What Is the Nintendo Switch?

Everything you need to know about this hybrid gaming console

The best way to think of the Nintendo Switch is that it is both a portable gaming console and a home game console wrapped up into one device. 

Hence, the name: This Nintendo console can "switch" from a home console attached to a television to a portable game console with controllers on either side.

How Does the Nintendo Switch Work?

In the simplest terms, the Nintendo Switch is a tablet with a 6.2-inch display and two Wii-like game controllers attached to either end of the device. (The Nintendo Switch Lite has a 5.5-inch screen, and the OLED model has a 7-inch display.)

This setup is what allows the Nintendo Switch to be a portable game console. But the Switch does far more than act as a portable console.

First, the controllers can be detached from the tablet section of the Nintendo Switch and used independently. The Switch has a kickstand on the back, which allows it to be propped up and used as a portable screen while players use the wireless controllers called Joy-Cons to play the game.

In addition to the two controllers that attach to each side of the Switch, gamers can wirelessly connect two additional Joy-Cons to the Switch allowing up to four players.

Additionally, you can place the Nintendo Switch in a docking station that charges the Switch and connects it to a television. In console mode, the controllers attach to each side of the Switch. When it's in the portable mode, the controllers are detached and placed in a holder that mimics pro-style controllers. Or, you can use the controllers separately when people are playing in multi-player mode.

The Nintendo Switch vs. the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo 3DS

The Nintendo Switch has one distinct advantage over any other gaming system: It is an all-in-one solution. The ability to be used as a home game console for a single player or group of people, a portable game console for a single person, or a portable console for a whole group of people to play simultaneously is the genius of the Switch. And the ability to pull this off without sacrificing quality is outstanding.

The Switch won't compete with the Xbox or PlayStation in graphics or hardcore gaming, though the Nintendo Switch (OLED model) competes a bit more with its 7-inch OLED screen, vivid colors, crisp contrast, enhanced audio, and 64GB of internal storage.

Still, the hardcore gaming crowd has never been Nintendo's audience. Rather, Nintendo is aimed squarely at younger players, casual players, and anyone who has played iconic games like Mario Kart and the Legend of Zelda on the Nintendo 2DS or 3DS.

Watch out for battery life! Any time the console is connected to the dock, the Switch is charging. The Joy-Con controllers, however, are a different matter. You can use a couple of methods to keep your Switch fully charged so that play doesn't get interrupted.

Is the Nintendo Switch Kid-Friendly? Should I Buy It for My Child?

The Switch is easily the most kid-friendly game console since the Nintendo Wii. It doesn't have the clumsy controls of the ill-fated Wii U or the graphic violence that is part of the appeal of the hardcore consoles like the Xbox One or PlayStation 4.

The parental restrictions allow you to keep your kid away from your e-wallet, so you can avoid surprises when the bill comes, and Nintendo has an app for smartphones that allows you to set parental controls for the Switch from anywhere.

The Nintendo Switch is best for kids aged 6+. The content itself is acceptable for children of all ages, but the controls may be difficult to learn for children under 5. The Nintendo Switch also uses small game cartridges slightly larger than a thumbnail, so a certain amount of maturity and respect for objects is needed, which is why we suggest an age of 6 or older.

The age limit depends on the child, of course, as some 5-year-olds will do great with the Switch, and some kids aged 7+ will quickly lose those small cartridges.

Cleaning and maintaining the Nintendo Switch is pretty easy, too.

How to Buy a Nintendo Switch

If you are worried that the Nintendo Switch is one of those hard-to-find consoles, those days have come to an end. Most retailers now have enough stock that it shouldn't be too difficult to find one in stores or online.

  • Where to Buy: Electronics and game shop retailers such as Gamestop, Best Buy, Target, Walmart, or Amazon.
  • Pricing: The Nintendo Switch system retails for about $300, while the Lite costs about $200 and the OLED model is priced at about $350.
  • Typical Game Prices: $55 to $60.
  • What to buy with the Nintendo Switch: Extra Joy-Con controllers are recommended if more than two people are going to play the Switch simultaneously, and a USB-C charging cable is a definite must-buy for all Switch owners.
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