Nintendo Switch vs. Switch Lite: Release Date, Pros and Cons, Which to Get

Two consoles for two distinct types of gamers. 

Two years after the first Nintendo Switch, the Japanese gaming giant unveiled the next chapter for its widely popular hybrid console. The Switch Lite, announced Wednesday, will fall somewhere between the original gaming system and its 2013 Nintendo 2DS, giving shoppers not one, but two Switches to choose from during the holiday spending season.

For its part, the Lite is a smaller, handheld-only version of the Switch that’s about $100 cheaper than the flagship model, though it also lacks some of the elder Switch’s features like TV output options or motion controls.

For that reason, Nintendo of America president Doug Bowser intimated to CNET Wednesday that the Lite and first-generation Switch would “complement” one another and “coexist.” Both consoles have similar names but appeal to fundamentally different audiences, which Nintendo hopes will keep its current momentum alive.

Nintendo sold an impressive 34 million units of the original Switch since its launch in March 2017. There’s never been a better moment to keep its hot streak going.


PlayStation 4 and Xbox One sales have begun to slow down because the next-generation PlayStation 5 and Xbox Project Scarlett consoles are expected late in 2020. Switch sales were already predicted to help Nintendo catapult past Sony and Microsoft in terms of console sales in 2019, according to the market research firm Strategy Analytics.

The Switch Lite is Nintendo’s chance to take the Switch to new heights and provides more options for consumers who have been itching for a Switch.

Nintendo Switch vs. Switch Lite: Price and Release Date

The Switch Lite will be available for purchase on September 20 for $200, compared with the two-year-old Switch, which still retails for $300. This sizable price drop makes the new console almost as affordable as the 2013 Nintendo 2DS XL, but you will be able to run all of Nintendo’s latest releases.

Nintendo Switch vs. Switch Lite: Pros

  • Portability: As its name would suggest, the Switch Lite is smaller, lighter, and much easier to carry around than the original. It weighs 0.61 lbs compared to the first Switch’s 0.88 lbs. It’s the same thickness as the original Switch, but 0.6 inches shorter and 1.2 inches narrower. Think of it like Nintendo’s take on Sony’s 2004 PlayStation Portable (PSP).
  • Better battery: The Switch Lite will be exclusively handheld and incompatible with the Nintendo Switch dock. To make sure on-the-go gamers aren’t left high and dry, Nintendo has boosted the Lite’s battery life to last between three and seven hours, depending on the game, compared to the first Switch’s two-and-a-half to six-and-a-half hours of battery life.

First-gen Switch (left) and Switch Lite (right)

  • More color variants: The Switch Lite will come in yellow, gray, and turquoise options, as opposed to the original’s single gray color option.
  • D-pad included: The Switch Lite comes with a traditional D-pad on its left side instead of the original Switch’s four directional buttons. This will make using the controls slightly easier since they won’t require as precise button presses.

Nintendo Switch vs. Switch Lite: Cons

  • Downgraded screen: The Switch Lite comes with a 5.5-inch touch screen, which is 0.7 inches smaller than the original. It’ll only be able to run games at 720p resolution.

First-gen Switch (left) and Switch Lite (right)

  • No TV output: Nintendo’s new device will be more of a portable handheld device, like a Game Boy or 3DS, than a traditional at-home console. It won’t come with wireless or wired casting capabilities.
  • No motion controls: Nintendo’s newest gaming system will not support any motion controls on its own. All games that require or have optional motion control features won’t be fully playable on the Switch Lite unless users purchase the $80 Joy-Con bundle.

Switch Lite: Early Impressions

A couple of media outlets got roughly half an hour of playtime with a pre-released version of the Switch Lite. Both publications were primarily positive, chiefly about its compact size and the nostalgia factor.

Time Magazine’s Alex Fitzpatrick said it took him back to his Game Boy days.

“After my 30 or so minutes with the Switch Lite, I came away impressed. I’m a longtime handheld gaming fan,” he said. “My childhood is best expressed as a series of Game Boys — and I almost always use my Switch in handheld mode, even when I’m at home.”

Scott Stein at CNET said he’d even consider buying the Switch Lite as a secondary Switch.

“It could also be the perfect second Switch for a house that already owns one,” he wrote. “Like, one for the kids, or the gaming equivalent of a two-car garage.”


Nintendo Switch vs. Switch Lite: Who Are They For?

In the end, deciding between the first-generation Switch or Switch Lite will come down to one question: Are you a TV or handheld gamer?

If you’re one that enjoys kicking back on the couch in front of your TV for nightly gaming sessions, the original Switch will give you more of a traditional console experience.

But if you find yourself primarily playing mobile games in your bed, on your commute to work, or anywhere else, the Switch Lite may actually turn out to be the better complement to your habits. And, of course, it’ll be a bit cheaper.

The Switch Lite will hit shelves on September 20, but bear in mind, the original will likely see some discounts on Amazon Prime Day.

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