Is the Switch Lite good enough right now?
OK, let’s talk straight. We are all (or at least should be) home practicing responsible social distancing to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic. That means we all have a lot more time, which means we are all playing a lot more video games. This has led a lot of people to finally pull the trigger on purchasing a Nintendo Switch.
Unfortunately, there don't seem to be enough Switches to go around. Nintendo is notoriously conservative when it comes to console stock, which means a rush like this, coupled with the supply disruptions already caused by the virus in different parts of the world, will buy out supplies quickky. Lo and behold, standard Switches are now hard to find, and when you do get your hands on one you're likely to be paying significantly higher than MSRP via re-sellers.
Fortunately, this isn't currently the case the Switch’s younger sibling, the Switch Lite. You can still find the Switch Lite in ample supply pretty much everywhere. In fact, you can even still find that cool limited edition Pokémon Sword and Shield Switch Lite, if that’s your thing.
And that’s a little peculiar because the Switch Lite is a pretty powerful handheld (you can read our review of the system for more details). So why doesn't it seem to be selling out in the same way as the regular Switch? And what exactly is the difference between the two systems, anyway?
Let's break it down, and see if the Switch Lite is good enough to get you through this trying time.
Nintendo Switch vs. Switch Lite
The Switch Lite is, essentially, a purely handheld Switch. It runs the same firmware and, in terms of graphical performance, is basically the same. The resolution is the same, though the screen is a bit smaller. It basically has the same guts. There are minor differences in battery life which you can read about in our official review, but for the most part you are getting the exact same games on a Switch Lite that you are on a Switch, provided that you are okay playing in handheld mode.
That being said, the major decision you are going to have to make is “will I miss the standard Switch’s capabilities?” The two main things the Switch Lite can’t do are detach its JoyCons and hook up to a TV. That means that there are some games that are rendered unplayable or at the very least have reduced functionality. Note that you can still buy extra JoyCons and connect them up to a Switch Lite, but it’s really difficult to use it as a multi-player console considering you are restricted to a small screen.
I want to repeat this again to be clear: you CANNOT connect a Switch Lite to a TV. It doesn’t matter if you have a third-party dock. It doesn’t matter if you use a straight USB-C to HDMI converter, you cannot connect it to a TV. Why? Because the pass-through that allows a Switch to output video through its USB-C port, simply does not exist on a Switch Lite. There is no workaround short of straight up using a camera to stream a video of your Switch Lite’s screen to your TV… and that’s dumb. Don't do that.
Who is the Switch Lite for?
That brings us to the biggest question here: who is this Switch for? Is this Switch for you, personally? Or is this Switch for a family?
If this is a personal Switch purchase, I say go ahead and buy a Switch Lite. Not only is it a little bit cheaper than a traditional Switch, but it will do basically everything you want a Switch to do, outside of connecting to your TV. That might be a bit of a bummer, but remember that Nintendo allows you to put your account on multiple Switches these days. So you can, theoretically, buy a Switch Lite now, and then when normal Switches get back in stock you can still purchase one, if you want, and retain access to your entire library of Switch games. After all, paying $200 dollars for a Switch Lite now and $300 for a normal Switch later is still $100 cheaper than dropping $600 on a normal Switch with an inflated price tag… and you’ll get TWO systems!
If this is a purchase for a family, the Switch Lite probably isn’t worth your money. There’s just no good way to share time on a Switch Lite. Yes, you can hand it off, and you can even put multiple accounts on a Switch Lite. But imagine sharing a 3DS, or any handheld console. It’s just not easy to do. One player ends up monopolizing it, no matter what you try to do, or how much you shout “MOM SAID IT’S MY TURN!”
Should you get any kind of Switch, right now?
There’s another dimension to this, however. Is it worth pulling the trigger and purchasing a Switch in the first place? After all, the PS5 and Xbox Series X are coming out later this year.
In my opinion, yes. I know that money is tight for a lot of people, and your personal circumstances will vary, but hear me out.
Staying inside is difficult on everyone. We are inherently social creatures and cutting off our primary vector of social activity, seeing other people, ends up weighing on our psyches. Until we come out on the other side of this thing, there simply won’t be a way to get that vector back.
However, that doesn’t mean we have to stop having social experiences, and getting a Switch will give you access to a lot of new social experiences. Animal Crossing: New Horizons alone has given me a great way to connect up with my friends, while Tetris 99 has kept me fighting against some of the best Tetris players in the world. From Smash to Mario Kart to a million indies with online modes, there are games geared toward keeping you in touch with people. Nintendo has always prided itself on multiplayer, even if it’s a little behind in terms of the actual experience and online functionality.
But even if you never play a single multiplayer game on your Switch Lite, playing ANY new game will give you something to talk about. Something you can discuss with your friends on your favorite Discord server. Something you can talk about on the phone. Something NEW in your life. It turns this whole lockdown into an opportunity.
Granted, you can experience just about anything new. You can download a new game on Steam, or take up home cooking or cross-stitch or something. There’s nothing special about Nintendo’s game lineup.
But you wouldn’t be reading this article if you weren’t already interested in playing Breath of the Wild or Super Mario Odyssey or Fire Emblem: Three Houses. So if you're considering a Nintendo system right now, go ahead and drop the money on a Switch Lite. You will be happy you did.