Switch Lite vs. Switch: An In-Depth Comparison

The Nintendo Switch burst onto the gaming scene in 2017 to critical and commercial success. Its revolutionary hybrid design that transitions from a home console to portable handheld made the Switch a smash hit. In 2019, Nintendo capitalized on that popularity with the Nintendo Switch Lite – a cheaper, solely handheld version aimed at a more budget-conscious audience.

But should you go for the full Nintendo Switch experience or save money on the stripped-down Switch Lite? This comprehensive guide will compare every aspect of these two iconic consoles so you can decide which is best for your needs and budget.

A Brief History of the Nintendo Switch

Before diving into the Switch versus Switch Lite debate, it helps to understand the development history behind the Nintendo Switch…

[Comprehensive section tracing the conception and creation of the original Nintendo Switch, with quotes from key executives and developers like Shigeru Miyamoto.]

The Nintendo Switch was released in March 2017 to widespread critical acclaim, praised for its hybrid design and detachable Joy-Con controllers. It also far succeeded sales expectations – within a year, the Switch became Nintendo‘s fastest-selling console ever.

The runaway success prompted Nintendo to consider a streamlined, purely portable model. At a lower price point, this could attract more casual gamers to the Switch‘s excellent library of titles.

Thus the Nintendo Switch Lite was born in September 2019.

Nintendo Switch Overview

[Summary of what the original Nintendo Switch is, its capabilities, and reasons for its vast popularity.]

Notable features and specs:

  • Hybrid portable and home console video game system
  • 6.2" LCD touchscreen
  • Detachable Joy-Con controllers with HD Rumble
  • Multiple play modes (TV, tabletop, handheld)
  • Nvidia customized Tegra processor
  • 32GB internal storage (expandable)
  • Wi-fi, Bluetooth 4.1, USB-C charging
  • 4.5 – 9 hours battery life

With the ability to output 1080p graphics docked to a TV or take the same games on the go, the Nintendo Switch appealing both to hardcore gamers and those who enjoy more casual gaming experiences.

It established itself as Nintendo‘s fastest-selling console ever, which opened the door for an even more portable streamlined model – the Nintendo Switch Lite.

Nintendo Switch Lite Overview

In September 2019, Nintendo introduced Switch owners to a new member of the family – the Nintendo Switch Lite. As the name suggests, this console sacrificed some functionality to deliver a leaner, cheaper alternative focused solely on portable play.

By removing rarely-used features in favor of greater portability, the Switch Lite targeted gamers who don‘t need TV output or detachable Joy-Cons. The result was a compact handheld system with lower cost barrier of entry while retaining the excellent Switch game catalog.

Notable features and specs:

  • Streamlined for dedicated handheld play
  • 5.5” LCD touchscreen
  • Integrated controls
  • No TV output, HD Rumble, IR motion camera
  • Slightly improved battery at 3-7 hours
  • Available in multiple colors

The Switch Lite carved out a niche for players content with trading power for affordability and a take-anywhere form factor – essentially a high-end Nintendo 3DS successor.

With the Switch options explained, let’s see how they compare across various categories.

Switch Lite vs. Switch: Detailed Comparison

While both offer access to Nintendo’s greatest games, there are certainly differences that will matter depending on your priorities as a gamer.

Design and Hardware

As you can likely tell at a glance, the Nintendo Switch Lite shaved off some size, going from the Switch‘s 4-inches high and 9.4-inches long down to 3.6-inch height and 8.2-inch length. It‘s also notably lighter at 0.61 pounds versus the 0.88 pound Switch. Losing the ability to connect to a TV allowed Nintendo to streamline the Lite strictly for handheld play.

The smaller form squeezes in a 5.5-inch touchscreen instead of the original Switch‘s 6.2-inch display. Resolution stays 1280×720 pixels, but the pixel density increases due to the smaller screen. The battery life sees a small improvement as well, lasting roughly 3-7 hours on the Switch Lite versus the Switch‘s 2.5-6.5 hours.

Ultimately, players who want more versatility in using Nintendo’s dock for TV gaming need to stick to the standard Switch. But the Switch Lite certainly nails its ultra-portable ambitions if playing on-the-go is your priority.


One of the iconic parts of the Nintendo Switch experience is the detachable Joy-Con controllers. These versatily controllers can attach to the sides of the Switch or slide off for wireless, motion-controlled play. Each has an analog stick, four face buttons, and shoulder buttons.

The Switch Lite scraps this key feature to slim the system down to a simple handheld. Instead, integrated controls flank the left and right side of the small screen, reminiscent of a PlayStation Vita layout. The total button count remains the same, but without the HD Rumble vibration and IR motion camera features built into Joy-Cons.

The impact of this change can‘t be understated – Switch Lite owners lose the ability to play games requiring detached Joy-Cons. That includes the super-popular Ring Fit Adventure and party titles like 1-2 Switch. And forget about using specialty controllers like the Nintendo Labo accessories. Considering the Joy-Con’s importance to the Switch’s identity, removing them hamstrings certain portions of the console’s catalog.

As a pure tradeoff between form factor and functionality, the Switch Lite certainly compromises more in this department. Players wanting full access to the Switch ecosystem need the Joy-Cons and docking/TV connectivity.

Processing and Visuals

As both consoles can play the thousands of games in the Nintendo Switch library without performance issues, they share essentially equivalent internal specs. The same Nvidia Tegra processor, 32GB of storage, Bluetooth 4.1 support ,etc. powers gameplay on the Switch and Switch Lite. Visuals look fantastic on both models‘ 720p LED screens – it just comes down to 6.2 inches versus 5.5 inches.

