After seemingly giving up on the concept, Nintendo are back to making portable-only consoles but is the new version of the Switch worth it?
When the Nintendo Switch was first released in March 2017 it was coming off the back of the Wii U, a console so unsuccessful most normal people never even knew it existed. And yet here we are, over two years later, and Nintendo has rarely ever known such success.
The moment the Switch became a hit it was obvious that they’d produce additional models and iterations, just as they did with the DS and 3DS family of consoles. A portable-only version seemed particularly obvious, with many also predicting some kind of ‘Switch Pro’ with more power.
There’s no sign of a more powerful version of the Switch but the Switch Lite is out this week (alongside The Legend Of Zelda: Link’s Awakening). It is essentially a Switch that doesn’t switch but that’s a lot more tempting a prospect than it might first sound.
Nintendo Switch Lite release date and price
The Switch Lite will be released on Friday, 20 September for around £200, compared to the £280 of the original Switch. The cut in price is great, obviously, but to make it cheaper the console is now portable only – which means it cannot connect to your TV and cannot be used in tabletop mode.
The Switch Lite is a few inches smaller than the original, including the screen size which has dropped from 6.2 inches to 5.5 inches. The exact dimensions are 3.6 inches high, 8.2 inches long, and .55 inches deep. That compares to 4 inches high, 9.4 inches long, and 0.55 inches deep for the original model.
There are also no Joy-Cons, so the controls are no longer detachable, but Nintendo has added a proper D-Pad where the left set of face buttons used to be. All existing Switch controllers and peripherals are compatible, so you can use Joy-Cons from another Switch console or buy a set just for the Switch Lite.
The Pro Controller is also compatible, although you’ll probably want a stand to sit it in if you’re going to use the console like that.
Nintendo Switch Lite games compatibility
In terms of its innards, the Switch Lite is almost exactly the same as the original model. Technically it has a new processor, but the difference is minor and aimed more at saving battery life than offering extra power. Although even then the difference is minor because the battery itself is smaller, to fit in the new smaller design. The means the battery life only increases to a maximum of seven hours, compared to 6.5 hours for the original model.
All existing Switch games will run on the Switch Lite and there are none that are exclusive to either model. However, because there are a few games that require Joy-Cons to work, that means you can’t play them properly without the required controllers.
The most-high profile examples are 1-2-Switch (which isn’t very good) and Snipperclips (which is) but that’s about it.
All of this year’s big-name games work without any problem on the Switch Lite, including the recent Fire Emblem: Three Houses and Astral Chain, Zelda: Link’s Awakening, and the upcoming Luigi’s Mansion 3 and Pokémon Sword/Shield.
How does the Nintendo Switch Lite work?
Apart from being a bit smaller the Switch Lite works exactly like the standard model. It’s a bit lighter, which may take a few moments of getting used to, but it sits very well in your hand and is perfectly comfortable.
The D-pad is actually an improvement, since the original model has to double up those buttons to use in Joy-Con mode, so it works especially well with 2D games such as Super Mario Maker 2.
The change in design hopefully means an end to Joy-Con drift as well, a problem that has plagued the normal model’s Joy-Cons but shouldn’t be an issue on the Switch Lite – although only time will tell on that one.
Can you transfer games from Nintendo Switch to Switch Lite?
Nintendo are notoriously backwards when it comes to digital rights issues but they have been making some progress recently, and at least when you buy a game now it’s tied to your Nintendo Account and not the console itself.
That means you can link your original console to the new Switch Lite and have access to the same games. However, one console has to be designated the primary console and the other the non-primary console.
The primary console can play any game at any time, as normal, but the non-primary one cannot play the same downloadable game as someone is currently using on the primary console (the non-primary console will check online to see what the other is doing).
This is how it’s always worked with the Switch, if you happen to own two consoles, so nothing has actually changed. But you can read more detail on it here (and wonder why they couldn’t have thought up a better name than ‘non-primary’).
Nintendo Switch Lite review verdict
The Switch Lite is exactly what it appears to be, so in that sense there’s not much risk in getting one as long as you understand what it does, and does not, do.
In terms of playing games in handheld mode goes it’s great, and slightly better than the original model thanks to the new D-pad.
However, it does mean you’ll never be able to play Switch games on a TV and even if you don’t think that’s an issue now the fact that the option has been taken away may become something you regret further down the line.
But those are the options: get a standard model Switch that does everything but is a bit bigger or get a Switch Lite and have a console that’s a bit more portable and notably cheaper.
More choice is always a good thing but as innovative as the Switch console is it’s the games that will always big the biggest appeal and, with only some tiny caveats, they’re the same on both consoles.
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