Last week, Ars Technica was invited to a brief hands-on session with the Switch Lite, the $200, portable-only version of the Switch due next month. After spending an hour playing around with the device, we can confirm that it is definitely a smaller version of the Switch, with all that implies and entails.
That means the system feels a bit better in your hands, both in terms of weight—the Lite is about a quarter-pound (113g) lighter than the 0.88lb (400g) original—and in how the system rests cradles in the crook of your palms, thanks in large part to its shorter height). The controls, which are no longer detachable on the Light, feel a little more solid than the original Switch Joy-Cons, which have a tendency to rattle around slightly in their housing with heavy use.
The buttons and sticks on the Switch Lite maintain the same comfortable size and positioning as the original Switch, for the most part. The main difference is the addition of a d-pad on the left side, replacing the four separate directional face buttons on the standard Joy-Cons. This d-pad should feel completely familiar to anyone who’s ever played another Nintendo system, and it makes pulling off quick directional changes or diagonal button holds in games like Super Mario Maker 2 feel a bit more natural.
Depending on the quality of your eyesight, the smaller 720p screen (5.5″ on the Lite, compared to 6.2″ on the original) might require some squinting or leaning in to view in-game text designed for a larger display. And while the new screen supposedly offers additional crispness thanks to a higher pixels-per-inch ratio, we had trouble discerning a real difference with the naked eye.
We’ll have more to say when we have time to tinker with a review unit in the coming weeks. For now, enjoy the above photos and a few other notes from our quick hands-on:
- A Nintendo rep confirmed that the USB-C port at the bottom of the Switch Lite can be used only for charging and doesn’t even connect to the video and control systems. That would seem to eliminate the chance of hacking together some sort of unofficial Switch Lite dock in the future without major internal hardware hacking.
- The rep also told us the Switch Lite uses the same basic screen technology as the original Switch, so don’t expect a sea change in the apparent color depth or contrast ratio.
- It was hard to fully gauge the power of the Switch Lite’s internal speaker in the crowded demo area, but the back of the unit seemed to vibrate noticeably when cranked up to full volume.
- Though you will be able to sync existing Joy-Cons and other controllers with the Switch Lite, the firmware at the test event wasn’t ready for this. And the lack of a built-in kickstand means you’ll need to find another way to prop the system up for potential tabletop gaming.
- We weren’t able to fully evaluate Nintendo’s claimed 3- to 7-hour battery life claims for the Switch Lite, but our test system lost about 4 percent of its displayed battery life after about 10 minutes of Zelda: Breath of the Wild playtime.
- The Switch Lite is definitely easier to stuff into a pants pocket than the original Switch. Just how much easier will vary based on the size of your pants pockets, of course.
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