Nintendo Switch vs Lite: stay-at-home console or handheld gaming?
Our breakdown of the Nintendo Switch vs Lite will tell you everything you need to know to help you choose between the consoles
Picking between the Nintendo Switch vs Lite is thankfully pretty straightforward. They’re almost identical in their specs, but cater to very different types of gamers.
Unlike choosing between the Nintendo Switch vs Nintendo Switch OLED, you’ll quickly get a handle on whether the flagship console or its slimmer sibling is right for you. 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.
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.
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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 will cost you only $199. That $100 saving is nothing to sniff at and could net you a heap of games to play on your new bit of hardware.
If you’re in no rush to buy, 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 put up with 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 in gearing up for a price hike.
Nintendo Switch vs Lite: tech specs ⚙
Although the look and functionality of Nintendo Switch and Nintendo 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.
🤓 CPU/GPU: Custom Nvidia Tegra
🐏 RAM: 4GB LPDDR4
💾 Storage: 32GB HDD
📺 Display: 6.2-inch LCD
🔋 Battery: 4.5 - 9 hours
Nintendo Switch Lite
🤓 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 Nintendo 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.
It’s still not ideal, though. The Lite is very much designed as a handheld-only console, with no kickstand to support it and a small-ish screen. Standing it up on a table, or crowding around it with a group of buddies, doesn’t work brilliantly. 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 🤔
They look different, they feel different and they play differently. The Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Switch Lite have some major distinctions to be aware of.
⛔ No dock: This is the biggest difference: the Nintendo 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 basically the same console. 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.
Updated: March 15, 2023