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Nintendo Switch vs. PS4

Although the Nintendo Switch and PS4 don’t seem to have much in common, the thing the two share is their great commercial and critical success among fans. But what if you’re thinking of picking up one of these consoles for the first time? It’s good to know what each system is capable of, which games they can run, and overall, what to expect from each. Depending on what you’re looking for, one may be better for you than the other. 

That’s why we’ve decided to compare the Nintendo Switch to the PS4, so you’ll be more informed when making a purchasing decision. These are two capable and well-thought-out consoles, but which is the better console — if there is a “better” console at all — might come as a surprise.

Recommended reading:

Nintendo Switch:

PS4 Slim:

Below, you’ll find a comparison of each console’s specs:

Specs

Nintendo Switch

PlayStation 4 Slim

Dimensions 10 × 4.2 × 0.5 inches 11.3 × 10.4 × 1.5 inches
Weight 0.65 pounds 4.62 pounds
Processor GPU/CPU: “Nvidia customized Tegra” CPU: 8-core x86-64 AMD “Jaguar”

GPU: 1.84 TFLOPS AMD Radeon

RAM 4GB 8GB GDDR5
Storage 32GB of flash storage (expandable through microSD) 500GB removable hard drive
A/V output HDMI out HDMI out
I/O output 1 USB-C, USB 3.0, USB 2.0 X 2 2 Super-Speed USB 3.1
Communication Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, LAN with adapter Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
Controller Joy-Con or Pro Controller DualShock 4 or PlayStation Move
HDR No Yes
4K No No
Built-in screen 1280 × 720 No
Battery life Up to six hours, nine hours on the newer model. N/A
Physical media Proprietary cartridge Blu-ray disc
Availability
DT review 4.5 out of 5 stars 4 out of 5 stars

Design and features

Nintendo Switch review
Nate Barrett/Digital Trends

The PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch don’t exactly feel like competing consoles. The PlayStation 4 is significantly larger and heavier, taking up more space on your shelf or entertainment center. Meanwhile, the Switch in its portable form fits in your hands and when docked, takes up barely any space at all.

The Switch has several ports and slots on its outside to make up for its small size. In addition to the game card slot, it features a MicroSD card slot that supports MicroSDXC cards, which currently stores up to 2TB of data (that’s 2000 GB). You won’t be running out of room for your games with one of those installed. Taking a page out of Apple’s book, the console also features a single USB-C port.

The Switch has a sturdier feel and a sleeker look than both the Wii U gamepad and Nintendo 3DS but its plastic screen can scratch easily from regular use and from sliding it in and out of the dock. We highly recommend purchasing a screen protector. The plastic screen does help keep it from shattering when dropped, too.

In its portable configuration, the Switch gets up to six hours of battery life — nine hours on the newer model — and requires about three hours in its base station to charge. Speaking of the newer model, you can identify it by its red box (model number HAC-001 (-01)), as opposed to the original boxes (model number HAC-001), which feature a white background with a screen in the background. Nintendo has shifted production to the new models entirely, but you may still see the older versions out in the wild. If you can avoid it, don’t grab the original version, as it’s inferior to the current model.

It’s important to note that intensive games such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey will get closer to three hours of battery life between charges. The newer model is able to achieve greater battery life because of an improved Tegra X1 processor, which can slightly improve performance, as well. However, you will not have any significant boost in areas other than battery life because of the change.

In portable mode, you can use the Switch’s standard headphone jack, accelerometer, gyroscope, and brightness sensor. These features are primarily replicated by hardware in the Switch’s Joy-Cons or Pro controller when the console is docked.

Nintendo Switch also has the Nintendo Labo line of construction kits, which turn pieces of cardboard and stickers into accessories for the console. Some of these are small toys like Joy-Con cars or a miniature piano, but the VR Kit also allows you to make the Switch itself into a rudimentary virtual reality headset. While a neat idea in theory, reactions thus far have been less enthusiastic with its supported games, due in large part to the low resolution of the Switch’s screen. Compared to the more powerful capabilities of the PS4 and its dedicated PlayStation VR headset, there’s no question of which one is superior.

The PlayStation 4 is a relatively normal home console, featuring two USB 3.1 ports, as well as HDMI out and a PlayStation camera port. The camera port is necessary for using PlayStation VR, which the PlayStation 4 must connect to via both USB and HDMI. The PlayStation 4 Slim also replaced the sensor-based buttons of past systems with physical buttons, which cut down on unintended disc ejections. As its name suggests, it’s also smaller than the original version of the PS4.

