Nintendo Switch Lite review: Portable gaming at its finest

Nintendo Switch Lite
(Image: © Rebecca Spear / iMore)

iMore Verdict

Bottom line: This is the smaller version of the larger Nintendo Switch, intended for handheld play. It feels great in your hands, works with a large library of Switch games, operates beautifully, costs $100 less than the larger Switch, and is great for any gamer. You can choose from three different colors: turquoise, yellow, and gray.


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    Feels good in your hands

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    The buttons feel better

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    Gorgeous colors

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    $100 cheaper than original Switch

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    Up to 7 hours of battery life


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    Some games don't work as well on this smaller Switch

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    You'll need to purchase external controllers for some games

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When the Nintendo Switch Lite released on Friday, September 20, 2019 I eagerly awaited the arrival of my mail man. The minute the package was delivered I excitedly ripped it open, pulled out my dainty little gaming system, and held it in my hands. I was surprised by how different it felt from my original Switch. It just felt right and the beautiful colors urged me to play.

Over the weekend, I spent over 20 hours testing the Nintendo Switch Lite to see both how it compared to the larger Switch and how good of a gaming system it was on its own. As with any product, it has some things that could be better, but it's a great device overall. I highly recommend you pick up this smaller Switch if you prefer to play on the go or if you're looking for gaming on a budget.

An awesome handheld for any gamer

Nintendo Switch Lite What I like

Though the Switch Lite screen is definitely smaller than the original Switch's I don't feel like it is restrictive or limiting in any way. While we're on the subject of screens, I compared the Switch Lite screen to both my original Nintendo Switch and my Nintendo Switch V2. There was a slight hue difference between the screens with the Switch V2 having the warmest hue, the original Switch having a middle hue, and the Switch Lite having a more blue hue. However, it wasn't super noticeable or distracting. I also compared all three screens on their brightest settings and their dimmest settings. There wasn't a significant difference between them in that way.

Look and feel Improvements over the original console

The first thing I noticed when I held the Switch Lite for the first time was how different it felt in my hands compared to the original Switch. The best way I can think to explain it is by saying that it just feels right; more sturdy and a better weight overall. Since there aren't any detachable Joy-Cons, the controls on either side of the screen feel more secure. I also love how much lighter this system is. It's not a huge amount on paper, but the 0.78 ounce difference between the larger Switch and the smaller one feels significantly better in your hands.

The Switch Lite feels like it was made for your hands, it's sturdy and the buttons gently press in.

The feel of the buttons is a marked improvement as well. Instead of clicking in like the original Switch Joy-Cons, the Switch Lite's buttons smoothly sink in. It's especially noticeable on the ZL and ZR trigger buttons. Plus, I absolutely love having a D-pad. It allows me to have better control during some of my gaming sessions.

Something else I love about the Switch Lite are the colors. I can't tell you how happy I am they they decided to stay away from the neon that you find with the Joy-Cons. The Switch Lite looks absolutely beautiful in person, whether you're going for the sunshine yellow, elegant gray, or happy turquoise.

Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Switch Lite

Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Switch Lite (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / iMore)

Price $100 less than the larger Switch

Of course, another awesome thing is the low cost point of the Switch Lite. The price of the Switch Lite easily beats every other gaming system currently on the market. At $100 cheaper than the original Switch, it's a great choice for anyone who's going to play on the go or simply doesn't want to spend too much on a handheld system. There are thousands of Switch games currently available to play, so anyone getting a Switch Lite for the first time will have plenty of options to choose from whether they're looking for family-friendly titles or more challenging games.

There's a bit of a trade off compared to other gaming systems out there. The Xbox One and PS4, for example, can deliver much higher resolution and are much more powerful overall. However, the ability to tote your favorite games wherever you want and play them just about anywhere makes the Switch Lite a super appealing option.

Portability Take it wherever you go

I take my Switch Lite with me whenever I leave the house. It's perfect for long bus rides, road trips, or vacations. Heck, I even take it with me when I go to the doctor's office. That way I pass the time looking at something I actually want to look at instead of one of those boring waiting room magazines. The battery lasts up to seven hours on one charge, which is a little better than how long the battery lasted on the new 3DS XL, Nintendo's previous handheld gaming system. While I was playing one of the most battery draining games, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the Switch Lite lasted for about four hours before needing a recharge. That's really good. At any rate, with a long battery life like this you'll be able to get a decent amount of gaming out of your Switch Lite each day.

Nintendo Switch Lite What I don't like

Nintendo Switch Lite

Nintendo Switch Lite (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / iMore)

There are two big things that keeps the Switch Lite from getting a perfect score - game compatibility and the fact that some games need external controllers. Since this smaller Switch doesn't feature HD rumble, detachable Joy-Cons, or even motion controls like the larger Switch, there are a number of games that don't work as easily on the mini Switch. This is especially true of local multiplayer games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, or Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, which typically call for each player to have their own controller.

Additional costs The need to add controllers

You'll need to purchase external controllers to play certain games.

If you're wanting to play multiplayer games or any games that rely on motion controls or HD rumble then you will need to have external controllers handy, which will add additional expense to your game setup if you don't already have them. A Pro Controller or a pair of Joy-Cons will run around $70 while a play stand used to prop your Switch Lite up will cost you around $10. That's roughly an additional $80 that you might need to spend in order to play your preferred games on the Switch Lite.

I tested my own Switch Lite by syncing a Pro Controller and then a pair of Joy-Cons to the system. I found pairing external controllers to be super easy to do. Everything responds the way it should and using an external controller allows me to play with better grip and better control during more intense games.

Nintendo Switch Lite with Pro Controller

Nintendo Switch Lite with Pro Controller (Image credit: iMore)

Nintendo Switch Lite Bottom line

The Nintendo Switch Lite is the perfect handheld gaming system for people of all ages. Children will find a huge selection of kid-friendly games, while adult players can purchase more competitive and challenging titles. The system lasts for up to seven hours on one battery charge, which gives you plenty of play time each day. The portable nature of the device allows you to take the Switch Lite wherever you go and play it just about anywhere.

It comes in beautiful colors and just feels good to hold in your hands. Some of the games don't work as well as they do on the larger Switch, but you can purchase external controllers if you really want to make those games work. All in all, this is the finest portable gaming system we've had so far.

The Switch Lite is even better than I expected it would be. It feels amazing in my hands, has a stellar battery life, and is super easy to play on the go. I'll be using it more often instead of taking my larger Switch around with me.

Rebecca Spear
Gaming Editor

Gaming aficionado Rebecca Spear is iMore's dedicated gaming editor with a focus on Nintendo Switch and iOS gaming. You’ll never catch her without her Switch or her iPad Air handy. If you’ve got a question about Pokémon, The Legend of Zelda, or just about any other Nintendo series check out her guides to help you out. Rebecca has written thousands of articles in the last six years including hundreds of extensive gaming guides, previews, and reviews for both Switch and Apple Arcade. She also loves checking out new gaming accessories like iPhone controllers and has her ear to the ground when it comes to covering the next big trend.