So, you want to buy a Nintendo Switch, and because you know you will stare at it for a long time, you opt to try an OLED version to enjoy the more vibrant colors and crisp images. But, you heard some friends warn against it, saying that the screen can get "burned", is that true? What does that mean?
Can the screen of the Nintendo Switch OLED get burned?
It is rare, but it can absolutely happen. Any OLED screen without a built-in refreshing mechanism can experience burn-in.
You might have heard that new OLED monitors and TV screens don´t get images "burned-in" anymore, but that´s because they come with nifty features that the Switch lacks. Nintendo´s hybrid console doesn´t refresh pixels, nor does it "shift" the screen after long periods of disuse. The Nintendo Switch doesn´t even have a screensaver like an old computer.
However, the OLED can only get "burned" if it´s being used in hand-held mode. If you play docked, you don´t have to worry about that as the Switch´s screen is turned off. But,
What is Burn-in?
It´s not an "official" term, but having an OLED screen with burn-in means that it has an image "burned" into it. That is to say, the "burned" image will always appear on the screen when turned on, even if you are playing or watching something else.
The more official term is "Image retention". It happens because the pixels that make up the screen can get worn out with overuse. Their light dims and leaves an area of the screen darker than the rest.
For example, let´s say you decided to beat Tears of the Kingdom in one sitting. You play Zelda for a whole afternoon and as a result, the three hearts symbolizing Link´s health get burned into the upper left corner of the screen. Those three hearts will now appear in the same place whenever you play any other game as a sort of "tattoo" for your screen.
Except, it´s not the exact image that it appears, but a darkened silhouette. You´ll get three vaguely heart-shaped black blobs stuck in the corner of your screen. The "burns" are always black as the individual pixels have literally burned themselves and cannot grow bright anymore.
How to prevent the OLED screen from getting burned
Burn-in happens when a screen is left on the same static image for a long time, as the pixels never have a chance to "turn off" and "rest" for the lack of a better word. If you are playing handheld, don´t leave the Nintendo Switch turned on while on a pause menu or static screen. Put your Switch in sleep mode instead.
However, image retention can still happen while playing regularly if there are elements of the UI (like health bars, minimaps, and the like) that remain static and unchanging during the gameplay.
In case you start noticing that parts of your screen are getting darker or appear to be "burned in" while switching around menus, then turn off the Nintendo Switch and let your screen rest for a bit. Put it in the dock and play on your TV if you absolutely can´t stop playing.
Image retention starts temporary, and fades away in a couple of minutes if the damage is not permanent. So it´s important to catch it and stop it before it turns into a permanent burn.
Another, less safe, alternative you can try to keep playing after you have seen the first tell-tale signs of burn-in is to lower the brightness on the screen. However, it is much safer to just turn off the Switch and let your screen rest.
The good news is that unless you are very unlucky, "burn-in" is not something that should happen to a new Nintendo Switch OLED during regular gameplay. Even the short-ish battery of the OLED model is primed to stop you from playing too long in one sitting.
Old models, however, are more prone to getting burned, as their pixels can be more worn out than those from brand-new models.
One important thing to note is that the Switch can only get "burn-in" if it´s being played in handheld mode. Since the screen is turned off while docked, there is no danger (to the Switch´s screen) while playing docked.
As an aside, I must mention that screen protectors like these do nothing to prevent burn-in. They can still keep your screen from getting other types of damage, but not Image Retention as that´s an internal problem.
Does Burn-in happen on a regular or Lite Nintendo Switch?
No, burn-in can only occur on the OLED model, the "normal" Nintendo Switch and the Nintendo Switch Lite use LED screens, which aren´t affected by image retention.
This is because, on an OLED screen, each individual pixel is lit up to give the overall picture better quality and more vibrant colors. But, as a result, the pixels can burn up and create the infamous "burn."
LED´s screens, on the other hand, don´t have self-illuminating pixels. Instead, the pixels are "lit up" by a backlight behind it. As such, they can´t get burned in the same way that their OLED cousins can, and so they don´t experience Image Retention.
Still, I hope this doesn´t discourage you from buying an OLED Nintendo Switch, the burn-in problem is quite rare and can be reasonably prevented if you start to notice that your Switch is beginning to show black dots while playing.
And that´s it! Hopefully, you found this article helpful. If after reading this post you want to find a way to connect your Switch to a monitor to avoid getting it burned, you can read our post over here on how to do precisely that. Or if you dropped your Switch on the sink, you can learn how to try and salvage it here.