CRKD Nitro Deck review: treat your Nintendo Switch in style

Turn your Switch into a pro-style handheld

CRKD Nitro Deck
(Image credit: Rik Henderson / Future)
T3 Verdict

CRKD may be a relatively new company but it seems to have found a gap in the accessory market – a professional level case for the Nintendo Switch that turns it into a beefy, better handheld games machine. You slot in your Switch or Switch OLED and make great use of its Hall effect thumbsticks and additional button options. The Nitro Deck might add some extra bulk, but once tried it's hard to imagine playing without one.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Solid build quality

  • +

    Hall effect thumbsticks that eliminate Joy-Con drift

  • +

    Custom assignable buttons

  • +

    Neat retro colour options

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Adds considerable weight

  • -

    Rear stand isn't as sturdy as it could have been

  • -

    Not including additional battery seems a missed opportunity

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There’s no doubt about it, the Nintendo Switch has proved hugely successful since its launch almost seven years ago. More than 132 million of them have been sold since and the juggernaut shows no signs of slowing down. However, while clearly popular, even the latest Switch OLED model isn’t perfect.

It and the original variant have been subject to Joy-Con stick drift issues over the years. On rare occasions, the thumbsticks can seemingly gain a life of their own, and I’ve also had instances where the thumb caps perish or become unpleasantly sticky over time. Yes, I could buy new Joy-Cons (and have) but there’s actually a newer solution that adds so much more besides.

CRKD is a relatively new gaming accessory brand and its flagship product not only eradicates stick drift, it turns a Nintendo Switch or Switch OLED into a pro-style handheld gaming behemoth.

CRKD Nitro Deck

(Image credit: Rik Henderson / Future)

CRKD Nitro Deck review: price and availability

The Nitro Deck is available now from numerous retailers in a number of different colours, including transparent models. You can also get limited edition versions that include a carry case and exclusive styles – such as the retro purple variant I tested, which looks like a Nintendo GameCube.

With the carry case, you can expect to pay around £90 in the UK, $90 in the States when not on offer, while the standard models will set you back around £60 / $60.

In all fairness, this is very reasonable considering exactly how much it improves the Nintendo Switch experience.

CRKD Nitro Deck

(Image credit: Rik Henderson / Future)

CRKD Nitro Deck review: design and build

The Nitro Deck is essentially a chunky, plastic housing for the screen of a Switch and, as well as offer protection and a more Stead Deck style feel, it adds a number of key features to improve the gaming experience.

It’s not compatible with a Nintendo Switch Lite, but you can use a conventional LCD Switch or the OLED display unit from the latest model. You slide either screen into the device, which then connects via USB-C for zero latency, and away you go. It is not powered itself, but it does add some extra bells and whistles other than girth.

For starters, it comes with Hall effect thumbsticks, which use electromagnetic inputs and are therefore far less prone to mechanical failure or wear. And, because of the direct connection, you can feel a benefit when it comes to latency (and the lack thereof).

All of the buttons are more robust, too. The left and right triggers are especially tangible – far more so than the ones on a Nintendo Joy-Con – and I’ve found myself able to more accurately hit them during games.

CRKD Nitro Deck

(Image credit: Rik Henderson / Future)

CRKD Nitro Deck review: additional features

In addition to the regular set, there are extra buttons you won’t find on a normal Switch. Spin the Nitro Deck around and you will find four buttons – two on each side – that can be mapped to any other button you like. That way you could add gear shifts for driving games, or easier tactic switching in EA Sports FC 24, say. 

You can even map multiple presses to just one of the rear buttons. That way you could automate one of your favourite fighting game moves, for example, which you can then pull off with just one tap. It’s not the sort of thing that floats my boat, per se, but I can see how some might find it useful.

Also on the rear of the device are a  USB-C input and similar output. These give you the ability to charge your Switch without having to remove it from the Deck, or connect it to your Switch Dock and therefore a TV. If you do that, you can then use the Deck’s controls to play on the big screen.

Also on the back are a stand to keep the entire unit upright if you’re playing using another controller, plus a catch to release the screen in order to take it out again. I’ll admit that I found that tricky at times and it’s impossible to slide it out without getting greasy fingerprints all over the screen, so keep a cloth to hand.

CRKD Nitro Deck

(Image credit: Rik Henderson / Future)

CRKD Nitro Deck review: feel and experience

In all honesty, you’re unlikely to want to take your Switch out of the Nitro Deck that often. It really does improve the gameplay experience greatly.

The thumbsticks are much better to use and you can easily replace the thumb caps themselves either for personal comfort or if they start to wear down. Movement is more intuitive and definite, while the buttons feel far more clicky and reassuring. It’s definitely more pro-level am affair than with the standard Switch controls.

That’s not to say there aren’t caveats. The Deck adds 272g of additional weight for starters, which might not seem like much on paper but you certainly feel it during longer play sessions. This could also explain why there’s no additional battery inside, which otherwise feels like a missed opportunity.

Just imagine how much more useful the Nitro Deck could be if there was also an extra couple of hours of charge.

Still, considering this is just an accessory and from a new company at that, you can’t complain with what CRKD has done – it’s provided a true, pro-style handheld experience for one of the most enduring games consoles of all time.

CRKD Nitro Deck

(Image credit: Rik Henderson / Future)

CRKD Nitro Deck review: verdict

As a debut product, the Nitro Deck has set a very high bar. It isn’t just a nice partner for a Nintendo Switch or Switch OLED, it’s a nigh-on essential one. What it offers is truly transformative, and at a fairly reasonable price point to boot.

Considering how much attention there is on handheld gaming right now, thanks to the likes of Steam Deck and the Asus ROG Ally, it’s refreshing to see that the originator is still getting the respect that it deserves.

Also consider

There are no other devices quite like the Nitro Deck when it comes to expanding the Switch experience, but if you are having issues with your Joy-Cons you might want to consider some third-party equivalents.

There are several brands, such as Zarobo, that offer Joy-Con-style alternatives that cost around half the price of Nintendo’s official controllers.

Rik Henderson
News Editor

Rik is T3’s news editor, which means he looks after the news team and the up-to-the-minute coverage of all the hottest gadgets and products you’ll definitely want to read about. And, with more than 35 years of experience in tech and entertainment journalism, including editing and writing for numerous websites, magazines, and newspapers, he’s always got an eye on the next big thing.

Rik also has extensive knowledge of AV, TV streaming and smart home kit, plus just about everything to do with games since the late 80s. Prior to T3, he spent 13 years at Pocket-lint heading up its news team, and was a TV producer and presenter on such shows as Channel 4's GamesMaster, plus Sky's Games World, Game Over, and Virtual World of Sport.