This week Nintendo surprise dropped their upcoming Nintendo Switch hardware update, the Switch Lite. Priced at $199 this is lined up (unofficially) to be the replacement for the Nintendo 3DS as it finally sunsets into its well deserved retirement. This new model is a unique one though, and even though it is named as a Switch, it is missing a few features including some that surprised many.
The Switch Lite releases on September 20th, 2019 and will come in three colors: Yellow, Grey, and Turquoise, as seen above. There will also be a Pokemon Sword / Shield edition coming out on November 8th, 2019, as seen below. The Pokemon edition comes with the Sword & Shield Legendary Pokemon, Zacian & Zamazenta, emblazoned on the back of the system but no copies of the games are included.
The Switch Lite is designed to be aimed for both a younger audience as well as those that play the Switch as only a portable system. Because of this Nintendo decided to make a few changes to make the system even more portable than it once was, and more importantly, cheaper to produce. The once removable Joy-Cons now are a merged part of the handheld. HD Rumble, the IR camera, and the built in kick stand have all been removed as well. Even the ability to play on the TV has vanished. But we did GAIN at least one oft-asked for item in return…the classic Nintendo D-Pad is back! Sadly Nintendo gave & then took away once more by shortly after announcing that they are still not planning on making a D-Pad Joy-Con for the original model Switch, much to the dismay of Switch players everywhere.
The screen has dropped in size from 6.2 inches down to 5.5 inches, but remains at 720p. This can lead to the games looking a little crisper because of the tighter pixel density, but not by much. Battery life has actually increased a small amount to give about 30 mins more playtime based on what game you are playing when compared to the first Switch.
As for size, the system has dropped down to be about the width of a Switch with one Joy-Con removed. Given this massive size drop, it is impressive that they managed to actually get more game time out of it.
The marketing side of things though is where it gets a little confusing for some. The Nintendo Switch Lite is a Switch in name, but not in the ability to be played in TV mode or Tabletop mode (kind of). The original Switch was marketed as a console you can take on the go or a portable you can play on your TV. Basically a system that was everything you could want. But now the waters of perception have become a little muddier as the new Switch Lite surprisingly doesn’t have the ability to actually “switch” between TV and Handheld mode. The reasons for this have not been explained by Nintendo, but as soon as one of these portables is out in the wild, I look forward to a full tear down to see what physically stopped it from happening.
As for Tabletop mode, the system itself is incapable of being used in this way out of the box with the combination of the non-removable Joy-Cons as well as the removal of the kick-stand. But with the use of an external stand of some sort (or simply propping it up against something) and using a separate pair of Joy-Cons or Pro Controllers, the Switch Lite could be used in Tabletop mode. Just remember that you will have to get an external charger for the Joy-Cons and such as they originally had to be connected to the Switch itself to charge which can no longer happen.
In the end I have my doubts for the Nintendo Switch Lite while also understanding the market it is intended for. The majority of the changes make perfect sense. The removal of HD Rumble & the IR sensor were good options to trim back for this type of release, but the removal of any docking, be it now or in the future, seems like a massive step back for it. People keep saying “I only play it portable anyways”, and that could be true…but once you get this you NEVER have the option if you even want to try it. Simply allowing for a separate “Lite Dock” while keeping the option could have left that door open while also allowing Nintendo to make some money off of an accessory. Japan went cheaper by simply selling a Switch only package with no dock or the parts it would need…so why couldn’t we have done that before jumping to this design? We will know more once we get to see the inside to understand the choice I hope.