The Switch Lite is overall physically smaller than the Switch. This results in a smaller display (5.5 inches compared to 6.2 inches).
  • You cannot detach the Joy-Con on the Switch Lite — they are permanently attached to the system. This prevents you from fully enjoying any games that rely on Joy-Con separation, including 1-2-Switch, Super Mario Party, Just Dance, Nintendo Labo, Ring Fit Adventure, and others. You can, however, use a separate set of Joy-Con (or another compatible controller) to play these games on the Switch Lite, although the next item on this list makes that tricky.
  • You cannot dock the Switch Lite to play games on your television. The Switch Lite is designed for handheld use only.
  • The Switch Lite has a smaller battery than the regular Switch. However, it surprisingly gets better overall battery life than the original Switch due to the upgraded internal hardware and lack of other battery-hogging features.

In exchange for losing out on some features, the Nintendo Switch Lite has a lower starting price as compared to the Switch. The Switch Lite starts at $199, a full $100 cheaper than the regular Switch. This makes it the perfect option for parents who want to give their kids a Switch but don’t want to spend $300 on something they might break.

Alternatives to the Nintendo Switch

PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch

Believe it or not, there is no other major console like the Nintendo Switch. There are handheld consoles and home consoles, but no competitor to the Switch’s hybrid design. As such, if you want something that will play AAA titles on your TV and then allow you to seamlessly transition to playing those games on a handheld, the Switch is basically your only option.

The only thing that could possibly replicate this setup is an Android phone or tablet. If you subscribe to a game streaming service such as Google Stadia, Xbox Game Pass, or Nvidia GeForce Now, you can stream AAA titles on your phone. This would allow you to play them in a handheld mode and then connect your phone to your TV to play like a traditional console.

Of course, this would prevent you from playing the Nintendo franchises mentioned earlier in this article. Still, it’s a viable option for someone who wants the versatility of the Switch but not the Nintendo ecosystem.

Home console competitors

The most obvious competitors to the Nintendo Switch console when it comes to playing games on a TV are the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One. Both consoles are older than the Switch so you can sometimes find them for even less money than you would a Switch. Additionally, these consoles will offer a lot of games and franchises that the Switch won’t have. A few examples of these are the Call of Duty franchise, The Last of Us Parts 1 and 2, the Uncharted franchise, the Halo franchise, the Gears of War franchise, and a whole lot more.

Also, keep in mind that the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X are both here (although nearly impossible to get). These next-gen consoles are incredibly powerful — far more powerful than the Switch. An examination of the Nintendo Switch specs as compared to the PS5 would be like night and day. The PS5 and XBSX will also support a lot of games and franchises that the Switch won’t. And, since the Switch will be so much weaker in comparison, a lot of future games might not get ported to the Switch since that would require developers to drastically reduce the quality.

Once again, Nintendo is not worried about this competition. As far as the company’s concerned, the Switch exists entirely as its own thing and appeals to a demographic of gamers that the PS5 and Xbox Series X pass over. Therefore, Sony and Microsoft are more in competition with each other than either of them is with Nintendo.

Handheld competitors

Besides Nintendo, the major players in gaming mostly ignore the handheld console space now. Sony tried a few times to steal Nintendo’s thunder, most recently with the Sony PlayStation Vita. However, that system never even came close to the sales of the Nintendo 3DS and Sony has since ceased production of the console.

With that in mind, the biggest competitor to the Nintendo Switch in the handheld space is its sister product: the Switch Lite. The Nintendo 3DS was also a big competitor, but Nintendo officially discontinued that product earlier in 2020. That would still be a good choice for handheld gaming, assuming you are OK with knowing that no new games are on the way.

In general, if you want a gaming system that’s exclusively a handheld affair, you want one of those.

A few known issues related to the Switch

Nintendo Switch Tomtoc Travel Case Detail

Credit: C. Scott Brown / Android Authority

When the Nintendo Switch first launched, it faced a ton of scrutiny — far more than most consoles would face. That’s because the Switch was unlike anything we’d ever seen before, so reviewers and consumers were hesitant to give it a seal of approval until some questions were answered.

Over time, Nintendo has answered a lot of those early questions. Would it be easy to dock and undock the Switch to create a seamless experience? Check. Is Nintendo going to work hard to bring over lots of third-party games? Check. Would the online experience of using the Switch work well and be reasonably priced? Check.

