CRKD Nitro Deck+ Review

Nitro Deck + Key Image showing a handheld gaming device on a table next to the box for the device itself.

Sometimes, you can truly love a console and yet feel like you need something extra to enhance the experience. Just ask all those kids who bought Action Replay discs or crazy peripherals for their late 90s/early 2000s consoles. Well, the Nintendo Switch is a great console, but the CRKD Nitro Deck+ promises to expand the functionality of the hybrid handheld greatly. Not only that, but somehow the company pulls it off without a susceptibility to the dreaded Joy-Con drift! If only certain multi-billion-dollar companies could do the same.

By the way, if you enjoy this review, check out some of our other Tech Reviews, like our review of the KIWI Design RGB Vertical Charging Stand for Meta Quest.

 

What Is the Nitro Deck+?

Nitro Deck + review image showing a close up of the Nintendo Switch screen embedded in the handheld controller

CRKD’s Nitro Deck+ is an enhanced version of the Nitro Deck. Hence the +. The original device was easily one of the most popular and beloved devices of 2023, and the new revisions have been made with previous user feedback in mind. This is the definitive pro-handheld-mode controller for the Nintendo Switch, and you can really feel it.

Setting up the device is simple. Just slip your Switch into the Nitro Deck+ with wired controls enabled and you can basically start using it straight out of the box. Much like the original deck, you get extra buttons, but as well as the four on the back, you also get two new ones on the face of the device, right next to each of the two thumbsticks. By default, these buttons are mapped to the four face buttons, but like many of the deck’s features, you can customize this yourself.

 

Customization Till the End of CreationNitro Deck + review image showing the back of a handheld controller underneath the box on a plain black table

When you first get your hands on the device, it can be a bit overwhelming in some ways. You can alter everything from the level and style of vibration to the travel of the actuators on your back triggers. It’s an insane level of control to have over your play experience, and it takes a little while to wrap your head around how you actually go about changing the various settings and custom features.

Once you’ve been using the Nitro Deck+ for a while, you pick up on how to change settings on the fly, which is a great boon. You’ll probably want to use different button maps for each game you’re playing, depending on which button combos you have need of. There are also added features like the old-school Turbo-Mode, which needs to be turned on/off as needed.

 

Playtime

Nitro Deck + review image showing someone playing with the system in handheld mode

The experience of using the Nitro Deck+ is pretty comfortable and ergonomic. If you’ve ever tried using a Switch in handheld mode and cursed the tiny size and sharp corners, then you’ll have a much easier time here. This thing takes the Switch from its regular size to being on par with a Windows PC handheld like an AyaNeo or Steam Deck. Obviously, that does add a certain amount of weight, but it’s barely noticeable.

In general, the buttons and sticks feel great, and having the ability to alter your travel distance and rumble means that you can always be sure of your optimal experience no matter what kind of game you’re playing. The change in size, however, does cause a bit of a learning curve. Your thumbs have to travel a little too far to get to the face buttons, which can be a bit off-putting at first. Luckily, the remappable buttons compensate for this quite well, and after a while, the travel difference will be less noticeable, until you go back to a tiny little Joy-Con again, anyway.

 

TV Explorer

Nitro Deck + review image showing the deck plugged into a TV via the HDMI out cord

One of the biggest additions to the Nitro Deck+, which was missing from the original, is the new HDMI out feature. This is a big one, because with it, you now don’t have to get back to your official dock for almost any reason. With a simple power cable, a USB-C to HDMI adapter, and an HDMI cable, you can just hot-swap your Switch between the TV and handheld without having to slide it in or out of anything.

As well as being more convenient at home, it means if you do want to take your Switch out with you, you can be sure to set up anywhere to play games with your friends. It’ll plug into a TV without having to carry the dock around with you, and if you’re still rocking a regular Switch with the dinky kickstand, you can be a bit more confident in the more sensibly-placed and sturdy one included here.

 

Limitations?

Nitro Deck + review image showing the front cover of the box for the nitro deck plus

While the Nitro Deck+ is a fantastic device, it’s not without a few limitations. You won’t be able to play any games that don’t support the Pro Controller. This means stuff like The World Ends with You will need you to connect a regular Joy-Con, even if you’re planning on using the touchscreen mode. So, you’re going to need to keep a couple of drift magnets around if you want to play highly specific games, but 99% of the Switch library is going to play more than fine, so it’s a very minor limitation.

We also did experience the occasional moment where it was possible to accidentally press the back buttons, but this was mostly during our early hours with the deck. It’s also worth noting that you can get rid of this issue if you’re playing a game where it’s a major issue. Holding down the program button on the back of the device for seven seconds clears all mapping of the extra buttons, preventing you from making mistakes.

 

The Final Thought

Nitro Deck + review image showing an extreme close-up of the right side of the pro controller dock

The Nitro Deck+ is a stellar addition to any serious Switch gamer’s collection. It makes the Switch into a device that feels solid and comfortable in handheld mode while also providing a slew of new features and customization options to make any “pro gamer” happy. A few minor niggles aside, this is easily one of the best ways to play Switch handheld, whether you’ve got an OLED or an old-model Switch.

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