When it comes to hardware revisions, Nintendo has the previous form, particularly for its handheld consoles. With the daily switch, both straddle the line between home and portable and proved to be a massive success for the Japanese gaming giant, it was inevitable that a refresh along the line of 3DS would also develop into 3DS XL. Nevertheless, the Switch Lite is a conundrum: more of devolution, with most of the features that make the Switch exceptionally stripped, yet still managing to be one of Nintendo’s best kit bits.
Technically, the term “Switch” doesn’t fit anymore because the Lite can’t connect to a TV, so it can’t switch between docked and portable shapes. It also means that only handheld games are compatible with the new console–try buying anything on Nintendo eShop that requires TV output (Labo, Just Dance, 1-2 Switch, Super Mario Party) and you’ll be warned that this is incompatible. This is the largest, but not the only, shift.
Also, the Lite lacks removable Joy-Con controllers, rather than a single unit, and offers a smaller screen–5.5 in vs. the 6.2 in the original model. All run at1280x720 but, compared to 237ppi, the smaller size of the Lite gives it a maximum of 267ppi. Nevertheless, the difference is almost insignificant, although it was slightly more apparent on the Lite pixels.
The Lite’s overall smaller form factor–20.8×9.1 cm versus 23.8×10.2 cm and weighing in at 280 g versus 398 g–makes it perfect for frequent travelers, while on-going gamers will also benefit from battery upgrades. The Lite has a smaller battery, but performance improvements mean that, depending on the player, you will be able to play between three and seven hours before you need a recharge.
Aesthetically, it’s a very good piece of kit, and while currently only available in three colors–black, turquoise, and yellow–the track record of Nintendo basically guarantees more colors and special editions to come, enabling owners to make a statement about their pick.
The all-in-one casing of the Lite feels more durable in handheld mode than the modular Switch. Call it tech paranoia, but the fear of popping off the Joy-Con controllers from the original Switch model is real, especially when it comes to replacing £ 75 a pair–the Lite being a solid block soothes that worry.
Integrated controls also mean that left-hand controls do not need to mimic the right, enabling Nintendo to re-introduce a proper directional control D-Pad. It’s a slight adjustment, but the four-way key feels much more responsive in the hands than the individual up-down-left – right buttons of the standard Switch.
Everyone tempted by the new model, though, needs to consider what they miss out on. No detachable Joy-Cons means no instant multiplayer, and although you can still pair Joy-Cons or change Pro controllers wirelessly to the Lite, why wouldn’t you just get a standard switch?
While the new hardware maintains gyroscopic features, it lacks the Joy-Cons’ “HD rumble,” softening the physical immersion in sports. You will also have to consider size–while Zelda’s Legend: Link’s Awakening looks fine on either model in handheld form, it’s series mates vast open world, Breath of the Wild, is actually singing on a TV in the living room. Lite owners do not expect such comfort.
Nevertheless, the biggest issues the Lite faces are online ownership and account management. Nintendo made it shockingly easy to set up the Lite as a new console and move your user account from a change to the Lite, enabling you to play all the games you’ve previously purchased on the new system digitally. But there is a glaring omission–people who want to add their original switch to the Switch Lite.
In such situations, you can set up a user profile on the Lite or sign up as a secondary console to your Nintendo account. You can re-download any of your virtual eShop purchases, but every time you start a game, the Lite will need to check permissions. The Lite is–almost unintentionally–unusable away from home, or at least an internet connection, as it has to be online to do this. The long-haul flight instantly became much less fun with gaming.
Yeah, and if you’re moving your first controller to the Lite? Your core change account and game-saving information were deleted irretrievably. Luckily, games based on cartridges are not affected equally, so players with a physical set could still have a secondary controller Lite.
Nintendo’s logic, obviously, is that anyone with a standard change can and will likely use it portably. It’s probably, even–the Switch Lite already exists in part because of market patterns that show a large number of owners playing primarily in handheld mode. It does not understand, however, that some of the most ardent fans of Nintendo will be exactly the kind of people who want a Lite as well as a regular switch and want to toggle between them. Management of the Draconian account makes it harder than it should be.
The Lite is a solid option for anyone who comes to Switch for the first time and knows that most of their playing time is going to be while traveling or otherwise away from home.
Using the near-totality of the Switch’s catalog means it has a killer game library from day one, a much more attractive proposition than Nintendo having released a 3DS counterpart, while the casing’s robustness and comfort make it suitable for longer play sessions on the go.
So this is a great addition to the hardware family of Nintendo–although anyone who wants the full range of toggle features and the versatility to play at home will want to stick to the original version.