The Nintendo Switch Lite has just arrived, but it's already performing admirably, with many critics praising the decision to come out with a cheaper, handheld-only model of the Switch. This comes just months after the device was first announced and heavily criticized for not having a clear demographic in mind. As it turns out, the Switch Lite is a sturdy, premium handheld model that performs just as well as its counterpart undocked and adds a few surprisingly enticing features, not the least of which is a dedicated D-Pad that makes gaming on the system feel much better than the Joy-Cons available to the base model.
The question for many, even after the positive reviews emerging for the Switch Lite, is whether or not it's worth picking up - especially for households that already own a base model Switch, which has more functionality at the cost of being slightly larger. Even if consumers don't already own a Switch and were planning on snagging one this holiday season, is there any reason to consider the Nintendo Switch Lite over its bigger sibling - especially when the latter is getting a better battery life model?
The answer, after going hands-on with the Switch Lite for a lengthy period of time, is a resounding yes. The Nintendo Switch Lite will not be for everyone, but it isn't trying to be. For those who are still undecided, here's a look at exactly why the Nintendo Switch Lite is a perfect holiday pickup for consumers - both those who own a Switch already, and those who are making the leap for the first time.
The Nintendo Switch Lite Is The Best Handheld Device Available
To be honest, this should pretty much go without saying. The Nintendo Switch was the previous contender for this, unless consumers were being exceptionally strict and limiting the options to dedicated handhelds...at which point it was probably the Nintendo 3DS, despite the fact that system is old enough to have watched multiple console generations pass it by. If fans were nitpicking, the PlayStation Vita was a strong contender based on its extremely strong library and performance, too, but ultimately, it's been the Nintendo Switch, especially now that it has added so many ports of classic titles like the Final Fantasy games.
The Nintendo Switch Lite is just a better Switch when it comes to handheld performance specifically. The Switch Lite's frame is easier to carry around thanks to an incredible .61 pound weight, and the slim, tapered design makes it easier to fit into travel gear, too - not that the Switch ever really had a problem with that, either, but the Switch Lite is much easier to pack around and with. That's to say nothing of the game's screen, which is a crisp resolution that actively feels like it improves games that are displayed on it. That might be a product of getting rid of those ugly black lines that frame the Switch display, or the fact that the game's show a bit smaller on the equally shrunken screen, but the result is a very intense and detailed resolution that makes up for the fact that the handheld is a little bit smaller.
The Switch Lite is also just miles ahead of any other handheld options at this point. Beyond what was already listed, what is really left? iOS and Android mobile devices are definitely beginning to solidify themselves as legitimate gaming options, especially with the advent of Apple Arcade for the former, a subscription service that has some genuinely attractive titles on the platform. They still don't remotely compare to the level of detail, gameplay depth, and innovation that's happening on the Switch, though, and the Switch Lite is the platform that houses those alluring qualities the best for handheld gamers.
The Nintendo Switch Lite Makes Improvements on the Base Model
For those that already have a Nintendo Switch, the Switch Lite might be a tougher justification. At $199 USD, it's cheap, but it's not an insignificant price. For those consumers, there are fewer reasons to pick up a Nintendo Switch Lite save for needing a second model for a larger household, for travel, or simply because the money is expendable.
For those looking for more on why a Switch Lite might be worth a holiday pickup as a second console, though, there are reasons. The biggest one by far is the dedicated D-Pad on the model, which plays out like a dream. It has great tactile feedback and is significantly more responsive than the Joy-Con model of the base Switch, making it a double-edged sword - on the one hand, it's easier to pull off precise timings in games that need them, but on the other, it's much harder to blame the system's design as the reason players didn't execute perfectly. In all seriousness, however, the Switch Lite's D-Pad is a much bigger deal than it sounds, and it's a testament to the overall construction of the model that the rest of it also feels just as solidly made.
The other improvement - aside from the portability, which we've already discussed - is, of course, the weight. Those who play their Switch console in bed often or find they're experiencing arm tiredness from holding it in whatever position they find most comfortable for gaming overall will find the reduced weight a major boon.
Obviously, consumer mileage will vary on these improvements. The fact is, the Switch Lite is missing features. No docking and no detachable Joy-Cons will be major turn-offs for some and if that's how someone feels, they're certainly more than justified in giving the Switch Lite a pass. For those less troubled by those absentee features and tempted by the price, however, the Switch Lite does also have its share of improvements rather than just reductions for the sake of mobility.
The Nintendo Switch Lite Is A Great Entry Level Model For New Owners
The other reason we believe the Nintendo Switch Lite makes such a great holiday pickup is because it's $199 USD and doesn't cut the most important features of the Switch - the ability to play high quality games on the go and the general innovative approach to both first-party exclusives and use of mechanics like the touch screen. It's durable, and the lack of detachable Joy-Cons actually makes it feel sturdier - something worth considering for parents looking to get a younger child their first handheld. All of these qualities make it a pretty good pick-up for people who have yet to give the Switch a try and might be skeptical about how much they'll enjoy its games library.
It's also a great pickup for people who aren't console gamers at all. For those who have been thoroughly enjoying mobile gaming on iOS or Android, a Switch Lite could be a good bridge between those and more dedicated console experiences. The ability to commit a significantly smaller amount of money into something that will accurately simulate almost all of the Switch experience - save docking, which is admittedly a big deal for some - is a strong pull toward the Switch Lite and could be the biggest reason why it converts more fans of gaming in general into Nintendo fans. The Nintendo Switch Lite still isn't for everyone, but it's for more people than consumers might think, and that makes it a perfect holiday pickup for gaming fans.