The Nitro Deck has convinced me to play my Switch portably more than Nintendo ever did

Nitro Deck
(Image credit: Future)

The Nintendo Switch is a phenomenal portable console and was incredibly forward-thinking at the time of its 2017 release. Back then, being able to take console-quality games out and about with you wasn’t something you saw too often, and it’s a concept that helped skyrocket the Switch to success after a half-decade of floundering by the (nonetheless charming) Wii U system.

That portability element lets CRKD’s Nitro Deck shine as an essential Nintendo Switch accessory. I love my Nintendo Switch OLED, but I’ve always been wary of taking it on the go. Fearful of damaging that gorgeous display, and finding its Joy-Con controllers to provide an unsatisfying play experience, I’ve primarily stuck to docked play at home.

That was the case up until recently, at least. Now, the Nitro Deck has become my preferred method of playing the best Nintendo Switch games. I now play portably more often than not, thanks to the deck, not minding the hit to resolution and performance, because it provides such an improved way to play that rivals that of the very best Nintendo Switch controllers.

Goodbye, Joy-Con

Nitro Deck for Nintendo Switch adorned in Gamecube colors

(Image credit: CRKD)

You’ll now find the Nitro Deck enjoying the top spot in our best Nintendo Switch accessories guide, and for very good reason. The portable dock provides such a stark improvement over the base handheld experience that I consider it to be an essential purchase for those who now only prefer to take their Switch on the go. Still, even those who occasionally use it portably - it’s just better.

It starts with the Nitro Deck’s phenomenal control modules and what a considerable upgrade they are over the Joy-Con controllers. The Joy-Con analog sticks feel a little too mushy at the best of times, and they’re also relatively small. That’s before you even get into the risk of stick drift, too, which causes inputs to be registered even when the stick is in neutral position.

The Nitro Deck instantly solves this problem, deploying what’s known as Hall effect stick technology. This uses built-in magnets and electrical conductors that adjust to a stick, effectively eliminating the risk of drift by having no contact between components that would otherwise cause wear over time. This, alone, has me more inclined to play my Switch portably. But it’s far from the only reason.

Armor for your Switch

Best Nintendo Switch accessories Nitro Deck

(Image credit: Future)

Placing the Switch into the Nitro Deck feels like you’re suiting it up for battle. The deck is made from incredibly sturdy plastic and has a bulky form factor that seems to be better suited for larger, maybe more adult-sized, hands. Compared to the small Joy-Con controllers, this inspires much more confidence. 

And this is certainly a boon, as a huge reason I don’t usually take my Switch out and about is because, quite simply, I’m terrified of breaking it. Not that I’m particularly clumsy (promise), but the Switch has a relatively thin profile that makes it a pretty vulnerable bit of kit when unprotected.

The added protection the Nitro Deck provides means that should a drop or accident occur, the console itself is much more likely to survive the impact. Now, I don’t want every Nitro Deck owner to go around testing that, but by adding the deck to my Switch, I feel so much better about taking it outdoors or to a friend’s place.

What’s more, the limited edition Nitro Decks (which come in various fun colors) also include a very sturdy carry case. If you want some extra security, then these limited editions are well worth the slightly higher asking price of $89.99 / £89.99, compared to the base models’ $59.99 / £59.99.

Peak performance

Nitro Deck

(Image credit: Future)

The Nitro Deck’s improvements continue with just how fantastic it feels to play Switch games with. Let’s take multiplayer-focused titles like F-Zero 99 and Splatoon 3. Because the Nitro Deck features a direct USB-C connector, it’s able to reduce input latency greatly. Input responsiveness is everything in particularly fast-paced games like these, and for me, it made playing them away from the TV a viable option.

The overall quality of the Nitro Deck’s modules makes it a top fit for the Switch’s best single-player games, too. While visually intensive titles like The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and Xenoblade Chronicles 3 take a resolution and performance knock in portable mode, the heightened responsiveness and improved quality of the deck’s buttons, triggers, and sticks make these games feel more comfortable to play in handheld format.

Lastly, there are the four remappable rear buttons on the Nitro Deck. While not essential, having the option to set secondary inputs here adds a high degree of versatility to your Switch that it didn't have before. Need to jump in Fortnite while keeping your thumb on the right stick for aiming? These let you do that. How about offering an alternate way to select weapons and items in Tears of the Kingdom? They’re ideal for that, too.

The Nitro Deck feels like the solution to so many of the Switch’s portable mode issues. It offers more console protection, while providing a more satisfying play experience through high-quality buttons and sticks. It can do all this while still presenting itself at a very competitive price point. Simply put, there’s actually very little reason for Switch owners not to own a Nitro Deck.

For top peripherals for other current-gen consoles, consider taking a look at our guides to the best PS5 controllers and the best Xbox Series X and Series S accessories.

Rhys Wood
Hardware Editor

Rhys is TRG's Hardware Editor, and has been part of the TechRadar team for more than two years. Particularly passionate about high-quality third-party controllers and headsets, as well as the latest and greatest in fight sticks and VR, Rhys strives to provide easy-to-read, informative coverage on gaming hardware of all kinds. As for the games themselves, Rhys is especially keen on fighting and racing games, as well as soulslikes and RPGs.