You have probably heard about a new version of the Nintendo Switch that's on store shelves now, and we don't mean the handheld-only Switch Lite that launched in September. Over the summer Nintendo rolled out an update to the standard Switch model with some changes under the hood which make it the one to look out for if you're about to buy a Nintendo Switch this holiday season.
But how do you know if you're getting the new Switch or the old version? And what are the differences anyway? As stores clear out old inventory the two models will likely be sitting side by side for a while, but this guide is here to help you make sure you get the newer version with its significant benefits. Read on to find where to get your hands on it, discover the differences and how to spot the new improved Nintendo Switch on shop shelves.
Where can I buy the improved Nintendo Switch online?
Some retailers are marking the new SKU separately and you'll find links to those below.
If you're buying online, you should be careful to check on delivery that you are supplied with the newer model. Some stores may treat the newer model as a like-for-like replacement for the old, and may not differentiate between the two at the point of taking your order. We doubt that retailers savvy enough to mark the new model separately would intentionally try to shift old stock on unsuspecting customers, but mistakes are easily made in distribution centres, especially with the models appearing so similar, so make sure you get what you ordered!
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How do I tell the difference between the old and new versions in stores?
Thankfully, if you know what to look for, it's easy to make sure you're getting the improved Nintendo Switch model.
By far the easiest way is simply to look at the packaging. The new improved model is distinguished by having much more red on the box compared to the white background of the original, as you can see below:
The other way to make sure you're getting the newest model is by checking the serial number. The older models will have a serial number (found on the bottom of the box) beginning 'XAW', 'XAJ' or 'XAK'. The new model has a serial number that begins with the letters 'XKW'.
What's the difference between the new model and the regular Nintendo Switch?
The differences between the regular Nintendo Switch and this upgraded revision of the console are subtle and all internal. The console's custom Nvidia Tegra processor has been updated to a more power efficient version that runs at lower voltages and, therefore, lower temperatures. This means that while the case dimensions and most other internal components remain unchanged (including the battery) the CPU/GPU draws less power than the previous model, meaning significantly improved battery life.
Nintendo's website highlights the battery life improvements, although these figures will vary depending on the game you're playing:
|Old model||New model|
|Approx. 2.5 to 6.5 hours battery life||Approximately 4.5 - 9 hours battery life|
While playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, for example, the new console should give you approximately 5.5 hours of playtime between charges, versus around 3 hours for the original model.
There are also reports that the new model features a marginally improved screen. Youtuber Kevin Kenson measured the brightness of the old screen versus the one found in the newer model and noted an uptick from 291 nits (units used to measure light intensity or luminescence) to 318 nits with the new SKU. Kenson also measured the new screen's white balance and discovered that it is more accurate than the original model - a fraction 'warmer' to the naked eye.
Additionally, while the screen might look warmer, the temperature of the console itself is decidedly cooler thanks to the revised Tegra chip using less power and generating less heat in both handheld and docked mode.
Are there any cosmetic differences between the new Nintendo Switch and the original model?
From the outside, there's almost no difference at all between the Nintendo Switch that's been available since launch and this new version. The Joy-Con are cosmetically identical, although they too have revised innards - the practical differences from the current models are unclear at this time.
Only the text on the back of the console itself will indicate any difference externally. The model number of the old model is HAC-001, as you can see from our PAL launch model:
The new revision will show the model number HAC-001(-01), so you'll know you have the best Switch currently on the market.
When is the new Nintendo Switch SKU releasing in my territory?
This is a 'silent' revision so there was no solid launch date, but it should be available in all regions now.
Should I upgrade to this new SKU if I already own a Nintendo Switch?
Ah, the $6 million question! We've wrestled with it ourselves, but ultimately it depends on your situation. If you only ever play your Switch docked with the TV, there's not much point in upgrading. If you primarily play your Switch in handheld mode (say you travel a lot or someone else always hogs the TV), the extra battery life may be very valuable to you. The improved screen is hardly a game-changer, but its slightly increased brightness might help if you tend to play your Switch out in the open. The original console holds up well in direct sunlight, but the newer model has an undeniable edge.
With the Switch Lite also available, there's be a whole new audience looking to join the Switch family to play games like Pokémon Sword and Shield and Animal Crossing: New Horizons early next year. The cheaper, handheld-only Switch Lite will be perfect for many of them, but others may well want the option to play on the TV, meaning they'll be looking for a cheaper alternative. That sounds like the perfect opportunity to sell your standard Switch and upgrade to this one!
Have you spotted the new SKU on store shelves? Will you be upgrading, or have you already upgraded? Let us know with a comment below.