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Nintendo Switch vs. Xbox One: Can the new hybrid best the established console?

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By Steven Petite


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Nintendo Switch review
Nate Barrett/Digital Trends
Nate Barrett/Digital Trends

The Nintendo Switch, as with many Nintendo systems, seeks to innovate on what we view as the traditional video game console. As a “hybrid console,” the Switch offers a form of play similar to that of its competitors — namely the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 — while acting as a bridge between Nintendo’s home and portable markets. While it doesn’t achieve technical parity with the other modern consoles, the Switch does seem to be the first Nintendo console in several generations to seriously compete with Sony and Microsoft.

Still, if you’re in the market for a new console, you shouldn’t be quick to write off other options just because the Switch appears to be the flashiest option. We’ve broken down the similarities and differences between the Switch and the Xbox One family of consoles, including the newer, more powerful Xbox One X, to help ensure you make the right choice for you.

Specs, design, and features

Specs

Nintendo Switch

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Xbox One

nintendo switch vs xbox one s bg 325x325

Xbox One X

xbox one x console controller hrz anr white background

Dimensions 4 x 9.4 x .55 inches (with Joy-Cons attached)13.1 x 10.8 x 3.1 inches (Xbox One) 11.6 x 9.0 x 2.5 inches (Xbox One S)11.8 x 9.4 x 2.4 inches
Weight 0.65 pounds (0.88 pounds with Joy-Cons attached) 7.8 pounds (Xbox One) 6.4 pounds (Xbox One S)8.4 pounds
CPU Nvidia customized Tegra processor1.75GHz 8-core AMD Jaguar2.3GHz 8-core AMD Custom CPU
GPUNvidia customized Tegra processor 853MHz AMD Radeon GCN (Xbox One) 914MHz AMD Radeon GCN (Xbox One S)1.172GHz AMD Custom GPU
RAM 4GB 8GB DDR312GB GDDR5
Resolution 1280 x 720 (portable) 1920 x 1080 (console) 1920 x 1080 (Xbox One), upscaled to 4K (Xbox One S)Native 4K
Storage 32GB flash storage (expandable via microSDHC or microSDXC)500GB-2TB HDD1TB HDD
AV output HDMIHDMIHDMI
Bluetooth Yes, 4.1NoNo
PortsUSB Type-C, headphoneUSB 3.0 x3USB 3.0 x3
Connectivity802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, Ethernet802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, Ethernet
SensorsAccelerometer, gyroscope, brightness, IR SensorNo (Xbox One), IR Blaster (Xbox One S)IR Blaster
Screen 6.3-inch capacitive touchscreenN/AN/A
BatteryLithium-ion 4310mAhN/AN/A
Battery life2.5 to 6 hoursN/AN/A
NFC SupportYesNoNo
SpeakersStereoNoneNone
Price $300$250+$500
DT Review4 out of 5 stars3.5 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars

Design and features

In terms of hardware design, the Xbox One and Switch are completely different machines. The Xbox One looks and operates like a traditional gaming console. It weighs more and takes up significantly more space than the Switch — even when compared to the lighter, more compact Xbox One S. In home console play, the Switch’s 6.3-inch display slides into the included dock, taking up a sliver of space on your entertainment center.

The Nintendo Switch comes in two color schemes, both of which are primarily black. The only difference from model to model is the color of the Joy-Con controllers that come with the device. The two standard models come with either a pair of gray Joy-Cons or with mismatched neon red and neon blue Joy-Cons. The Xbox One, One S, and One X are sold in white and black models, respectively, with a mix of glossy and matte finishes depending on the model. There have also been limited-edition Xbox One and Switch models, which include alternative designs based on specific games.

Nintendo Switch review
Nate Barrett/Digital Trends
Nate Barrett/Digital Trends

In terms of media, the Xbox One uses Blu-ray discs and is capable of playing both Blu-ray films and DVDs. The Xbox One also has apps for streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Go. By contrast, the Switch cannot be used as a media player. The console does not have a disc drive, so it cannot play DVDs or Blu-rays. Similarly, the Xbox One has access to a full suite of streaming apps, including Netflix, Amazon, HBO Go, and more. The Switch has only one streaming app, Hulu, so your media viewing options are limited.

For network connectivity, the consoles both have a wide range of Wi-Fi support including 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, but the Xbox One also supports onboard Ethernet. The Nintendo Switch requires an additional accessory to plug in an Ethernet cable.

You might be wondering what to expect and what you’ll need while online with these consoles. For the Xbox One, you’ll need an Xbox Live membership to play multiplayer games. It costs $60 annually, but also grants you access to two free games a month with the Xbox Games with Gold program, which can be played indefinitely with an active subscription.

For Nintendo Switch, you’ll need to subscribe to the Nintendo Switch Online service. It costs $20 for a full year, $8 for three months, and $4 for a single month, and a family membership plan can also be purchased for $35 a year so that multiple accounts can take advantage of the online subscription on the same Switch system.

It’s important to note that for online gaming, Xbox Live has voice chat, party systems, and social elements to connect with friends. The Switch features a far less robust version of these services, and all in-game chat requires a dedicated mobile app.

