Nintendo Switch vs Nintendo Switch Lite – Which one is better?
The Nintendo Switch is a great little piece of hardware and something that just screams that Nintendo uniqueness we’ve come to expect over the years. Being both a handheld device and a console, the Switch may not be as powerful as the newest Sony and Microsoft consoles, but it has its own unique place in the console gaming pantheon.
It’s hard to argue against the Switch’s library, which is the home of first-party Nintendo properties and interesting indie titles. Where the question and confusion lie instead are the two different, distinct models of the Nintendo Switch–the normal Switch model, which is $300, and the colorful Nintendo Switch Lite, which is $200. Which is the better console to pick up? We pit the two consoles head to head below!
|Specification||Nintendo Switch||Nintendo Switch Lite|
|Dimensions & Weight|
|CPU/GPU||NVIDIA Custom Tegra processor||NVIDIA Custom Tegra processor|
|Storage||32 GB internal storage, upgradable with microSD||32 GB internal storage, upgradable with microSD|
|Battery & Charging|
Nintendo Switch vs Switch Lite: Look and Feel
In the specs department, it seems like the normal Switch is the real winner here, but numbers aren’t everything. When it comes to looks, the Switch Lite definitely has a more striking appearance. The Switch is available in a total of four colors, and three of them are bold and bright colors that stick out from the crowd of typically darker colors of electronics. The Switch Lite definitely catches your eye.
The Switch Lite’s general design is made even better with the matte finish. It feels less likely to slip out of my hands, and the finish means that fingerprints won’t be a problem on the back. The regular Switch has a smooth, black finish, and it definitely has problems with collecting unsightly fingerprints when I’m playing in Handheld Mode.
The normal Switch does have some ability to customize its looks with the Joy-Cons controllers. You can mix and match pairs of Joy-Cons to make a striking appearance like I did with my Switch. But, it’s a little hard to justify spending $80 on a new pair of Joy-Cons just to make your Switch look good, and regardless of Nintendo’s claims, a single Joy-Con doesn’t make for a great standalone controller.
Another huge factor in the Switch Lite’s favor is its weight. The weight difference might seem minimal on the spec sheet, with the Lite being 0.61 lbs and the Switch being 0.88 lbs, but when holding it you can immediately feel a difference between the two devices. When first getting my Switch Lite, I noticed the difference in weight before even noticing that the Lite is a bit smaller than the original Switch! If you like playing a lot while on the go, you’re going to appreciate the Switch Lite’s lighter weight.
Finally, the thickness on both the Switch and Switch Lite are the same. The thickness is comfortable for me to play less action-intensive games, but anything that requires a lot of twitch reactions can make my hands cramp. Depending on your hand size, playing a Switch may feel worse, or even better.
All in all, the Switch Lite looks like a fun, inviting console to play, and feels like it too. The normal Switch looks and feels a bit unwieldy, even if it works. It kind of reminds me of the Game Gear, more than anything, and that’s not much of a compliment.
In terms of the screen, the Switch has a slightly bigger screen than the Switch Lite, with a difference of just about an inch. However, the aspect ratio is the same on both screens, so you won’t have any strange stretching happening with the games themselves.
From there, the displays look pretty much identical. When testing, the Switch, and the Switch Lite simply looked the same. The brightness, highs, and lows of the backlight looked the same, and the screen had the same level of anti-glare (which is to say, not a lot and not very noticeable when in-game). While I wasn’t able to look at the Sonic Mania title screen side by side due to oddities with Nintendo Accounts, loading them both up and taking the pictures in the same place around the same time shows that the display is practically identical, aside from the size.
The real problem with the display doesn’t come from the hardware but from the software. Some developers did not make their games with portable capabilities in mind, and this can lead to problems, particularly with text size. The slightly larger screen of the original Switch can help a little bit, but either way, with a poorly optimized game, you’ll have some difficulties regardless of the model you have.
The only place that the regular Switch has a leg up on the Switch Lite is in terms of the fact that you can dock it. In Docked mode, graphics are upscaled to 1080p, and the display will be dependent on your TV as opposed to the Switch screen. But, more on that later.
