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New Nintendo Switch: The New OLED Screen vs. LCD, And Why It Matters

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Earlier today, Nintendo announced a model refresh of the Nintendo Switch, its hybrid gaming console. While the latest Nintendo Switch model is not the product we were hoping for, it does come with a few significant changes, most notably the newer Switch will include an OLED display.

But what does that mean exactly? Well, previous Nintendo Switch models used an LCD display. While it does not sound like a significant upgrade, there are a few benefits from switching from an LCD to an OLED display.

The differences between OLED and LCD screens

The big difference between LCD and OLED screens are that they use different methods to light up and display an image on the screen. The screen, whether a TV or a tablet, uses display pixels; the image you see on a screen is produced by combining blue, green, and red subpixels to generate colors you see on a screen, but require to be lit up for the color combinations to appear.

Nintendo Switch (OLED Model) Images

LCD or Liquid-crystal displays use one or more backlights which is essentially a panel as large as the actual gadget’s screen, to create a constant white light anytime you power on the screen, thus evenly lighting everything. However, the caveat with LCDs is that it draws a lot of power, which can be a downside for devices like smartphones that use an LCD, such as the original Nintendo Switch, yet LCDs are also inexpensive.

OLEDs (Organic Light Emitting Diodes), however, do not rely on backlights. Instead, it has self-lit pixels. The pixels in OLED display work on a pixel-by-pixel basis, meaning it will only light up where there is an image to display, thus creating a better contrast than an LCD and has a lower power consumption. But the OLED displays are pricier than LCDs and do not get as bright as an LCD.

The advantages of the Switch’s transition to OLED screens

Both displays have their advantages and disadvantages, so the main takeaway for the new Nintendo Switch replacing the LCD with an OLED is that the device should provide deeper blacks, better contrast, a lower power draw, increased brightness, and improved image quality.

With a lower power consumption, that would mean, in theory, that the Nintendo Switch with an OLED screen should have a better battery performance. However, both Switch iterations are powered by a 4310mAh Lithium-ion battery, with both sharing the same battery life expectancy before it needs a charge. But as Nintendo notes, the battery life varies on the games you play.

Is the Nintendo Switch OLED screen a significant update?

The main takeaway is that the Nintendo Switch OLED screen may not be enough to warrant an upgrade for some. But the change to an OLED may be enough for people who are looking for a thinner bezel display, with a display that will provide better colors and contrast. That’s on top of improved battery life compared to the launch version, an updated dock, and other small improvements.

Unfortunately, the new Nintendo Switch model will not feature an improved processor, meaning that it won’t be able to output in 4K. It will also use the same Joy-Cons as before — suggesting that persistent issues like Joy-Con drift will not be addressed with this new model. That makes the OLED screen the main selling point for this new version of the Switch, which at $350 may be too much for existing Switch owners.

Either way, we’ll have a better idea of what the Nintendo Switch OLED version has to offer when it releases October 8.

Taylor is the Associate Tech Editor at IGN. You can follow her on Twitter @TayNixster.

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