Out of all the consoles to emerge in this decade, the Nintendo Switch may just be the biggest game-changer of the lot. It’s Nintendo at its finest, balancing decades of dominance in the mobile gaming market with their first-party expertise in releasing some of the most glorious games of all time. The finest console that Nintendo has made…but not the best.
Make no mistake, there’s a lot to love about the current Nintendo Switch, but it’s far from perfect. Depending on the game, the battery life may slurp up its charge within an hour or two of heavy gaming, it’s a tad bit on the heavy side and there’s still a lot to be desired when it comes to ergonomics for marathon gaming sessions.
The Nintendo Switch Lite then, is an effort to take everything that’s great about the regular Switch, trim off the fat and give players a more focused and easier on the pocket alternative. It’s Nintendo handheld gaming polished to a mirror sheen, utterly addictive and ready to thrill its audience with an established library of games from the Big N and hundreds of other publishers. The only question you’ve got to ask yourself though, is if you’re willing to make some necessary sacrifices in the name of comfortable mobility.
Before we can even answer that question though, let’s take a look at the device itself. Weighing in at a mere 275 grams, the Switch Lite feels impossibly…well…light, and yet its plastic casing feels sturdy and more than capable of taking a few minor bumps in your backpack should you find yourself dashing to catch the bus.
It’s also fantastically comfortable to hold, with its slimmer footprint creating a more subtle and ergonomic position in which to rest your hands around. Smallness aside, you’re still getting all the inputs that you’d find on a regular Nintendo Switch or contemporary console controller: Two analogue sticks, four face buttons and four more shoulder buttons. A start, select, capture and home button finishes off the presentation, as does something else that Nintendo fans have been hungry for: A proper directional pad.
Instead of the segmented design of the Nintendo Switch’s D-Pad, the Switch Lite restores the classic solid directional input to its design, something which should delight many a retro and fighting game fan. Otherwise, it’s business as usual with the Switch lite still having a game cart port, an SD card slot, volume control, 3.5mm jack inputs and a power button.
The end result is a physical design that just feels better. If you’re the kind of gamer who prefers to play Nintendo games in bed as opposed to resting the console in its dock, then the concessions made by Nintendo to make a cheaper Switch without sacrificing power will make absolute sense to you. There are no detachable Joycon controllers, the lack of Rumble is ironically felt and the versatility of the OG Switch is cast aside in favour of specialisation.
You’d think that without the function to switch between modes, the Switch Lite would function like a pale imitation of its bigger brother. And yet, nothing could be further from the truth. While it may be a Switch in name only, the Switch Lite is still magnificent at being a gaming device for anyone on the go. The 5.5-inch screen can still transmit a ton of information directly to your eyeballs, with a sharpness that makes ample use of squishing 720p resolution into a smaller space. Unless you’re far-sighted that is.
Playing games also feel great, thanks to the face buttons having a slightly deeper profile that result in more satisfying click-clack hammerings. It’s worth noting that there have been reports of the Switch Lite having an analogue drift issue, although I’ve yet to encounter that myself. Considering how my review unit came straight from the Comic-Con Africa show floor where dozens of people got their hands on the unit and tried it out, on my side at least I’ve found nothing but a reliable stiffness in the analogue stick department.
If there are relevant complaints to be had, it boils down to the sound design of the Switch Lite. While you can easily stick a 3.5mm headset into the provided slot, the actual speakers don’t exactly scream quality. There’s a cheapness to the sound on higher volume settings, shaking the Switch Lite around like a neck massager at max and outside of a specialised dongle you still can’t use a wireless bluetooth headset to enjoy the device in your personal device.
Other complaints though, are nitpicky at best. I’d have liked to see the black border between screen and shell reduced somewhat more so that’s it not so noticeable, while the spacing for the D-Pad and the plastic case is also a touch too open for my tastes. I’m also not a fan of the colours on offer, with the Switch Lite currently being sold in shades of banana yellow, turquoise blue and boring grey. Urgh. If Nintendo ever releases an all-black or striking red Switch Lite though, I’d be all over that like a clown at a balloon sale.
Whatever criticisms there are for the Switch Lite, they feel minor in the face of what this device actually is: Nintendo’s best handheld gaming console since the Gameboy Advance and its numerous hardware evolutions. The Switch Lite is Nintendo with a laser focus, tossing aside the flexibility of the original model in favour of a console built on necessary sacrifices for the greater portable good.
For any Nintendo fan who can live without needing to connect to their TV (And seeing as how the Nintendo 3DS has managed to shift 75 million units during its run there’re probably a whole lot of you ready to throw some money down already), the Switch Lite is ideal. Trimmed down but still powerful, it’s a pocket powerhouse that’s ready to play anything from Pokémon to The Witcher and everything else between it.
Last Updated: October 1, 2019