This morning, Nintendo finally announced the first revision of the Nintendo Switch system. The hybrid console gained its name from the ability to play in handheld mode or through your television in docked mode, but this new model drops one side of the equation entirely. The new Nintendo Switch Lite is a smaller, portable-only model of the Switch, losing the detachable Joy-Con controllers, HD Rumble, and the kickstand in the process.
It's about goddamn time. What you gain is substantial. Since the Joy-Con on the left side doesn't need to operate as a single controller, the substandard "D-pad" has been replaced with a full-fledged directional pad. It's a smaller system overall, about as wide as the existing Switch without one of its Joy-Cons attached. The screen is smaller too, with a 5.5" touchscreen versus the Switch's 6.2" touchscreen, but it's still a 720p screen, meaning the pixel density will be higher, offering a somewhat clearer picture. And the battery life is marginally better, giving you an untethered 4 hours with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, versus the 3 hours (or less) you'd get with the O.G. Switch. All of the cuts and changes have substantially lower the price, as the Switch Lite is only $199.99, a $100 less than its big brother.
Given the cuts, physical construction, and price point, the system is clearly aimed at the younger crowd. Parents who would've purchased a 3DS or 2DS for their kids now have the Switch Lite as an option, just in time for the holidays. But other folks might also have need of a cheaper, smaller, more portable Switch.
While some might be waiting for the other rumored Switch revision-the more powerful Switch Pro-this is the model that fits into my lifestyle. Yes, for work, I generally have to dock my system to record footage and take screenshots for reviews. When that happens, I pick up my Pro controller and treat the Switch as just another box under my TV.
Outside of that particular use though, I'm generally a portable player. For me, the Switch is really the successor to the excellent PlayStation Vita (RIP), with an excellent selection of near-console games, Japanese titles, and Western indies adding up to great library. Like the Vita, I tend to avoid physical Switch games for their digital counterparts where I can. And like the Vita, the Switch goes pretty much everywhere with me.
The Switch is portable, sure, but it's unwieldy at times. It's just a little too flat and wide to be comfortable. "The general size is bit ungainly. It's rather wide and transitioning to the Switch from the 3DS or PlayStation Vita requires a bit of adjustment. You don't hold it in quite the same way, as it sort of splits the mental difference between those devices and an iPad mini," I said in my review of the original Switch back in 2017. Shaving an inch off will not only do wonders for handheld use, it also means the system can drop into small bags and large pockets easier. And I admit that the Switch feels like a more fragile portable overall; I don't treat it the same way I did my 3DS or Vita. Given the lower price point and matte plastic construction, I expect my Switch Lite will get the rougher treatment.
The Switch Lite Doesn't Fix All My Problems With the Switch
The Lite doesn't fix all my problems with the Switch. The battery life is better, rated at 3 - 7 hours, versus the 2.5 - 6 hours of the original, which is at least some improvement. I'd like if Nintendo could fix the ongoing issues with standby power; when the Switch is off and undocked, it still drains battery life, just like the 3DS before it. In contrast, the Vita could stay unplugged for a long time in standby without dropping to zero charge.
The analog sticks on the Switch are actually a bit too squat with a definite deadzone, and from one look at the Switch Lite, it doesn't look like they're changed much. But again, the proper directional pad is a massive boon for me. Maybe you've gotten used to Nintendo's ugly Joy-Con L monstrosity; humanity is resilient and people have grown and evolved to handle other harsh environmental conditions. I've even endured over the years, using the squat left analog stick in a number of platformers, but when I need to get serious, that d-pad on the Pro Controller is the only way forward.
I've long held out hope that Nintendo would release a new Joy-Con L. I even tried the Hori D-Pad Joy-Con, only to find a product whose directional pad wasn't quite up to Nintendo's standards. The Switch Lite looks to have the Pro Controller's directional pad onboard, which is an answer to one of my prayers-especially since Nintendo of America president Doug Bowser already confirmed to CNET that there won't be further Joy-Con variants coming in the future. It's either this, a Pro Controller, or modding the system yourself.
I understand the Lite isn't for everyone. Some really care about being able to dock the system with their television and play with others, while I'm a tired, grumpy morlock who likes to curl up on the couch with the system in my hands. Maybe you really were a fan of motion control play in titles like Pokemon Let's Go or Super Mario Odyssey; that is still an option, you just have to connect a separate set of Joy-Cons to the system. And HD Rumble is great, but... I can live without it. I just need to play Switch games portably, and I'm pretty sure there's a lot of folks like me. (Around 30 percent of the Switch's current market, according to the last numbers we had from Nintendo.)
So I'll be there, first in line for a Nintendo Switch Lite. The Switch will still be around for work purposes, but in my scant free time, I'll be a free man. A free man with his tiny, lighter Switch, happily enjoying the proper directional pad in Super Mario Maker 2.