In the three years since its launch, the Nintendo Switch has captured the hearts and hands of millions of players who love the hybrid console for its ability to offer on-the-go gaming and a big-screen sofa experience.
As great as the original Switch is, though, Nintendo is a company that’s pretty much become the leader of dedicated handheld experiences. While the Nintendo DS line of consoles held on to the handheld crown for an impressive amount of time, it felt inevitable that Nintendo would eventually move on and release a handheld-only Switch.
And in September 2019 it did with the Nintendo Switch Lite, marketed as a smaller, lighter alternative to the original Nintendo Switch.
So, is the newer Switch Lite the console for you? Or are you better suited to the original? Well, we’re going to look into the similarities and differences between each model, hopefully helping you settle on which Nintendo Switch console is best for you—or simply answering any lingering questions you may have.
Nintendo Switch vs Nintendo Switch Lite: price
The current Nintendo Switch model retails for $299/£279.99/AU$469, with plenty of bundle options. For that price, you get yourself the console, two joy-cons, a dock and the associated cables.
Bundles tend to include massively popular games like Mario Kart 8: Deluxe, Pokemon Sword and Shield or Super Smash Bros. Ultimate—all of which are great games to get you started.
Meanwhile, the Nintendo Switch Lite retails for the lower price point of $199.99/£199.99/AU$329.95 for the console on its own. The console is focused on handheld play so you don’t get a dock or detachable joy-cons (more on that later), but bundles with the most popular games can be found at most retailers, with the accompanying games generally adding a little extra onto the cost.
Bundles aside, looking at the prices of the consoles alone shows that the Switch Lite does, as you'd expect, cost less. If you’re not very interested in the original Switch's TV output capabilities then opting for the Switch Lite is money worth saving as it could be enough to get you another couple of games.
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Nintendo Switch vs Nintendo Switch Lite: design
Arguably, the Switch’s main selling point is the console’s versatility. You can use your console to conquer Hyrule in The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild on your morning commute, before docking the console once you get home to play with either your detached joy-cons or the Pro Controller.
It’s instant, and feels almost like magic as you transfer your game from the screen on the device to the television and back again.
Nintendo has opted to forgo this hybridity to offer the cheaper Nintendo Switch Lite. It has fixed joy-cons, and can’t be docked to a TV, and while this may be a dealbreaker for many we think it could be very attractive to new customers and existing ones alike.
As an example, the bright colors make it feel like it stands out. Between yellow, gray, coral and turquoise, there’s plenty of room to express yourself - albeit without swapping joy-cons to your heart’s content.
The lower price is ideal for those looking for a second device for a younger child, too, or simply a console you can take on the go more readily - the more plasticky looking Switch Lite with its fewer moving parts looks a little more durable than its more versatile brother.
Despite the controllers being fixed, they offer mostly the same buttons as the original Switch - except the A,Y,B,X buttons have been replaced by a D-Pad - while removing some functionality which we’ll get onto shortly. Both models also allow for wireless connectivity, bluetooth and the use of MicroSD cards to increase the meagre 32GB of console storage.
Nintendo Switch vs Nintendo Switch Lite: display
The Nintendo Switch offers a 6.2 inch LCD display, with a maximum resolution of 720p. With PlayStation and Xbox chasing higher and higher pixel counts, 720p feels decidedly unambitious but the system’s raft of high-quality exclusives belie any technical shortcomings. Of course, there’s also the ability to dock the console to output at 1080p - it’s not 4K, but it’s a bit crisper when stretched across your TV or monitor of choice.
The Switch Lite’s smaller price means that the system has to make some cutbacks, and while the display is still an LCD with capacitive touch functionality (and reaches the same 720p resolution), it’s slightly smaller than its older brother - measuring at 5.5 inches. Still, it’ll be ideal for younger siblings to catch fish in Animal Crossing while on the go.
Nintendo Switch vs Nintendo Switch Lite: games
This is where things arguably get a little bit complex, given the discrepancy between the two console’s feature sets.
Because the Switch Lite’s controllers are fixed they don’t offer HD Rumble, motion controls, or the IR Motion Camera found on the previous model’s joy-cons. This means that any game that requires any of these pieces of kit will require the wireless connection of a pair of joy-con controllers.
That means Snipperclips (and the Plus version) and Mario Tennis Aces will both require additional controllers for those playing on the Nintendo Switch Lite.
Perhaps the biggest concern is that there is a chance that games will eventually launch which aren’t compatible with the handheld mode of the Switch, thereby meaning you’ll be unable to play them on the Switch Lite. It seems unlikely, but consider a world where the next big Mario platformer requires joy-cons.
Also, consider that the joy-cons charge either via connecting to the Nintendo Switch or by the charging stand. If you’ve only got the Lite, you’ll need to invest in the charging stand.
Nintendo Switch vs Nintendo Switch Lite: software/ and interface
Much easier to explain is the console’s interface. The Switch has offered a clean, arguably barebones UI which has only seen minor incremental updates over the last two years, and the Lite will offer the same functionality.
This means you’ll have your friends list, your titles, and the eShop all a touch or a button press away. You can share screenshots, catch up on the latest Nintendo news, and access your settings just as you can on the full-fat Switch.
You’ll be able to play multiplayer games like Splatoon 2 with friends regardless of which Switch model you’re using - although a subscription to Nintendo Switch Online is required. This currently costs $3.99/£3.49/AU$5.95) a month, $7.99/£6.99/ AU$11.95 for 90 days, or $19.99/£17.99/AU$29.95 per year - while a family plan with eight accounts will set you back $34.99/£31.49/AU$54.95.
Whether you have a Nintendo Switch or a Nintendo Switch Lite, you’ll be able to enjoy online play, cloud saves, and exclusive offers for members. The big draw here is the ability to play NES games, while any masochists will also get access to Nintendo’s uniquely awful smartphone app too.
So there you have it, two Switch models to agonise over in preparation for your next holiday. Which will you be jumping into? Thankfully whichever you choose, you’ll be able to play a huge library of excellent games.
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