Nintendo Switch Lite is a smaller, cheaper Switch built exclusively for handheld play

There’s a new Switch on the way, and it’s a whole lot smaller. Today Nintendo revealed the Switch Lite, designed as a less expensive alternative to the original tablet / console hybrid. It comes in at $199 — $100 less than the base unit — and for that price you get a streamlined version of the Switch, but also a few caveats. The Switch Lite is designed explicitly as a handheld: you can’t connect it to your TV, and the Joy-Con controllers are built right in. “The two systems will complement each other and co-exist in the marketplace,” Nintendo of America president Doug Bowser tells The Verge.

There are a number of improvements with the Switch Lite. It’s significantly lighter, for one thing; I played with one for around 20 minutes, and the difference was noticeable, particularly when you pick up an original Switch afterwards. The Switch Lite also feels more sturdy since the Joy-Con controllers are now part of the device. The controller layout is largely identical on the Lite, though the new Switch has a proper d-pad, replacing the not-so-precise directional buttons on the original.

Nintendo says the Lite features “slightly” improved battery life — the company wouldn’t get any more specific than that — due to a more power-efficient chip layout, as well as the lack of additional batteries in the built-in controllers. The Switch Lite also does away with the device’s controversial kickstand.

It’s also just a really nice piece of hardware. The Lite comes in multiple colors at launch — yellow, grey, and turquoise — as well as a special light grey Pokémon Sword and Shield edition, and they all have a pleasant matte texture that feels great to hold. And while the screen is slightly smaller, it didn’t bother me much during intense battles in Breath of the Wild. (Despite the change in size, the resolution for the Switch Lite’s display remains the same 720p as the original Switch, though it no longer has a brightness sensor, so you can only adjust the screen brightness manually.)

The new device has a 5.5-inch touch display, compared to 6.2-inch for its predecessor. If you take a single Joy-Con off of an original Switch, you’ll have a good idea of the size of the new version. There are some other nice touches as well, like bezels and an air vent that match the color of the hardware, so they blend in better. Overall it’s a solid device, and exactly what you’d expect from this kind of refresh.

The smaller iteration of the Switch has been rumored for some time, along with reports that a more powerful version of the console was on the way. According to Nintendo’s Bowser, the decision to focus on a portable-only option was based on watching how people used the Switch. “It’s more about how we’ve observed them playing,” he says of the console’s audience. “We have the ability to track how people play games and play our titles, so I would say that it’s really an option that offers more choices to people.”

But that new design does come with some tradeoffs. The most notable is the inability to connect to a television; that flexibility has been a large part of the Switch’s appeal. Similarly, the built-in controls and their lack of detachable controllers, HD rumble, and IR sensors creates some small compatibility issues. If you want to use motion controls to catch monsters in Pokémon Let’s Go, or play a game like 1-2 Switch that requires them, you’ll need to purchase an additional pair of Joy-Con separately. Currently, all Switch game packages specify when titles are playable in portable mode, and Nintendo says similar labels will be applied to the digital eShop. If you attempt to purchase a game that’s incompatible with the Switch Lite from the eShop, the company says you’ll receive a warning.

Aside from the new design and those few changes, the Switch Lite and the original Switch are largely identical. Nintendo says there’s no performance difference between the two models, and you can still use the same accessories with the Lite, including Joy-Con controllers, the Switch Pro Controller, and the Poké Ball Plus. The Switch Lite still supports Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and NFC, and has built-in gyro controls.

Since its debut in March 2017, Nintendo has sold just shy of 35 million Switch units worldwide. Bowser says the timing of the redesigned Switch Lite is meant to capitalize on that initial success, and it should be bolstered by upcoming holiday games like Pokémon Sword and Shield and The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening.

“We believe the timing is right when we have momentum,” Bowser explains. “This is the perfect opportunity for us to offer more choices, and to bring more consumers into Nintendo Switch in the third year. When you tie that with the software that we just announced at E3, we’ve got a perfect opportunity as we head into the holiday.”

The Nintendo Switch Lite is launching on September 20th — the same day as Link’s Awakening — for $199.99. The Pokémon version will be out on November 8th at the same price.

Update July 10th, 9:50AM ET: This article originally stated that you could not adjust the brightness on the Switch Lite. You can still adjust it manually, but device does not have a sensor for automatically adjusting the screen brightness. We apologize for the error.

Comments

Even though this is great, I just wonder if they really needed to create a smaller screen. When looking at the device, I think they could’ve easily fitted the same size screen.

I’m guessing tradeoffs had to me made to reach that $199 price point, and screens with larger bezels are probably cheaper.

I’m curious to see if they’ll also announce a more premium new Switch model as it was previously rumoured. Then stuff like a small-bezel screen would be more likely.

Sounds fair, but still 199$ smartphones have small bezels as well these days, and when it comes to the tech inside, given that it’s still the same, it’ll be cheap. It’s not a necessary compromise actually.

