The baby-sized Nintendo Switch Lite is pure plastic eye candy. The new handheld comes in three fun colors, plays nearly all existing Switch games (digital or cartridge), and has a wee bit longer battery life.
And at $200, you can bet all your Mario merch Nintendo will sell a ton of them come Sept. 20. I want it (in turquoise no less), but the more I look into the handheld’s features, the more the Switch Lite seems like it might disappoint existing Switch owners like myself.
To be clear: this isn’t a review or a hands-on. I haven’t put my mitts on the Switch Lite and can’t say definitively if the features Nintendo’s cut from the regular Switch are really dealbreakers.
As a gadget nerd and consumer, though, based on what’s Nintendo’s revealed, I think I’ll most likely stick to my regular Switch. Here is why.
1. It doesn’t connect to a TV
Nintendo is making it very clear the Switch Lite is a portable gaming device as opposed to the regular Switch, which is both a handheld and a home console when connected to a TV via its dock.
How is the Switch Lite even a Switch if it doesn’t, um, switch between two modes? Yeah…
Without the ability to switch between portable and home modes, the Switch Lite instantly loses a lot of its appeal. Don’t get me wrong, I mostly play my Switch on the go, but I know plenty of friends who really love connecting it to a TV, especially for multiplayer in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
Visually stunning games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild look good on the Switch’s 6.2-inch screen, but better on a big screen.
2. The screen is smaller and still only 720p resolution
Which leads me to the next change that might frustrate existing Switch owners: the Switch Lite has a 5.5-inch screen, a downgrade from 6.2 inches.
OK, a smaller screen on a smaller device (the Switch Lite is about the same size as a Switch with one of its Joy-Con controllers removed) makes sense, but it would have been nice if Nintendo at least bumped up the resolution to 1080p instead of leaving it at 720p.
In docked mode, the Switch can output video to a TV at up to 1080p resolution. Since the Switch Lite can’t connect to a TV, a sharper screen would have good way to compensate.
3. Doesn’t work with AirPods
What year is it? Hang on. *Checks calendar*. Oh right, it’s 2019 and many phones don’t have headphone jacks. Which means wireless headphones and earbuds like Apple’s AirPods are all the rage.
So why doesn’t the Switch Lite support Bluetooth audio (without needing a separate dongle receiver)? Nerd me is gonna say: audio syncing latency. Duh! Fair enough, but like come on guys! If a PlayStaton 4 and Xbox One can work fine with wireless headphones, surely Nintendo could’ve made it happen on the Switch Lite.
It’s all the more baffling that a device that’s being pitched as a portable, meant to be played on the go, doesn’t work with wireless earbuds. Ugh.
4. Goodbye Joy-Cons
The Switch’s signature detachable Joy-Con controllers are no more on the Switch Lite. While Nintendo’s spinning the death of the Joy-Cons on the Switch Lite (and the new D-pad on the left side) as a positive tradeoff for a more compact design, I think it’s a loss.
I play a lot of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe with friends and Joy-Cons make instant local two-player races possible. Sure, you can still connect a Pro Controller or Joy-Cons to the Switch Lite, but that’s just extra plastic to haul around. It’s just not the same spontaneous multiplayer experience you’d get with built-in Joy-Cons that are always attached to the Switch and ready to be detached should you need to throw down.
5. HD Rumble and IR sensor take a hike
If there’s any one Switch feature that few people even know exists, it’s the HD Rumble inside of the Joy-Cons. Unlike most gamepads that have vibration motors that simply increase and decrease the intensity of the rumble, HD Rumble is more nuanced and lets you feel more subtle haptic feedback.
Basically, HD Rumble makes vibrations feel more realistic compared to regular buzzing.
Much like 3D Touch on the iPhone, HD Rumble didn’t get much love from developers. Still, I believe the tech is innovative enough that Nintendo should be pushing it harder — really demonstrate to developers why it’s so sweet — instead of throwing in the towel so soon.
Similarly, because the Switch Lite doesn’t have Joy-Cons, it also doesn’t have an IR sensor for motion controls. What a bummer. Games that the use IR sensor won’t work on the new Switch Lite.
6. Incompatible with Nintendo Labo
Got a whole bunch of those Nintendo Labo cardboard kits for your Switch piled up at home? I got some bad news: they won’t work with the Switch Lite.
With the Switch Lite being smaller than the Switch, the Labo VR kit won’t fit. Also, since the Switch Lite lacks Joy-Cons, Labo just wouldn’t work since they require them to be detached in order to act as controllers and sensors. Womp womp, indeed.
7. The display doesn’t automatically adjust brightness
I’m sure the Switch Lite’s screen is plenty bright, but not keeping the Switch’s brightness sensor so that it can automatically adjust to different lighting conditions is a thumbs down in my opinion. There are many times where I’m moving my Switch from my dimly lit bedroom to my well-lit living room and not having to fiddle inside the menu to adjust the screen brightness is nice.
Contrary to several initial reports, you can adjust the Switch Lite’s screen brightness. You’ll just have to do it manually in the handheld’s settings. That sounds super annoying.
8. No built-in kickstand
The lack of a built-in kickstand on the Switch Lite is probably the least disappointing missing feature.
Super flimsy as the Switch’s kickstand is — the thing snaps off if you so much as look at it — I admit it’s nice to be able to prop the device up on a desk or airplane tray table for streaming videos from YouTube or Hulu. (Can we get a Netflix app, Nintendo?).
I doubt many people will cry over the Switch Lite not having a kickstand, but still.