Reviews: Nintendo Switch Lite Can Never Be a Replacement for the Original

Reviews of the portable-only Nintendo Switch Lite are pouring in. Though it sacrifices key fetures, the Switch Lite looks like a suitable, cheaper alternative.

The Nintendo Switch is an affordable, portable video game console as it is, but Nintendo is keen to make the Switch even more portable and even more affordable. Enter: the Nintendo Switch Lite, a portable-only version of its hit console that trades in beefy features for a leaner design and a cheaper price of $200, a whole $100 less than the main Switch model.

The Switch Lite will be available at retail on September 20.

Early reviews, which began going live on Tuesday, praise the Switch Lite for its comfortable grip, improved directional pad, a somewhat longer battery life, its lighter weight, and lower price, while the overall experience is a “downgrade” from the main Switch model.

In videos from outlets like CNET, The Verge, Engadget, Fortune, GameXplain, and more, journalists demoed the Switch Lite with in-depth, hands-on reviews.

As a consensus, reviewers praised the Switch Lite’s comfortable grip (most of all its improved cross-shaped D-pad over the Switch’s four-button input), lighter weight, and user-friendly design. 

Where the Switch Lite seems to crack is in its smaller, 5.5-inch screen (versus 6.2-inches on the main console) and inability to dock to play on larger televisions. But that last part appears to be the very goal Nintendo wants to achieve with the Switch Lite, as CNET dubs it the ideal “commuter’s console.”

The Nintendo Switch Lite, a lighter, portable-only version of the Nintendo Switch, will be released on September 20.


“Game Boy to the Switch’s Console”

Overall, reviews praise the Switch not as a full-fledged replacement for the Switch console, but a suitable complementary piece for current Switch owners or a cheaper access point into the Switch library.

The Verge’s Chaim Gartenberg calls the Switch Lite “Game Boy to the Switch’s Console,” which illustrates how much the Switch Lite feels like a compliment console than a bonafide upgrade.

CNET called the Switch Lite “the commuter’s console” and “a successor to the 3DS.” “When I look at the Switch Lite … it definitely feels like something you would have no problem keeping in your bag and not really worrying about it.”

“It feels honestly like an upgrade from Nintendo’s past portable console, says Devindra Hardawar of Engadget, “and then in some ways, it’s a downgrade from the Switch.”

Switch vs. Switch Lite

All reviewers noted exactly what the Switch “lost” to become the Switch Lite. Here are the biggest features to know about:

  • No Joy-Cons: As a portable-only console, there is no need for detachable Joy-Cons and thus the unit stays one whole piece. Additional Joy-Cons can still attach wirelessly, however.
  • No Docking: The Switch Lite lacks the ability to dock to televisions.
  • Smaller Screen: As previously explained, the Switch Lite sports a smaller 5.5-inch screen versus the regular Switch’s 6.2-inch screen. There is no loss in resolution, however, and reviewers are somewhat divided on how much that matters.
  • No Kickstand: The Switch has a pretty useless plastic kickstand (fans notice that it’s pretty easy to break and snap off), but no such kickstand exists on the Switch Lite. This only emphasizes Nintendo’s primary goal of appealing to travelers, commuters, or children.
  • No Ambient Lighting: It’s hard to see, but the Switch has an ambient light sensor that will alter the brightness of the screen based on one’s environment. The Switch Lite has no such feature, but you can still adjust the brightness manually using the console’s touchscreen (as demonstrated by GameXplain and The Verge).

Understandably, these are some of the biggest features on Nintendo’s console, so these would be the first to go when it came to the Switch Lite. The Switch Lite really is a core portable console that provides that specific experience exceptionally, while the main Switch is a hybrid that can satisfy travelers and stay-at-home dwellers in equal measures.

Nintendo Switch Lite will come in three colors, plus one special Pokémon-themed edition. Above: The Nintendo Switch Lite in gray.


What the Switch Lite Keeps

Besides the aforementioned items, the Switch Lite maintains all the other features of the main Switch, including SD card slots for more storage memory and Bluetooth connectivity for wireless controllers.

It is odd considering the Switch Lite is a portable platform only (again, no kickstand), so it seems Nintendo expects additional players to look over their friends’ shoulders if they want to play.

New (Old) D-Pad

Multiple reviewers praised the improved cross D-pad as an attractive feature for the Switch Lite. As a brief primer: The directional pad on the Switch’s Joy-Cons is a four-button input, which can be difficult, even uncomfortable to play with for many games where input is crucial (think fighting games like Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat 11). The Switch Lite ditches the buttons for a traditional, cross-shaped directional pad that pay homage to the original NES, and reviewers are happy.

“I really like having the actual D-pad for some platformers and fighting games,” says Fortune’s Lisa Marie Segarra. “Really makes using it a lot better.”

Says Hardawar for Engadget, “Playing through Mario Maker 2, and a bit of Zelda, it feels very tight. It feels what I expect from a Nintendo console. Whereas the original Switch’s D-pad always felt kind of funky.”

GameXplain took the praise even further, calling it more comfortable than the D-pad found on the Nintendo Switch’s Pro Controller, a controller widely praised to be one of the most comfortable controllers out today.

Box art for the yellow Nintendo Switch Lite.


Smaller, “Crisper” Screen

Reviewers are mixed over the new, smaller screen size. While there is no loss in resolution, Jeff Bakalar of CNET said he found himself “handcuffed” to the console “just because of how much smaller it is to the original Switch,” though he said he could get used to it “over time.”

Fortune’s review “didn’t notice” and called it a “great screen size,” praising the Switch Lite for being able to play the same games as the regular console “with all of the same brightness and color.”

The Verge comments that because it’s a smaller screen with the same resolution, the Switch Lite “looks slightly crisper.”

Nintendo Switch Lite: Is It Worth It?

Reviewers of the Switch Lite seem optimistic, praising its more travel-friendly features than its older, bigger brother. Losing out on docking to play on TV seems to be the Switch Lite’s biggest drawback, but that’s almost expected considering how portable-centric the Switch Lite is meant to be.

The Nintendo Switch Lite will be released on September 20.

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