However, there are still quite a few problems related to the Switch console. Below are a few of the biggest ones for which you should be on the lookout:

  • Joy-Con drift: If you’re playing a Switch game and notice that your character is drifting off to one side, you are experiencing Joy-Con drift. Nintendo has acknowledged this problem and is making it fairly easy for consumers to get Joy-Con fixed or replaced.
  • Joy-Con disconnect: If one or both of your Joy-Con constantly disconnects and reconnects to the system, you might be experiencing this problem. Generally, newer systems don’t experience this as Nintendo implemented a fix after it became aware of the issue. System owners of an early batch, though, might need to get their Joy-Con repaired.
  • Easily-scratched display: The protective covering over the display on the Switch is plastic, not glass. It scratches easily, which is why we strongly recommend putting a screen protector on your Switch the moment you take it out of the box. You should also always take care to keep it in a case while traveling. Finally, take care to dock the Switch without rubbing the screen, as this can cause scratches.
  • Display section is warped: Since the Switch’s body is mostly a big chunk of plastic, it can actually warp pretty easily. You can test this out by removing the Joy-Con and laying it screen-side-down on a flat table. If it wobbles, it’s warped. This likely won’t affect anything related to your enjoyment of the Switch, but if you really want to repair it, Nintendo will likely take care of it for you.

Important info about Nintendo Switch software updates

Switch Open Nintendo eShop

Nintendo pushes updates via the internet to the Switch’s operating system as well as individual games in your library. There’s no set schedule for these updates, but they come pretty regularly, usually once every month or two. Sometimes there are multiple updates in one month, sometimes three months go by without any updates at all.

Game updates are usually controlled by the publisher of that game, but Nintendo still distributes the update.

In general, you don’t need to do anything when it comes to software updates. The most you’ll need to do is wait for the system/game to restart after an update automatically completes.

If you don’t want system updates to automatically happen on your Nintendo Switch console for whatever reason, you can head to the console’s Settings page and turn them off (Settings > System > Auto-Update Software). However, we highly recommend updating your Switch regularly as the updates bring stability fixes and sometimes new features.

Awesome Nintendo Switch accessories to make it your own

Nintendo Switch Pro Controller review in hand

Credit: C. Scott Brown / Android Authority

Since the Nintendo Switch is over three years old at this point, there is a thriving ecosystem of accessories for it. Controllers, cases, connectivity dongles, and even customization tools are all available for the Switch.

We have a full list of the best accessories you can get for the Nintendo Switch. However, below are the three things we think every Switch owner should buy:

  • Protection: As stated a few times now, the Switch is just a big hunk of plastic, including the display. It is very, very easy to scratch, dent, and even warp your console. We highly recommend grabbing this screen protector and this protective case for your Switch. Both products are minimal, inexpensive, and have no effect on using or docking the console.
  • Controllers: While the Joy-Con that come with your Switch are terrific for what they are, they are no substitute for a fully-featured “normal” controller. There are lots of options out there, but none work better than the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller (check our full review here). It’s not only the best controller for the Switch, but it’s one of the best console controllers in general.
  • Memory: The Switch has a pretty measly 32GB of internal storage. While that’s plenty of room for the operating system and your save files, you will quickly run out of space if you start downloading a bunch of AAA games. We recommend buying one of these microSD cards (the most spacious one you can afford) so you don’t run into any space problems!
  • Power: When you’re on the go, you don’t want your Switch to die on you in the middle of playing. You should own a good power bank to keep your console topped-up. We have a great list of power banks here. However, there’s also a Switch-specific device called the Chargeplay Clutch that doubles as a grip and a power bank. Read our full review of that product here.

There are so many other great things you can get for your Switch that will make your experience with it better. Check out our full list here.

Related: The best Nintendo Switch controllers for all budgets

Frequently asked questions related to the Switch

Nintendo Switch at an angle

Q: When did the Nintendo Switch come out?
A: Nintendo launched the Nintendo Switch on March 3, 2017. Prior to that date, the company had released bits of info on the console, most notably its debut trailer on October 20, 2016.

Q: Does the Nintendo Switch come with games?
A: The core system does not come with any games. However, you can easily download digital games from the Nintendo eShop, so you could, theoretically, never buy a physical game for the console and still play whatever you like. There are some retail bundles that do come with physical games and/or digital download codes. There are also special editions that come with games and other items, such as collectibles. The standard $299 package, though, has no games inside.

