Priced at $259.99 CDN, the Switch Lite is meant to be the budget option in the Switch lineup. Gone are the TV mode and kickstand – the Switch Lite will exclusively be a handheld-only device. No more Joy-Cons either, as it’ll instead by a solid handheld much like the 3DS was. This means that the Switch’s name is now a misnomer, though I don’t think anyone at Nintendo is losing sleep over that.
In advance of its launch, I spent some time testing out the Switch Lite at a Nintendo event earlier this month. I played through demos of both The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening and Luigi’s Mansion 3 on multiple models and walked away impressed with what I experienced. My time was brief and I still have some questions that have yet to be addressed, but based on what I saw, Nintendo’s focus on the handheld experience isn’t going away anytime soon.
But that’s not what I thought at first. At a glance, the Switch Lite looks like a toy. The combination of bright colours and slightly smaller dimensions give it a cheaper appearance, which to be fair is exactly what it is. But my initial thoughts went away quickly, as holding it in my hands made it clear that this is just as sturdy as the regular Switch. For one, the Switch Lite is easier to hold than its older sibling. It clocks in at approximately 0.61 lbs, which is 0.27 lbs lighter than the regular Switch. The loss in weight did not make it feel like it was cheap though. It remained just as sturdy as the regular Switch, though I wish it had the ability to stand up using a kickstand. The screen’s also smaller, measuring in at 5.5″ compared to 6.2″, and this translated into slightly sharper visuals.
When it came time to play the demos on the Switch Lite, it took a little while for me to get adjusted to the new button positions. At first, it felt awkward moving my thumb between the face buttons and the right joystick, though that feeling went away in due time. Conversely, I found that the shoulder buttons were much more comfortable to press, even
One major improvement that hasn’t been touted lies in the face buttons. Compared to the standard Switch, the face buttons on the Switch Lite are of much higher quality. That’s not to say that the ones on the existing Switch are cheap – far from it. But in comparison, the ones on the Switch Lite feel sturdier and more tactile. Going back and forth between both Switch systems, there was obvious contrast between the two, and I much prefer the face buttons on the newer model.
Similarly, the addition of a proper D-pad is welcome. It’s solid and interconnected, in contrast to the face button approach the left Joy-Con takes. While it’s understandable why the left Joy-Con is built the way it is – using it as a single controller is a necessity at times – it’s use as the D-pad when in handheld mode leaves much to be desired. Removing that style of D-pad from the Switch Lite goes a long way to making the console feel like a proper handheld.
Which is important, because Nintendo is expressly aiming for the Switch Lite to reach new audiences. In that regard, I think they’ll succeed. The bright colours of the launch models will be appealing to kids, who don’t necessarily need the ability to detach controllers. People who don’t want to play Switch games on their television will find the Switch Lite to be a sturdy alternative. And if you happen to live in a household where multiple people want to use the Switch at the same time, the Switch Lite is an attractive indulgence if a second Switch is on the cards.
Of course, I only spent a brief amount of time with the Switch Lite. That means I couldn’t verify if the battery life improvements make as much of a different as Nintendo says they will. I also want to test how multiplayer games can be played on it. Since there are no Joy-Cons in this model, along with no kickstand, I imagine it will be difficult to play a round of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe or Overcooked with friends. As such, the Switch Lite may be well-suited to being a single-player game only machine.
Expect a full review of the Switch Lite here at CGMagazine when it launches next month on September 20th.