The only possible difference is that some graphically intense games may suffer slightly more frame rate drops on Switch Lite. But we‘re talking barely noticeable dips. tl;dr – users shouldn‘t expect meaningful performance variation for Nintendo titles on Switch versus Switch Lite hardware.

Game Library Accessibility

The main appeal of any game console is the software library – no one buys a system just for the hardware itself. In this metric, the Switch and Switch Lite are nearly identical.

Both grant full access to Nintendo’s eShop digital marketplace with several thousand games spanning original 1st party titles, indie projects, classic ports, and more. You can separately purchase physical game cartridges to insert as well. For 99% of the Nintendo Switch‘s stellar lineup, the gaming experience feels untouched jumping between models.

As mentioned however, the lack of Joy-Cons does prohibit Switch Lite users from playing certain specialty releases like 1-2 Switch or Labo kits. Considering the thousands of compatible titles though, the average gamer likely won‘t care. But worth keeping in mind if you have specific games requiring Joy-Con abilities.


Here’s where the Switch Lite shines over its namesake predecessor. At 20% lighter and roughly 17% smaller in volume, the Lite feels far nicer for gaming on the go. For comparison, the Switch takes up as much bag space as a small laptop or sizable hardcover book when transporting. The Switch Lite is much closer to carrying around a paperback novel – sliding into pockets easily and barely noticeable slung over a shoulder.

Nintendo also crafted the Lite with superior handhold ergonomics by rounding the back edges and reducing thickness. Integrated controls mean fewer small pieces to possibly lose or break over time as well. Altogether, the Lite stands far above the Switch for pure portable usage.

Serious mobile gamers – we’re looking at daily commuters and frequent travelers – can’t do better than the svelte yet powerful Nintendo Switch Lite.

Price and Value

Here is arguably the single most important factor for consumers deciding between the two Switch options – how much you pay versus what you get. The Switch Lite shaves roughly $100 off the base price, retailing at $199 versus $299 for the full hybrid console.

But some quick math shows the added versatility of the flagship Switch likely justifies spending 33% more for most gamers. Considering you need to buy Joy-Cons ($80) and a dock ($50) separately just to transform the Switch Lite into a quasi-equivalent…you‘re already close the price disparity. And that‘s not factoring duplicate accessories or the future-proof flexibility afforded by the Switch‘s TV connectivity and modular controllers.

Casual gamers on a strict budget stand to benefit the most from saving $100 and sticking to handheld-only with the Switch Lite. Otherwise, the standard Nintendo Switch clearly provides better bang for buck given its wider range of play options and accoutrements. Think of that extra 33% premium buying you 50% more features.

Switch Versus Switch Lite: 6 Key Differences

Nintendo SwitchNintendo Switch Lite
Hybrid DesignYes – handheld & TV modesNo – handheld only
Display Size6.2-inch screen5.5-inch screen
ControllersDetachable Joy-ConsIntegrated controls
Special FeaturesHD Rumble, IR Motion CameraNone
Battery Life2.5 – 6.5 hours3 – 7 hours

Which Should You Buy?

Deciding between the Nintendo Switch and Switch Light comes down to five main factors:

Game library compatibility – Do you play games requiring detached Joy-Cons and motion controls often? The Lite restricts certain titles.

Multiplayer focus – The social fun of games like Mario Party diminishes without separate Joy-Cons.

Visuals – A 6.2-inch display provides more immersive fidelity over a 5.5-inch screen.

TV connectivity – The hybrid docked mode enables traditional console and multiplayer experiences the Lite can’t match.

Affordability – If budget is your top consideration, saving $100 on the Lite is compelling.

Below are use case recommendations:

  • For younger gamers and families, the flexibility and multiplayer strengths inherent with the Joy-Cons makes the regular Nintendo Switch the better choice.

  • Older nostalgic gamers who enjoy singleplayer Nintendo exclusives on the go and want to save money should opt for the Nintendo Switch Lite.

  • Avid gamers who play daily or favor TV mode and local social gameplay get more from the Nintendo Switch.

  • Travelers and commuters wanting pure portable play in a tiny form factor get the most bang for buck from the Switch Lite.

No matter your final choice, the reality is that you can’t go wrong. Both provide fantastic access to Nintendo’s beloved franchises. But weighing your specific priorities as a gamer against the objective comparison above ensures you pick the perfect Switch console to meet your needs.

Ready to Buy? Get the Best Price

[Purchasing links and updated pricing for the Switch and Switch Lite consoles.]

Frequently Asked Questions

[FAQ section answering common user questions about the Switch and Switch Lite.]
  1. What‘s the difference between the Nintendo Switch and Switch Lite?

    The Nintendo Switch is a hybrid console able to be played portably or docked to a TV. The Switch Lite is integrated handheld-only version without TV connectivity in favor of a smaller form.

  2. Can all Nintendo Switch games be played on Switch Lite?

    Mostly yes, but some titles requiring detached Joy-Con controllers or accessories cannot be played on the Lite.

  3. Is the Nintendo Switch Lite just a portable Switch?

    Essentially yes – the Switch Lite plays all handheld Switch games in a smaller package without TV dock functionality.

  4. Does Nintendo Switch Lite come with controllers?

    The Switch Lite has built-in, non-detachable controls instead of Joy-Cons to maximize portability.

  5. Can 2 players play on a Switch Lite?

    Unfortunately no. Missing Joy-Cons means no local multiplayer versus the ability for 2 players to share Joy-Con halves on the original Switch in tablet mode.

And there you have it – everything you could want to know comparing the Nintendo Switch versus Nintendo Switch Lite consoles. Let our guide lead you to your perfect Nintendo Switch gaming experience!

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