Nintendo Switch vs Switch Lite: which one to buy?
Choosing between Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Switch Lite is a tough choice to make. Whether you need a first-hand look at the design of some of the world’s most successful game franchises, want inspiration from Nintendo’s user-friendly and intuitive design philosophy, or just need to relax after work you will have a lot of fun. on either switch. Remember the differences between the two.
You can read our Switch review and our Switch Lite review for more in-depth reviews of both consoles, but both are essentially the same console. The Lite offers almost the same selection of games in a smaller, standalone package, but the Switch gives you a larger built-in screen and longer battery life, plus added versatility with its TV mode and its removable controllers.
There’s also the Nintendo Switch OLED, which builds on the standard Switch by increasing the size and quality of the display and increasing battery life. It might also be worth your consideration if you decide you prefer the basic Switch style, but you don’t mind paying extra for those enhanced features.
In this guide though, we’ll be focusing on the original Nintendo Switch (launched in 2017 and revised in 2019) and the Nintendo Switch Lite (launched in 2019), comparing all the key things you need to know about them so you can decide which one will fit your work or leisure goals. While you’re figuring out exactly which Switch you need, you can also check out our best Nintendo Switch games and best Nintendo Switch accessories.
Nintendo Switch vs. Switch Lite: design
Both Switches look pretty much alike from afar, but the Switch Lite (see our best Switch Lite deals for today’s best prices) is significantly smaller and, appropriately, lighter. It measures 3.6 x 8.2 x 0.55 inches (91.1 x 208 x 13.9 mm) and weighs 9.76 ounces (275 g) according to Nintendo specifications. The standard Switch measures 4 x 9.4 x 0.55 inches (102 x 239 x 13.9 mm) and 14.08 ounces (398 g), with the Joy-Cons attached.
The two versions also have slightly different color options. The base Switch (see today’s best Nintendo Switch deals) comes with a black body and gray or red and blue Joy-Con controllers. The Switch Lite comes with a full paint job, your options consisting of turquoise, pink, yellow and grey.
Nintendo Switch vs. Switch Lite: Display
The size difference also applies to the screen. The Switch Lite sports a 5.5-inch display, while the normal Switch uses a 6.2-inch display. Both panels share the same underlying LCD technology and 1280 x 720 resolution, though. They’re also touchscreens, if you prefer to navigate the menus that way.
Nintendo Switch vs. Switch Lite: Battery life
The battery life of the Switch and the Switch Lite vary widely, and this is made more complicated by the two base Switch versions also having different battery longevity.
The Switch Lite is the simplest. It’ll last you between three and seven hours, depending on what you’re doing, according to Nintendo’s official estimates.
The first Nintendo Switch, that of 2017, can survive between 2:30 and 6:30. The revised Switch, available since 2019 and packaged in a different, all-red box, lasts an impressive four and a half to nine hours away from the charger. So the Lite model just beats the original Switch, but can’t match the newer one.
Nintendo Switch vs. Switch Lite: dock/compatibility
Of the two consoles we’re reviewing, only the basic Switch works in a handheld or through a separate TV or display via the dock and an HDMI cable. The Switch Lite works exclusively in handheld mode.
The standard Switch docking station provides a convenient charging stand for the Switch, but also allows you to plug in an extra USB-A accessory or charging cable that you couldn’t otherwise. This is also where you connect the HDMI cable of the screen of your choice.
The basic dock comes standard in the Switch box. However, you can also buy the new Switch OLED dock as a separate accessory. It still works with the original Switch and does the same things as before, but adds a built-in Ethernet port to allow for a more stable internet connection.
Nintendo Switch vs. Switch Lite: Controllers
Both the Switch and Switch Lite offer the same basic controller layout with two analog sticks, four d-pad buttons, four letter buttons, four shoulder buttons, a home button, a share button, and buttons. Plus and Minus buttons for various menu options. The only slight difference is that the original Switch uses four separate buttons for directional inputs on the left controller, while the Switch Lite has an all-in-one d-pad.
The main difference is whether these controls are removable or not. On the original Switch, the controls are split across two removable Joy-Cons. These clip to either side of the screen when you want to play in handheld mode, or can be removed when the Switch is docked. The two halves can also be used as two separate controllers for certain games, allowing instant multiplayer capabilities out of the box. You can always buy more pairs of Joy-Cons or third-party Bluetooth controllers to give you different or additional inputs.
You cannot remove controls from the Switch Lite. The all-in-one design does not allow this. However, there’s nothing stopping you from grabbing extra Joy-Cons or third-party controllers to increase the number of players you can have at once, like with the standard Switch.
Nintendo Switch vs. Switch Lite: Price
You can pick up the base Nintendo Switch for $299, a little less than other current game consoles. You’ll be hard-pressed to find this or the Switch Lite on sale, but some retailers often offer a game or two for free, so it’s worth looking for the best Nintendo Switch deals.
The Switch Lite costs $199, making it the best budget choice. However, as we saw above, you lose quite a bit of functionality for the reduction, even though you can still play all the same games.
Nintendo Switch vs. Switch Lite: Games
Both Switch models we’re considering use the same physical game card media for games, but you also get 32GB of built-in storage for downloading titles. The same games, including Nintendo’s All-Star franchises like Mario, Legend of Zelda, Metroid and more, work with any Switch. However, there is one small thing to watch out for if you’re using a Switch Lite.
As a handheld-only console, the Switch Lite cannot support games that require the use of TV mode and requires separate controllers if you wish to play in tabletop mode. Luckily, games that only work this way are fairly rare, but it’s worth checking a game’s details on the store page or back of the box before buying just in case.
If you need some ideas on what to play, be sure to check out our best Nintendo Switch game recommendations.
Should you buy the Nintendo Switch or the Nintendo Switch Lite?
Chances are, you instinctively know which Switch will work best for your needs, because it all comes down to where you imagine yourself wanting to play on it the most.
If you want a portable console that’s more convenient to carry around, the Switch Lite is probably the one for you. That’s unless its smaller battery life or inability to connect to a TV concerns you, in which case you might be better off going with the regular Switch.
The regular Switch excels at being ready for any gaming situation, whether you’re at home or away, playing alone or with another person. The slightly larger screen lets you enjoy the games you play better. You have to pay an extra $100 for the privilege though, so if your budget is tight, go for the Lite.