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Nintendo's $199 Switch Lite packs plenty of power into a small package

Daniel Howley
Technology Editor
The Nintendo Switch Lite is a $199 version of the Switch that's designed to be more portable. (Image: Dan Howley)

Nintendo's (NTDOYSwitch is one of the fastest selling game consoles of all time. After just three years on the market, it's already running up on the lifetime sales of Microsoft's Xbox One, which has been around for twice as long.

Not satisfied with one Switch, Nintendo is rolling out its new Switch lite — a smaller, slimmed down, and entirely portable version of the Nintendo Switch.

The Switch Lite, which launches Sept. 20, is designed specifically for gaming on the go. It drops the ability to play games on your big-screen TV, but similarly gets a price cut to $199 from $299 for the standard console.

It's an impressive value that's capable of playing nearly every Switch game out there, but you'll need to manage some trade-offs.

The Switch versus the Switch Lite

Nintendo's Switch console comes with the main Switch console, which sports a 6.2-inch display that connects to the company's twin Joy-Con controllers for use as a portable system. A dock that plugs into your TV's HDMI port lets you play games on your couch, taking advantage of your larger TV set.

The Switch Lite is a different console, except for the processor on the inside. The system doesn't connect to your TV, even if you try to drop it into the standard Switch's TV dock, because it's only meant to be played as a handheld.

The Switch Lite also integrates its Joy-Con controllers into the console's body, making one single piece of textured plastic. What's more, the Switch Lite doesn't have a kickstand built in. So while you can connect multiple controllers to the system, you'll need to figure out a way to stand it up.

A model puts the controller on to the Nintendo Switch during a presentation event of the new Nintendo Switch in Tokyo, Friday, Jan. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

Then there's the screen size. While the Switch has a 6.2-inch display, the Switch Lite gets a smaller 5.5-inch panel. In fact, everything about the Switch Lite is smaller than the Switch. Its 0.61-pound body is lighter than the 0.88-pound standard Switch. The Switch Light also has a smaller footprint than the Switch, making it more comfortable to hold for long play periods.

The first time I pick up the Lite, I was surprised by how, well, light it felt compared to the original.

Gaining while you lose

So far it sounds like you're losing a lot with the Switch Lite versus the Switch. But that's not exactly the case.

I use my regular Switch all the time, whether it's during my commute or as a handheld on the couch. Occasionally, I'll plug it into my TV, but those times are few and far between.

I've been playing "Fire Emblem: Three Houses" on the Switch and Switch Lite, and found that it's largely the same experience. I do wish the screen on the Switch Lite were the same as the original Switch, but it won't make or break the experience.

The Nintendo Switch Lite easily slides into my jeans pocket. (Image: Dan Howley)

As far as performance, the Switch Lite packs the exact same Nvidia (NVDA) Tegra chip as the original Switch. You're not going to see any difference in graphic capabilities between the two versions of the Switch.

There's one more benefit to the Switch Lite's design: improved battery life. Nintendo estimates the Light will get between three and seven hours of battery life. The original Switch, on the other hand, gets two and a half to six and a half hours.

If you've already got a Switch in your home and are thinking about snagging a Switch Lite as a secondary console, you should know that, unfortunately, games you've purchased digitally on your original Switch and want to play on the Lite will require an internet connection to launch.

Every time I launch "Fire Emblem: Three Houses" on the Switch Lite, I need to use my phone's hotspot to get online and prove to Nintendo I'm not sharing the game with someone. You can fix this by deleting your account from your original Switch, but you might not want to do that, especially if you're a house with multiple Switches for your significant other and yourself or for your kids.

What about Nintendo's 3DS?

The Switch Lite is a fully handheld console. But Nintendo already has one of those in its 3DS line of products. The company currently sells its 2DS XL for $149 and its 2DS for $79. That's not too far of a jump up to the Switch Lite in terms of pricing, especially from the 2DS XL.

Nintendo has said the 3DS line is going to stick around thanks to its massive library of games, and sees the handhelds as entry level products for parents who want to get their kids into gaming.

But smartphones are now the dominant form of mobile gaming, which means there isn't too much room left for the 3DS line. The Switch Lite, however, gives Nintendo an edge over smartphone games, by offering players true console-quality games on the go.

Should you get it?

For $199 the Nintendo Switch Lite gives you access to Nintendo's library of Switch and Nintendo Online games in a handheld package.

The Switch Lite's price also makes it an appealing option for parents of younger gamers who don't want to shell out the $299 for an original Switch or other game console.

If you're the kind of person who struggles to find time to game, the Switch Lite's portability and relatively low cost give you a means to catch up during your commute, or while your significant other is watching TV at a great price.

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