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Nintendo Switch vs Lite: which handheld suits your gaming needs most?
Our breakdown of the Nintendo Switch vs Lite will tell you everything you need to know to help you choose between the two consoles
Can’t decide between the Nintendo Switch vs Lite? Despite their similar appearance and names, there are a couple of distinct differences between the two handhelds. Fundamentally, each console offers identical performance but caters to very different types of gamers.
Unlike choosing between the Nintendo Switch vs OLED, it’s easier to pick between Nintendo’s first iteration of its hybrid console and its slimmer sibling. The Nintendo Switch Lite is designed to be a more portable version of the regular Nintendo Switch, perfect for those who have fond memories of tapping away on their Nintendo DS or Game Boy, and is more suitable for younger audiences.
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The good news is that all of the best Nintendo Switch games can be played on both consoles, although the best Nintendo Switch accessories and best Nintendo Switch controllers tell a different story. Some will crossover easily, while others are redundant for the Nintendo Switch Lite.
If you want the bottom line, it’s this: the Nintendo Switch Lite is a handheld-only version of the standard Nintendo Switch. It’s just as powerful as the regular console, can play the same games (apart from a few minor exceptions), but can’t connect to a TV. If you’re the type of person who likes handheld game consoles, the Lite is probably for you. You also can’t remove the Joy-Con controllers for some local multiplayer on the go, so bear that in mind.
Nintendo Switch vs Lite: price 💲
There’s a significant price gap between the consoles. While the Nintendo Switch retails for $299, the Nintendo Switch Lite only costs $199. That $100 saving is nothing to sniff at and could net you a ton of Switch games to play on your new handheld if you opt for the Lite.
If you’re in no rush to buy, however, wait for a seasonal sale. It’s not uncommon for either console to feature during Black Friday and other discount events. The standard Nintendo Switch is usually sold at its normal price with a few free games thrown in, but the Nintendo Switch Lite is often gets a straight price cut.
Don’t expect those prices to change anytime soon. Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa last year said the company wouldn’t consider raising the consoles’ price like Sony did for the PS5. Hopefully, that doesn’t change, and Nintendo doesn’t follow Microsoft who also raised the price of the Xbox Series X.
Nintendo Switch vs Lite: tech specs ⚙
Although the look and functionality of Nintendo Switch and Switch Lite differ in a few key ways, their hardware components are almost identical. The screen on the Lite is slightly smaller than that of the launch Switch to allow for a smaller overall form factor. Besides that, they’re the same, spec-wise.
Nintendo Switch specs
🤓 CPU/GPU: Custom Nvidia Tegra
🐏 RAM: 4GB LPDDR4
💾 Storage: 32GB HDD
📺 Display: 6.2-inch LCD
🔋 Battery: 4.5 - 9 hours
Nintendo Switch Lite specs
🤓 CPU/GPU: Custom Nvidia Tegra
🐏 RAM: 4GB LPDDR4
💾 Storage: 32GB HDD
📺 Display: 5.5-inch LCD
🔋 Battery: 3 - 7 hours
Nintendo Switch vs Lite: games 🕹
Compatibility across the consoles isn’t as straightforward as you may think. On the face of it, the Nintendo Switch Lite can run every game that the standard Nintendo Switch can, but its different hardware features mean some of those games can’t really be played – at least, not properly.
Games that don’t support handheld mode or require Joy-Con motion control can’t be played with the Switch Lite straight out of the box. If you’re hoping to play Super Mario Party, Just Dance, 1-2-Switch, ARMS, or Ring Fit Adventure, you’ll need to grab a pair of Joy-Con controllers separately and wirelessly connect them to your Nintendo Switch Lite. You’re also stuck using the 5.5-inch screen and will need a way to prop it up as the Lite doesn’t have a stand built-in.
On top of that, if you do end up purchasing a pair of Joy-Con controllers, you’ll need to shell out for a Joy-Con charging stand too, since there’s no other way to juice them up.
Nintendo Switch vs Lite: differences 🤔
The Switch and Switch Lite look different, feel different and play differently, which means they have some major distinctions to be aware of.
