Nintendo Switch Review: Buying Advice And Tips For Maximum Fun

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Nintendo Switch: Buying Advice And Tips

The biggest challenge you'll face with the Nintendo Switch is actually getting your hands on one. You can try your luck at strolling into your local GameStop or Best Buy, but barring a stroke of fantastic luck, you're probably going to strike out. So, what's the best way to buy a Switch?

Follow the News and Wear Comfortable Shoes

Nintendo Switch Toys R Us

Without inside information, it's almost an impossible task to find a Switch. However, retailers are pretty good about giving customers a heads up when they're expecting a new shipment. Keep yourself in the loop by visiting HotHardware.com, because I have to eat—your clicks are appreciated. But really, this gives you the inside track. For example, we received word from our contact at Toys R Us on three separate occasions in a the span of month that the retailer would be receiving shipments of Switch consoles at specific days and times. In each case, we posted an article well in advance so that our readers could plan accordingly.

You should also follow technology sites and retailers on social media (Facebook and Twitter, mostly). Like it or not, this is how everyone communicates these days. So even if you're adverse to social media, suck it up long enough to score yourself a Switch, then go back to yelling at kids to get off your lawn, while you play Zelda.

Be aware that having a heads-up only gets you halfway where. Depending on where you live and how big the population is in your town, I recommend arriving at least an hour before doors open. I live in Johnson City, Tennessee, and arrived at my local Toys R Us about an hour and 15 minutes before it opened on the day it was scheduled to receive Switch consoles. I was number six in line—the store received 10 units. So plan on getting there early, wear comfortable shoes, and bring a bottle of water and a snack. Also, be social. There can be an eerie silence among like-minded individuals until someone breaks the ice.

Don't Forget the Accessories

Nintendo Switch Case

The initial cost of the Switch is the just that—the initial cost. While purchasing accessories is entirely optional, there are a few I highly recommended. Here they are:
  • Carrying Case: A good one will protect your Switch drops and come with storage compartments for games and cables. Shown above is an officially licensed travel case by RDS Industries. The grey version with Link is a bit elusive—Amazon says it will ship in 1-2 months—but check your local GameStop locations. That's how I scored mine.
  • Screen Protector: Give your Switch the same courtesy your provide your smartphone, which is a screen protector. They're not that expensive, and it's better to scratch a translucent polymer or tempered glass than the actual display. If going with a tempered glass solution, check out the user reviews to see if anyone complains about it interfering with its fit in the dock. That shouldn't be an issue, but I've seen the topic brought up.
  • Micro SD Memory Card: Nintendo only offers one storage option for the Switch, and that is 32GB. A few of those gigabytes are already accounted for, leaving you with around 28GB for game installs and screenshots. Game cartridges do ship on cartridges, but there is an also an online store to purchase games digitally. Depending on the title, a single game can require more space than the Switch has built into it. To give yourself some breathing, buy a microSD memory card. Nintendo recommends a UHS-I, which can hit minimum write speeds of 10MB/s. There are faster solutions out there, and while I haven't tested them, word on the web is that a memory bottleneck makes it pointless to pay a premium for a UHS-3 card. Focus on capacity here.

Nintendo Switch Pro Controller

The above are items I recommend buying right off the bat. Once you've had a chance to play around with the Switch, you might decide to purchase a few other items. Here are a few others to keep in mind:
  • Pro Controller: I found that using the Joy-Con controllers either attached to the Switch itself or connected to the included Joy-Con grip were both fine for gaming. However, if you're going to be doing a lot of local multiplayer, you might want to pick up extra controllers, and specifically the Pro Controller. The same goes if you have large hands. Unfortunately, it costs $69, so it's a little tougher to recommend outright.
  • Joy-Con Charger: The included Joy-Con grip is just a hunk of mostly plastic. There are no electronics inside, and so it's not capable of charging your Joy-Con controllers. To charge them, you have to attach them to the Switch while it's docked. If that's too much of a buzz kill, Nintendo does sell (separately, of course) a Joy-Con Charging Grip that will charger your controllers. There is also a Joy-Con Charging Dock available that can charge up to four Joy-Con controllers at a time.
  • Switch Charge Car Adapter: Going on a long road trip? It would be worth it pick up a high-speed charging adapter that plugs into your car's cigarette lighter. There are a few different ones to choose from and none are real expensive—an officially licensed charger from Hori goes for $17.49 on Amazon.

Standard USB-C Interface, Confusing Specs

Nintendo Switch USB-C Port

Nintendo did gamers a solid by including a USB-C charging port on the Switch instead of a proprietary connector, but with it comes some confusion. First and foremost, if you're buying a USB-C cable to take with your instead of your AC adapter, make sure you're buying one that is well built. Google engineer Benson Leung brought the issue of out-of-spec USB-C cables when he took it upon himself to test different ones on Amazon and leave honest reviews. He ended up sacrificing his Chromebook Pixel over it, as a bad cable fried his Chromebook's USB-C port. Ouch.

If you're going with a USB-C cable for your Switch, you'll need a portable battery back too. This is where things get confusing. Not all battery packs will properly charge the Switch, especially if you want to play and charge at the same time. In some cases, the battery drain from playing the Switch is faster than it can be charged.

Researching what works, what doesn't, and why can make you go cross-eyed, or at least that was my experience. I haven't tested different combinations, but before you buy anything, I highly recommend checking out JaxonH's excellent write-up on the situation on NintendoLife's forums.

General Tips and Tricks

Here are ways to get the most out of your Switch.
  • Turn the Brightness Down: You'll get about 3 hours of game play in Zelda, but if you want to squeeze out a little bit more, turn the brightness down to the lowest level you're comfortable with. Just temper your expectations—this won't work miracles, though it could help you game a little bit longer in between charges.
  • Power Down Correctly: Hitting the power button puts the Switch in Sleep mode, and that's fine. However, if you want to power it down all the way, hold the power button down for several seconds until a "Power Options" menu appears. Tap on that and you'll have the option to power down the Switch.
  • Browse the eShop in a Different Region: Nintendo doesn't lock its Switch down to your specific region, though there is not an option to just bounce around willy-nilly. If you want to see what's available in the eShop in other regions, create another account on Nintendo's website, use a different email address, and select the region you're interested in. Once you've created the alternate account and added it to the Switch, you can sign into it and browse whatever region you selected. If you plan on creating multiple accounts for multiple different reasons, make things easy on yourself by creating a user name that tells what region you linked.
  • Plug in a USB Keyboard: It might seem odd to attach a USB keyboard to the Switch because there isn't much you can do with it at the moment. That could change in time. For now, you can use it to add text to screenshots and create memes, as well as enter in login details more quickly when docked. But over time, it will be interesting to see what apps emerge that tap into this functionality.
  • Quick Access Your Settings: There is no need to tap the home button, tap on settings, and then navigate the options to do certain things, such as adjust the display brightness. Instead, hold down the Home button for a few seconds a Quick Settings menu will appear with options for Sleep Mode, Airplane Mode, adjusting brightness, and other settings.

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