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Nintendo Switch Lite vs. Nintendo Switch: What Should You Buy?

(Image credit: Nintendo)

The buying decision for potential Switch owners just got complicated, as Nintendo has introduced a new, handheld-only version of its hit console. So, when it comes down to the decision of the Nintendo Switch Lite versus the standard Nintendo Switch, which one is right for you? 

Here's how the two versions of Nintendo's flagship console stack up.

Nintendo Switch Lite vs Switch: Specs

Nintendo Switch Lite Nintendo Switch
Starting Price
$199$299
Processor/GPUNVIDIA Custom Tegra processorNVIDIA Custom Tegra processor
Screen5.5" (1280 x 720) LCD Screen6.2-inch (1280 x 720) LCD Screen
Battery Life (ratings)3 – 7 hours2017 Switch: 2.5 - 6.5 hours | Mid-2019 Switch: 4.5 - 9 hours
Weight9.8 ounces14.1 ounces
Dimensions8.2 x 3.6 x 0.6 inches9.4 x 4 x 0.6 inches
GamesSwitch games that support Handheld ModeAll Switch Games
ColorsYellow, gray, turquoise, plus Pokemon Sword and Shield editionsGray or Red and Blue Joy-Cons; multiple options available

Design

(Image credit: Future / Tom's Guide)

The Switch Lite earns its name by shedding inches and ounces (and a key feature) off of the classic Switch design. First off, you'll notice that the buttons are permanently attached to the Switch's body, unlike the detachable Joy-Cons found on the standard Switch.

And while the Switch has long been a portable console, it was likely a bit too large for some pockets and pouches. So, it makes sense that the Switch Lite (8.2 x 3.6 x 0.6 inches) takes up less space than the Switch (9.4 x 4 x 0.6 inches). And at 9.8 ounces, the Switch Lite 30% lighter than the 14.1-ounce Switch.

In our hands-on Switch Lite preview, we found the smaller Switch to be quite comfortable, and noticed that it has a matte finish that makes the system easier to grip (and should be less prone to fingerprints than the glossy Switch tablet.

(Image credit: Nintendo)

And while this might not be crucial for you, the Switch Lite replaces the four directional buttons on the left Joy-Con for a traditional D-pad (which Nintendo calls the Control Pad+). Classic gamers around our office have already voiced their support for this, and it works quite well for platformers such as Super Mario Maker 2.

Display

(Image credit: Future / Tom's Guide)

The Switch Lite's shrinking size also applies to its screen. The Switch's little brother  rocks a 5.5-inch touch screen that's trimmed down from the 6.2-inch touch panel in its predecessor. 

In Nintendo's comparison chart, the company only specified this difference, so it stands to reason that the Switch Lite will also feature a 1280 x 720-pixel LCD screen.

Games 

If you get a Switch Lite as a present, but expected a Switch, don't worry: most of the same games play on both. The Switch Lite only lacks built-in support for non-handheld games, though there aren't many. 

Fortunately, there's a workaround for playing games meant for tabletop mode. All you need are controllers that support wireless connections, and pair them with the Switch Lite. 

(Image credit: Future / Tom's Guide)

Play Modes

(Image credit: Nintendo)

While the Switch's dock allows you to switch between TV mode and handheld mode, and even detach the Joy-Con controllers to hold them separately while the Switch is on a tabletop, the Switch Lite isn't playing that game.

Instead, the Switch Lite is one non-detachable brick whose controllers are permanently connected, making it playable in handheld mode only. It doesn't work with Nintendo's dock, either.

Battery Life

The Switch Lite is rated for 3 to 7 hours, which is better than the original Switch (approx. 2.5 to 6.5 hours) from 2017.

However, Nintendo's latest regular Switch, model number HAC-001(01), is rated to last between 4.5 and 9 hours on a single charge. When we tested the new Switch's battery life, we found it to last nearly twice as long as the old model during some Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

Price and Value

(Image credit: Nintendo)

The $299 Nintendo Switch is not going to break most budgets, but the Switch Lite is definitely going to appeal to the price conscious gamers (as well as the price conscious parents of gamers). At $199, the Switch Lite is two-thirds the price of the original, and as we've noted above, there's little that it can't do in terms of playing most games in the Switch library.

Our recommendation

As you might guess, the Switch Lite is best for gamers on the go. It's also $100 cheaper, but its $199 price tag is still not something I'd classify as a cheap impulse buy. 

The Switch Lite lighter and smaller, but all of its tradeoffs will make it a tough sell for gamers who prefer to play on a TV. If it wasn't for the 2019 Switch (HAC-001(01)), and if the Switch Lite's battery life were better, the smaller console could be a more convincing alternative, but as it stands now, it's too meager a bonus. 

So, if you play games on your TV, you'll probably want to stick with the standard Nintendo Switch.