In terms of storage, the PS4 Slim comes as a 500GB or 1TB device, depending on the model, and that hard drive can be replaced with a larger storage option or supplemented by an external drive. Considering just how big some games are in terms of their storage size, you’ll probably want to at least consider upgrading your hard drive at some point.

Though the PlayStation 4 can’t be played “undocked,” if you have a PlayStation Vita, it can stream games from its bigger sibling, letting you play games untethered from a television via Wi-Fi. It’s not the ideal way to play most games, though. Unlike the Switch, few games are optimized for remote play, but it’s the closest corollary to the Switch on the market today. The biggest issue in this regard is the lack of trigger buttons on the Vita, making some games really difficult to play. Instead of triggers, you’ll need to use the system’s back touch screen, which is, frankly, an awful way to play most games. And since you have to stream games from the PS4 to the Vita over Wi-Fi, your internet connection can really diminish the experience. If you’re going to go this route, we recommend using a hardwired Ethernet connection with your PS4, and to play games that do not require twitch reflexes.

With multiple controller configurations, total portability, and a tiny footprint, we think the Switch offers a more versatile experience from a design perspective.

Controller

Sony PlayStation 4 Slim
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The PlayStation 4’s DualShock 4 controller is relatively unchanged from previous PlayStation controllers. It features a standard face-button layout, symmetrical control sticks, triggers, and a “share” button that enables users to instantly save images, record video, or even stream on Twitch.

Inside is a motion sensor, allowing for additional ways to control games, particularly through PlayStation VR. The PlayStation 3’s “Move” controllers are also compatible with use in some PlayStation VR games, but they have largely gone ignored thus far. Though, you will need them for games like Marvel’s Iron Man VR. It’s also worth noting that the Dualshock 4 has a low battery life, but there are things you can do to extend its longevity.

The Nintendo Switch has several different control schemes that can drastically change your gaming experience. In the system’s docked configuration, and with both Joy-Con controllers attached in its portable configuration, the control scheme is similar to the PlayStation 4, with two sticks, buttons, and triggers.

By removing the Joy-Con controllers, however, each can be used independently to throw punches in a game like Arms, and by handing one to a second player and turning them both sideways, the Joy-Cons can be used much like the Nintendo Wii’s remotes, with a single control stick and four buttons letting players control simple games such as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Using this configuration isn’t ideal, but is super convenient for an impromptu play session with friends.

While the Nintendo Switch features a wide array of controller options, none of them are quite as comfortable as holding a DualShock 4. That changes if you pick up a Pro controller separately, but from a pure comfort and ease-of-use perspective, the PS4’s DualShock 4 takes the cake. The Switch’s Pro controller is highly recommended, whether you’re in docked or tabletop mode, though, especially for shooters.

Power

The Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 aren’t on even footing in the technical department, as the Switch’s portability means it is forced to sacrifice some of the processing power you’d find on modern consoles.

It only features 4GB of RAM — half of what is available on the PlayStation 4 — and its Nvidia Tegra processor has about 1 TFLOP of power, which is considerably less powerful than the 1.84 TFLOPs of the PlayStation 4. Though the difference between the processors is minimal, that same slight edge has enabled the PlayStation 4 to routinely outperform the Xbox One.

Based on third-party games available for both Switch and PS4 like DOOM and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, it’s clear that the PS4’s power consistently outperforms the Switch as well. That could change if a “Switch Pro” is released, but we can only judge on what is currently available. Despite this, many fans are okay with the downgrade on Switch, in exchange for portability. This isn’t always the case, as some Switch ports aren’t optimized as well as others, but portability is a huge factor for many.

Display/resolution

The Nintendo Switch is capable of displaying games in 1080p on a television, while the system’s built-in screen features a 720p resolution. Not every game meets these thresholds, though. The Switch re-release of Bayonetta 2, for example, only achieves 720p when docked. On the newer Switch model released in August 2019, the screen is slightly more lively.

The PlayStation 4, meanwhile, is also capable of 1080p resolution, as well as high-dynamic range, or HDR, which allows for much better contrast. For traditional home console play, the PlayStation 4 is the better choice, though the Switch does provide the added benefit of a quality portable display. There’s no question of which system displays games better — it simply comes down to what kind of console you want: a dedicated home console with lots of power, or a system you can take on the go (as well as play at home).

