When the Nintendo Switch launched in 2017, it offered players console-level games on a system that worked on the go, and at home. The unique design made it ideal for many titles coming out of Nintendo, and the ability to hook it up to a TV for a slight performance increase was a nice touch. Now, gearing up for the holidays, Nintendo has the Nintendo Switch Lite, and despite some small sacrifices, it is a marvellous dedicated handheld, and if on the go, the one to buy.
With the Switch Lite, I find it hard to go back to it’s bigger brother. The new design, price point and overall feel of the device feels right. I have been using it for a few days now, so granted my views may change over the long term, but Nintendo has refined many of the core concepts found in the Switch with its new model. Yes, you no longer can use it in docked mode, and you do lose the ability to remove the Joy-Cons. What you get in exchange is one of the best handhelds Nintendo has ever produced.
Let’s breakdown what makes the Switch Lite different from a standard Switch. First and foremost is the fact that this system is smaller. The Switch Lite offers players a 5.5’’ touch screen compared to the standard Nintendo Switch’s 6.2’’ offering. The Switch Lite is very light, weighing only 0.61 pounds (276 grams), and is entirely solid, making it feel built from the ground up to be used on the go. It slips into most bags with ease, and I even managed to put it in my pockets, even if it was not the most comfortable solution.
The system comes with all the features you would expect from a Switch handheld. You have your SD Card slot on the bottom right of the device, a Switch game slot on the top right, power buttons, volume rocker, and of course, a 3.5mm headphone jack. The biggest design difference, beyond the size, is the controls are not firmly attached to the device, and Nintendo has done some slight tweaking to how they all work. The other notable change is the d-pad is now a solid button, and compared to the standard Switch’s four separate directional buttons, feels fantastic. I cannot overstate how much of an improvement this small change has made to games like Bloodstained or anything that needs accurate platforming.
The Switch Lite also just looks like a more complete system overall. Nintendo has taken what is great about the Switch and refined it for this mobile-first offering. Combine that with a selection of colours (gray, yellow, and teal) and you have yourself a winning formula.
Even the simple fact that it’s now all one unit makes the Nintendo Switch Lite feel like a more complete device overall. While I enjoyed what the Switch offered, I rarely used it in portable mode. I found the controller and weight were not conducive to my style of on the go gaming. With the Switch Lite, I am a convert. This feels like the perfect system for anyone who uses the switch on the go and has never used the dock. Nintendo knows how to make a good handheld, and they have knocked it out of the park with this offering.
The screen, while smaller than it’s bigger brother feels just as sharp and easy to use. The screen keeps the same resolution, but at the smaller size games have the illusion of feeling sharper and clearer. Text is just as easy to read, with even smaller menu settings being just as sharp on this new screen. Testing through the library of games in the office, I ran into no titles that were notably worse or that were unplayable due to visuals.
Now, before I get everyone’s hopes up, there are some games that will simply not work out of the box with the Switch Lite. Most notably, games that rely on HD Rumble or having the Joy-cons detached from the system for play (Arms) will not work. You will need to buy a separate set of Joy-Cons to play any of those titles. Combined with the fact the Switch Lite does not have a kickstand, makes these games not the ideal choice for this new system. That being said, the Nintendo Switch Lite will not be for everyone. While the features cut are necessary to reach the price point and design concept, it does take away from the charm of the Switch system as a whole. But, if you are someone who never docks your Switch, and are okay with giving up a few features for a more portable system, the Nintendo Switch Lite is a perfect option. Nintendo has done a fantastic job with the Switch Lite, and while compromises had to be made, overall for the person on the go, the system is better for it.