If you have dreams of capturing Pokemon or exploring Hyrule with Link, you’re ready for the Switch. Right now, Nintendo offers two different models, so how do you choose the right one? Well, there are key differences between the Nintendo Switch and Switch Lite, so let’s break it down for you.
We’ll walk you through the specs of each console, as well as the differences in hardware, price, and functionality. Ready to get in the game? Let’s go.
Nintendo Switch vs Nintendo Switch Lite: Just the specs
|Nintendo Switch Lite||Nintendo Switch|
|Processor||Custom Nvidia Tegra||Custom Nvidia Tegra|
|Screen||5.5-inch LCD screen
1280 x 720 resolution
|6.2-inch LCD screen
1280 x 720 resolution
|Battery life||3-7 hours||2017 Switch: 2.5-6.5 hours
2019 Switch: 4.5-9 hours
|Weight||9.8 ounces||14.1 ounces|
|Dimensions||8.2 x 3.6 x 0.6 inches||9.4 x 4 x 0.6 inches|
|Games||Nintendo Switch games with handheld support||All Nintendo Switch games|
|Colors||Yellow, gray, turquoise, special editions||Gray or red and blue Joy-Cons, special editions|
How does the hardware stack up?
Now that you have a general feel for the specs let’s get into the nitty-gritty. Both consoles carry the Switch name, but they’re really as different as can be. The Switch Lite is lighter and smaller than its full-sized sibling, swapping the 6.2-inch LCD for a 5.5-inch option. It also loses about four ounces of weight en route to the smaller footprint. Nintendo’s Switch Lite is just a hair shorter and narrower, though it’s exactly the same thickness.
You’ll find identical button layouts on both consoles too, but don’t try to take the Switch Lite apart. It skips the detachable Joy-Con design in favor of unibody construction. Overall, the design makes the Nintendo Switch Lite your clear winner if you plan to game on the go.
If you’re hoping for a brightly colored console, Nintendo is the place to be. You can pick up your Nintendo Switch in classic gray or opt for a version with red and blue Joy-Cons. There are usually a few special edition finishes to be had as well, depending on which titles have launched recently. A few of our favorites include Animal Crossing, Fortnite, and the Splatoon version.
On the Nintendo Switch Lite side, you have a few more standard colors to choose from. Gray is always an option, but yellow, Coral, and turquoise can spice things up. There aren’t as many special editions floating around, but you might be able to track down the Pokemon Zacian and Zamazenta version if you’re lucky.
Which console offers better battery life?
Nintendo’s Switch Lite offers better battery life if you’re comparing it to the original 2017 Switch. The portable console can fluctuate between three and seven hours of power, while the older switch fits between 2.5 and 6.5 hours. If you’re anxious about your performance, the latest 2019 Nintendo Switch is the way to go. It tops the field with between four and nine hours of juice.
Even though the Switch Lite beats out the older Nintendo Switch, you can’t forget about the flexibility that the detachable Joy-Cons offer. You can plug your full-sized switch right into your TV and use the Joy-Cons as wireless controllers. After all, the Switch name has to mean something, right?
Which ways can you play each console?
Some Switch games require you to disconnect your Joy-cons and play with them untethered, which isn’t possible with the Switch Lite. Don’t let that fool you, you can still play all these games on the Switch Lite, you just have to go through some hoops. You’ll likely want a case with a kickstand to make tabletop mode more comfortable and then it’s just the matter of buying normal JoyCons for the Switch. Yes, nearly all Switch accessories like Pro controllers and JoyCons can pair with the Switch Lite.
The only major difference with the Switch Lite is it lacks TV output, so playing local multiplayer games will require you to actually look off the same small screen. Obviously, handheld mode is the most enjoyable mode for Switch Lite users, but if there’s a will there’s a way.
You can use the full-fledged Nintendo Switch in handheld mode, tablet mode, TV mode, and more. It takes just seconds to transition between them. TV mode is a must-have if you’re hoping to make Mario larger than life. It’s the most limited option, though, as you won’t be able to travel quite as far. On the other hand, the tabletop mode offers the flexibility of a wireless Joy-Con from anywhere you can make space. Simply pop out the folding legs and fire up your favorite game.
You can always pick up a Nintendo Switch Pro Controller if you want a more traditional gaming approach.
Nintendo Switch vs Nintendo Switch Lite: What games can you play?
Credit: C. Scott Brown / Android Authority
You can play hundreds of excellent titles on the Nintendo Switch, but they won’t all work on the Switch Lite unless you buy detachable joy-cons. You’ll have to find the specific games that allow for handheld mode if you’re hoping to splash the cash on the mobile console. It’s tough for us to offer a definitive list of titles, but Nintendo has a well-organized Game Store to make things easier.
You can feel pretty comfortable knowing that top titles from Pokemon, The Legend of Zelda, and our favorite set of plumbing brothers will work no matter where you play. Each game on Nintendo’s website comes with a box marked Supported Play Modes, which will indicate whether the game works for TV Mode, Tabletop Mode, Handheld Mode, or all three.
How much does each console cost?
Now, for the few hundred dollar question — how much your new Nintendo system is going to cost you. On a good day, the Nintendo Switch Lite will run you for just $199, and the larger console comes in at $299. Notice that we said on a good day because there has been some serious price gouging going on throughout the course of the pandemic.
We’ve seen the price balloon hundreds of dollars above the retail price and stay there for months at a time. Part of the problem came from supply shortages, making the Switch a valuable commodity as people adjusted to working and living at home. At least both consoles have managed to keep their price hundreds of dollars below the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5, though.
We’re finally back to a more comfortable price range, especially if you’re hoping for a console without extra goodies bundled in. Amazon currently has both the Nintendo Switch and the Nintendo Switch Lite listed right at retail. If you’re ready to pull the trigger on a new console, check out the buttons below.