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Hands On: Watching Hulu on the Nintendo Switch

One of the biggest criticisms early on with the Nintendo Switch was also admittedly one of the console’s greatest strengths: it just plays games. For some, this laser focus on being a gaming platform was a breath of fresh air; it does exactly what it says it will, and it does so exceedingly well. For others, the omission of some relatively simple things, like a browser or other entertainment apps, was seen as a drawback. Either way, Nintendo said streaming apps would eventually show up for the platform, and now the first Western one has shown up with Hulu, a North American service – the Japanese store got a NicoNico app earlier in the year.

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It adapts the updated UI of the mobile Hulu app (as opposed to the outdated look of the website version), with plenty of frosted glass and a broad spectrum of colours that cycle as you move through menus. Shows are laid out according to what you’ve been watching or are in the process of watching, and recommendations are made based on the things you’ve shown interest in. If you want to search for something specific, a tap of the X button will take you straight to the search tab. All in all it’s clean, it’s quick, and it’s easy to navigate, all making for a great first impression.

Switching between the TV screen and the Switch is a simple and painless process, adding greatly to the versatility of the app. Whether you’re dropping it in or out of the dock, the video will continue with no notable hiccups unless you pause it. So, if you’re in the middle of watching a show and want some snacks from the kitchen (and simply can’t be bothered to pause the show for two seconds), you can take it with you for that long walk, prop it up on the kickstand as you assemble that massive plate of nachos, and resume watching on the TV in a seamless go. Shows look great on either screen although it is generally more preferable to watch on a TV, not just because there’s more real estate, but the text in menus is a little smaller than comfortable on the Switch screen. Not enough to be much of a hindrance, but enough that it doesn’t feel quite like it’s the right size.

Aside from that, one (minor) gripe is the complete lack of touchscreen functionality with the interface. You can only navigate using the buttons and sticks as of now, and it feels like a bit of a lazy move. Sure, the UI doesn’t have the chunky design that’s finger-friendly, but it feels rather strange tapping on a show icon and having no response as a result. Hopefully this will be rectified in a future update; it’s not a big problem by any stretch, but it would add a welcome extra bit of convenience to navigation. Maybe the company was rushing a bit to be the first streaming service on the platform.

All told, this is a perfectly functional and satisfying way to watch your favourite shows on Hulu (newcomers can have a free trial, but it’s a paid service). Being able to switch between the portable screen and the TV is a nice touch, and the ease of use in either configuration is welcome. Though the portable mode suffers from tiny font sizes and a lack of touchscreen use, this is a great first pass at the app and it bodes well for the future of streaming services on the platform.

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