Nintendo announces Switch Lite with no dock or detachable Joy-Cons

Nintendo Switch Lite announced
Image: Nintendo

The very nature of the Nintendo Switch is, well, its ability to “switch.” Since the console was released, players have enjoyed seamlessly transitioning from handheld play to the TV. The concept is genius.

Now, Nintendo is releasing a Switch Lite that doesn’t switch at all. The new handheld gaming system will be just $200, a $100 discount off the full-powered version. Even so, the questionable design choices are raising concerns about whether it is anything more than an updated Nintendo 2DS. The company will release Switch Lite on September 20.

The Specs

It almost isn’t fair to compare the new Switch Lite to the flagship Switch. In terms of shape, size, and feel, the new gaming system is more like a cross between a PSP and a 2DS XL. For casual, on-the-go gamers who don’t care about playing on the TV, the price cut on the Switch Lite might make up for the differences.

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The new system features a 5.5-inch screen as compared to the original’s 6.2-inch version. Between the smaller display and a new cooling system, the Switch Lite offers a 30 percent better battery life than its parent console. In hand, it is similar to the size of a flagship Switch minus one of the Joy-Cons.

From a layout standpoint, everything is about the same. The buttons, headphone jack, charging port, fans, and microSD card slot are all in the same places. However, an actual D-pad has replaced the directional buttons. Unfortunately, fans shouldn’t get their hopes up for Joy-Cons with a D-pad. Nintendo has already said that it has no plans to release such an accessory.

The Sacrifices

So, how exactly can this new system retail at $100 less than the original Switch? While there aren’t any noticeable compromises to the Switch Lite’s build or core features, some of the “extras” are missing.

For example, the device can’t send video output to a TV. The USB-C port on Switch Lite can only be used for charging. This restriction limits players to the 5.5-inch screen for all gameplay and makes reading small text difficult. It also eliminates the magic of the original Switch.

Meanwhile, the controllers on the Switch Lite have a few differences themselves. Primarily, they don’t detach from the system. This makes everything sturdier but simultaneously limits how players can enjoy games. On top of this, rumble features are missing on the Switch Lite. So, playing games like “Mario Kart 8” or “Super Smash Bros” won’t be quite as immersive. As for games like “1-2-Switch!” that rely on the detachable controllers, it will be practically impossible to play them.

On the bright side, players wanting to get their hands on a new Switch Lite won’t need to repurchase the same games. Nintendo has said players will be able to access purchased games and in-game progress across their Switch devices.

Ultimately, Switch Lite seems like a budget version of the console rather than a platform reboot. But this may not be a bad thing. Many Nintendo gamers spend most of their time on the original Switch in handheld mode anyway. The lower price point and overall quality of the new Switch Lite should market well to these players and to families with children wanting an upgrade from a DS. Considering the system’s timely release just before the holidays, it should enjoy great success.