It might have been one of the worst kept secrets in history but it was still an interesting development when Nintendo announced they were set to release an all-in one, dock-less Nintendo Switch with portability being the selling point – because; let’s face it, most people already play their switch as a handheld the majority of the time.
With non-detatchable Joy-cons and a smaller form factor, this is the Switch best suited to take on your commute and while it doesn’t quite fit in your pocket those saved millimeters go a surprising way to making the Nintendo Switch Lite a far more portable console than the full-fat original.
The Nintendo Switch Lite has a slightly smaller – 5.5 inch to the original’s 6.2 inch – screen that is locked at 720p. It doesn’t ship with a dock and you can’t disconnect the controllers to allow for two player action. You CAN buy additional Joy-cons and controllers and pair those, but this isn’t quite as versatile when compared to what we’ve become accustomed.
The other major difference is the addition of a real D-pad instead of buttons on the left side. This is a huge improvement for games that use the pad as an alternative to the thumb sticks and feels much more natural. All of the other inputs perform as you’re used to and are generally as responsive – the thumb sticks on the Nintendo Switch Lite feel slightly more firm in their resistance but this might be due to the age difference between our brand new Lite and well used Original!
The trigger and shoulder buttons feel identical across both units – the shoulder buttons have the same slightly spongy feel as opposed to triggers more tactile feedback. The Nintendo Switch Lite is definitely lighter to hold which is likely to aid extended play but there’s not a huge amount in it – otherwise the form factor is almost identical – placing the Lite on top of the Original and it becomes clear that the button-thumbstick spacing is identical between the devices and this means that the right thumbstick and left D-pad are closer to the bottom of the device on the Lite. This means there might be some minor adjustment but the finger and thumb movements on both consoles are broadly identical.
In terms of performance there’s little to choose between the two consoles. Loading times are broadly similar – from boot the Lite seemed to be ready to use around a second earlier but it was a marginal thing. Similarly loading times for games (with the original in handheld mode) were slightly reduced on the Lite – a fresh install of Abzu was playable in approximately 1:40 while it took around 10 seconds longer on the original Switch. There was no perceivable difference in framerate once in game though.
The Lite does include the slightly more up-to-date Nvidia processor that means an improvement in battery life – it’s not as pronounced a jump as the most up to date Switch which has a bigger battery but you’ll definitely find you’re able to play for between 25 and 40% longer than the original Switch depending on your game – this is despite having an approximate 20% reduction in capacity. The more efficient processor and the fact that there are no Joy-cons to charge means that there is a tangible boost in battery life.
The screens are remarkably similar – the slightly smaller form factor is mostly unnoticeable when playing and if anything feels sharper. The colour depth and vibrancy is identical between the two consoles. The screen on the Lite feels a little less reflective and suffers less from glare which makes handheld playing a little more enjoyable.
The new console also sports 32GB internal storage and a microSDHC card slot that can support capacities up to 2TB – so space really isn’t an issue – and the console matches the 4GB RAM found in the original which isn’t a surprise given it’s built to run the same games.
The Nintendo Switch Lite does cut a few of the features of the original – there is no rumble so no tactile feedback and it’s surprising just how much this is noticeable when jumping from one console to the other. There is also no kickstand – so if you do want to play multiplayer with your friends you’ll need to find something to prop the console up against.
There’s no support for things like Labo or the upcoming Ring Fit Adventure due to the non-detatchable Joy-cons and lack of inbuilt cameras and there is also no auto screen brightness so you’ll have to manually adjust this depending on your environment. The console limitations also mean there are other games that you either can’t play or can’t take full advantage of unless you buy some additional Joy-cons. The full list of incompatible games at the time of release is:
- Just Dance
- Super Mario Party
- Fitness Boxing
- Ring Fit Adventure
- Nintendo Labo
Of course, the Nintendo Switch Lite isn’t the company’s only handheld console and it would be remiss of us not to at least consider how this more portable Switch compares to the 3DS and 2DS – there’s no doubt that the Switch is more powerful and its ability to deliver a full console experience in a handheld form-factor sets it apart but there’s still lots to recommend about the dual screened handhelds. They’re more comfortable for a start, and their enviable library of games is still far more diverse than what the Switch has to offer. We can’t help but think that the Switch Lite will likely usher in the slow decline of Nintendo’s smaller consoles and that will be a shame.
The Nintendo Switch Lite is clearly not for everyone – if you’re a big-screen player then the Original has to be the only option, and likewise if you’re big into local multiplayer gaming the tradeoffs here make it a less tempting proposition. However the added portability, D-pad and ergonomic improvements mean that the Nintendo Switch Lite is the best solely portable console now available.
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