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Two and a half years after the launch of the original Switch, which combined a handheld and a desktop console in one device (hence the name), Nintendo launched the Switch Lite ().
The Switch () is a resounding success, 34 million units sold since launch and still counting. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe sold more than 10 million copies.
The Nintendo Switch Lite paradoxically eliminates two of Switch’s unique aspects: the TV dock and the removable controls. It does so in order to become a purely portable console. An almost obligatory move from Nintendo, given that the 3DS family, even with its impressive gaming catalog, is already in decline.
So, now Nintendo offers two versions of the same console, with significantly different prices and aimed at different audiences.
The Nintendo Switch and the Switch Lite share most features, such as display technology (although smaller in Lite), as well as CPU, RAM and battery. The most obvious improvement is that thanks to the new manufacturing processes, the Tegra processor is more efficient and consumes less energy, which grants the Lite an improved autonomy.
It is also available in three colors: turquoise, yellow and gray.
Nintendo Switch Lite – Design and ergonomics
As soon as we took our turquoise unit out of the box, it hit us just how small and compact really is; although it is not pocketable in the strict sense of the word.
With respect to the original model it is about 1 inch smaller in width, and half an inch shorter. It is also a few millimeters thinner but you will need a micrometer for that.
This reduction is also noticeable in weight. It is much lighter, just 275 grams compared to the 398 grams of the original (with the Joy-Con). It also gave us the feeling of being more balanced. And all this, without feeling fragile or a toy: it is a tough, hard, robust portable console with an excellent finish.
In hand, it gives the sensation of a much nicer machine. Both to the touch (matt finish) and considering the ergonomics. It is far more comfortable (at least for normal-sized hands, neither too large nor too small). It is a device that has been designed for being a handheld console, just that, and this makes a big difference.
A very appreciated detail in this regard is that although smaller, Nintendo has kept the controls intact: the sticks and buttons are the same sizes and the same goes for the distance between them, with the sole exception of the Home and Capture buttons, somewhat more distanced.
Nintendo Switch Lite – Use experience
Nintendo Switch Lite is the same console, and similar to the 3DS family of consoles, it shares the same firmware with the original model. The various menus and the user interface are exactly the same. It is a solid and versatile system.
We have tested about a dozen games (all with the latest patch) and with the console updated to firmware 9.0.0.
The first thing we tested out was autonomy. As we said before, the optimization of the Tegra chip allows the console to consume less, which results in improved autonomy. We have tested this with the most demanding game, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (), and indeed the battery life is longer. It depends on brightness, volume, Wi-Fi and other variables, but after a number of real-life tests we are pleased to announce that the Lite offers at least an hour more of battery life (4-6 hours of autonomy compared to just 2-4 hours of the original Switch).
Next, we wanted to test something that most people don’t think about… heat dissipation. After a good session at Breath of the Wild, there was a noticeable warm spot in the lower half of the device, close to the charging port, but in no case did the device becomes hot, much less bothered us. It is also less than what we experienced with the original model.
Needless to say, that this device doesn’t suffer from thermal throttling whatsoever. Following Zelda, we tried Mario Kart 8 Deluxe () and after an hour the game was still moving smoothly at 60 frames per second.
Nintendo Switch Lite – Controls
Although Nintendo stated that the controls of the Nintendo Switch Lite are the same as the Joy-Cons, the truth of the matter is that they give out a different sensation.
The sticks are identical to those of the original model and that means that they have the same virtues and problems. If you want to play demanding shooters, the most precise way is the Pro controller… but for casual gaming, they are more than OK.
As for the buttons, despite their resemblance, this time they have more travel, and they feel better to the touch. They are not as hard to press and reminded us more of a traditional controller than the buttons of the Joy-Cons.
Anywho, the real star is the D-pad; which was also something that most gamers demanded from Nintendo. Since the Switch Lite is a single-player console it makes all the sense in the world (the Joy-Cons are designed to be removable and standalone so they are mirror images of each other).
True to the Nintendo tradition, this is one serious D-pad, one that works as expected in fighting games like Ultra Street Fighter II () or the 30th-anniversary edition. It is comfortable, is just the right size, and well-positioned.
Of course, the controls also lose some functions and characteristics like motion control and the vibration (more on that later).
Nintendo Switch Lite – Screen
The screen is now smaller, 5.5 inches. I was afraid that it was going to be too small, and above all, that it was going to affect text readability in some games (I’m starting to grow older…).
The truth is that, once again, the screen is also up to par. It offers good viewing angles and improved brightness. This slight difference in brightness does not affect the appearance of games or screen performance. The screen maintains the same resolution (720p), the colors are still bright and vivid and there is no difference in motion between the Switch Lite and the original model.
We then tested the screen with Diablo III Eternal Collection, a game with notorious small text, and the truth is that the difficulty to read it is still there…
Sound quality and volume
The sound has been one of the aspects that everyone pays the least attention… and it was also the one that has impressed us the least. The device has stereo sound still, but, I don’t know if it’s the layout or something else that’s changed, but the volume is somewhat lower
We have tried different games, and in all cases, the sound has always left us with the same sensation: it is less pronounced, and the treble is less acute.
Is that so bad? Well, if you haven’t gamed on a Switch before, you will not notice a thing… but if you already own one and are an audiophile, then you will notice it. Luckily, if you use headphones, the issue is completely eradicated, since both sound exactly the same.
Nintendo Switch Lite – Cutting corners
Not everything is perfect in the Nintendo Switch Lite, and depending on the type of gamer you are, you may miss some features of the original model, like the removable controls or playing on a big TV.
In my case, the thing that I miss the most is the HD vibration. Not only because Nintendo eliminated it, but it also didn’t bother with introducing even a basic one. The vibration is something that rounds up the gaming experience, and in some games like Breath of the Wild, it becomes an extension of the gameplay (it lets us know where to find hidden objects).
Is it a decisive factor? No. Especially if you don’t have a Nintendo Switch. You can’t miss something you haven’t felt before… but in this case, it might have been smarter to include it. The Nintendo Switch Lite retains the gyroscope and the NFC reader for the amiibo… why completely eliminate the vibration?
The Nintendo Switch Lite () is not for everyone. It is a great console, and the best thing is that it gives you access to all Switch’s library of games.
It is also surprisingly small and comfortable… it is a truly portable console, something that the original Switch isn’t.
If you don’t have a switch and you don’t care about gaming on a big TV then get this one: it is more portable and comfortable and also more robust and less fragile than the original model.
In the end, Nintendo managed to create two consoles that appeal to different types of users, and depending on the type you are, you can opt for one or the other. It may not be perfect, but in terms of design and usability, it is the best portable console out there and an intelligent move by Nintendo, which by adjusting the price and features, has opened the floodgates for more people to buy a Nintendo Switch.