The holidays are quickly approaching and many of us are looking into new games and consoles to add to our wishlists. With all the Nintendo Switch titles releasing in December and into next year, the Switch is a likely favorite for gift-giving and receiving.
Since Nintendo released the Switch Lite in September of 2019, we’re now faced with the dilemma of choosing which of the systems is the best option. The Switch Lite is marketed as an exclusively handheld version of its older, hybrid cousin, but it’s not immediately clear how the two systems compare on all other fronts.
Well, fear not, intrepid gamers! I’ve created a comprehensive guide to the Switch and Switch Lite to see how they stack up against one another. It should help you determine exactly which option will be best for you and your preferred gaming style.
For a quick comparison of the specs, check out the table below:
|Battery||HAC-001: 2.5 – 6.5 hours|
HAC-001(-01) 4.5 – 9 hours
|3 – 7 hours|
|Processor/GPU||NVIDIA Custom Tegra Processor||NVIDIA Custom Tegra Processor|
|Size||4″ H x 9.4″ W x 0.55″ D|
6.2″ touch screen
|3.6″ H x 8.2″ W x 0.55″ D|
5.5″ touch screen
|Resolution||1280 x 720 LCD (up to 1080p when docked)||1280 x 720 LCD|
|Weight||0.88 pounds||0.61 pounds|
Since the main appeal of the standard Switch lies in its function as a hybrid console, it naturally packs more specialized features to support its different game modes. The Switch comes with a docking station and HDMI cable to complete its TV mode setup, as well as two detachable Joy-Cons and a grip that acts as the system’s controllers. I’ve previously discussed the Joy-Cons’ specs in detail in my guide to Switch controllers, so I suggest checking that out for more information on their technical functionality.
The Switch Lite, by comparison, is a handheld-only system. As such, it lacks the hookups for TV and tabletop play, forgoing the standard docking station for an AC adapter. The Switch Lite also doesn’t feature detachable Joy-Cons, thus losing out on the HD rumble functionality and IR motion camera. It does sport an NFC touchpoint in the right analog stick (similarly to the Joy-Cons), meaning that you’ll still be able to use your Amiibos without issue.
Beyond this, the technical capabilities of the Switch Lite remains relatively unchanged from the standard Switch. Both systems feature full use of the Nintendo eShop and support physical cartridges and digital downloads. Storage also remains unaffected, as both systems boast 32GB of internal storage that can be boosted with the use of microSDXC cards. The standard Switch is larger (4″ x 9.4″ x 0.55″ versus 3.6″ x 8.2″ x 0.55″) and has a longer battery life on average, though this depends somewhat on the model you buy and the types of games you’re playing.
The design differences between the Switch and the Switch Lite lie primarily in their support of different gameplay modes, though there are a few notable aesthetic differences. The Switch obviously includes all of the bells and whistles needed to work in both TV and tabletop mode (read: a kickstand and detachable controllers). Cosmetically, Joy-Cons and their straps come in multiple colors that can be bought in preset packs and subsequently mix-matched, though the Switch itself and the docking station come only in black.
Since the Switch Lite is handheld only, its design is more compact for improved portability. There’s no need for a kickstand, and the controllers come conveniently and permanently attached. In contrast to the standard Switch, the Switch Lite comes in a range of brighter colors that currently include gray, yellow, and turquoise.
At this time, the Switch Lite supports all existing Nintendo Switch titles, though it’s important to note that the games can only be played in their handheld mode. This doesn’t impact the majority of the selection, meaning that the cheaper Switch Lite may be a preferable option if you gravitate toward single-player games. Still, I’d strongly advise keeping the limitations in mind when looking at games that require the use of detachable Joy-Cons, including Ring Fit and Super Mario Party.
With this in mind, the need for detachable Joy-Cons isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker for the Switch Lite. Joy-Cons and Pro Controllers can both be synced to the Switch Lite, giving you the option to play these games as they were initially intended (albeit on a smaller screen).
In addition, both the Switch and the Switch Lite support multiplayer options with online and local play, and can sync additional controllers for couch co-op. As an added note here, the standard Switch may be a better choice if you’re more into party games. It would be a little silly to buy multiple Switch Lite systems or have your friends group around a small screen with no kickstand.
Bang for Your Buck
The standard Switch is a more expensive option at $299.99 (per Nintendo.com), though it does come with the benefit of more game modes. The Switch Lite sits at $199.99, clocking in at $100 cheaper for the full current selection of Switch titles and the convenience of a more compact and portable system.
Overall, the standard Switch includes a greater range of options and may be worth the added cost when considering the flexibility offered as a hybrid console. If you prefer a handheld experience, the Switch Lite may be a better option.
Additionally, Nintendo confirmed in an FAQ that as long as you’re logged into the same Nintendo Account, you can download and play previously-purchased games on multiple Switch system. If you already have a Nintendo Switch and are simply looking to buy a second system for added convenience or for improved multiplayer options, I’d recommend picking up the Switch Lite— there’s no need to add a second docking station, and it serves as a functional, cheaper supplement to an existing setup.