Since the Switch doubles as a portable console, battery life is of the utmost concern. The Switch lasts anywhere between 2.5 and 6 hours on a full charge, with demanding games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild capable of running for roughly 3 hours. The unit charges via USB Type-C. The Joy-Con controllers can last for 20 hours on a single charge. For comparison, Xbox One controllers can last up to 40 hours with a pair of AA batteries, or 30 hours with Microsoft’s rechargeable battery.

While the Switch comes with more gadgets — the portable unit, Joy-Con controllers, Joy-Con grip and straps, and a dock — and has plenty of interesting design flourishes, it lacks many features that players have come to expect as standard in recent generations. Well over a year after launch, the system still lacks video apps such as Netflix and YouTube, despite its portability and built-in stand making it an ideal platform for watching them.

Winner: Xbox One (S and X)

Controllers, performance, and resolution

Controllers

Most Xbox One games use the Xbox One gamepad, a fairly traditional controller. Microsoft has made incremental changes to its gamepad since the original Xbox, and most players would tell you that the Xbox One controller works well and is comfortable to hold. A few titles — mostly backward-compatible Xbox 360 games — use the Kinect, Microsoft’s camera-based motion control device. This device and its adapter have been discontinued, however, making them much more difficult to find, and even more difficult to purchase for a reasonable price.

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The Switch, on the other hand, allows players to change things up, and control games in many different ways. With the Joy-Cons attached to the included Joy-Con grip and the console docked, users can play Switch games in a traditional console format. Joy-Cons can also be used for refined motion gaming while in console mode, thanks to built-in gyroscopes, accelerometers, and an HD Rumble feature. The right Joy-Con also includes an IR sensor, which allows motion to be picked up without needing to be directed at your television screen. When the Joy-Cons are attached to the main unit, the Switch can be played on the go. Its capacitive touchscreen registers multiple finger presses at one time. Additionally, the unit can be propped up via a kickstand on the back for tabletop mode, with the Joy-Cons turned on their sides so they somewhat resemble tiny NES controllers. The Switch Pro controller, which costs an additional $70, offers a similar feel as the Xbox One controller.

With the use of a $20 controller adapter, the Switch can even make use of GameCube controllers. These are ideal for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and other GameCube-style controller built for the Switch will also be available.

While the plethora of available modes of play on the Switch seems appealing on paper, we did not find any of those control schemes as comfortable to hold as the Xbox One gamepad in our limited time with the Switch. The single Joy-Con, as shown above, is particularly small, and seems uncomfortable to hold for long stretches. Even the Pro controller, which offers a similar experience, does not quite feel as good in the hand.

Still, the novelty of the Switch’s many controller options is exciting, and while the Xbox One gamepad may be the best single controller, every person may be able to find an option on the Switch that works just as well.

Winner: Nintendo Switch

Performance

Fun, engaging gameplay is a must, but great power can enhance the experience quite a bit.

The Xbox One features 1.31 TFLOPS of power, which is marginally increased to 1.4 TFLOPS in the Xbox One S. Both models use identical 8-core AMD Jaguar CPUs, and have 8GB of DDR3 RAM, allowing the console to switch from application to application with minimal delay. The Xbox One X, as the most powerful home console currently available, increases power to a whopping 6TFLOPS of performance and a 2.3GHz 8-core AMD custom Jaguar GPU, as well as 12GB of DDR5 RAM. That extra horsepower is noticeable both in games that are designed to take advantage of it, but also in legacy Xbox One titles and even a selection of Xbox 360 games.

nintendo switch review photos pdx 595
Nate Barrett/Digital Trends
Nate Barrett/Digital Trends

The Switch is fitted with a custom Nvidia Tegra chipset, and although we don’t know the exact processing power, we know it is at least 1TFLOP. The Switch is also rumored to have 4GB of RAM, but the exact figure and type is unknown. If the console maintains this level of power from console to handheld play, the Switch will easily provide Nintendo’s most powerful and versatile handheld experience to date.

Both the Xbox One and Switch perform well and perhaps almost identically, although there is still much to learn about the Switch’s true power. The addition of the Xbox One X to Microsoft’s lineup, however, secures the Xbox One as the higher-performing machine.

Winner: Xbox One X

Resolution

The Xbox One displays at 1080p resolution, and the Xbox One S can upscale 1080p content to 4K and supports HDR. It’s important to note that, while the majority of Xbox One games run in 1080p, it isn’t always native 1080p, and some titles display in 900p. Many titles also hold steady at 60 frames a second, but some run at 30fps. The Xbox One X upscales 1080p content as well, but also supports native 4K HDR in games and streaming media that allow it.

Nintendo Switch review
Nate Barrett/Digital Trends
Nate Barrett/Digital Trends

The Switch, as a console-handheld hybrid, has two different display resolutions. In console mode, games max out at 1080p. The portable display is capped at 720p.

The Xbox One S and X clearly output games at a higher resolution than the Switch, but the Switch’s games are optimized for the platform and often look just as good at first glance. Plus, the Switch often looks just as good on your morning commute as it does on a TV. Overall, it’s too close to call.

