So the Nintendo Switch Lite is pretty good, but I wouldn’t take it home to meet the parents.
OK, yeah, that’s a weird thing to say. But I am actually travelling to see my parents in about a month, so it’s almost relevant. They’ve met (or bought) most of my handheld consoles over the last three decades, but this visit home it’ll be my OG Switch I bring over.
Why? Well, lots of reasons. And most of them aren’t the fault of the Lite; it just sorta worked out that way.
Let There Be Lite
What we’ve got here is the little console that could. In true Nintendo style, the Switch Lite follows in the footsteps of the GameBoy Pocket, the GBA SP, and the DS Lite… Huh, guess they ran out of names after a while.
Anyway, the Switch Lite is here to bring a more affordable, portable, and lighter experience to Nintendo’s hybrid console. Although it no longer docks, so this is the pure handheld edition of the Switch.
Why would you want one? Well, that’s why I spent a week with one; to find out. The main differences between the Switch Lite and the classic Switch is that the screen is a little bit smaller, the Joy-Cons don’t detach, there’s an actual D-pad now, and you can’t dock to a TV anymore.
The benefit is that it’s more portable, and the battery lasts about twice as long. If you’ve ever been caught out on the train and tried to ignore the ‘low battery’ warnings over and over again, you’ll be pleased to hear that it shouldn’t happen as often with the Lite.
This iteration of the Switch also puts more effort into colour coordination, and comes in a variety of tasteful colours. Well, you can get Teal, Yellow, Grey, and soon Pokemon. Again, though, if you’d rather be flexible with your style (I’m of the opinion that very few colours besides black and very very very very very dark grey should ever be used in technology), you’re gonna be locked in until Switch Lite skins become a thing. The Lite looks good, but it’s static.
That goes beyond appearances too. The Nintendo Switch is so amazing because of the unparallelled flexibility that came with it. Changing colours of Joy-Cons, playing on the couch and frantically docking while it screams about low battery, or setting it up on a table for a game of Overcooked with your American buddy; all of these are hallmarks of the console. The Switch Lite allows for none of this. It’s a handheld, an almost replacement for the 3DS, and while it’s damn good at what it does, I want to stress that that is all it does.
OK look, I mean I’ve spent well over 500 hours with my Switch and I don’t think I’ve spent more than 20 of them with the Switch on TV mode (aside from a particularly intense Stardew Valley binge over a certain Christmas period). If you’re the kind of person that sits on a couch and plays Switch, then this is probably going to be cool for you.
Lite and Sound
The Switch Lite, at its heart, is still a Switch, and that thing is a glorious console. It’s smaller, lighter, and the battery lasts notably longer. It’s still not as nice to hold as you would like, so dedicated Nintendo are to the pseudo-tablet thing, and I still think you might get carpal tunnel after a while, but it’s definitely easier on the wrists than the original recipe.
The fact that you can’t connect Bluetooth headphones makes even less sense now, as a purely portable console should have a simple way to connect to audio output, and we’re all moving away from wires. You can always dongle something in to connect your headphones, like we’ve been doing on the proper Switch, but it would have been nice to have this as a single package, ya know?
Just add Bluetooth headphone support, Nintendo. For real.
Performance-wise, I tested this out with Pokémon, Fire Emblem, Breath of the Wild, DOOM, and Killer Queen Black. They all worked fine, except DOOM, which I still think feels really weird in handheld mode. Text was readable, and the graphics almost looked more crisp due to the smaller screen.
On the Lite Side
As much as I love the Switch, the Lite just isn’t for me. It doesn’t offer enough wow-factor to justify having it alongside a proper Switch. But I know who it is for. If you have kids, you can hand this child and not feel like you’re having them a full on console. It feels more like a handheld game console than the Switch ever did… which I guess is the point. If you’re Professor Moneybags the Fourth then I GUESS you could have this in addition to your main Switch, and swap save files when you’re using it, but that sounds like a ton of effort for a fairly mediocre payoff.
Most of the issues with the original Switch are still here; native Bluetooth headphone support is bafflingly absent, and while it’s marginally more ergonomic than the OG, it’s still about as comfortable to hold for long periods of time as a toaster. Sure, there’s a more efficient battery, a D-pad, and it’s a fair bit cheaper, but that’s sort of it.
Third parties have solved most of these problems long ago. I’ve got a Bluetooth adapter for my headphones, and my GripCase has made playing on the go feel like actual gaming. I’ve got a mini dock and powerbank for travel, and even a little clip-on D-pad.
Lite in the Darkness
This all sounds like I don’t like the Switch Lite; I do. I really do. But it just doesn’t compare for me. The Switch Lite is the 2DS to the Switch’s 3DS XL. The core functionality is there, but if you’ve got the better version, you don’t need this.
If you don’t have a Switch yet, are purely into the idea of portability and increased battery life, and don’t ever (ever) want to play it on a bigger screen, the Switch Lite is for you. Like, seriously, go buy one now. But if you already own a Switch, there hasn’t been enough of a change in the right direction to warrant replacing your OG Switch or adding to your collection.