It's a small tweak, but the four-way button feels far more precise, and simply more satisfying in the hands, than the regular Switch's individual up-down-left-right buttons. Anyone tempted by the new model needs to consider what they're losing out on, though.
Get ready to switch
No detachable Joy-Cons means no instant multiplayer, and although you can still wirelessly pair Joy-Cons or Switch Pro controllers to the Lite, it begs the question of why you wouldn't just get a regular Switch at that point? While gyroscopic functions are retained in the new hardware, it loses the "HD rumble" of the Joy-Cons, softening the physical immersion in games. You'll also have to consider scale — while The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening looks fine in handheld form on either model, the vast open world of its series-mate Breath of the Wild really sings on a living room TV.
No such luxury awaits Lite owners.
The Lite's biggest problems come down to digital ownership and account management, however. Nintendo has made it surprisingly easy to set up the Lite as a new console or to transfer your user account from a Switch to the Lite, allowing you to play all the games you've previously bought digitally on the new system. But there's a glaring omission — people who want to use the Switch Lite supplementary to their original Switch. In such cases, you can set yourself up a user account on the Lite and sign into your Nintendo account, registering it as a secondary console.
You'll be able to re-download any of your digital eShop purchases, but the Lite will need to verify permissions every time you start a game. As it needs to be online to do this, the Lite becomes — almost ironically — unusable away from home or at least an internet connection. That long-haul flight suddenly became a lot less gaming friendly. Oh, and if you transfer to the Lite as your premier console? Your account and game-save data on the base Switch is irretrievably erased.
Thankfully, cartridge-based games aren't similarly affected, so players with a physical collection could still have a Lite as a secondary console. Presumably, Nintendo reasons that anyone with a regular Switch can and likely will use that portably. It's likely, even — the Switch Lite exists in part due to usage trends showing a large number of owners predominantly play in handheld mode already.
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However, it fails to recognise that some of Nintendo's most ardent fans will be exactly the sort of people who will want a Lite as well as a standard Switch, and want to swap between them. Draconian account management makes that tougher than it should be. For anyone coming to Switch for the first time and knowing the majority of their gaming time will be while commuting or otherwise away from home, the Lite is a solid option. Being able to play the near-totality of the Switch's catalogue means it has a killer software library from day one, a far more enticing prospect than had Nintendo launched a 3DS successor, while the sturdiness and comfort of the casing make it suited for longer play sessions on the go.
So this is a great addition to Nintendo's hardware family — though anyone wanting the full range of Switch features and the flexibility to play at home will want to stick to the original version. If you're looking for some new titles to play on your Switch, check out our guide to the best games for Nintendo Switch. When you buy something using the retail links in our stories, we earn a small affiliate commission.
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This does not impact the products we recommend. The original Switch and Joy-Cons weigh The Switch Lite weighs just 9. A few people at the Gizmodo offices called it cheap as they handled it. No sense that you could snap the whole thing in half with one sharp twist. Even the small series of vents on the top of the device seem sturdier and less prone to breakage than the same vents on the Switch.
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I feel like I can toss the Switch Light in my bag and not worry about it breaking like I do every time I travel with my Switch. My hands never cramp playing marathon sessions with the Switch Lite as they do with the Switch. However, people with larger than average hands should be wary; a few of my coworkers found the controls too cramped for their hands. Nintendo shrunk the battery from mAh to mAh, but removing features like the rumble pack means the Switch Lite gets better battery life than the original Switch.
The original Switch lasted a paltry hours.
Admittedly both devices lost to a brand new Switch revision which has tweaks to battery and processor performance and lasts hours in the test. The battery life on standby leaves much to be desired though. There was a two day period where I devoted my spare time to my Kindle instead of the Switch Lite, and it dropped from percent battery to percent battery life in that time. So keep it plugged in when not in use, or plan to charge it before any trips.
A smaller device means a smaller display. The p resolution is the same, and in our testing, its max brightness was on par—both average nits. Yet because the Switch Lite has the same resolution in a smaller display, things just look better. Higher pixel density means the picture appears sharper.
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