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How is the New Switch Lite Different from the Nintendo Switch?

Nintendo's new Switch Lite is a smaller, cheaper version of its smash hit console.

After a phenomenal introduction two years ago, Nintendo is doing what Nintendo does and releasing a revised version of its Switch console in September. This one’s a budget version laser-focused on portable gaming.

The Switch Lite will be released on September 20th, with a retail price of $200 ($100 less than the full-sized Switch). Here’s how it’s different from the original.

No Switching: All Portable, All the Time

The most notable change for the Switch Lite is that it doesn’t, well, switch: the signature TV dock is gone, and you won’t be able to add one in with a separate purchase—it’s simply not compatible with the Lite.  Other features designed around shared play, like the flimsy kickstand, have been removed as well.

"Here's the thing you can play on the thing you can't play it on."
“Here’s the thing you can play on the thing you can’t play it on.” Nintendo

Games will run in “portable mode” all the time on the Switch Lite, which might be a good thing for some of them. Sticking to that 720p display instead of running it through USB-C/HDMI will mean better performance on the NVIDIA Tegra-based hardware. Oddly, the USB-C charging port is still on the bottom.

Smaller Body and Screen With Control Tweaks

With that focus on portability comes a smaller body and screen. The Switch Lite is about two thirds the size of the Switch, and its controls are part of the main plastic body (no removable Joy Cons on this one). Since it’s only ever meant for a single player, Nintendo has done away with the mirrored left/right control setup and given the Switch Lite a proper Game Boy-style D-Pad on the left side.

Fighting game fans everywhere thank you.
Fighting game fans everywhere thank you. Nintendo

The touchscreen is just 5.5 inches, .7 inches smaller than the original. That doesn’t sound like much, but consider that we’re in smartphone display territory here: it’s about the difference between the iPhone XS and XS Max. It’s still using a respectable 720p resolution, and presumably, will use the same unfortunately vulnerable plastic construction. The Switch’s integrated brightness sensor is gone, so you’ll have to rely on manual control.

Battery size isn’t mentioned, but Nintendo says it will last a little longer than the original. That’s probably thanks to the smaller screen and singular body—it saves internal space and doesn’t need dedicated batteries for the Joy-Cons.

IR and HD Rumble are Gone

Nearly all Switch games will be compatible with the Switch Lite, in the same way that all 3DS games can be played on the 2DS, and the Lite has access to both cartridge games and downloads from the Nintendo eShop. Storage for games can be boosted with a MicroSD card.

But a few of the more quirky aspects of the Switch’s original design have been shelved. With the Joy Con controls gone, there’s no integrated infrared camera or “HD rumble.” (We’re assuming that means no rumble at all, just like the 2DS and 3DS.) The Switch Lite will still have an internal gyroscope, so those weird motion puzzles will work in most games.

A few games, like 1-2-Switch, Nintendo Labo, and Pokemon Let’s Go, will need an external controller in order to play with those specific Joy-Con features. The only major game released for the Switch so far that doesn’t support handheld mode at all is Super Mario Party—it’s unclear if you’ll be able to play it with an external controller on the Lite.

Nintendo Switch vs. Switch Lite

All Bluetooth-based Switch controllers will work fine on the Switch Lite, though playing the portable-only console with your hands on something else might be tricky. Games that require external controls on the Switch Lite will have markings to that effect on retail boxes and online listings.

More Color Options

For the Switch, Nintendo focused on the docked Joy-Con controllers to scratch its special edition itch. The Switch Lite is looking much more like Nintendo’s traditional Game Boy and DS offerings, with three colorful models out of the gate: flat grey, sunny yellow, and a frickin’ sweet teal that reminds me of the original Game Boy Color.

Pokemon gets the first special edition Switch Lite. It won’t be the last. Nintendo

The Switch Lite will also be getting a special edition Pokemon variant for the release of Sword and Shield—note the contrasting colors for the left and right controls. Expect new special edition consoles to be released at regular intervals and to coincide with new game releases, in the style of the DS and 3DS. A Zelda version for that Breath of the Wild sequel is more or less inevitable.

Michael Crider Michael Crider
Michael Crider has been writing about computers, phones, video games, and general nerdy things on the internet for ten years. He’s never happier than when he’s tinkering with his home-built desktop or soldering a new keyboard. Read Full Bio »