Games

Horizon: Zero Dawn

The PlayStation 4 has been out for close to seven years now, and its library of both exclusive and multi-platform games is incredibly strong. Series like Assassin’s Creed, Dark Souls, and Batman: Arkham have seen multiple entries hit the PlayStation 4, while Sony’s first and second-party games have consistently been among the top titles each year. Below are a few of the best PlayStation exclusives:

In the Switch’s first three years, a handful of superb exclusive games have arrived, including:

The Switch has also done very well with third-party support, with DOOM, Skyrimand L.A. Noire already landing on Nintendo’s latest console. Nintendo is even getting support from companies that had long abandoned its consoles, including Blizzard, which launched Diablo III: Eternal Collection on the system in November 2018. Mortal Kombat 11 was supported at the same time as its PS4 and Xbox One releases, as well, and the fighting experience saw very few compromises. Even the Fallout-like The Outer Worlds made its way to Nintendo Switch, though it runs pretty poorly compared to its counterparts on other platforms.

It has also become a fantastic indie machine, with many smaller studios releasing their games on the Switch at the same time as other consoles, but they are occasionally higher in price. Sine Mora EX, for instance, costs $30 on Switch and less than $10 on PlayStation 4, likely due to the production cost of cartridges.

In November 2018, the Nintendo Switch got the exclusive Pokémon: Let’s Go, which quickly became one of our favorite games on the system. It blurred the lines between the mobile Pokémon Go and the more traditional Pokémon role-playing games, and it’s particularly attractive to those who aren’t familiar with the series or haven’t played it since the first generation. Later on in November of 2019, the system got Pokémon Sword and Shield, which plays much more like a traditional RPG, but with the same assets and art style of Let’s Go.

December 2018 also saw the arrival of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, which quickly became one of the best-selling games for the system and stands out as a system-seller. With a robust offering of modes and multiple control schemes, including GameCube controllers, it’s a can’t-miss fighting game. It has received new updates for well over a year.

The system’s most recent major entry, Animal Crossing: New Horizons garnered massive success, going on to become the fastest-selling game on the platform, surpassing 11 million units sold in 11 days.

As it stands, the PlayStation 4’s back catalog of games is strong — arguably stronger than the Nintendo Switch’s — but at the end of the day, it comes down to what you value most in your games. Long ago, the argument could be made that PlayStation features more “mature” titles than Nintendo. While that point can still slightly be made, the Switch proves that it can feature a robust lineup of games for younger and older audiences.

Online gaming

No contest here. The PlayStation 4 has a robust online service dedicated to providing community-based multiplayer experiences. The Nintendo Switch, on the other hand, has a very primitive online system that doesn’t allow you to voice chat with friends without the use of an external headset and phone app. You do have to pay to access many of each system’s online offerings, as PlayStation Plus and Nintendo Switch Online are needed to access cloud saves.

The only area in which the Switch beats the PS4 in the online department is the price. One year of PlayStation Plus (required for playing online) costs $60 annually, whereas Nintendo Switch Online only costs $20 per year. But since the PS4 is the place to be for online console gaming, the price difference hardly factors into this comparison. You definitely get what you pay for in this category.

Both do give you a catalog of games along with your subscription, but these couldn’t be more different. While PlayStation Plus includes monthly PlayStation 4 games as part of the price, the games available on Nintendo Switch Online are enhanced NES and SNES games, and they come at the expense of the Virtual Console.

If you plan to primarily use your console to play with friends online, the PlayStation 4 should be your choice.

Price

A new Nintendo Switch costs $300, making it among the cheapest “home consoles” Nintendo has ever released. However, due to global events, the system has been immensely difficult to find. Certain retailers have offered them, briefly, but they’ve sold out within hours. Nintendo can’t seem to keep up with the demand — coupled with the major manufacturing issues.

The PlayStation 4 Slim also goes for $300, though it has gone on sale for $250 to $270 in the past. At that price, you can almost always buy a seasonal hardware bundle that throws in a game or two. Plus, you won’t have many issues tracking one down. If you are willing to compromise and purchase a system that cannot be docked, the Switch Lite is also available for $200 and is much easier to find.

Nintendo Switch:

PS4 Slim:

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