⛔ No dock: This is the biggest difference: the Switch Lite is a handheld-only console. It doesn’t come with a dock and can’t fit inside one. There’s no way of connecting it to a TV or throwing up its image on another screen. You’re only ever going to be using the Lite as a handheld, portable console.
🎮 Joy-Con controllers: With that portable exclusivity comes a few design changes. The Nintendo Switch Lite doesn’t have detachable Joy-Con controllers, so can’t be used to play any games that require them without purchasing an additional pair. The buttons on the console’s left-hand side have also been replaced with a D-pad – although it makes no functional difference.
📺 Screen size: Pick up a Nintendo Switch Lite after handling the standard Nintendo Switch and you might notice their disparity in screen size. The Lite’s screen is 0.7 inches smaller. It’s noticeable but not drastic, and will certainly feel comfortable to anyone who’s used past handheld consoles.
The smaller screen size allows the Lite to have a slimmer form factor, making it a super portable console that’s easy to carry around. Although you’re losing a few pixels, it’s not a great waste. Even a game as expansive as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild still looks great.
👜 Accessories: Many Nintendo Switch accessories aren’t compatible with the Nintendo Switch Lite. Replacement Joy-Con controllers, for example, are of no use because the Lite doesn’t have any Joy-Cons to replace. Similarly, because it’s smaller than the standard Nintendo Switch, it requires a different-sized case.
Nintendo Switch vs Lite: similarities 🤝
It’s not all change. The Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Switch Lite share many essential features.
🏃♀️ Performance: In terms of internal components, the Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Switch Lite are essentially the same. They share the same chipset and memory size, meaning there’s nothing on the technical side that the standard Switch is capable of that the Lite misses out on. Expect the same framerates, loading times and battery usage from both consoles.
🌟 Screen quality: Both the Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Switch Lite share an LCD screen that renders games at 720p. The Lite’s screen isn’t any better or worse than its bulkier sibling. However, when the standard Nintendo Switch is docked, it’s capable of producing images at a crisper 1080p.
🔋 Battery: Although the Nintendo Switch Lite is designed with portability in mind, it doesn’t feature a larger battery than the standard Nintendo Switch. We’ve found Nintendo’s estimation that they’ll last for 3 to 7 hours to be true, which is plenty of time for a good gaming session. The Lite can be charged using a USB-C cable, while the standard Switch can also be juiced up by plugging it into its dock. The OG Switch has a slightly bigger battery, so keep that in mind.
💾 Storage: The two consoles also share the same amount of internal storage – 32GB. It’s not much, and will quickly be eaten up as your game library grows, so you’ll undoubtedly want to grab an SD card for extra space.
😤 Stick drift: Unfortunately, both consoles can also suffer from Joy-Con drift. The hardware fault seems to randomly affect some consoles, causing the analog sticks to register inputs even when they’re not being used. It can really hamper your gaming experience.
It’s annoying enough for a regular Nintendo Switch, although can be solved by buying a new pair of Joy-Con controllers. For the Lite, however, there’s no solution. Since it doesn’t have detachable Joy-Con, you’ll need to just stick it out. The problem isn’t guaranteed to appear, though, and plenty of Switch users never encounter it at all. As UK consumer watchdog Which? reported in 2022, two in five Switch consoles suffer from the issue.
Should I get the Nintendo Switch or Nintendo Switch Lite? 🆚
The Nintendo Switch Lite isn’t just a cheaper option, it’s a new take on the Nintendo Switch. You’ll have to decide whether it’ll still fit all your needs. If not, don’t be taken in by the $100 saving.
If you’re only going to play the Nintendo Switch in handheld mode and can never see yourself connecting it to your TV, go ahead and grab the Nintendo Switch Lite. It offers practically everything the standard Switch does, bar out-of-the-box compatibility with a very small number of games, runs games to the same performance and is designed to better suit portable play. If you’re the kind of person who has fond memories of gaming on a Nintendo DS or Game Boy, but has never really been one for home consoles, the Lite is for you.
If you do intend to play sitting on your sofa in front of the TV, opt for the standard Nintendo Switch. The flexibility to move between regular console play and on-the-go gaming makes the Nintendo Switch one of the most attractive consoles ever made, and the sharper 1080p visuals will make its library look great.
Last updated: July 27, 2023