I have a soft spot for ridiculous gaming accessories. If I had to guess, I’m sure that fondness comes from my childhood, when I didn’t know the difference between an official peripheral and third-party junk. I can remember seeing ridiculous GameBoy screen magnifiers and wishing my parents would buy me one. Who cares if it made the handheld clunkier? I just thought it looked cool.
When I first saw the Orion, a portable HD monitor that turns the Nintendo Switch’s screen into a 11.6 inch IPS display, that feeling came flooding back to me. The adult part of me knew that it was a completely impractical peripheral. It would functionally destroy the Switch’s easy portability and it seemed like way more of a pain to transport than the console’s TV dock. But the kid in me could only see that GameBoy screen he never got to try. I couldn’t resist.
After using the Orion as a Xenoblade Chronicles 3 companion, both parts of my brain have come to a compromise. My grown-up self, the one that thinks about responsible spending, can accept that it’s a ludicrous thing to spend $300 on. But that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying my time playing Switch games on a supersized monitor.
The Orion by Up-Switch is a genius idea that makes less sense the more you think about it. It’s a lightweight monitor built to triple the Switch’s screen size while still maintaining the ethos of the system. To set it up, all I had to do was plug the Orion into an outlet, slot my Switch into the back of the device via its charging port, and dock my Joy-Cons in the monitor’s built in-grips. Voila! I now had a gigantic Switch.
Let’s get the absurdity out of the way. The idea of using this as a portable device is laughable. While you can hold it like a Switch via Joy-Con grips, it’s an entirely implausible way to play. The awkward size and weight makes it far too cumbersome to hold for more than a few minutes. Realistically, you’ll likely want to use its kickstand to prop it up and play using undocked controllers. You know, like you would on a TV … the thing your Nintendo Switch just as easily hooks up to.
Even if you did want to take it on the go, you can’t. It needs to be plugged in to work, so it’s essentially a home console (a battery can be attached via Velcro strips on the back, but the idea of adding more weight seems silly). You’d be paying $300 — the price of an actual Switch! — to buy a small monitor. It’s a great companion for a vacation to a log cabin that doesn’t have a TV, but the actual use cases for it feel slim.
From a logical perspective, there’s no reason to own a device like this. But sometimes, tech purchases aren’t logical. Sometimes, you have to go with your heart.
The Orion may be an impractical piece of technology, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love it. After five years of using my Switch, it’s downright novel to see its games blown up to three times their size, while still maintaining the portable aspect of the system to some degree. During my testing, I both curled up in a nook of my apartment, resting it on my lap, and used the kickstand to play Xenoblade Chronicles 3 while I casually had some TV on in the background.
Xenoblade is actually a great test case for the device. Its combat is visually complicated, with seven heroes battling at once. Tiny UI clutters the screen, which makes it hard to tell what’s going on when playing in handheld mode. The larger screen allows me to parse what’s happening in combat more clearly (it’s especially helpful considering my nearsighted status, which makes my TV look a little blurry), even if the display itself is a little more washed-out than my Switch OLED screen.
While the Switch gets the most out of the Orion, it can be used with other devices too thanks to its HDMI port. For instance, you could hook it up to an Xbox Series S to create a self-contained Xbox that you could take with you anywhere. I’m planning to bring my Orion into my office to use as a dedicated gaming display that sits on my desk. Use cases like that open up the niche potential of the device.
The Orion is a fancy toy for those who grew up playing on their parents’ dime, but have some disposable income of their own now. It’s an indulgent piece of tech that your brain knows it doesn’t need, but that the techie in you wants to play with regardless. I can’t recommend it one way or the other, because only your heart can decide if having a jumbo-sized Switch screen will bring you joy (it’s not like you’re getting a Switch Pro anytime soon).
When I use it, I think back to that elusive GameBoy magnifier I never got growing up. With the Orion, I finally have the most tricked-out Nintendo handheld on the block — even if I wouldn’t be caught dead using it in public.
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