By Brian Neal
Photos courtesy of Nintendo
With nearly 40 million units sold worldwide since its release two and a half years ago, the Nintendo Switch is the fastest selling US gaming console ever. Showing no signs of slowing down, Nintendo just upped the momentum by launching the Switch Lite- a smaller, less expensive alternative to the original hybrid tablet/home console- dedicated to handheld play.The Switch Lite retails for $199.99 – that’s $100 less than the base model. Currently it ships in three snazzy colors: yellow, gray, and turquoise, with a special “Zacian and Zamazenta Edition” launching in November to coincide with the upcoming Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield titles.
Powered by a new energy-efficient Tegra X1 “Mariko” chip, the Switch Lite lives up to it moniker- it’s thirty one percent lighter than the original (0.61 pounds vs 0.88 pounds), and according to Nintendo, it offers longer battery life as well (3-7 hours compared to the original’s 2.5-6.5 hours). While not a dramatic bump, more is still better. Besides, I’ve logged well over a thousand hours on the original switch, gaming about a third of that time on handheld mode. I’ve never had any gripes with the 4-6 hours of real playtime I was able to receive. The Switch Lite has a smaller footprint (8.2 inches x 3.6 inches x 0.55 inches vs 9.4 inches x 4 inches x 0.55 inches), and the display dimensions have shrunk from 6.2 inches down to 5.5, while retaining the 720p resolution. The control layout remains the same, except now everything is integrated in the unit- there are no removable Joy-Cons. Speaking of Joy-Cons, the Switch Lite nixes the directional buttons (found on the left Joy-Con) in favor of a traditional d-pad similar to the 3DS. This is welcome for games that require better precision, specifically fighting games, indie side scrollers, and classic NES titles. Amiibo are also supported in the same manner as the original Switch, through the right analog stick. The overall housing has a textured matte finish, with increased grip over the base model.
Being More affordable means sacrifices were inevitable, and there are a few caveats to consider. First, TV mode has been given the axe- the Switch Lite does not ship with or contain the hardware to support the Nintendo Dock- leaving handheld mode as the only supported mode out of the box. HD rumble has also been omitted, one of the original Switch’s key features. To be honest, this feature was highly underutilized, although when executed properly (ie: Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild), the feature was brilliant. It’s uncertain if this omission will deter potential buyers, but I wouldn’t bank on it. Also gone is IR camera support- meaning games like 1-2 switch would require you to purchase a separate set of Joy-Con. In fact, all games that support handheld mode work right out of the box, while operating in tabletop mode will require a separate purchase like the Pro Controller or a set of Joy-Con.This is necessary for games like Super Mario Party, which doesn’t support handheld mode at all. For the most part however, nearly the entire library is supported out of the box. The hardware kickstand has also been removed, meaning you’ll have to seek third-party option to keep the device in an upright position.
So why consider the Switch Lite over the original? For one, the price point- it’s a third less expensive than the base model. Caveats aside, many who have yet moved into Switch territory might consider this option, especially if they’re primarily accustomed to portable play ala the 3DS or Playstation Vita. The Switch’s game library has plenty of heavy hitting first-party, third-party, and indie-developed titles already, with plenty on the horizon including Luigi’s Mansion, Doom Eternal, and Animal Crossing- plus it’s only a matter of time before Metroid rears its head. There simply isn’t a dedicated portable gaming device on the market right now that offers the experiences available through Switch Lite – and that’s a big deal.