12 Essential Facts You Need To Know About The Nintendo Switch

The red-hot home console is also Nintendo's greatest handheld gadget yet.
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The red-hot home console is also Nintendo's greatest handheld gadget yet.
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Nintendo’s Switch is set to be one of the hottest commodities of 2017 with fans foaming at the mouth to get their hands on its hybrid portable/home console design.

The Switch hits homes across the world on March 3, but we got ours early and put it through the ringer to give you the low down on Nintendo’s newest system.

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1. It’ll play on your TV...but it doesn't have to. 

Nintendo’s Switch comes with a docking station in the box. That dock will both charge the Switch and connect it to your TV via HDMI. Looking closely, there’s a USB-C port at the bottom of the dock that allows this connection.

Sliding the Switch itself into its dock will display the Switch’s screen on your TV for a traditional console gaming experience. It’ll also stop you from being able to use the screen as a remote and you’ll have to change over to a more traditional controller format in those circumstances.

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2. It’ll adapt to your favorite controller style.

The Joy-Con controllers give a good handful of configurations depending on how you like to play or what’s convenient at the moment. Want to go two-player? Slide the Joy-Cons off the Switch’s screen and give one to your friend and you’re ready to compete in some of Nintendo’s signature, off-beat head to head multiplayer (may we suggest 1-2 Switch?)

Alternatively, if you’re a longtime Nintendo fan and are used to the old wiimote+nunchuck configuration, separating the Joy-Cons and playing with one in each hand was a satisfying method that we found ourselves using.

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3. It comes with a controller adapter, too.

There’s a small plastic housing, Nintendo calls it the Joy-Con Grip, that comes with the Switch and will let you slide both Joy-Cons in for a more traditional experience. Fair warning, the adapter does feel chintzier in your hand than when the Joy-Cons are attached to the Switch screen itself.

If you want a more significant feel to the standalone controller adapter (and also want it to charge your Joy-Cons simultaneously) you’re probably gonna spend a few extra bucks on the charging version of the Grip.

4. It charges via USB-C

It’s the first time we’ve seen the new “standard” of USB actually make it into a product that wasn’t from Apple. It also means Nintendo has done away with years of proprietary adapters, so you can finally use the same wire to charge your Macbook and your Switch. It’s a welcome change and also puts the Switch firmly in modern standards.

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5. It has Bluetooth AND a headphone jack.

Well, that’s what they tell us. The headphone jack is most certainly there and has been a boon to us all week, delivering the crystal clear sound effects of Zelda: Breath of the Wild without extra battery use. Nintendo’s honchos have declared that bluetooth audio is definitely on the table but, with the pre-release software we used all week, we couldn’t find any way to pair our bluetooth headphones in the settings of the Switch’s UI.

We’re actually still waiting to see this for ourselves - and will update this article when it’s set in stone - but the Switch’s portability begs for equally convenient, wireless solutions and we can’t imagine Nintendo would bypass such an integral capability.

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6. Taking screenshots are a total cinch.

The single screenshot dedicated button on the Joy-Con makes it easy to capture a still from whatever game you’re playing. We’ve already got a large album of Zelda screenshots saved up, ready for editing and posting, all of which are integrated in the Switch’s OS.

Embargoes and a day-one system update prevent us from seeing where those images can be shared but they’re definitely saved on the Switch’s hard drive so sharing them anywhere you want is within the realm of possibility. Which services end up being available directly from the Switch menus themselves remain to be seen. 

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7. Nintendo’s Online Network will now require a premium subscription.

It’ll also get you a free game a month (that you don’t get to keep). We do hope Nintendo will tool around with their service to be more competitive with other online players like Xbox Live and Playstation Network.

8. The Dock has a USB 3.0 port

We can’t figure out what it’s meant to do - we've plugged everything we could think of into it - but it leaves us hope of expansion potential or, in the very least, loading media to be watched when you take the Switch out with you.

We have yet to hear back from Nintendo regarding our inquiries about this mystery port so our imaginations are still running wild with the possibilities. Let’s just say if this port is only ever used to charge things, it’ll be a big disappointment.

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9. MicroSD expansion

Tucked away beneath the Switch’s kickstand is a micro-SD expandability port. The Switch itself comes with 32GB under the hood and about three of those are used for the Switch’s OS. Gamers intending to make the most of Nintendo’s E-shop and its available back catalog may find this a welcome but not necessary option for expansion.

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10. Cartridges

Further blurring the line of portability and home console, the Switch uses cartridges that are much more like a 3DS game than a WiiU disc. We don’t mind. Popping in a cartridge makes the game immediately playable, unlike Xbox and PS4 which require long install times and much larger hard drives to store all that game data. From what we can tell, Switch games live on the cartridge and stay there.

11. Networked Play

You can wirelessly daisy chain up to eight Switches together. That means less for home gaming where online services can connect many more than eight people (looking at you Splatoon) but, given the mobile nature of the Switch itself, it doesn’t seem far-fetched to imagine some serious Mario Kart competitions will happen on road trips and bus rides.

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12. Accessories

It wouldn’t be a Nintendo console launch without a slew of accessories. Adding to the controller department is a Pro Wireless controller, much more like the controllers you’d find in the box with PS4 or Xbox One. Additionally you can snag an extra set of Joy-Cons or even a heftier Joy-Con adapter which will actually charge the Joy-Cons when they’re attached.

Having carried the Switch itself around with us most of the week, we’re also expecting a scientific assload of covers, cases and carrying packs for the Switch to hit in the near future.