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Which Nintendo Switch to buy: A guide

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CNN
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The Nintendo Switch family just got bigger. Arriving on Oct. 8 for $349, the Nintendo Switch OLED upgrades Nintendo’s beloved games machine with an advanced 7-inch display alongside a few neat quality-of-life improvements. It also brings the total number of Nintendo Switch models to three, meaning you might be scratching your head over which version to actually buy.

While the Nintendo Switch OLED is looking like the model to get for those who haven’t joined the Switch party yet, there are still plenty of good reasons to pick up the $299 Nintendo Switch and $199 Nintendo Switch Lite. In order to help you figure out which Nintendo Switch you should drop your cash on, we’ve broken down all three models — and who they’re for.

You want the best possible display for playing in handheld or tabletop mode

Which Nintendo Switch to buy: A guide 2

Nintendo

The Nintendo Switch OLED’s biggest upgrade is — you guessed it — the system’s new 7-inch OLED display, which is both bigger and more advanced than the LCD screens on the standard 6.2-inch Nintendo Switch and 5.5-inch Switch Lite.

As we’ve experienced in our own testing, OLED screens generally deliver deeper blacks and bolder colors than a typical LCD display, which should make titles like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Metroid Dread really pop on this new system. When you combine that with improved onboard speakers as well as a new kickstand that allows for multiple viewing angles (and shouldn’t be as wobbly), the Switch OLED is shaping up to be the best Switch for getting an impromptu Mario Kart 8 session started on your kitchen counter.

It’s worth noting that while the new Switch display uses OLED, it still carries the same 720p resolution as previous versions, meaning you won’t see much of a bump in overall detail when playing on the go. And it still outputs to 1080p on a TV — the mythical 4K Switch continues to elude us, and for now, many TVs will actually upscale that 1080p input to 4K. The Switch OLED is also powered by the same Nvidia Tegra X1 processor as the existing models, so don’t expect better performance or faster loading times.

You want the Switch with the best ports and most internal storage

Which Nintendo Switch to buy: A guide 3

Nintendo

There are some other notable perks to the OLED model that go beyond the display, including a built-in Ethernet port and double the internal storage at 64GB. If you’re a big online gamer, the option to connect to wired internet without an adapter for a more solid connection is a nice benefit. This port resides on the Switch OLED’s dock (which you’ll also be able to buy separately for your existing Switch), so you’ll need to be on big screen mode to take advantage of it. And if you plan on buying most of your games digitally, the Switch OLED’s 64GB of free space can hold a lot more titles than the 32GB Switch and Switch Lite — though you can expand the storage of all three models with a microSD card.

You play most of your games on a TV (and want to save $50)

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If you mainly play games in TV mode, you’ll be just fine with the standard Switch — both the OLED and the standard model deliver the same 1080p performance when connected to a display.

You’ll still get access to the same thousands of Switch titles that are currently out there, as well as the ability to play them in handheld mode, on a tabletop or on your big-screen TV. Your games just won’t look quite as snazzy when you’re playing on the go, but you’ll also be paying $50 less for the same exact living room experience.

You play mainly in handheld mode (or just want the most portable, prettiest Switch)

Which Nintendo Switch to buy: A guide 5

Jacob Krol/CNN

The Nintendo Switch Lite is a dedicated handheld device, meaning you can’t connect it to a dock in order to fight Bowser or beat up your friends in Smash on the big screen. Fortunately, it achieves its singular purpose quite well, with a design that’s comfortable, compact and arguably cooler-looking than its larger siblings.

The Switch Lite has a cohesive design that really pops in turquoise, coral, blue and yellow, and unlike the standard Switch, it can actually fit in some pockets. Plus, the Lite’s built-in directional pad is more precise than the four separate directional buttons on the left Joy-Con, making the smaller Switch ideal for playing platformers and fighting games on the go. The Lite even lets you pair wireless controllers, so if you spring for a dedicated stand, you can still get some tabletop multiplayer sessions going.

You want the cheapest Switch available

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Jacob Krol/CNN

At $199, the Switch Lite is significantly more affordable than the $299 Nintendo Switch and $349 Nintendo Switch OLED, making it a great entry point for younger players or anyone on a budget. And since it can play virtually every Switch game out there, you’re really only sacrificing the ability to play on a TV at that lower price.

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Nintendo

Each Switch model has a pretty clear use case, but what about existing Switch or Switch Lite owners who are thinking of upgrading to the OLED model? We’ll have to get our hands on the new console to make a definitive recommendation, but based on what we know right now, the Switch OLED seems pretty skippable for folks who already own the standard Switch.

That larger OLED screen will likely provide a nice visual boost in handheld mode, but many of the Switch OLED’s other perks can be enjoyed without you having to buy an entirely new system. For starters, Nintendo will be selling the new Nintendo Switch dock separately, for those who want to take advantage of the new built-in Ethernet port or simply love that new white color option. There’s no price for the new dock just yet, but Nintendo sells the current model on its own for $60.

While the bump to 64GB of storage is nice, you can add much more than that to your Switch for cheap by getting a microSD card. We recommend that any Switch owner who buys a lot of digital games should get at least a 128GB microSD card — like this SanDisk model that currently goes for just $19.

Now, if you’re a Switch Lite owner who’s ready to step up to the full Switch experience, the OLED model makes a lot more sense. Going from a 5.5-inch LCD display to a 7-inch OLED screen is a pretty significant bump, and you’ll get all of the other benefits of the new model (Ethernet port, better speakers, more storage) for just $50 more than the standard Switch.

We look forward to getting our hands on the Switch OLED later this year to see how it truly stacks up to its smaller siblings, so stay tuned for more.

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