Nintendo Switch vs Switch Lite: Performance
Both the Switch and the Switch Lite appear to have the same CPU and GPU, a custom-built NVIDIA processor. In testing, I picked a game in my library that had a load time at the very start of the game and timed how long it took for the two systems to get to the title screen. The results were negligible, with the Switch Lite loading less than a second faster. It’s close enough to be able to chalk it up to me just not pressing the timer button at exactly the same time.
What that means is that any real difference in loading times and performance in Handheld mode isn’t going to boil down to Switch hardware, it’s going to depend on the type of microSD card you use. Neither system has a lot of internal memory, so buying a MicroSD is practically a must to be able to store multiple games. But, if you get a microSD that has poor read speeds, you can have difficulties with game loading and stuttering. While my two microSD cards are different brands, they have the same read speed, and thus load games in about the same amount of time.
What’s strange is that both consoles tend to get hot. From my experience, it does feel like the Switch Lite gets hotter faster than normal Switch, but with no easy way to test, I can’t say for sure. The problem of the Switch getting hot in Docked mode is also well known, and while the heat isn’t enough to worry about the internal hardware, it’s definitely more noticeable than any Nintendo handheld I’ve had in the past.
Unfortunately, though, identical hardware doesn’t mean an identical playing experience, in this case. As mentioned in the display section, some games have issues in Handheld mode, and these issues can sometimes go beyond the tiny text. Some titles have performance issues in Handheld or Docked mode, depending on the title, which can be frustrating for someone that mainly plays one way or the other. On top of that, some titles make heavy use of either the touch screen or detaching and using the Joy-Cons in specific ways which lend the game to being played in a specific mode.
With the normal Switch, the problem can be alleviated by switching modes, which can be annoying, but not too bad. The Switch Lite cannot dock or hook up to a TV, however. If a game has issues in Handheld mode or favors a TV in some way, you’re simply out of luck. It’s a huge disadvantage against the Switch Lite, especially when one of the selling points of the Switch was the ability to… well, switch between Docked and Handheld mode.
Most of the hardware within the Switch and Switch Lite is identical, but one thing is different between the two–the battery. The HAC-001(-01) model of the Switch, specifically, has a 4310mAh battery, while the Switch Lite has a 3570mAh battery life. The increased battery is one of the major things that separates the (-01) model from the launch model of the Switch, which had a poor battery that didn’t last long at all.
The battery life depends on how resource-intensive the game you’re playing is, but the Switch can now last up to nine hours, while the Switch Lite can last up to seven hours. Of course, in practice, I’ve never seen either system last that long when actively playing games. I don’t have any hard numbers, but I’d say my Switch lasts about 5 hours playing a graphically intensive game in Handheld mode, and the Switch Lite will last about 3.5 hours.
The fact that the Switch Lite, meant to be a fully portable device, having worse battery life feels like a big oversight on Nintendo’s part. I can only begin to speculate why this is, but the fact of the matter is that the normal, bigger Switch is better set up for long handheld sessions than the Switch Lite is. It sort of undermines the entire point of the Switch Lite in the first place!
Conclusion: The Nintendo Switch easily beats the Lite
The Nintendo Switch thrives on its functionality and versatility. Being able to seamlessly move from a docked console to a perfectly playable portable device was the whole selling point of the Switch. It’s pretty ingenious, especially in multi-person households with limited TVs… you basically never have to stop playing.
So, when the Switch Lite removes the functionality to create a system that is fully portable, is it worth it? In short, no. In terms of hardware, the Switch Lite is completely hamstrung by the fact that it doesn’t have as good of a battery as the (-01) model of the Switch. If the whole point of the Switch Lite is to provide a great portable experience and the new model of the Switch is better at that, then why exactly would you go with the Lite, looks aside? For the price, maybe, but that is not as strong of an argument with just a $100 difference.
If Nintendo decides to revisit the Switch Lite and place a better battery in it, then we’d have an actual case on our hands. But as it stands, the only thing the Switch Lite has going for it is the price, being $100 less than the normal Switch. But when the Switch offers full functionality, a better battery, and is regularly bundled with accessories or games, there’s really no argument to be had here. It’s worth the upcharge, and then some.
I may love the look of my Coral Switch Lite, but it’s very clearly inferior to my bigger, more versatile Switch.