September 25, 2023

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CRKD Nitro Deck review: A massive, feature-packed Switch accessory

CRKD Nitro Deck review: A massive, feature-packed Switch accessory

At $79.99 per set, Nintendo’s Joy-Cons for the Switch aren’t cheap to replace. And if you, like many Switch owners, have bought more Joy-Cons than you thought you would because of the action of the analog sticks, you might be interested in this gadget called the Nitro Deck from CRKD, a new hardware company under the Embracer Group.

Think of the $59.99 Nitro Deck as an exoskeleton for the Switch, fitting either the standard version or the OLED version, which enhances the console in some welcome ways. The most important feature of the Nitro Deck is the Hall effect analog sticks, which are built to last and are also larger than the small ones found on Joy-Cons. These analog sticks are housed inside a sturdy plastic casing that makes the switch more comfortable to hold and use. Additionally, it has a very sturdy kickstand.

This $89.99 Gamecube-inspired limited edition version sure looks the part. Each of the analog stick caps can be replaced, if necessary.

Photo: Cameron Faulkner/Polygon

For some, these attributes alone might make the Nitro Deck worth it, but it has more features and fewer compromises (sorry amiibo fans, though — it lacks an NFC hotspot). It offers every button found on the Joy-Cons, plus a few extras, including four configurable rear paddles similar to Valve’s Steam Deck (they can be disabled, if you prefer a simpler experience). Like most third-party controllers, every button on the Nitro Deck can be set to Turbo mode, allowing you to spam the button as quickly as you want to make gaming easier. It also supports rumble and motion control, in case you want to use gyroscopic aiming in games like The Legend of Zelda: Kingdom Tears or fortnite.

The Nitro Deck doesn’t have a battery, so it can’t extend the life of your Switch. However, I did notice this accessory draining my Switch’s battery faster than usual. Although it fits snugly into the adapter’s USB-C port, the Nitro Deck doesn’t get in the way of charging either, since it has a USB-C port on its back — two, in fact. The second port allows you to use this gadget as a wired controller when the Switch console is connected to your TV. I don’t see myself choosing the Nitro Deck over the Switch Pro Wireless Controller for this specific use case, but it’s good for it to serve some purpose when not holding a Switch.

The Nitro Deck turns the Switch into something as thick and heavy as laptops, like the ROG Ally shown here.

Photo: Cameron Faulkner/Polygon

The thing you give up with the Nitro Deck is Switch portability. For most people who own a Switch and some other portable hardware, like the Steam Deck or ROG Ally, the Switch’s smaller size and relatively large game library make it more likely to be brought with you on vacations. But the Nitro Deck turns the Switch into something as thick and heavy as one of those powerful, more expensive competitors.

The model shown in this post is a limited edition Nitro Deck which, in addition to the GameCube-specific color scheme, includes a zippered hard case, two thumbstick replacements, and a USB-C to USB-A cable to connect to your Switch port. These add-ons add up to $89.99, but if those extras don’t mean much to you, I suggest opting for the simpler (but still attractive) color schemes that cost $59.99.

These rear paddles (four in total) can be customized to operate any of the face button commands.

Photo: Cameron Faulkner/Polygon

If you mostly play on the Switch in handheld mode and want something that turns it into a more ergonomically friendly device, there are some solid options available, such as Hori Split Pad Compact. But if you want more comfort, plus motion control, and much better analog sticks, there really aren’t many options available to you outside of the Nitro Deck. It’s a great, relatively affordable alternative to replacing your Joy-Cons, and a fun-looking, if chunky, Switch accessory that doesn’t skimp on necessary features.

Nitro Deck is now available. The addon is provided by Crkd. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. This does not influence editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions on products purchased through affiliate links. You can find Additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.

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