Winner: Tie

Content, storage, pricing and availability

Content

It’s difficult to compare the Switch with the Xbox One in terms of content. Microsoft’s console has been on the market for more than four years, and the Switch is still in its relative infancy. Still, a console purchase should be as much, if not more, about the games than the hardware itself.

With a smattering of great exclusives already available — Forza Horizon 3, Halo 5: Guardians, Sunset Overdrive, Ori and the Blind Forest, Cuphead — the Xbox One has plenty of great titles to choose from. Later in 2018, the Xbox One will get more exclusives, including State of Decay 2 and Crackdown 3. The console also benefits from a large swath of third-party titles, and can even play many (but not all) Xbox 360 games.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

The Switch is definitely playing from behind, but quite a few fantastic titles have filled out its library in its first year. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey lived up to their hype and then some, earning glowing reviews across the board. Add to that exclusives like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Splatoon 2, and Xenoblade Chronicles 2, and you have a decent number of desirable games.

Key to this particular comparison, the Switch is also starting to accrue ports of recent AAA titles. Everything from Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus to Diablo III have been ported to Switch, and often with far fewer concession than you’d expect from a console this size. First-party support continues to be strong going into the end of 2018, with big-name games like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Pokmon: Let’s Go coming to the system.

The Switch’s lineup looks more well-rounded than it did at launch, so at this point it’s mostly a matter of taste. We still have to give the edge to Xbox One, however, simply because it still gets nearly all of the AAA releases that also go to PS4 and PC, but still skip the Switch, in addition to Microsoft’s great support for indies with the ID@Xbox program and the growing cross-play functionality between Xbox and Windows PCs.

Winner: Xbox One (S and X)

Storage

It’s no secret that this generation of games generally consume a fair amount of storage space. Unfortunately, no matter which console you buy, you may end up needing additional space.

Both the Xbox One and Xbox One S have 500GB and 1TB hard drive models, respectively, and the Xbox One S even comes in a 2TB configuration. The Xbox One X is only available with 1TB. While these may sound like endless amounts of storage, every Xbox One game, physical or digital, needs to be installed. Games vary in size, but many of the big releases each year require more than 30GB to 50GB of space. You may run out of space sooner than you’d think. Thankfully, the Xbox One can be expanded with external hard drives of at least 256GB. External drives have steadily decreased in price over the past few years, too, so an additional terabyte only costs around $50, and you can even get 5TB for roughly $125. On top of that, Xbox One users can install not one, but two external drives per console.

Nintendo Switch: Hands On
Jeffrey Van Camp/Digital Trends Jeffrey Van Camp/Digital Trends
Since the Switch uses game cartridges instead of discs, most game data is stored directly on the card, mitigating the need for an abundance of storage — at least for physical games. But the 32GB onboard flash storage is still a bit worrisome, especially for those who favor digital games. Storage, however, can be expanded with microSD cards. The Switch supports microSDHC out of the box, and an online update will provide microSDXC support. Unfortunately, high-capacity microSD cards are pricey. A 512GB microSDXC card, the highest capacity currently available, runs close to $300. Theoretically, you could buy multiple smaller microSD cards and swap them out as needed. And 64GB cards typically go for around $20 a pop.

It will take some time to see how the Switch’s storage situation will pan out, but right now, thanks to high internal storage and relatively cheap external options, the Xbox One takes the cake.

Winner: Xbox One (S and X)

Price and availability

At $300, the Nintendo Switch is a great value, offering both a home console and handheld experience. Bundles with Nintendo titles such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Pokken Tournament DX, or Mario Kart 8 Deluxe are also available through retailers such as GameStop, though generally not at much of a discount over purchasing the items separately.

Nintendo Switch

Xbox One S bundles often start around $250 in the United States, and come paired with one of a wide variety of games. Each year, Microsoft releases multiple special-edition consoles bundled with a new game. Recent special-edition consoles include Gears of War 4, Battlefield 1, and Halo Wars 2. At $500, the Xbox One X will set you back a pretty penny.

Nintendo struggled to match demand when the Switch first launched in 2017, but now that’s leveled out and it’s not hard to track one down. But we’re still giving the edge to Xbox One just because there’s such a wider range of options available at a wider range of prices than the Switch, allowing users to find the deal that’s right for them.

Winner: Xbox One (S and X)

Conclusion

Years into its life cycle, the Xbox One has evolved into an excellent console with a diverse library of games and multimedia features that make it a great addition to your entertainment center. It could be argued that if you purchase an Xbox One, it may be the only piece of hardware you need in your living room. The addition of the Xbox One X has only helped improve the case for it, diversifying the range of products available within the Xbox One family to suit a wide range of gamers.

The Nintendo Switch is an exciting prospect with an abundance of potential. It has the possibility to redefine the way we interact with games across both home console and handheld play. At this point, though, potential doesn’t make it the better choice, unless you absolutely favor the charm of Nintendo games or prefer the flexibility of its hybrid form factor.

Overall winner: Xbox One X


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