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Hands-on review: CRKD Nitro Deck for Nintendo Switch
Mon, 12th Feb 2024

CRKD offers Switch and Switch OLED owners a robust alternative to the standard Nintendo Joy-Con controllers.

Regardless of its prowess as a portable gaming console, the physical design of the Nintendo Switch is a masterclass of form over function. The device's flat, horizontal tablet design doesn't ergonomically do it for me. That lovely screen is wedged between two flimsy plastic controllers that I always feel like I'm going to just snap off. Coming from any other gaming controller, the Joy-Cons feel, well, a bit rubbish.

The Nintendo Switch Pro controller makes things better, and even the plasticky Hori Switch Split Pad Pro makes the console feel much better in your hand. The CRKD Nitro Deck, however, takes things to the next level.

The Nitro Deck is a plastic case that you slide your Switch into, sans Joy-Cons, to give in a solid chassis like Valve's Steam Deck or the ROG Ally. We were sent the purple limited-edition retro version that transforms your Switch with the aesthetics of a modern-day Gameboy Advance. 

It's the most robust alternative to snap-on controllers as it's one unit holding the Switch screen rather than something just bolted onto it.

Getting the Nitro Deck up and running is easy. The switch screen just slots into place firmly. The device connects to the Switch via USB-C and not wirelessly, so there's no fear of connection problems or lag. To detach, there's a release button that needs to be pushed up to get the screen out again. The Switch is not going to fall out of the Nitro Deck.

The Nitro Deck uses hall-effect thumbsticks which should illuminate the dreaded Switch stick-drift. It also has a built-in rumble feature and gyro for motion sensing. The device curiously has an RFID touchpoint but this is not compatible with Amiibo figures, just the CRKD app. 

There are two USB slots on the back of the device. One is for charging, and the other is for if you want to use the Nitro Deck as a wired controller. This is handy if you want to place the Switch in the dock and play on a TV. All you need to do is hold the L3 and R3 buttons for three seconds to switch to wired controller mode. There's a long USB cable included in the box that can be used to connect to the dock in wired mode or to charge the device with a Type-A USB power adapter.  
From a comfort point-of-view, I think I still prefer my Hori Split Pad Pro controllers in hand, but only just. I do appreciate how the Nitro Deck turns the Switch into one solid unit, like a Steam Deck. 

Those not in on the deliberately retro stylings of the limited-edition Nitro Deck may wonder why a grown man is playing with a very toy-like console. The good news for more serious and mature gamers is that the Nitro Deck comes in black and a few other colours with more conventional thumbsticks. Saying that, the limited-edition version does come with interchangeable thumbstick tops, but still in the same yellow and grey.

As well as all the standard Switch buttons, there are four programmable buttons on the underside of the Nitro Deck. Programming the buttons is easy; you just press the small program button on the bottom of the device, select the buttons to combine and then press the programable button that you want to use.

The limited-edition package also came with a carry case, which is a big plus considering both Nintendo and Hori charge you extra on top. The Nitro Deck with the Switch screen inserted fits nice and snug. There's space for a few Switch cartridges and the included USB Type-C to Type-A charge cable.

The CRKD Nitro Deck turns your Switch into a totally new device. The retro version makes your switch look like a blast from the past, whereas the other styles give the console a more mature, modern look. As well as the eye-catching Game Boy Advance/Game Cube looks, the Nitro Deck fits nicely in your hand, giving players a great new way to play their Switch games.