The Nintendo Switch Lite is an interesting beast, one that has raised the skepticism of some fans who don't believe there's a place for it in today's gaming landscape. After all, the Nintendo Switch base model is already portable, despite being significantly bulkier than its new counterpart. To make things even stranger, the newest model of the Switch base offering also has the best battery life out of all versions, outstripping the Switch Lite's originally desirable specs in terms of travel longevity.
Despite all this, it takes only a few moments of hands-on gameplay with the Switch Lite to realize its Nintendo-made, and there's a certain quality to that label that raises the final product's feel and design on most of the company's offerings. The Nintendo Switch Lite is not necessarily for everyone, but Nintendo never claimed it was - and those who feel that it won't find a place for itself in the current- and next-gen of gaming will find themselves sorely mistaken.
Screen Rant recently had the opportunity to go hands-on with the Nintendo Switch Lite at an exclusive Nintendo preview event, and although we can't speak to the way it withstands months of gaming, it's out-of-the-box performance was impressive. The first thing fans will notice in handling the Switch Lite is the weight - it is genuinely the lightest modern device in recent memory, weighing only .61 lbs and feeling like even less than that. Even though the Switch was already on the dainty side with its base model, there's a noticeable shift in weight when handling the Switch Lite. It puts less pressure on the user's hands and fingers, and it's sleeker design makes using the buttons easier for those players with smaller hands. That's already a win - when designing something like the Switch Lite, the most important thing is having it offer elements that other models don't, and even the small design decisions add up.
The next thing consumers will notice about the Switch Lite is its build quality. One of our biggest concerns was that the smaller frame and lighter weight would result in a fragile feeling case. That simply hasn't happened - even while attempting to bend the device slightly, much to all of the Nintendo representatives present's dismay, it held fast and strong. It feels like the kind of build that will last through years of travel, although that's obviously speculative. At the very least, first impressions leave no concerns left over regarding the Switch Lite's design and hardiness.
As far as game performance goes, we were able to sample the Switch Lite's performance while running Luigi's Mansion 3 and The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening Remake. Neither game looked bad while running on the device, and they were responsive and showed no signs of lag. Neither game felt like they would truly test the hardware of the Switch Lite like something akin to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild would, but at the very least, the Switch Lite passes the test on some of the newer releases coming up without much trouble. Full disclaimer, however - each session was about 15-20 minutes long, so there wasn't a huge amount of evidence to go off of. Once again, though, early impressions of the Nintendo Switch Lite are favorable.
There's also the intangibles that the Nintendo Switch Lite hands-on offered those who got to participate. There's just something about the overall quality of the presentation here that makes the Switch Lite feel like a necessary addition to the Switch family. It's especially great for those who are interested in picking up a second model exclusively for travel - despite having no docked play available, many users play in portable mode near-exclusively, and having a device explicitly designed to make that experience as good as possible is a good investment. The Switch Lite is also an incredible pick-up for families who have budgetary restrictions or younger children who want to play - it's sturdy, seems harder to damage due to built-in Joy-Cons, and is bright and colorful, which will surely please young and old fans alike.
The Nintendo Switch Lite has a lot of questions to answer still. Just how big of a deal will the reduction in functionality be when it comes down to the bottom-line of sales performance this holiday season? What do games like Breath of the Wild look like on the device? Even though we simply can't know until we get more information, what we have now paints an encouraging picture for the future of the mobile-only version. We went into our hands-on session wondering just how the Nintendo Switch Lite is for, and we came out with that question answered in full - a wide variety of Nintendo fans, casual and more invested alike, and that should bode well for the odd duck of the Switch family once it releases.