Nintendo has long been a market leader in handheld gaming, stretching back as far as the original Game Boy in 1989. The Japanese company’s current lineup is very simple in comparison to many modern manufacturers, but there is still a key decision to be made.
The Nintendo Switch was first launched in 2017, marking the beginning of a new era for handheld gaming. The original Switch has been widely praised for its solid hardware, as well as excellent flexibility which make it feel like a truly modern console. A more recent update has also provided significant battery life improvements.
For more than two years, this was the only option if you wanted to pick up a modern Nintendo console. However, in September 2019 the Switch Lite was launched. Now, for under £200 you can get a pocketable device with many features of the high-end model.
With no official announcement regarding the Switch 2 just yet, your key choice is between these two devices. We will compare them across three key categories to ensure you make the right decision.
There’s £80 between the RRPs – the Switch Lite is available for £199 while you’ll have to step up to £279 for the regular Switch.
However, there are plenty of deals on both consoles throughout the year, many of which bundle the devices with accessories or games. Check out our dedicated round-up of the best Nintendo Switch deals.
For two devices in the same product line, the Switch and Switch Lite look surprisingly different. The Lite’s 5.5in screen makes it much more pocketable than the 6.2in Switch, although it does lose the detachable controllers in favour of a DS-style gamepad. There’s no impact on screen resolution, however, with both devices sporting a 720p display.
As is common with budget versions, the Switch Lite has more eye-catching colour options, with a choice of yellow, grey or turquoise. The flagship Switch is available in neon red and blue, or grey, although both devices have a number of special editions.
The vast majority of Switch games are also compatible with Switch Lite, with the exception of those that can only be played on the TV or in tabletop mode. These are currently as follows: 1-2-Switch, Fitness Boxing, Ring Fit Adventure, Super Mario Party and Just Dance from 2017 onwards.
Pricing is similar to console games, so expect to pay in excess of £40 for major releases. However, a problem across Switch devices is the tendency to limit the game selection to high-profile titles, known as AAA-games.
Of course, Nintendo Labo relies on accessories that aren’t compatible with the Switch Lite, so you’ll have to get the regular version if you’re interested in that.
As we alluded to above, a big selling point of the regular Switch is its flexibility – you can play in three different ways for ultimate continuity between devices. In addition to the regular handheld mode, you can play on the tabletop for great local multiplayer or even connect it to the TV, where it will upscale the output to 1080p.
However, the only handheld feature you’ll actually miss when using the Switch Lite is HD rumble, the on-device haptic feedback.
Also, the regular Switch requires some additional accessories to use it to its full potential. A second set of Joy-Cons will set you back £64.99, something you’ll want to do for multiplayer games considering their size, while a charging grip costs £24.99. If you’d really like to step up your gaming experience, the Pro controller is an extra £52.99.
The full Switch Lite experience is included in the purchase, even if it is much more limited.
Battery life is solid on the regular Switch, particularly if you pick up the 2019 model, which brought battery life up to 4.5 to 9 hours. The Switch Lite is slightly inferior in that regard, with estimations suggesting between 3 and 7 hours. See full battery details on the Nintendo website.
There are plenty of pros and cons to both devices, so the only way to decide is to really consider what you value in a console.
If you’re looking to make this your primary gaming device, the flexibility offered by the regular Switch makes it a no-brainer. However, if you have something closer to a DS or even Game Boy in mind, go with the Switch Lite.
Although HD rumble is a nice addition, the decision really boils down to whether you’re happy to just use it as a handheld device or would prefer the option of multiple modes within a single console.
If you’re still undecided, or would like to read more in-depth, check out our full reviews of the Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Switch Lite.
If you’re ready to make a purchase, see our best Nintendo Switch deals.