The Nintendo Switch Lite is close to perfect. Yeah, it’s kind of a brilliant product, and as a package outclasses the original, more expensive Switch in a couple key ways. I got a Switch Lite so I could play my games while my wife tended to her Animal Crossing island, but the more I use it, the more I find myself gravitating to the smaller, objectively less capable, but maybe better Lite. Let me explain.
One of the big draws of the Switch was that, well, switched between home console and portable completely seamlessly. You could be playing Link’s latest adventure on your big 4K TV one moment, and by simply picking up the console, the next moment that entire experience was in your hands. It was magical in 2017 when it was new, and it’s still really cool in 2020 and really doesn’t have a direct competitor with this capability.
The Switch Lite, some would say ironically, doesn’t switch.
But that doesn’t matter because the game library is so expansive and the quality is so high that there is so much fun to be had on the Switch Lite even if it can’t hook up to a TV. If you will ever want to play on a large screen, then get the standard Switch, but if you’re looking for a portable device to give you some games that are about 10x better than anything on your phone, then the Lite is going to kill it.
What is immediately obvious when picking up the Switch Lite is how damn good it feels in the hand. It’s much lighter than the normal model, 30% lighter, to be exact, and that makes it even more comfortable to hold for all gaming sessions, especially longer ones.
The device also feels more solid than the Switch since it’s all one piece. The Joy Cons attach very well to the standard model, but there’s no replacement for one solid piece of plastic.
The buttons mostly feel similar to the bigger brother, but I think they feel a little better with a more satisfying click, and the the D-Pad is…well, it’s an actual D-pad! It’s super nice to have this in place of the 4 individual buttons on the Joy Cons. I get why they had to be that way, but it’s definitely better to play in this form factor with an actual D-pad.
And finally, Nintendo is using some sort of soft touch plastic on this thing that feels incredible! It doesn’t feel “premium” necessarily, but it feels perfect and is really comfortable.
Since all of your gaming is going to happen on it with this model, the screen is pretty important. I’m happy to say that while the screen is still 720p, games look very good on it. I’d even say they look better than the regular Switch if only because the screen is the same resolution, but slightly smaller, so the pixels are a little smaller too. The screen is 5.5” compared to the big brother’s 6.2”, which works out to a PPI of 267 on the Lite and 236 on the regular Switch.
If we use “retina” to mean whether you can see the pixels, then the Switch Lite is “retina” if you hold it 13” or father from your face, which based on some crude measurements I just took, is closer than I tend to hold it from my face. The 6.2” regular Switch hits this retina designation at 15” so it’s not a huge difference, but it’s something I’ve noticed outside of these more clinical measures.
The screen is bright enough to be usable indoors at about 50% brightness and outdoors it is playable, but I definitely struggled to see every detail on screen under direct sunlight.
Value and Final Verdict
At $199, the Switch Lite is a great value. $199 gets you access to a huge library of amazing games, and with regular eShop sales and the robust used cartridge market, you can play most of these games on the cheap if you can wait for a sale.
If you ever want to play on your TV then you should spend the extra $100 to get a full size Switch. Multiplayer games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate work so much better on a TV, and epic games like Breath of the Wild thrive on the bigger screen, so there is definitely value in having this as an option.
But if you are never going to play on a TV, then there is absolutely no reason I can think of to spend the extra cash. Save $100 and get better controls and access to an amazing library of games.
Oh, just make sure you buy a beefy micro-SD card to stick in this thing. The 32GB of onboard storage runs out really quickly. I’m using this $13 64GB card in mine and it works totally fine.