Is The Nintendo Switch Lite Worth It?
Nintendo is a company that’s practically synonymous with the gaming landscape. In particular, their handheld division has been crushing it, being responsible for classics such as the tried and true Gameboy line, all the way to the modern 3DS (which we’ve previously marked as very much worth it).
Something that’s been common throughout Nintendo’s rich history has been the inclusion of certain gimmicks in their consoles. The Wii’s motion controls and the DS line’s dual screens which made their namesake is obvious, but the most recent Switch blurred the lines between home and handheld consoles beautifully.
The original Nintendo Switch was not a perfect console, as evidenced by the good but not great Metascore of 80%. While the gimmick of being playable docked and in handheld mode was nice, it lagged behind the Xbox One and the PS4 in terms of power, though its position as a worthy purchase was eventually solidified with a solid library of games.
Many expected Nintendo’s follow up to be a ‘Switch Pro’, which was the path taken by Sony and Microsoft. Nintendo announced, and released the Nintendo Switch Lite in 2019. This console removed the home console dock, which made it a handheld only device, replacing the aging 3DS line which has been previously discontinued.
So, is the Nintendo Switch Lite worth it? We’ll be looking to answer two questions here:
1. Is a Nintendo Switch Lite worth it if you don’t own an original Switch?
2. Is the Nintendo Switch Lite worth it as a Switch owner?
The Nintendo Switch Lite runs on identical hardware to its fully-fledged counterpart, minus the docking capabilities and a modified battery.
In raw terms, you’re getting a Tegra X1 processor courtesy of Nvidia, and 2GB LPDDR4X RAM. The differences are with the reduced 3570 mAh battery (compared to 4310 mAh on the OG Switch) and the 5.5-inch display (compared to 6.2 inch on the original). Do note that the screen is still 720p though, which means visuals are sharper thanks to an increased pixel per inch ratio.
The cool thing about the decreased size is the improvements in battery life. Even compared to the Switches post-hardware revision (which included improvements in battery life), the Switch Lite lasts up to a solid 9 hours on a single charge.
A headphone jack is thankfully included, though the lack of Bluetooth headphone support is a little bit disappointing, considering this is a portable console.
The arguable best improvement is the dedication to being a handheld console. The original Switch does function well in handheld mode, though the controllers never truly felt solid, and would always have some minor wobbling due to the detachable nature. The Switch Lite has controls as part of the rigid body, which somehow feels a lot more premium. The true D-pad is also a plus, and a Pro Controller is no longer a necessity.
Speaking of the controls, HD Rumble is gone, though it’s not a big loss, and well worth the reduction in price. The console itself still allows for pairing of extra controllers, so local multiplayer games are still an option.
Of course, there is a glaring fault with the built-in controllers, though we’ll get to that in a bit.
We won’t waste too much time here, because the Nintendo Switch’s ever expanding selection of games is commonly known as the best in the business.
First-party games such as Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Xenoblade 2 show off the Switch’s capability, and more and more ports of modern classics such as Doom and The Witcher 3 show off the Switch’s graphical capabilities.
There really is something for everyone on the Switch, and the collection continues to grow, with recent releases such as Luigi’s Mansion 3 being praised for Nintendo’s typical ingenuity.
While many games were designed with the docked 1080p experience in mind, the Tegra chipset is fairly proficient at translating the experience over to the handheld 720p. Most games run at the same framerate, which is helped by the dynamic resolution switching done natively by the Switch hardware.
Do note that certain games, such as launch title 1-2 Switch, do not work well without dedicated Joy-Cons, and the lack of a kickstand does mean tabletop play isn’t a convenient option.
Since we’re on the topic of Joy-Cons, we need to cover the issue that’s been cause for a class action lawsuit against Nintendo.
Joy-Cons are quite technically impressive, though they do have a major design flaw. The precision joystick movement uses a very thin contacts, which, like pencils, are subject to wear and tear over time. Weakened contact points result in a ‘drift’, which translates to random uncontrolled movement in games even when the joysticks are left untouched.
This is an inherent issue that cannot be solved without joystick replacement or dedicated service from Nintendo themselves (which, is thankfully free in most countries after the successful class action lawsuit).
The issue is also present on the Switch Lite, and the solid format means you can’t just buy a new Joy-Con as a replacement. Service might be free, but it does come at the cost of time. Unless you’re handy with screwdrivers and capable of replacing the joysticks yourself, be sure to factor the drift issue into your purchases.
Should You Buy the Nintendo Switch Lite?
If You Don’t Own a Switch
The Switch Lite’s lowered price tag brings it more in line with the last gen 2DS XL, and is an affordable system that is well worth every penny. Getting access to a large game library to play on the go is always a plus, and the solid construction (barring the joystick drift) is a welcome improvement.
The question does arise though, why not get an original Switch? Well, it all comes down to personal preference. Assuming we’re talking post-hardware revision, there really isn’t much difference in terms of battery life. Docking capability also allows you to play on the big screen at 1080p, which I’d argue is the best way to experience games like Smash Ultimate and Breath of the Wild.
However, I still carry around my Nintendo 2DS on road trips for convenient game time, and the Switch Lite has taken on the same role nicely, though I am a bit more apprehensive about carrying it around without a case.
It also helps that the Switch Lite costs a full $100 less. If you’re into gaming on the go, the Switch Lite and its 90% Metascore is a no-brainer.
If You Do Own a Switch
You probably don’t need the Switch Lite.
The Switch Lite clearly aims itself at a different target audience when compared to the normal Switch. If you enjoy your current Switch and its dockable functionality, alongside its portable capabilities, there’s no reason to get a new Switch Lite.
While Nintendo has the ability to pair up Switches for save game sharing, it isn’t as seamless as Microsoft and Steam’s implementation, and you’ll often find yourself a little confused when it comes to deciding which Switch should be the Primary Switch (hint: make the docked Switch the secondary, at least it has a consistent internet connection).
The only real case where I’d say an ‘side-grade’ is justified is if you’re a handheld-only user stuck with the weak battery of a pre-revision Switch. The lacking battery life of the initial release Switch is well documented, and the Switch Lite is a marked improvement.
You probably didn’t need us to tell you this, but the Switch Lite is another win for Nintendo. As the torch passes on from the successful 3DS line, the Switch Lite takes the reigns as the new king of dedicated gaming on the go, this time without a Sony-made competitor (rest in peace PS Vita).
There really isn’t any competition when it comes to dedicated handheld consoles, and the Switch Lite opens up the Switch’s library by making things more affordable. Glowing reviews all round show that I’m not alone in praising Nintendo’s latest venture, so if you’re on the fence, just go for it.