I never expected to love the Nintendo Switch Lite quite as much as I do. Picking up the adorable mint green Animal Crossing: New Horizons edition for a bargain price in an early Nintendo Switch Black Friday deal a couple of weeks ago, I primarily made the plunge thanks to the system’s enhanced portability and lower overall cost - not to mention the super cute pattern on the back of this particular version.
As an owner of both the original Nintendo Switch and the more recent Nintendo Switch OLED model, I wanted to get my hands on a smaller and even more portable third option that I could play on the train while traveling to and from TechRadar Gaming HQ every day. Although I’m generally extremely protective of my consoles, the more modest price tag of the Lite means that I’m not quite as afraid of it picking up a few bumps or nicks when it inevitably gets hastily thrown into my cluttered rucksack right before my stop.
While I still use my OLED at home, being able to bring the Lite out and about has fundamentally altered how I experience my Switch library. I’m finally getting full use of the system’s portable features and being able to whip out Super Mario Bros. Wonder has been a real game-changer for my commute. I’ve especially appreciated having a dedicated few hours every day in which I can tackle longer titles that I otherwise simply wouldn’t have the time to enjoy, like the first Final Fantasy (as part of the Pixel Remaster compilation) and Persona 5 Royal.
Pick up and play
It helps that the Lite has some exclusive accessories that seem tailor-made for keeping it safe when it’s used for this purpose. I’m currently absolutely enamored by the official Flip Cover in particular, which not only comes with its own screen protector for additional peace of mind but has a charming fabric-covered flip design that calls to mind fond memories of the clamshell form factor that helped make the Nintendo DS so rugged. With a magnetic clasp securing the top cover, the Flip Cover makes getting the console ready to play far simpler and much quicker compared to any of the pouch-like cases that I’ve tried with both the regular Switch and the OLED.
As someone who already hardly made use of the docking functionality of the other models to begin with, instead preferring to play in handheld mode lying on my bed or the sofa, I’m also not really noticing the lack of a docked mode - which most would probably consider one of the Lite’s biggest drawbacks. I would even go so far as to say that I would be very inclined to choose this model above the others if I were buying a Switch for the very first time.
A lot of this comes down to the size, and it’s no exaggeration to say that the Switch Lite is incredibly small when compared to the likes of the Nintendo Switch OLED and its 7-inch display - a fact that is quite hard to convey through pictures alone. It really takes getting the system into your hands to realize just how much of a dramatic difference this change makes.
I might be losing the sheer size and more vivid colors of the OLED’s display, but I’ve found that the smaller 5.5-inch screen is still more than enough for playing most games. Text is a little harder to read at times but, in my opinion, the overall picture, which runs at the same 720p resolution, might look very slightly sharper than that of the other models. This slimmer form factor means that it’s able to comfortably fit in my jacket pocket too, making it easy to put away in a pinch. Storing it in my pocket also entirely negates the need to take off and rummage around my rucksack in the middle of a crowded train whenever I want to play.
This portability is enhanced even further by the fact that, as the name would suggest, the Lite is also considerably lighter than the other models in the Switch family. Coming in at roughly 0.60lbs (275g), in contrast to the OLED’s approximate 0.93lbs (421g) with the two Joy-Con controllers attached, the difference is even more apparent for me due to my frequent use of the Nitro Deck. An absolutely fantastic third-party Switch grip that massively improves the thumbsticks and overall ergonomics while in handheld mode, as good as the Nitro Deck is, it undeniably makes the console significantly larger and heavier.
Of course, the all-in-one design of the Lite doesn’t allow for the use of any kind of third-party grip at all but, rather than being a source of frustration, the fact the Joy-Con controllers are built-in is actually a bit of a blessing in disguise. Call me slightly paranoid, but I’ve always felt that the point where the Joy-Con controllers attach to the Switch is a bit of a structural weakness in the design of the console.
I’ve thankfully never had one snap on me, but every model that I’ve used has had a small (but noticeable) degree of flex at the connector that just puts me on edge. I’m not entirely confident that the other models would be able to endure being pressed up against a heavy laptop at various different angles every day and, given the price of replacements, I would rather not have to take the risk.
In fact, my only real complaint with the Lite so far comes from the limitations of its operating system. While you are at least allowed to use multiple consoles with the same Nintendo account, those which aren’t registered as your primary console require an internet connection to launch digital games. Getting online to jump back into my favorites can be a bit of an inconvenience, even when the train’s spotty Wi-Fi isn’t acting up. Even so, this limitation doesn’t apply to physical games so I still have plenty to play on the go.
This year's Black Friday gaming deals are the perfect opportunity to Nintendo Switch Lite of your own. For other Nintendo offers, also see our roundup of the best Black Friday Nintendo Switch OLED deals.