Why the Switch will Never be a Better Handheld than the DS Family

It just doesn't have the juice.


Here’With the growing momentum behind the Nintendo Switch it’s no surprise there’s been some talk about where this console will fit in against its older siblings in the 3DS & 2DS line. Many have concluded that the Switch’s greatest asset is its handheld form, which finally makes good on the promise to bring a serviceable console experience to the palms of our hands. People have even gone as far as to conclude that the Switch will soon be displacing its siblings, the long-lived DS line, from their long held throne at the top of the handheld scene. While I believe it’d be a fool task to suggest that the 3DS line will continue alongside the Switch for the far off future, but I’m not convinced that the Switch will ever be able to beat out the quality of the 3DS in terms of a handheld experience. Here’s why.




The new 3DS XL I’ve been using for the last few years is the right size for a handheld and about as big as one should get. It fits naturally in the hand for transporting it short distances and similarly fits quite well when unfolded. Both hands have enough space to spread out and the console’s chunkiness allows for a pleasant hand feel. The security of the fit allows the player to access all of the buttons without a fair amount of shifting around. This has been true of the DS line since 2004 when the first DS came out and over the years has only gotten better. The current button layout on the New 2DS XL and the New 3DS XL are just about as perfect it could get. I cannot say the same for the Switch.

There’s something a little bit odd about using the Switch in its handheld configuration and it has to do with the fact that the Switch is very long and thin. Though it’s perfectly serviceable after a while of getting used to it, there isn’t a good way of controlling the left stick and the ABXY buttons. There’s a certain level of dancing your hand along the back of the right joycon. This causes my wrist to bend in ways it perhaps shouldn’t, causing me to become fatigued far faster than when I play on the 3DS. The work around is to play in table top form which also means, the Switch isn’t great for road trips in the way the DS is.

And oh, did I mention the Switch gets pretty hot after playing for a while? Not so hot that you can’t play but a hot Switch on a hot day isn’t as comfortable as a cool 3DS on a hot day.




Right now my DS is sitting next to me and it’s been on for a day straight without charging. It’s been asleep for most of that time though I played about 2 hours of Ever Oasis yesterday. When I opened it and checked my battery life I still had 3 battery bars. For the sake of this article, I did a similar thing with my switch, though if I played for 3 hours it’d be out of charge. Instead, I just put it on standby after about an hour of Breath of the Wild. Right now the battery is on 60%. There is a huge disparity in the battery life of the Switch and the 3DS for more than obvious reason being, the difference of the graphical output between the two systems. But even for Disaega 5, the battery still leaves something to be desired. Furthermore, when the 3DS needs a charge, it charges on the top of the system, out of the way of the player. One of the Switch’s most infamous short comings is its charging port on the bottom of the system which almost demands that the player takes a break while the system charges. Paired the aforementioned battery length issue, the Switch ends up a tad shackled to a charging cable and out of the player’s hands quite a bit.




Finally, we arrive at the essence of what a portable console is. It isn’t particularly a system where you should expect a technologically pants knocking off experience. It’s first and foremost designed to be a gaming experience that you can take on the go and the Switch will never be as good at that as any of the

portables which have preceded it. It’s big. It doesn’t fit in the pocket, which arguably the 3DS also fail at, but the Switch also doesn’t really fit in handbags. If you want to carry your switch around, it necessitates a day pack. You need the space for the console itself but you also need that space for the charger and power source you’re going to need if you expect to be out for a while. In this way it’ll never be able to take the place of my 3DS as a gaming system I carry around in my purse.

Final Thoughts



I’ve been very harsh on the Switch. I stand by everything I’ve said up until now and my original thesis that it is the lesser console in terms of pure portability but I think it’d be unfair of me not to mention where the Nintendo Switch shines brightest. The Nintendo Switch is the only handheld to ever have same-screen local multiplayer. All of the things I’ve mentioned become non-issues in this setting. The screen is just big enough that the endeavor of sharing a screen is even possible, with the correct accessories, it’s fairly easy to charge while playing, and the necessity of a day pack feels far less of an annoyance in this setting. The Switch is, in a way no handheld console has ever been, is a social console. I’ve played Mario Kart out in the wild with a total stranger. That is where the Switch’s potential will always lie. But that doesn’t mean it will ever overtake its sibling’s place as the crème de la crème of the portable gaming experience.