Nintendo Switch Lite hands-on review: The best handheld yet?

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The Switch killed the need to invest in both a home console and a handheld, a combination Nintendo has relied on since the Game Boy. Despite Nintendo’s best intentions, the Switch lacks the portability and ergonomic design of its elders. Gamers curling up for a long handheld gaming session could end up with achy, tired hands.

Nintendo heard their pleads. The Switch Lite, a handheld-exclusive version of the Switch, was announced in July and is due to arrive on September 20 for $199. With an assortment of vibrant colors, a neat and tidy body, and a more energy-efficient design, the Switch Lite might be the handheld my orthopedist ordered.

Small but fierce!

The Switch Lite looks and feels different from the standard console. There’s no denying it’s adorable. Its three colorways — yellow, grey, and turquoise — are just as bold and attractive. Ditching the original’s modular build in favor of an all-in-one design, the Switch Lite is smaller, lighter, and more ergonomic. It certainly lives up to its name.

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Felicia Miranda/Digital Trends

Its reduced length makes the Lite feel compact and sturdy, dramatically improving its portability. In fact, a designated carrying case may not be a necessity for the Switch Lite. That fits my tendency to just throw things in a bag and go.

Whether you’re gripping it on the sides with both hands, or carrying it in one, the Switch Lite feels comfortable to hold. Mario Kart 8, a game that demands a bit of button pushing and navigating, felt more enjoyable to play on the Switch Lite than the regular Switch. It was reminiscent of playing Mario Kart on the Wii U gamepad, though with less weight.

Whether you’re playing a game or carrying it around, the Switch Lite is the superior handheld.

There’s an awkwardness to holding the standard Switch that becomes noticeable after you’ve been playing for a few hours. That’s fixed by the Switch Lite. I had only an hour to try the Switch Lite, but I felt no hint of hand cramps or tired wrists.

The biggest improvement to the layout (aside from the removal of the wretched kickstand) is the introduction of a D-pad in lieu of the four separate directional buttons found on the Joy-Cons. That makes for smoother and more precise input as there is no divot to move over in the middle of each button press. It’ll make a big difference in old-school games, where the original Switch’s buttons made a poor stand-in for a real D-pad.


Most of the Switch Lite’s changes are visible, but it also offers improved internals. It enhances the already low power consumption of the original Switch with a revised Nvidia Tegra chip. While playing Breath of the Wild on its 720p display, there was no noticeable lag or drop in frames as I ran, jumped, and slashed my way through Hyrule and its endless mobs of Bokoblins. The Switch Lite was responsive to my input, but not any more than I’m used to from the original Switch.

Felicia Miranda/Digital Trends

Nintendo claims the new Nvidia chip contributes to the Switch Lite’s 4.5 to six hours of battery life. While that’s better than the original Switch, it’s also less than the revised standard Switch that Nintendo recently released. The new Switch offers 4.5 to nine hours of battery life according to Nintendo — and confirmed by Digital Foundry — which is a handheld enthusiast’s dream.

It would make more sense if the portable console offered the same battery life. Unfortunately, the Switch Lite’s small size and more affordable price point hold back battery capacity.

The Switch Lite’s OS is the same you’ll find on the regular model, which means it has all the same features and all the same issues. It still doesn’t offer native chat support (at least not without the help of game developers) and, as brought up by Business Insider, still lacks Bluetooth audio support.

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Felicia Miranda/Digital Trends

The Switch Lite’s lack of Bluetooth support for wireless headphones may seem negligent for a handheld console, but it’s more environmentally responsible. Wireless earbuds contribute to the problem of e-waste due to their short lifespans and lack of repairability. There are adapters you can buy if Bluetooth audio is something you truly desire, but there’s also the option of using the included auxiliary port for wired headphones, which offer up better audio when gaming.

It’s worth mentioning that the Switch Lite doesn’t inherently support the full Switch library, due to its lack of dock, HDMI output, and Joy-Cons. The Switch Lite only supports handheld play out if the box. This doesn’t significantly impact your options, but if you’re keen on playing Just Dance or trying out Nintendo Labo, you’ll want the standard Switch. As someone who only plays the Switch in handheld mode, these options won’t be missed.

The Nintendo Switch Lite is built to enhance the handheld experience, and it achieves that goal. It’s cute, compact, and offer solid battery life (though the new Switch lasts even longer). The most impactful change of all, though, is how it feels to play. Whether you’re playing a game or carrying it around, the Switch Lite is the superior handheld.

You can pick up the Nintendo Switch Lite starting September 20 for $199.99.