Earlier this week, Nintendo invited me to try out the Switch Lite and after a few hours playing such games as The Witcher 3, Luigi’s Mansion and Daemon X Machina, I can say with confidence that the smaller and more compact Lite is in many ways a better portable device than its bigger brother.
When I first reviewed the original Switch before it ever hit store shelves, I was skeptical of Nintendo’s hybrid system. Thankfully it didn’t take long before I was sold on the product and in my review, I wrote: “what at first seemed like a strained miscalculation turned out to be one of the most brilliant marketing ploys ever pulled by a multibillion-dollar entertainment conglomerate”.
The Switch was, and still is a giddy blast of fresh air, an exercise in unfettered glee that leaves behind all the angst and self-seriousness of too many modern gaming consoles to revel in just how freakin’ fun Nintendo can be. There was just one problem, however, the Nintendo Switch was bloody expensive and nearly three years later, the price hasn’t dropped. Now, in classic Nintendo fashion, the company has decided to rectify this problem by releasing a cheaper alternative for consumers who maybe can’t afford the standard Switch — and in classic Ricky D fashion, I was skeptical yet again.
The Switch Lite blew my expectations out of the water when I saw just how smooth a game like The Witcher 3 ran on the mini device.
The obvious major difference between the Switch Lite and the original Switch is that the Switch Lite is solely a handheld device which may not sit well for many fans considering the entire point of a Switch is to have the option to play handheld or on your television set. However, while the Switch Lite sort of goes against the raison d’etre and branding of the original Switch, the new handheld is worth the purchase for those who can’t afford a regular Switch or for those looking to buy a secondary console without having to shell out a ton of cash. The bottom line is, the Switch Lite looks great, feels great and honestly it blew my expectations out of the water when I saw just how smooth and gorgeous a game like The Witcher 3 looked and ran on the mini device. The results are nothing short of spectacular!
Just the Right Size
When I picked up the Switch Lite, the first thing I noticed was how comfortable it felt to hold when compared to its predecessor. The original Nintendo Switch is an impressive piece of hardware and a leap over the aging 3DS and DS lines. At the core of the standard Switch is a sexy tablet with a 6.2-inch LCD screen running at 720p resolution (1080p on your television set when docked) and it weighs approximately 297g (398g with Joy-Con controllers attached). The Switch Lite, however, improves in size and in weight. It features a 5.5-inch display while still providing 720 pixels resolution so you’re not losing anything in terms of picture quality. Meanwhile, the height of the Switch Lite is .4 inches lower; the length of the Switch Lite is 1.2 inches shorter, and when compared to the original Switch, the Lite is .27 pounds lighter. That all adds up to a huge difference.
I wouldn’t say the Switch Lite is something that can easily fit in your pockets but in terms of portability, it sits somewhere in between the standard Switch and the Nintendo 3DS which seems like a perfect size since it feels more comfortable to hold and easier to carry. And if I was given the choice, I’d choose the Switch Lite any day over the bulkier Switch when playing games on the go.
As mentioned above, Nintendo had various games for journalists to try out at the press junket and while Luigi’s Mansion 3 and Daemon X Machina both looked as sharp and colorful as they do on the standard Switch, what really blew me away was the presentation of The Witcher 3. Given the complexity of the game and Switch’s portable hardware, the port of The Witcher 3 is without a doubt, a remarkable and impressive technical feat. If you were impressed with the port of Skyrim, you’re going to be even more impressed with how CD Projekt RED managed to bring their magnum opus to the Switch. It looks, feels and runs so incredibly smooth, I’m seriously debating buying the game a second time just so I can play handheld.
The Switch Lite looks similar to the standard Switch, only being a dedicated handheld device the console doesn’t come with a dock, a kickstand or the HDMI cable. It does, however, feature far thinner bezels and I was impressed by the soft matte finish which provides a solid grip. And given that there are no detachable Joy-Cons, the Switch Lite just seems more sturdy when compared to the original Switch.
My only gripe is the three original colors chosen for release which includes turquoise, gray and yellow models – the best of the three being the turquoise. I can’t help but think Nintendo’s marketing team should have convinced Nintendo to release the Lite with either more colorful skins and/or a model that called back to Nintendo’s earlier handhelds such as the original Game Boy or the Game Boy Color which was available in an array of striking and bold colors. In my eyes, the yellow model is a real eye-soar and the grey model is extremely bland leaving me with only one color choice if I were to buy the Switch Lite.
The Switch Lite doesn’t have removable Joy-Cons like the standard Switch, but it does offer the same buttons as the original Switch with the exception of the A, Y, B, and X buttons, which have been replaced with a traditional D-Pad. The Switch Lite’s control pad is certainly a step up from the four separate directional buttons on the Joy-Con and unlike the regular Switch, the direction pad feels more responsive for 2D platforming games and certainly more suited for handheld play.
Aside from the d-pad, the Lite features the usual dual analog sticks, face buttons and has a small plus/start and home buttons on the right side of the screen, with the minus/select and capture buttons on the left side. Meanwhile, two pairs of triggers sit on the top left and right corners. All of these controls are identical to the Nintendo Switch’s Joy-Cons.
It’s also worth noting that the Switch Lite does not come with HD Rumble or an IR Motion Camera. The device is made to solely play handheld games and will therefore only play Nintendo Switch games that support handheld mode. In other words, there are some games such as 1-2 Switch and Nintendo Labo accessory kits that are not suitable for the Switch Lite. These games, however, are few and far between and the trade-off is a portable console with a slightly longer battery life of 3-7 hours depending on the game you are playing. In addition, the Switch Lite allows for wireless connectivity, Bluetooth and the use of MicroSD cards to increase the 32GB of console storage – and cloud saves are supported as well (so long as you have a Nintendo Switch Online subscription). In the end, you aren’t really losing out on many features save for docked mode which allows you to play on a bigger screen.
The Nintendo Switch Lite is the perfect console for those who prefer handheld gaming, and for $199, the price point is just right for those who can’t afford the standard Switch. It’s also great for anyone in need of a second console either because they share the standard Switch with their family members or simply prefer to keep one system at home and another in their bag when they travel. As a handheld, I can’t stress enough how much of an improvement the Switch Lite is over the standard Switch. If you’re looking for a more comfortable, lighter and overall better handheld device, look no further.