- Nintendo on Wednesday unveiled the "Switch Lite," a $200 version of the Switch that’s designed for handheld play only.
- While it’s $100 cheaper than the traditional Nintendo Switch, it’s only a smart purchase for two types of people: parents, and very young kids.
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Nintendo has a new addition to the Switch family. But it’s not for everyone.
The main difference is the Switch Lite cannot be played on a television; it is a handheld console only. Even its two controllers, one on each side of its display, cannot be removed like the traditional Nintendo Switch.
It is also a smaller game console. Having less weight to haul around is a good thing since it’s designed to be portable only, but the screen is also smaller compared to the original Switch — 5.5 inches, compared to 6.2 inches on the standard Switch.
With this in mind, the new Switch Lite is really geared towards two audiences: parents, and young children.
Why parents will love it
Nintendo just gave parents the ability to buy their kids a Switch console for $100 less than the current asking price for the original Switch. And that’s a compelling offer, since having kids in the first place can get pretty expensive.
With the Nintendo Switch Lite, parents can save some money on the console purchase, but they can also limit where their kids can play. Imagine having a child that demands they play their Nintendo games on TV at all times: The Switch Lite makes this impossible, forcing children to play games in handheld mode, thus freeing up the television for parents.
In the end, kids still get to play the games they want to play — "The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild," "Super Mario Odyssey," and "Super Smash Bros. Ultimate" to name a few — while parents get a little more control over how their kids can play those games.
Why young kids will love it
When I was a kid, my parents bought me my very own Nintendo console — a Game Boy Color — as a reward for undergoing a difficult dental operation. I fell in love with it instantly.
It’s easy to create a bond with portable devices; just ask anyone with a smartphone. We hold them in our hands, put them right up to our faces, and they offer us distractions, entertainment, and more. While most young kids probably don’t (and shouldn’t) have smartphones, the Nintendo Switch Lite can fill that void in terms of having a portable device to love and cherish.
The Nintendo Switch Lite has several advantages over the original Switch, especially for kids: It’s smaller and lighter, thus more portable. It offers more battery life, so you can play for longer periods of time. There are fewer moving parts, so there’s no flimsy kickstand to possibly break and you can’t remove the handheld controllers. And it comes in playful, adorable colors that make it feel approachable, like you want to reach out and touch it.
Of course, there’s also the games themselves. The Nintendo Switch Lite can only play Switch games that support handheld mode, but that’s the vast majority of titles, so people who spend $100 less on their consoles shouldn’t be missing out on much.
Why everyone else should buy the original Switch instead
The Nintendo Switch’s main gimmick is its ability to switch between different modes of play: as a handheld device, on a tabletop device, or on your TV.
The Nintendo Switch Lite can only be played in handheld mode. (It probably shouldn’t have "Switch" in its name, to be honest.)
So, yes, you can save $100 and buy a Switch Lite instead of a traditional Switch, but you’d be missing out on several crucial features:
- The ability to play Switch games on your television
- The ability to play Switch games on a tabletop
- The ability to remove your controllers from the Switch so you can give one to a friend for multiplayer experiences
- The ability to play Nintendo Switch games that don’t support handheld mode
- The ability to use the Switch’s HD Rumble feature, which can make games feel more visceral
- The ability to use one of your Switch controllers as an IR Motion Camera
- You’re also getting a smaller screen compared to the original Switch.
In my opinion, these trade-offs are not worth the $100 difference. Even if you think you’re going to play this console in handheld mode most of the time, you should still buy the original Switch — just in case you feel like playing on your TV, or with friends, on occasion.
I’ve owned a Switch since March 2017 and I almost exclusively play the console in TV mode, even though I love handheld mode when I’m traveling. Being able to switch between these various modes, in my opinion, is the console’s main appeal. Removing that crucial feature makes the Nintendo Switch Lite an appealing handheld device, but it’s a completely different value proposition compared to the original Switch.
The Nintendo Switch Lite makes sense for young kids, who will love any portable console they get to keep, and for parents who want to save some money and limit where their kids can play, but everyone else should buy the original Switch. For an extra $100, you’re getting way more than the Switch Lite, including the flexibility to play games however you want.
Nintendo Switch Lite goes on sale September 20.
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