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Nintendo Switch Lite vs Nintendo Switch: what should you buy?

Nintendo Switch Lite vs Nintendo Switch
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The battle between the Nintendo Switch Lite vs. Nintendo Switch isn't really a real fight, rather it's more of a decision you have to make on which one best suits your needs. Or you might already have the Switch and want to weigh up if a Lite version is also worth having for daily commutes. 

As such, we picked through the major pros, cons of both versions of Nintendo's console, as well as their specs, to help you see how they stack up.

So read on for our Nintendo Switch Lite vs. Nintendo Switch face-off. 

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

Nintendo Switch Lite vs. Nintendo Switch: Design

Nintendo Switch Lite vs Nintendo Switch

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Nintendo Switch Lite is so-called due to its drop in size and weight over its larger and older sibling. But what it's name doesn't tell you is that the Joy-Con controllers no longer detach from the console, making it a Switch that doesn't switch. The left-hand controller/side of the console now features a proper D-pad, which a lot of people will find useful. 

Nintendo Switch Lite vs Nintendo Switch

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

While the Switch is hardly difficult to carry around, it's not exactly a console you can easily pop into a pocket. So, for people who like to carry a console around with them all the time the Switch Lite (8.2 x 3.6 x 0.6 inches) has the advantage of taking up less space than the Switch (9.4 x 4 x 0.6 inches). And at 9.8 ounces, the Switch Lite is 30% lighter than the 14.1-ounce Switch.

Nintendo Switch Lite vs. Nintendo Switch: Display

Nintendo Switch Lite vs Nintendo Switch

(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. Both LCD displays sport a 1280 x 720 resolution.

Despite its smaller size, the Switch Lite's display is comparable to that of the Switch in terms of color and brightness. And thanks to the Lite's thinner bezels and more uniform design, the screen is even a bit more seamless and immersive. 

Nintendo Switch Lite vs. Nintendo Switch: Games 

If you get a Nintendo Switch Lite as a present, but expected a regular Nintendo Switch, don't worry: most of the same games play on both. That means that you'll be able to enjoy top titles such as The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening and Super Mario Maker 2 regardless of whether you buy the Switch or Switch Lite.

The Switch Lite technically doesn't support games that are built for TV or tabletop mode. Fortunately, there's a workaround for this. You can easily pair your Joy-Cons or Pro Controller with the Switch Lite, enabling you to enjoy local multiplayer so long as you have a means of propping the Lite up. 

Nintendo Switch Lite vs Nintendo Switch

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Nintendo Switch Lite vs. Switch: Play modes

Nintendo Switch Lite vs Nintendo Switch

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

While the Nintendo 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.

Nintendo Switch Lite vs. Switch: 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.

In our Switch Lite battery test (which consisted of a continuous 8-player Super Smash Bros Ultimate battle), the handheld console lasted for 3 hours and 50 minutes of continuous play. That's an hour more than the result we got from the 2017 launch Switch (2:45), but an hour less than our result from the 2019 Nintendo Switch battery test (4:50).

Nintendo Switch Lite vs. Switch: Price and value

Nintendo Switch Lite vs Nintendo Switch

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Switch Lite definitely appeals to price-conscious gamers (as well as the price conscious parents of gamers). Going by RRP, 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. However, $299 offers more ways to play for the extra $100, so you'll need to weigh which play modes are most important to you.

See the best prices in your region in the widgets below.

Nintendo Switch Lite vs. Nintendo Switch (OLED model)

Nintendo Switch Lite vs Nintendo Switch (OLED model)

(Image credit: Nintendo)

The Nintendo Switch Lite vs Nintendo Switch battle gets a little more complex with the introduction of the Nintendo Switch OLED, or Switch (OLED model) to give it its official clunky name. 

As the name suggests, the Switch OLED comes with an OLED display, which measures in at 7 inches, making it bigger than the screen on the original Switch and significantly larger than that of the Switch Lite. 

Other upgrades include a much better kickstand, 64GB of onboard storage and improved audio. There's also a new dock that drops one USB port in favour of an Ethernet port for a wired internet connection. 

We've not tried the Switch OLED yet as it's not due until October 8. But as it's $50 more than the original Switch, we'd hazard a guess that it'll be the model you'll want over the standard Switch. It won't be as portable as the Switch Lite, so if that's what you want, the smaller Switch might be the best choice. 

We'll have to wait and get our hands on the Switch OLED before we cast final judgement. So make sure to check back with Tom's Guide when the fall comes around. 

Nintendo Switch Lite vs. Switch: Our recommendation

As you might guess, the Nintendo Switch Lite is best for people who want to and will be predominately gaming 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 is lighter and smaller, but all of its tradeoffs will make it a tough sell for gamers who prefer to play on a TV (or want to be able to easily get a tabletop play session going). The Lite's battery life is longer than that of the launch Switch, but the 2019 Switch refresh has the best runtime of them all.

So, if you play games on your TV, you'll probably want to stick with the standard Nintendo Switch. And ultimately, having a Switch that actually switches it the whole point of these consoles. But you can't go wrong with the Switch Lite either, which is arguably Nintendo's best handheld console to date.