Switch Lite is Nintendo's second consecutive hardware home run

The new Switch Lite is more friendly for mobile gaming than its console predecessor.


By GENE PARK | The Washington Post | Published: September 20, 2019

To see the Lite is to touch it.

It hits you immediately when you first pick it up. The matte finish feels just crispy enough under your fingertips. Your index fingers nestle into a slightly deeper scoop on the trigger buttons. Like resting your hands in slime, it’s tactile bliss, ASMR for the grabbers.

Both airy and sturdy, the discounted ($199), handheld-only “Lite” model of Nintendo’s hit console Switch is the most comfortable mobile gaming device ever made. The more comfortable on-the-go experience is so good that, even if you already own the mobile-capable Switch, you should consider picking up a “Lite.” And the price is right.

I’ve played every iteration of Nintendo’s handhelds, even the Game and Watch series. All of them, even the beloved DS series, were never known for their comfort. Devices would be too thick, too thin, too tall, too heavy. The dual screens of the DS made them feel top heavy. Hand cramps became an acceptable strain. Only two other devices even approached this level of comfort: the Game Boy Advance and Sony’s PlayStation Vita, but neither knows the human hand as well as the Switch Lite.

After the Wii U, Nintendo’s failed first attempt at a hybrid tablet-console machine, the Switch was Apollo 2. Nintendo beat the skeptics in 2016, quickly selling as fast and sometimes faster than Sony’s more powerful PlayStation 4. The Switch Lite, which releases Friday, is not only just another iteration of the Switch, but a successor to its DS series.

The Switch entered the market as a console, but since then has been accepted and considered by many as a handheld device, especially considering roughly half of Switch users play in handheld fashion (vs. “docked” and tethered to your TV). With the Lite, there’s no “switch” to connect to a TV. The detachable controllers are gone (though you can connect them to the device for more players).

This time, the directional pad makes its official triumphant return, feeling about as good as Nintendo’s already excellent Pro Controller for the Switch. The other buttons mimic that feeling: a stronger but quieter click. More travel time for the buttons gives you more confidence with each press.

Nintendo wisely matched the bezel of the screen to each of the system’s three color offerings: gray, turquoise and yellow. Even though the screen is smaller (5.5 inches vs. the 6.2 on a normal console), the bezel doesn’t overshadow it. The old Switch looks like a flatscreen CRT compared to the Lite.

The 720p output is same resolution as the handheld version of the Switch. But because of the smaller screen, more pixel density results in a crisper looking image, even if it’s the same thing. One thing to look out for: Be wary of games with heavy reading. Text was already a struggle to read on the Switch’s handheld mode, and it’s worse on the smaller screen. Most developers have been designing fonts optimized for a smaller screen, but older games not updated will suffer.

Also be wary of the speakers, which are now mostly located at the bottom of the system, as opposed to only the back. Covering the bottom — by, say, resting the unit on your stomach — will muffle sound. But because the Switch Lite weighs at a spritely 0.66 pounds, you probably won’t be covering the speakers with the bottom of your palms. You could lay in bed and hold the system for hours without tiring. The built-in speakers sound a bit lighter than the original console, but you’re better off using headphones anyway.

The Switch’s kickstand is also gone, which is good since it was the biggest design flaw in the original system. I’ve also never seen it used outside of my own home.