Nintendo really wasn't messing around when it called this new version of its latest console the Nintendo Switch Lite. Lighter on price, lighter on gimmicks and, most impressively – and noticeably – lighter in weight, it's immediately apparent that the Switch Lite is going to give the classic console some serious competition.
Of course, that's not to say that the original Switch – or the new edition with its suped-up battery life – isn't without merits. Technically the Nintendo Switch Lite is 'missing' a tonne of the Switch's original features. The Lite is aimed at offering a handheld experience only, so the Switch's usual selling point of literally being able to switch between handheld and home console has been removed. Gone is the ability to slide off one of the Switch's Joy-Con pads and pass it to a friend for instant multiplayer action, emulating that rooftop party scene from the original Switch ad.
Release date: September 20, 2019
Price: $199.99 / £199.99
Colours available: Grey, Yellow, or Turquoise
Special Pokemon Sword and Shield Limited Edition arriving November 15.
Issues with the actual name of the console aside with the reduced features, the Nintendo Switch Lite arrives as a beautifully crafted slab of technology, bundling the usually detachable Joy-Con controllers into the console's main body. It's like a Nintendo take on the PS Vita, and it's deliciously pleasing to handle. The finish is a kind of soft matte; the kind that you think might be prone to fingerprint grub, but I can confirm that even while playing and also eating a pizza, the Lite has come away still beautifully yellow. Of course, there's also a turquoise or grey colour option available if sunny isn't your natural disposition.
Light as Roc's feather
The one thing I can't currently get over is how much lighter it feels. It comes in at about .27 lbs less than the original Switch when it's in handheld mode, which might not sound like a lot but it's a noticeable difference when you have both consoles side by side. Because of its compact design, and that weight loss, I can see the Lite becoming your new travel buddy, dropped easily into a backpack or handbag, with the OG unit waiting at home to play games on the big screen, or for those intensive Super Mario Kart 8 Deluxe multiplayer sessions.
As someone who plans to do just that, I was more than a little worried about how robust the Nintendo Online service's cloud save functionality would be – after all, Nintendo's approach to online definitely has its quirks. But, I'm very happy to report the entire process has been a dream. All my previously purchased digital games are available to download straight from the Nintendo eShop in bulk, and accessing the cloud saves for each is just a case of hitting + on each title and downloading it from the server. I've yet to find a game that doesn't support cloud saves – and I've tried a range of indie, AAA and Nintendo own software to check – and it's all worked seamlessly moving between consoles and accessing the different cloud saves.
The only caveat so far is that you'll need to pick which Switch you want to set as your Primary console. It's only your Primary Switch that will be able to access digitally downloaded games offline – aka on a flight or other long non-WiFi-enabled journeys. Physical copies are a-ok to access offline, just not their digitally downloaded counterparts. It's worth taking into consideration for anyone who wants to dual-wield Switches.
Interestingly there is also an odd quirk in that every time I boot up a game, it flashes up with a message that reads: "Checking whether this software can be played". I'm not sure yet whether this is related to the Switch Lite not yet being my Primary, or the fact the Lite isn't compatible with all software straight out of the box. Because it doesn't have detachable Joy-Cons and can't run in tabletop mode, games like 1-2 Switch or Super Mario Party 10 will require you to wirelessly link some additional Joy-Cons in order to let you play, meaning they're not totally out of bounds for Switch Lite owners. I'll investigate this quirk and get back to you for our full review next week.
New screen, who dis?
Something else that you might think is a consideration when buying a Nintendo Switch Lite is its slightly reduced screen real estate. It's a 5.5-inch LCD screen compared to the original's 6.2-inch, but after several minutes immersed in a game you quickly forget about the smaller size. There's no compromise when it comes to graphics, and both the Lite and the original Switch offer the same 720p HD resolution – although, as much as I'm already loving the Lite, my heart still longs for a full 1080p HD Pro Switch. Even games with lots of text, like Zelda: Breath of the Wild haven't been impacted, although Super Mario Maker 2 does feel pretty cramped on the 5.5-inch display, so I'd strongly advise investing in a stylus if you want to get involved in creating.
Despite that smaller form factor though, you're looking at a longer battery life than the classic Switch model. The Nintendo Switch Lite offers around 20 - 30% more playtime on a single charge, and although I've not enough time to put this to a lengthy test, early signs are definitely promising. I've put the Switch Lite through a gruelling first few hours, playing a range of games from AAA blockbusters to indie delights for a solid two hours, having spent the first hour of its 100% battery life downloading everything I could think of to test. Even now, after a night left on standby, we're still rocking 58% battery. But, I'll be back next week with a full report on exactly how much more juice you can squeeze from this particular lemon.
In fact, the only thing so far I've found myself having to get used to is that you can feel the rumble of the game audio through the back of the console. The Lite has a thinner plastic casing than the classic Switch, and it makes feeling the throb of the audio much more pronounced, to the point I can't remember it ever being a thing with the original model. It's definitely a small thing in the grand scheme of just how lovely the Lite is to use, but it's an odd sensation.
Regardless, this is clearly the Switch for the handheld core. It offers all the Switch's best games in one delightfully compact package and should appeal to anyone whose Switch dock is gathering dust right now. It might not have all the gimmicks and gizmos of the classic Switch, but for those who like to experience their Switch games solo and from the comfort of wherever they damn well please, this is going to be an easy sell.