Greetings friends and fellow enthusiasts! This is Mikhailov from Team Retrogue, where we like retro games and the devices that bring them to us. In this article, I’m going to take a look at the CRKD Nitro Deck for the Nintendo Switch. In a world where we have so many different handhelds with varying degrees of ergonomics, does outfitting your Nintendo Switch with this controller attachment improve one’s experience playing games on this device? We’re going to see if this device is worth your time, energy, and most importantly, your money. This written review is designed to supplement my video on the CRKD Nitro Deck, and you can find that video below:

Device Overview

The Nitro Deck comes with hall sensor joysticks which have replaceable stick caps. The L2 and R2 triggers have what I feel is just the right amount of travel for my tastes. I don’t like my triggers to be all that loose, I like them quick and responsive and find most devices have too much travel. However, these are a pretty nice middle ground. The face buttons have a bit of a candy-coated texture that makes them feel comfortable. They are also responsive and have a good amount of travel, stopping at the right moment and while not sinking into the device.

On the back of the device you have four programmable buttons as well as an input and an output USB-C connection. The input is for charging and the output is if you want to use a as a separate wired controller. Unfortunately there is no ability to dock the Switch while the Nitro Deck is attached, as it doesn’t have HDMI out capability, You will still need to remove the Switch to dock it. Removing the Switch is a bit of a pain. There’s a release toggle on the back of the unit, but you have to pull the Switch out from the front, which can get fingerprints on your Switch screen.

There is also a kickstand on the back of the Nitro Deck. It is actually is a nice stiff kickstand that rivals that of the Switch OLED. It makes the unit stable for playing in tabletop mode.

A Switch OLED in the Nitro Deck weighs in at about 598g which actually puts it at a similar weight class to something like the Ayn Loki. For comparison, the Switch OLED by itself comes in at about 426g, so the Nitro deck does make the switch heavier, but not by much; the Nitro Deck is really not going to feel all that heavy even though you’re adding quite a bit of bulk to the device.

Features, Positives, and Negatives

The home button on the bottom right of the device does light up which with a lighter colored model does unfortunately create a bit of an issue with light bleed. Look at the picture below to see how bad the light bleed gets.

It’s actually really distracting, and I don’t know that that’s going to be an issue on black models, but on this lighter gray color it is definitely prominent. Fortunately, you can turn that light off. If you turn the device around, there is a program button on the back that is used mostly to program the back buttons. However in this case, if you press it three times it will dim and then shut the light off. Once you do that, it automatically takes care of the light bleed issue. Unfortunately, the light turns back on every time you boot up the Switch from sleep mode, so you will have to turn the light off every time you go to use the device.

Another quick thing to note here is that this device does not support waking from sleep, so you’re going to have to press the power button at the top of the switch in order to wake the unit from sleep. Once you do, the Nitro Deck connects right away and you can use the controller as if it were part of the Switch itself.

At the bottom of the device, there are two notches to accommodate the Switch’s downward-facing speakers, and the way they seem to be designed, I believe that they are meant to take the sound and actually project It forward more towards you. I didn’t think the audio was any worse or better compared to the stock experience.

Gameplay Tweaks

The Nitro Deck is compatible with the switch’s controller remap feature, so if you go into the controller settings there’s a section where you can temporarily change the button mapping. What I like to do for retro games is set B to A and Y to B so it feels a little bit more natural, like a Super Nintendo game. Therefore, if you have a Nintendo Switch Online subscription, you can actually make this experience much more comfortable and natural. To me, it makes playing those games a lot more fun.

When playing more modern games, we can use those back buttons. In order to do that, you the program button on the back for 3 seconds and then the light on the bottom right will flash purple three times. Then you can pick the button that you want to map and the back button you want to map it to and it will automatically set up that button to one of those back paddles.

I personally mapped them to the shoulder and trigger buttons so that way it would be easier to do something like cycle through menus in Tears of the Kingdom, or use some of the shoulder button features in Pokemon Scarlet, such as using the “Let’s Go” feature, throwing a Pokemon out of its Pokeball, or trying to target Pokemon. I did find it easier to use some of these functions with the paddles as opposed to reaching for the trigger itself. Once you map the back buttons, they will stay that way until you change them again or reset the Nitro deck to default.

In docked mode, if you plug the Nitro Deck in through a USB-C cable and hold the L3 and R3 buttons for 3 seconds, you will switch to wired mode. From there you can actually use the Nitro Deck as a wired controller! If you find the form factor of the Nitro Deck comfortable, and you actually like using it, or you don’t want to carry around extra controllers you just want to carry a portable dock, this is very much a cool option to have.

Final Thoughts

The picture below showcases my final thoughts on this device:

The positives about the the CRKD Nitro Deck:

There is a secure fit with the Nintendo Switch which means the unit is not going to fall out. The device itself has ergonomics that make using the Nitro Deck really good for bigger play sessions. You do have swap-able joystick caps, and the joystick/buttons are definitely bigger.

You also have a regular cross style d-pad, and these are all things that the Nintendo Switch definitely needed to be a more comfortable and better device. I’m happy that you can remap buttons using the Switch’s own software. Not every controller has that capability because the Nintendo Switch will lock it out, so it’s good to see the Switch does not lock out the Nitro Deck.

Unfortunately some negatives are here as well since no device is perfect:

With this device in particular, there is some light bleed down where that home button is. In addition, it is  very hard to get a third-party Nintendo controller that has sleep/wake support because Nintendo doesn’t like to release that, and this controller is no exception. You do have to hit the button on the Switch itself in order to wake it up from sleep.

The joystick, d-pad, and button placement is not ideal, but isn’t necessarily a deal breaker.

Finally, while you can use the Nitro Deck as a wired controller when the system is docked, you cannot plug it into a dock itself. It’s not capable of producing video out, which is really unfortunate because I do like to use portable docks as opposed to the Switch’s own dock.  I do wish that I could dock the Switch without having to take it out of the Nitro Deck, because taking it out of the Deck is kind of slippery and you do end up building fingerprints on the front of your device, not to mention the overall inconvenience.

You can purchase the Nitro Deck directly from the CRKD Website here:

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