CRKD Nitro Deck for Switch REVIEW – The Essential Switch Grip?

Hv thy crkd it?

CRK Nitro Deck Review
A photo of the Nitro Deck from the left side
Release Date
September 25th, 2023
Our Score

The best praise that I can give CRKD’s Nitro Deck is that I wish it’d released in 2017. Probably the definitive grip you can get for the Switch, it’s a shame that we’re getting it so late in the console’s life, as I think I would have dumped many hundred more hours into the Switch’s vast library with it in my hands sooner.

The Nitro Deck, which was possibly named a bit cheekily to call to mind another handheld device, is a unique accessory compared to other Switch grips in that it doesn’t just replace the Joy-Con. Instead, players slip their Switch into a USB-C port at the bottom of the interior of the grip to lock it into place, with the Nitro Deck basically making it feel like a brand new console. While inserting your Switch (specifically the OLED) is a doddle, taking it out feels like probably the major flaw when it comes to the Nitro Deck. You press a latch on the back and then really awkwardly slide it out by placing applying upwards pressure on the screen. It makes me wince a bit every time, and there’s something about it that feels like you’re always doing something incorrect.

A photo of the Nitro Deck from the side
Nitro Deck

That’s one of the only real oversights when it comes to the Nitro Deck, as it’s clear that CRKD has learned from what many of their competitors have done over the years. As someone who’s used various accessories in the past, including a whole bunch of well-used stuff from Hori, the Nitro Deck provides unmatched comfort, helped by just how nice the matte finish where your hands will grip feels. I was able to play Super Mario Wonder for far longer than I probably should have, with the satisfying heft of the Nitro Deck calling to mind its Valve namesake. My hands tend to cramp up after a while with most handhelds, but I had no issues here at all.

The shoulder buttons also feel like they’ve been designed with more dedicated players in mind, as they’re akin to what you’d get on something like a DualSense, the ZL and ZR stand-ins offering a “punchy” feeling when pressed, and the L and R buttons are nicely clicky. The Joy-Con feel much more basic when you go back to them after spending some time with the Nitro Deck, and that’s without mentioning the customisable Hall effect sticks that should eliminate the dreaded stick drift. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that my first review unit had a flaw that meant the right stick was constantly panning the camera in-game, but I think I was in the extreme minority as the only person this happened to.

A photo of the Nitro Deck's right buttons from the side
Nitro Deck

A feature of the Nitro Deck that might be overlooked by some is the four programmable back buttons. While not everyone’s cup of tea, anyone who plays at least a bit competitively on Switch will get a kick out of these, especially as players can program input patterns — something I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. If you’re struggling with your combos in Mortal Kombat, the Nitro Deck’s unique feature might do a little bit of the work for you, though do bear in mind that you can’t act like it’s 1999 and do turbo inputs at the same time.

A sturdy kickstand can also be found on the back of the Nitro Deck that comfortably props up the unit. It doesn’t feel quite as good as the OLED’s, but it’s certainly a step above the afterthought on the OG Switch. Right next to that kickstand is a logo that doubles up as an NFC tag that mercifully has nothing to do with NFTs. With a dedicated app, players can register their Nitro Deck and view it in their collection, along with how rare it is. The actual utility of this is a bit hard to grasp as there aren’t many CRKD products out there right now, but it’s a neat little bonus at the very least. The inner collector in me got a little buzz off it, for sure.

A photo of the Nitro Deck from the back with its kickstand
Nitro Deck

What isn’t a little buzz, though, is the vibration on this thing. It only has one setting: maximum overdrive. The Nitro Deck gives plenty of feedback when you’re playing, almost too much. It doesn’t have much range either, meaning that the vibration can get a little repetitive and abrasive if you’re doing similar actions in a game like Super Mario Wonder where you’re constantly jumping. It’s not a dealbreaker, but it’s a shame there isn’t more granular control for vibration.

As the Nitro Deck obviously can’t be docked, the unit comes with two different USB-C ports, one for charging and one for connecting to your dock so you can output it to a TV screen if you so wish. The Nitro Deck can also be used as a controller without the Switch itself inserted if you so wish, even on PC. While I doubt that sweaties will be playing Apex Legends with their Nitro Deck, it’s always good to see some versatility.

One of the big questions hanging over the Nitro Deck is the value, especially so late into the Switch’s life. I received a Limited Edition unit that retails for £89.99/$89.99, which is almost a third of the cost of a Switch OLED itself. While it’s certainly a lovely throwback to the GameCube days, and the additional thumbstick toppers, charging cable, and cleaning cloths are welcome bonuses, I’m not so sure that it’s worth the uptick compared to the £59.99/$59.99 base editions. It’s a very easy sell at that kind of price, as it’s a significant upgrade on the similarly priced HORI Split Pads, but almost three digits seems steep, particularly when compatibility with an inbound Switch successor is up in the air.

CRKD’s Nitro Deck really has cracked the formula when it comes to Switch grips, as I can’t see myself going back to playing my Switch as normal now, and not just because taking it out of the Nitro Deck gives me anxiety. If you’re looking to take your Switch experience to the next level, the Nitro Deck could be a great fit.

Review unit supplied by PR

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CRK Nitro Deck Review
CRKD has made almost the perfect grip for your Switch, even if it's a shame that the Nitro Deck couldn't come a lot sooner.