I have no data to back this up, but perhaps the larger bezels make the device sturdier, less prone to breaking on falling and what not. Nintendo thinks a lot about small kids using their tech, hopefully there is an engineering reason behind their choice (aside from the clear economical one).

$199 phones also don’t need to include a Tegra processor with a full-power GPU inside. Gaming console H/W is not an industry with great margins, and I really doubt this device is actually getting Nintendo any notable profit.

It had to be smaller or everyone would just buy this one. I actually like the original because I do play on my tv a lot. I play handheld way more though.

Since I have another console I wouldn’t be tempted by the regular Switch, but this smaller one for $200 is tempting even though its no TV.

Hm, bit of a bummer that there is no way to connect it to a TV now. Could have dealt with a simple cable.

Let’s take a moment though to take in the fact that the president of Nintendo America’s name is BOWSER .

!! I had to reread it when I saw that. I thought the author was just subtly trolling at first hah

Bowser has been around for about a half-decade with Nintendo. He definitely contributed greatly to their resurgence. And I think the point of this device is finding another way for Nintendo to accomplish their primary objective (which they spoke about in the past), which is to have multiple switches in every household vs. one that everyone can play on together. Having it dock would just make it a smaller version of the Switch that everyone in the house can play vs a personal device that’s for the individual. It’s a sacrifice for the broader objective & it doesn’t make the OG Switch obsolete. It gives people a reason to still buy the OG Switch. If it was dockable (even if you had to pay more for the accessories) it would have more of a negative effect on the OG Switch’s sales, especially at $199. Also, it likely increases Nintendo’s margins. Which were already pretty damn good with the OG Switch.

It’s a baffling move when any $50 tablet from the last 5 years can connect to TV via a $30 chromecast, and this has wifi built-in. It’s a very backward looking thing in that sense. Even if this is positioned as a toy, children have multiple devices that can do this now.

I wouldn’t play games on Chromecast though. I know some try and even emulators for Android support Chromecast, but the input lag is atrocious (and variant).

They have the tech for a good wireless connection to a TV. They already did it with the Wii U and it worked very well (though the direction would be reversed if they did it here and they’d need to sell some sort of adapter which would end up raising the price).

That was also 480p, so the bandwidth would need to go up. I’d just have liked a usb-to-hdmi cable.

Sure, but we’re what, 10 years later. It could be done at 1080p or even 720p, which this console appears to be locked at anyway. A cable would also be fine, but all things being equal, I’d prefer not to have to connect a cable.

In any event, it’s apparently not on the table.

Not that baffling in that it’s product line-up differentiation. This is at a different price point and they don’t want to cannibalise sales of the main Switch.

I agree that it’s a price differentiator but it’s one of those things that doesn’t make sense

The device is capable of it so why not just allow it? Even if they didn’t bundle the dock for obvious reasons at least allow us to connect

It makes a lot of sense. You just aren’t thinking about it. This isn’t made to replace the switch, it’s made to coexist with it.

it’s made to coexist with it.

You say that as if most people will buy both models

The device is capable of it so why not just allow it?

Read the first half of the sentence you wrote above that. There’s your answer.

That being said, the Switch kicks into a higher performance mode when docked, necessitating more cooling. The Switch Lite probably doesn’t have the came cooling capabilities, because a bigger heatsink just adds cost and weight if you don’t actually need it. While a Switch Lite could in theory support TV out, it’s highly probable that they made some design changes once they were told they didn’t need to support it.

Would it cannibalise sales? If you wanted to convert this to a TV capable system you’d need a dock and JoyCon or Pro Controller so people with that in mind would likely strongly consider paying the $100 upfront.

The larger screen too would likely appeal to many.

Bit disappointed about the move also, but understand it may have been made for thermal reasons or because it’s saved on some chips to omit hardware doing video out.

They made it not connect to the tv on purpose. If you want one that connects to the tv get the original switch. This is meant for people who already have a switch or just want to play handheld.

As far as I know, this will still have a USB-C port for charging, so presumably the choice to not allow video-out was as arbitrary as it was with the OG Switch needing to be on the dock for video/out — as oppose to connecting directly with a USB-C to HDMI cable.

Nintendo works in mysterious ways.

I’m not sure of the specifics, but it might be they are using less expensive hardware by omitting the USB C video out feature. I’m sure it will be torn down and analyzed once it releases.

It’s also a power & cooling and form-factor issue. The (original) Switch runs at a faster CPU speed and engages extra ventilation when docked to hit 1080p. The Switch Lite isn’t designed to do that, so if it was simply a setting in the firmware disabling it, you would still only get 720p on your TV.

You might not even need a chromecast. I have both a Samsung smart TV from 2016 and a smaller Toshiba smart TV and both support screen mirroring.

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