Nintendo Switch Vs Wii U: What’s The Difference? – Forbes

The new Switch has finally been unveiled and the question on everyone’s lips: Is this a significant enough upgrade compared to the Wii U? Let’s break it down…

Note: you can read my Xbox One Vs Xbox One S and PS4 Slim Vs PS4 Pro guides here.

Design & Display – Two Steps Forward, One Back

The Nintendo Switch represents a fundamental change of strategy from Nintendo.

When sat in its bundled Switch Dock, the console connects to your TV and looks like a standard Xbox or PlayStation rival. But this being Nintendo it has tricks up its sleeve. The Switch can be removed from its Dock, its Joy-Cons attached directly to either side and used as a standalone portable gaming device.

Nintendo Switch in its Dock works like a traditional games console. Image credit: Nintendo

Nintendo Switch in its Dock works like a traditional games console. Image credit: Nintendo

In this mode it measures 239 x 102 x 13.9mm and 297g or 398g (Joy-Con controllers attached), making it smaller than a Wii U GamePad. The more refined (adult?) design also has a touch of the iPad about it.

As for the Switch’s display, it matches the 6.2-inch dimensions and capacitive touchscreen of the Wii U GamePad while also delivering a significant increase in quality. Gone is the Wii U’s woeful 854 x 480 native resolution for a bump to 720p. This isn’t particularly high compared to most smartphones and tablets these days, but colours are vibrant and it is compatible with 60fps gaming.

Nintendo Switch when transformed into its portable gaming mode. Image credit: Nintendo

Nintendo Switch when transformed into its portable gaming mode. Image credit: Nintendo

Performance – Faster But How Much?

Perhaps the most contentious aspect to the Nintendo Switch is whether its performance delivers enough of a step up from the Wii U and right now we simply don’t know.

Nintendo has never prioritised raw power, but it remains extremely cagey about the Switch. All it has said so far is the console uses a custom-built Nvidia Tegra chipset with similar architecture to the Nvidia’s GeForce graphics cards. There’s a custom ‘NVN’ API that Nintendo says is extremely efficient and Nintendo promises 1080p gaming will be available when the console is docked and connected to your TV via HDMI.

How will this compare to the Wii U? It’s hard to say. Compared to heavyweights like the PS4 Pro the Wii U is not at the races and it was never meant to be. A 4K gaming rig this is not.

Games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild look great, but exact Switch performance remains unknown. Image credit: Nintendo

Games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild look great, but exact Switch performance remains unknown. Image credit: Nintendo

Elsewhere the Switch only has 32GB of internal storage, which I find inexplicable in this day and age but it can be augmented by microSD, SDHC and SDXC cards up to 128GB (edit: 2TB). There’s also Bluetooth And 802.11ac WiFi.

As for games, they run on cartridges rather than the Wii U’s proprietary optical discs meaning there is currently no backwards compatibility between the two. This is somewhat surprising, but I wouldn’t rule out Nintendo enabling backwards compatibility via a digital service in future.

Battery Life – Larger Equals Better?

Wii U battery life was initially a major misstep from Nintendo and it ultimately upgraded the 1500 mAh battery to 2550 mAh which boosted stamina from three hours to five to eight hours.

By contrast the Switch is fitted with a much larger 4210 mAh battery, but it looks like battery life will still be mixed. On the plus side Nintendo says the battery can “last for more than 6 hours” but it also says that’s highly dependent on how the console is being used and the company warns playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will flatten the Switch’s battery in just three hours.

How much battery drain mobile multipler will cause is unknown. Image credit: Nintendo

How much battery drain mobile multipler will cause is unknown. Image credit: Nintendo

Charging time is also slow with Nintendo explaining the Switch will take three hours to fully replenish a flat battery when docked and in sleep mode. Furthermore Nintendo warns: “Please note: the internal battery cannot be removed. If the battery needs to be replaced, we plan to offer paid replacement via Nintendo Customer Support.”

On the plus side the Switch uses a standard USB-C connector which future proofs it and will be easy to replace.

Price – Competitive Core, Expensive Add-ons

At this point it’s arguable that the Switch is very different from the Wii U, but not the seismic upgrade we might’ve hoped for. Then again that is reflected in the price. The Switch costs just $299.99, the same as the basic version of the Wii U when it launched. For this outlay you’ll get a pair of Joy-Con controllers and a Switch Dock.

Extra Joy-Con controllers quickly add cost. Image credit: Nintendo

Extra Joy-Con controllers quickly add cost. Image credit: Nintendo

But not so fast. While this setup is enough for the basics, costs can spiral quickly. Extra Joy-Con controllers are $49.99 each or $79.99 for a pair, a Switch Pro Controller is $69.99, you’ll need about $30 on a microSD card, maybe another $30 on an extra Joy-Con Charging Grip and games are $60. I can’t see why you’d need a second Switch Dock other than to move the console around the house, but that’s an eye watering $89.99.

The Switch Dock is an expensive accessory, should you need more than one. Image credit: Nintendo

The Switch Dock is an expensive accessory, should you need more than one. Image credit: Nintendo

As such the Switch is competitive in its base form, but accessories do add up. We also await Nintendo pricing for online play. This will be free until the Fall, but after that I suspect we’re looking at something not a million miles away from the $59.99 per year Sony and Microsoft both charge for the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live respectively.

The Nintendo Switch will have diehards queuing up, but will the masses be converted? Image credit: Nintendo

The Nintendo Switch will have diehards queuing up, but will the masses be converted? Image credit: Nintendo

Bottom Line

The Nintendo Switch is a compelling and innovative upgrade on the Wii U, but perhaps not quite the slamdunk some expected. Questions remain over how powerful the new console is, how much it will cost to play online and whether backwards compatibility will be addressed in future.

That said it remains uniquely Nintendo. The Switch is a console no other company would’ve or could’ve made and, as always, its Nintendo’s indisputable gaming credentials which remain the biggest selling point. For everyone else, until questions are cleared up about performance and third party titles the jury remains out.

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