Nintendo Switch vs. Nintendo Switch Lite: Which should you buy?

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

The Nintendo Switch is a better choice for gamers looking for something versatile that can act as both a shared family console and a mobile handheld gaming device. The Nintendo Switch Lite, on the other hand, is for people who are looking to save money or want to get a Switch specifically designed for on-the-go gaming.

Important note: Original Switch vs. Switch V2

Old Switch packaging with white box next to new Switch packaging with red box

Old Switch packaging with white box next to new Switch packaging with red box (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / iMore)

To compare the Nintendo Switch and the Switch Lite, you need to understand that a newer version of the original Switch, unofficially known as the Switch V2, released in 2019. It looks identical to the original Switch, plays all the same games, has all the same functions, and costs the same. The difference is that the new Switch V2 can last 4.5 to 9 hours, while the original Switch can only run from 2.5 to 6.5 hours on one charge. If you've got the choice, you'll want to purchase the newer version as it's definitely the better option between the two.

Strangely enough, there's no writing on the packaging to let you know if you're purchasing the newer version of the original. However, the newer Switch V2 version with longer battery life has a box with a red background. Most online and in-person retailers have tried to swap their inventory for the newer version, but if you purchase online and get a Switch in a white box, be ready to return it.

Now on to the Switch vs. Switch Lite comparison!

Nintendo Switch vs. Lite: Versatile playing or dedicated handheld?

Put simply, when choosing between the Switch and the Switch Lite, you're choosing between a more expensive device that can play in handheld mode as well as on TV versus selecting a less expensive gaming system that is solely a dedicated handheld system. In terms of gaming power, the Nintendo Switch and the Nintendo Switch Lite are almost identical, but the standard Switch is a bit better.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
SpecsNintendo Switch (original)Nintendo Switch V2Nintendo Switch Lite
Resolution720p (up to 1080p when docked)720p (up to 1080p when docked)720p
Screen size6.2-inch6.2-inch5.5-inch
Dimensions (H x L x D)4" x 9.4" x 0.55"4" x 9.4" x 0.55"3.6" x 8.2" x 0.55"
Weight0.88 pounds0.88 pounds0.61 pounds
amiibo scanningYesYesYes
Rumble and IR cameraYesYesNo
Compatible with Nintendo Switch DockYesYesNo
Removable Joy-ConsYesYesNo
Battery life2.5 - 6.5 hours4.5 - 9 hours3 - 7 hours

They pack the same hardware, but the larger Switch improves the resolution by reaching up to 1080p when in docked mode. The Switch Lite only goes up to 720p. However, in practice, most games cap out at 900p. The screen on the regular Nintendo Switch is bigger, which helps make finer details easier to see and makes the gaming experience less straining for your eyes.

The Nintendo Switch also comes with a pair of Joy-Cons that can be removed for easy multiplayer transitions. And since you can connect to a TV, it's a lot easier to host game nights or family nights with the best Switch games. These controllers feature rumble functionality and an IR camera. The Nintendo Switch Lite, unfortunately, lacks both rumble and the camera. Additionally, its controllers are built-in, so it isn't as easy to play multiplayer games unless you're willing to purchase external Joy-Cons separately and crowd around a tiny screen.

Nintendo Switch Lite

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

Something to keep in mind here is that some games are problematic on the Switch Lite. Specifically, games that require detachable Joy-Cons, motion controls, or HD rumble.

Even though it offers less in the way of versatility and game compatibility, you shouldn't count the Nintendo Switch Lite out. It costs significantly less than the standard Nintendo Switch does, and its smaller size and lower weight make it excellent for portable gaming. If you were a fan of Nintendo's old Dual Screen (DS) handhelds, then you'll love this version of the Switch.

The Switch Lite also lasts longer than the standard Switch, though only by a half-hour margin. The new Switch V2 has the Switch Lite beat, though, with its extra-long battery life. Something that gives the Switch Lite an edge is the built-in D-Pad, which the larger Switch consoles don't have. While it isn't as impressive as the regular Switch, you get some serious bang for your buck by opting for the Nintendo Switch Lite.

Nintendo Switch vs. Lite: Which should you buy?

Nintendo Switch Console on blue background

Nintendo Switch Console on blue background (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / iMore)

At the end of the day, the larger Nintendo Switch is a slightly better device, but the system that you should get ultimately depends on your budget and your preferences. If you need something that can act as a hybrid between a shared family console for multiplayer games and a portable gaming machine, then the larger Nintendo Switch is your best bet. You'll be able to play the entire library of Switch games on it, regardless of whether they work with handheld mode or not. Plus, the fact that you can remove the Joy-Cons gives you a lot of freedom to do things like connecting them to a grip to form a traditional-looking controller.

That being said, the Nintendo Switch Lite gives you incredible value for the dollar, and its smaller size and lighter weight make it ideal for gaming on-the-go. Being able to experience most of the Switch library for only two-thirds of the price of a normal Switch is an opportunity that you absolutely should consider going with, especially if you tend to play your games more when out of the house.

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.