It took almost two full years, but Nintendo has released a revision for its Switch console. The Switch Lite is available now for $200, and it reduces the mass and profile of the original system to make something that works as a dedicated handheld. And now, it’s time for me to review the Nintendo Switch Lite.
In making the transition from hybrid to handheld, Nintendo left out some of the defining features of the platform. The Switch Lite doesn’t connect to a television with a dock. The Joy-Con controllers do not slide off. The Lite doesn’t even have a kickstand, so say goodbye to playing games with beautiful people on an airplane.
The Lite is so good, however, that it proves those “defining features” weren’t as important as we thought. And if docking to a TV is important to you, Nintendo is still selling the original system.
But with that in mind, I’m going to review the Switch Lite for what it is. That means I’m going to keep comparisons to the other Switch to a minimum. This is a handheld console. And is it a good one?
What you’ll like
The Switch Lite is comfortable
The Lite is much more comfortable than I was expecting. And I think that’s for a few reasons. The biggest one is that it is light. It weighs 275 grams, which is lighter than an iPad Mini and about on par with the PlayStation Vita.
That feathery weight, along with Switch’s outside casing, make this portable easy to hold. Nintendo is using high-quality plastics for the body. And this plastic has a matte finish that makes gripping the device feel good.
All of this means that you can just pinch the Switch Lite without having to support it with a third or fourth finger. Your hands shouldn’t have to strain to hold the Lite.
I think the Switch Lite could even win over some people who found the original Switch too small. Yes, the Lite is smaller, but the reduced weight and built-in Joy-Cons makes the Lite feel more secure when you hold it. I haven’t found myself subconsciously cradling the Switch Lite. With the original, the slight wobble where the Joy-Con controllers latched onto the Switch was always in the back of my mind. And I think removing that concern makes a huge difference.
It’s actually portable
The Lite isn’t just more comfortable to hold; it’s also easier to live with. Its smaller size makes it easier to fit into a pocket or a bag. Sure, I worry about the analog sticks snagging on cloth, but Nintendo has built a durable system, so it isn’t a major concern.
The plastic seems strong and unlikely to warp or bend. The system also runs a lot cooler, so the fan almost never kicks in. And that’s good, because portables should have as few moving parts as possible.
One of the reasons the fans rarely run is that Nintendo and Nvidia have a new efficient processor for the Switch Lite. This translates into solid battery life. According to Nintendo, the Lite lasts for 3-to-7 hours. That puts it well beyond the PlayStation Vita, which ran for 3-to-5 hours. It also surpasses the original Switch, which Nintendo put at 2.5-to-6 hours.
Switch Lite has an incredible screen and full console games
The Switch Lite’s killer feature is that it’s still a Switch. You can play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey right in your hands. It is a full, modern console with a high-definition screen.
Sure, the Lite is not as powerful as a PlayStation 4 Pro or most gaming PCs, but again, it fits in your pocket. And more important, it’s popular. Nintendo has already sold millions of Switch systems. Software also performs well on this platform. So you don’t have to worry that you are going to buy into an ecosystem that won’t get a lot of content. Switch has, and is still getting, a ton of games.
And those games look gorgeous on the 5.5-inch screen. At that size, the 720p resolution is hyper-sharp, with a pixel density of 267 pixels-per-inch. That is a significantly higher pixel density than a MacBook Pro with a Retina display (220 pixels-per-inch).
As long as you aren’t holding the screen right against your face, you should never see any pixels.
What you won’t like
Needs more internal storage
I’m glad that Nintendo doesn’t sell higher capacity Switch systems for $100 more, but 32GB is far too tiny. You can (and should) expand the storage with a microSD card. But by only giving you 32GB, Nintendo is basically hiding some of the cost of using the Switch Lite.
This is a portable system, right? So you’re probably going to want to own many of your games digitally, so you don’t need to carry about a bunch of game cards. You’ll have a hard time fitting more than three or four games on 32GB.
No support for Bluetooth audio
Nintendo also needs to support Bluetooth headsets. The Lite has a headphone jack, but my smartphone doesn’t. That means I switched to Bluetooth headphones a while ago. If I want to listen to my Switch, I have to carry a separate pair of wired headphones. That’s just not going to happen.
I want the option to use the same headphones on Switch and my phone.
Again, if you hate the idea of the Switch Lite, Nintendo still makes the original hardware. Just get that. But if you primarily play games on handhelds, the Lite is the best portable I’ve ever used.
I love holding it. Games look incredible on it. One of the first games I booted up was Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and it is astounding that something so beautiful can run on a screen in your hands. And speaking of beautiful, I think the Lite itself is attractive. I tested the turquoise, which is bold and fun.
I haven’t immediately loved a handheld device like this so much since the DS Lite or the Game Boy Advance SP. And as someone who has loved portable gaming since the Game Boy, this is high praise. Those devices were sleek and hyper portable. The Switch Lite has all of that and a growing library of full HD console experiences.
The Switch Lite gets my highest recommendation. You know if you want a regular Switch or not. But at $200, the Lite is right for everyone who doesn’t care about gaming on the TV.
Nintendo Switch Lite is available now for $200. Nintendo provided a sample unit for the purpose of this review.