The latest iteration of the Nintendo Switch introduced an upgraded OLED screen that’s a real treat for the eyes, but those who were hoping for an even bigger upgrade might want to consider the Orion: a portable Switch dock that gives the handheld an expanded 11.6-inch screen.
Nintendo has had little issue convincing consumers to keep buying the Switch in droves, despite the console approaching its five-year anniversary. Sales were boosted during the pandemic as millions of people on lockdown flocked to the perfectly timed release of Animal Crossing: New Horizons to help pass the time while stuck at home, which made the Switch almost impossible to find in stores for months on end in 2020. To further rekindle interest in the console, Nintendo introduced a version with a larger OLED screen last month, but its other upgrades were minor, leaving some fans wanting more.
The creators of the Orion think their accessory can deliver that “more“ before Nintendo does with one of the beefiest Switch add-ons we’ve seen to date. In addition to a pair of stereo speakers on the back that promises better sound than what the Switch’s can muster, the most obvious upgrade the Orion delivers is a much larger 11.6-inch screen — although, at least for the launch version, it uses an IPS LCD display panel instead of OLED, which could be a tough sell for those who’ve laid eyes on and fallen in love with the Switch OLED.
Upgrading a Switch with the Orion looks straightforward enough. You remove the Joy-Cons and attach them to each side of the Orion and then insert the Switch itself into a compartment on the back of the screen where it interfaces through the console’s USB-C port. The approach means the Orion is only compatible with the Switch consoles that can be docked and played through a TV — the original and OLED models, not the Switch Lite — but it also means the Orion’s 11.6-inch screen can run games at full 1080P while played in hand, whereas the Switch on its own limits resolutions to 720P.
The last thing gamers want is an accessory that further reduces the Switch’s already limited battery life, so the Orion can either be powered through an AC adaptor that also charges the Switch in the process, or paired with a portable battery that can be attached to the back with a pair of velcro straps. Further expanding its usefulness is an HDMI port too, allowing the Orion to be used as an external display for almost any device that does video out, including other consoles.
That expanded functionality might be the Orion’s most important feature because it helps justify the accessory’s $US250 (A$351) price tag, which is $US50 (A$70) more than the Switch Lite costs, and that’s with a discount for those who pre-order the Orion through an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign — the regular MSRP is expected to be closer to $US300 (A$421). The campaign has already raised all the money it needs to get the Orion into consumers’ hands, and its creators claim to have secured all the chips needed before the shortages became a global issue, so delivery of the accessory could potentially still happen before the holidays. But as with any crowdfunded product, there’s always the potential for unforeseen delays — especially during a pandemic — so while this could make for a great gift for a Switch fan, don’t make any promises that the state of the world could force you to break.