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Nintendo Switch Lite Hands-On Review

A smaller, cheaper Switch built for people who care about playing only in handheld mode

Nintendo Switch Lite Hands-On Review
(Image: © Tom's Guide)

Our Verdict

If you've been waiting for a cheaper Switch and are content to keep things in handheld mode, the $199 Lite looks like a solid entry point into the Switch's stellar game library.

For

  • Lightweight, comfortable design
  • Gorgeous color options
  • Dependable D-pad
  • $100 less than standard Switch

Against

  • Supports only handheld play

After getting my hands on the $199 Nintendo Switch Lite, my first impression is that it's exactly what I expected it to be — and that's a good thing. Nintendo's smaller, handheld-only Switch looks great, feels great and has some welcome improvements over the standard Switch, so long as you're cool with playing only on the go. 

Tom's Guide is in the process of testing the Nintendo Switch Lite, and will have a full scored review ready by next week. In the meantime, check out our hands-on impressions below, as well as our roundup of the best Switch Lite accessories to keep your new system safe.

Switching sizes

When I picked up the Switch Lite, the first thing that struck me was how light and comfortable it felt. Nintendo's shrunken Switch is just 0.60 pounds (down from 0.88 pounds on the older model), and its 5.5-inch screen has far thinner bezels on the top and bottom, compared with the standard Switch's 6.2-inch display. 

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Nintendo Switch Lite Hands-On Review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)
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Nintendo Switch Lite Hands-On Review

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Nintendo Switch Lite Hands-On Review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

I wouldn't exactly call the Switch Lite pocket-sized (unless you have big pockets), but it occupies a nice middle ground between the Nintendo 3DS and the standard Switch in terms of portability. I'm in no rush to ditch my regular Switch, but the original console did feel just a bit bulkier than normal after spending an afternoon with the smaller model.

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Nintendo Switch Lite Hands-On Review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)
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Nintendo Switch Lite Hands-On Review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

I was pleasantly surprised by the Switch Lite's soft matte finish, which provides a solid grip and should be less prone to fingerprints than the glossy tablet on the original model. And I love the color options, each of which comes with all-white buttons. I'm particularly fond of the turquoise model, but the yellow and gray versions look great, too. They feel like a throwback to Nintendo's days of releasing handhelds in tons of fun color palettes. (Side note: If Nintendo ever makes a GBA-style purple Switch, I'm buying two.)

Pushing buttons

The Switch Lite doesn't have removable Joy-Cons like its bigger brother, but the control layout is more or less the same. The shoulder buttons feel snappy, the analog sticks feel soft and clicky, and the face buttons — which have the A, B, X and Y letters engraved rather than painted on — feel solid and responsive. 

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Nintendo Switch Lite Hands-On Review

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Nintendo Switch Lite Hands-On Review

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Nintendo Switch Lite Hands-On Review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The biggest change, of course, is the introduction of a proper D-pad in the form of the Switch Lite's "+ Control Pad." While I would have liked it to be a bit bigger, the Control Pad allowed me to accurately run and jump through difficult platforming segments in Super Mario Maker 2 and make precise drift turns in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

I still prefer the feel of my Hori D-Pad Controller, but the Switch Lite's Control Pad is certainly a step up from the four separate directional buttons on the Joy-Con. I'm especially excited to test it out on the Switch's array of platformers and fighting games

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Nintendo Switch Lite Hands-On Review

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Nintendo Switch Lite Hands-On Review

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The Switch Lite's 5.5-inch, 720p screen looked comparable to the standard Switch's display in terms of color and brightness when I ran through some Mario Maker, Mario Kart and Breath of the Wild. I didn't mind the system's lack of HD rumble while playing these games, but I'm curious how feedback-heavy games such as Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Splatoon 2 will feel on it. 

The Tegra X1-powered system should last 3 to 7 hours on the road — a bit longer than the original Switch (2.5 to 6.5 hours) but not as long as the 2019 Switch refresh, which is rated for up to 9 hours and performed admirably in our tests.

Bottom line

The Switch Lite is shaping up to be exactly what it's meant to be: a smaller, cheaper Switch built for people who care about playing only in handheld mode. The Lite's onboard directional pad and matte finish are nice perks, and the console is downright adorable (especially in turquoise and yellow).

MORE: The Best Nintendo Switch Lite Accessories 2019

As someone who splits his time between TV and handheld play, I'm not planning on ditching my current Switch for the smaller model. It also remains to be seen how seamlessly cloud saves and system transfers will work between the two, as some hard-core Nintendo fans may want a Switch at home and a Switch Lite for the road. But if you've been waiting for a cheaper Switch and are content to keep things in handheld mode, the $199 Lite looks like a solid entry point into the Switch's stellar game library.