Q: Is there a Nintendo Switch controller in the box?
A: The console comes with two Joy-Con. These can be paired together to be used as one controller either attached to the Switch or slotted into the included Joy-Con grip. However, Joy-Con are not “traditional” controllers and might leave a lot to be desired for gamers more accustomed to PlayStation or Xbox controllers. But don’t worry: the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller will solve that problem.

Q: How do I connect the Nintendo Switch to the TV?
A: You need to use the dock that comes with the Nintendo Switch to connect it to your TV. The dock has an HDMI port built-in. Connect the HDMI cable that came with your console to this port and then connect the other end of the cable to your television. There is no way to connect your Switch to the TV without using the dock (at least no way officially sanctioned by Nintendo). There is also no official way to connect the Nintendo Switch Lite to your TV.

Related: Get Hulu on the Nintendo Switch with these simple steps

Q: Does the Nintendo Switch have Bluetooth?
A: Yes and no. The Nintendo Switch uses Bluetooth 4.1 for its controller connections. However, it does not support Bluetooth connections of other peripherals, including headphones, gaming headsets, etc. To use these items with a Switch, you’ll need this third-party Bluetooth adapter.

Q: When is the Nintendo Switch 2/Nintendo Switch Pro coming out?
A: According to a Nintendo executive, the Nintendo Switch is only about halfway through its lifecycle. As far as we know, there are no plans for a sequel to the Nintendo Switch or a “Pro” version of the current model. This could change in the future, but for now, the Nintendo Switch and the Nintendo Switch Lite are the only models.

Q: Does the Nintendo Switch have an Ethernet port?
A: There is no Ethernet port on the Nintendo Switch itself nor is there one on the included dock. However, there is a Nintendo-sanctioned USB dongle that you can connect to the dock. This would allow you to have an Ethernet connection while your Switch is in TV mode. The dongle is sold separately from the console.

Q: Can I play Nintendo 3DS games on the Nintendo Switch?
A: Although Nintendo Switch cartridges are a similar size as compared to the ones for the Nintendo 3DS, they are not the same. It is impossible to put a Nintendo 3DS cartridge into a Nintendo Switch or vice versa. However, there are quite a few games that have been ported from the 3DS to the Switch. Unfortunately, you’ll need to re-buy those games for the Switch if you already own them for the 3DS.

Related: How to use the Nintendo Switch parental controls app

Q: Can I play Nintendo Wii U games on the Nintendo Switch?
A: This is not possible. The Nintendo Wii U uses discs for games while the Nintendo Switch uses small cartridges, similar to an SD card. There is no disc system in the Nintendo Switch or its dock that would accept a Wii U game. However, as with the 3DS, a lot of games that originally came out for the Wii U are now available on the Switch. You will need to re-buy them though.

Q: Can I import a Nintendo Switch from another country?
A: If you’re finding it hard to get a Switch in your area of the world, you might think importing it from somewhere else would be a good idea. Technically, this is fine: the Nintendo Switch you buy in Italy will be the same as the one you buy in the USA, albeit with a wall plug of a different style. However, importing electronics is always tricky due to laws and regulations differing from country to country. Also, the warranty won’t work in your area, so if something goes wrong with your Switch, you won’t be able to send it back to Nintendo. In general, we would stick to buying a Switch in your own country.

The Nintendo Switch price and where to buy one

Nintendo Switch buying guide: What you need to know 4

The Nintendo Switch is technically available from all manners of retail outlets including gaming stores, department stores, big-box outlets, and online retailers. It’s MSRP is $299. Likewise, the Nintendo Switch Lite is also for sale with an MSRP of $199.

However, throughout 2020, the Nintendo Switch, Switch Lite, and first-party accessories have been incredibly difficult to find. The COVID-19 pandemic likely increased people’s interest in buying the console and Nintendo is having trouble keeping up with demand.

As such, buying a Nintendo Switch isn’t as easy as it may have been previously. There are often long waiting periods before it comes in stock and some retailers are jacking up the price.

In general, the best places to buy a Nintendo Switch are below. They are the largest retailers so they are most likely to get in new stock quickly and keep the price from going up too high:

If you need a Nintendo Switch quickly and don’t mind spending a bunch to get it, overpriced new models are usually found on eBay. You can also check there for used models (although keep in mind there are two versions of the Switch with one being better than the other; see the Battery Life section for more).

Finally, if your area of the world isn’t on lockdown, you might have luck going to a physical retailer to find a Switch. Some establishments will set aside a certain number of consoles to only be sold in stores and prevent online shoppers from getting them all. You might get lucky and find one there!

Help other readers out

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