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Nintendo Switch Lite hands-on preview: Portable power

Shacknews got our hands on the new Nintendo Switch Lite at a preview event in New York


The Nintendo Switch Lite launches on September 20, 2019 and will cost $199.99. The Big N invited Shacknews to a preview event in New York City last week, and I had a chance to get my hands on the new dedicated portable console for the first time. How well does the Switch Lite fit into the Nintendo ecosystem? Please take a look at our preview.

Industrial design

The Nintendo Switch Lite feels like a refined product when you hold it in your hands. This is instantly noticeable from the difference in the texture of the device versus the original Nintendo Switch. The Switch Lite integrates the controllers, which creates a more solid feel to the device when compared to the original hybrid console.

The Nintendo Switch Lite and the original Nintendo Switch, side by side.
The Nintendo Switch Lite and the original Nintendo Switch, side by side.

Another element of the Switch Lite's design that stuck out was the feel of the buttons on the device. The R and L shoulder buttons felt sturdier than the ones on my original JoyCons, but that could be the result of two and a half years of wear and tear on my day one Switch. The A, B, X, and Y buttons on the face of the Nintendo Switch Lite also feel easier to move your thumb across, although the spacing of the buttons and analog joysticks are nearly identical to the original Switch.

Nintendo Switch Lite's most welcome design change from the original console is the addition of a directional pad, which Nintendo has renamed the + Control Pad. This will be a lot better for playing all of those awesome side-scrolling indie titles on the eShop than the directional buttons on the original left JoyCon.

The D-Pad, err I mean + Control Pad, is a welcome addition to the Nintendo Switch Lite.
The D-Pad, err I mean + Control Pad, is a welcome addition to the Nintendo Switch Lite.

With these design changes do come some removals of features. The Switch Lite will not feature the sensor technology that shipped with the JoyCons. There is no kickstand, and the Switch Lite will not support HDMI output at launch. These design decisions clearly lowered the cost of the product, and are not dealbreakers for most players, but it is worth noting that the true Nintendo Switch hybrid console experience will still cost you $300.

Playing with power

Nintendo showcased the Switch Lite in all three colors at the event. There were three games on display: Super Mario Odyssey, Super Mario Maker 2, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The games ran great and looked amazing. I played some Super Mario Maker 2 story mode with the new + Control Pad and it felt great.

Next up, I checked out the Switch Lite touchscreen by entering Maker Mode. The screen was responsive and still big enough to handle my larger fingers as input. I made my signature downward-sloping hill and futzed around a bit more. The screen functioned as one would expect, and it was materially brighter than my original Nintendo Switch. This might be a result of the wear and tear of having a March 2017 launch Switch, but the difference in brightness was truly striking.

There were some issues with glare while playing the Switch Lite outside, but nothing out of the ordinary.
There were some issues with glare while playing the Switch Lite outside, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Nintendo set up and area for attendees to check out the Switch Lite outside in the sunlight. This is where the device showed some weakness, as the viewable angle is not great. I was able to see gameplay clearly when looking directly at the device, but there are some comfortable viewing angles that were pretty hard to see while outside. This is not a problem unique to Switch, Switch Lite or gaming consoles, as iPads and iPhones run into similar problems outdoors.

A page from the Nintendo DS playbook

Much of the Nintendo Switch Lite's DNA comes from the past.
Much of the Nintendo Switch Lite's DNA comes from the past.

The Nintendo Switch Lite reminds me of the Nintendo DS era in a lot of ways. It seems very likely that this is just the first new entrant into the Nintendo Switch family of products. Nintendo has already announced a special edition Pokemon Nintendo Switch Lite. The product will launch on September 20, 2019 in three colors: Yellow, Grey, and Turquoise. At $199, the product removes some of the features of its predecessor, but adds portability and affordability in a big way.

The DS sold over 150 million units, and the vast variety of SKUs had a lot to do with that. Nintendo clearly wants more people to get the Switch in their hands, and the Switch Lite is a brilliant way to broaden the player base by increasing affordability. Maybe the most important factor that will make or break Nintendo's new handheld is the ability to fit the device in your pocket. The original Nintendo Switch was too big to be a true successor to the Nintendo 3DS, and the Switch Lite addresses that head on. It would not be surprising to see the newer, more affordable Switch Lite sell like gangbusters in countries like Japan that are more focused on portability.

I look forward to more special editions of the Nintendo Switch Lite in the future, and it seems like we will be seeing further revisions to the Switch down the line. Maybe a Nintendo Switch Pro that features a higher resolution screen, microphone, and front-facing camera will appear in the future? For now, Nintendo fans have a new, refined, and affordable product to look forward to with the Nintendo Switch Lite. I will definitely be picking up a Turquoise model when the dedicated handheld console ships on September 20, 2019.


Asif Khan is the CEO, EIC, and majority shareholder of Shacknews. He began his career in video game journalism as a freelancer in 2001 for Asif is a CPA and was formerly an investment adviser representative. After much success in his own personal investments, he retired from his day job in financial services and is currently focused on new private investments. His favorite PC game of all time is Duke Nukem 3D, and he is an unapologetic fan of most things Nintendo. Asif first frequented the Shack when it was sCary's Shugashack to find all things Quake. When he is not immersed in investments or gaming he is a purveyor of fine electronic music. Asif also has an irrational love of Cleveland sports.

From The Chatty
  • reply
    August 27, 2019 8:01 AM

    Asif Khan posted a new article, Nintendo Switch Lite hands-on preview: Portable power

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      August 27, 2019 8:04 AM

      No rumble at all, correct?

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        August 27, 2019 9:09 AM

        No HD Rumble. I don’t think I felt any rumble during my preview session.

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          August 27, 2019 1:29 PM

          Honestly, if I didn't have a Switch already, this would be a selling feature. I am in the middle of writing a Broadway play about my hatred for rumble features, but am having trouble with the second act.

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      August 27, 2019 8:12 AM

      Nice! Still not sure I'm gonna grab one with my launch Switch still playing great. Having a d-pad and brighter screen would be nice new colors too.

      Another thing is my joycon grips I use for hand held won't work with the smaller size...guess they might have some smaller ones for this unit at some point.

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      August 27, 2019 8:56 AM

      Very cool! I can't wait to get mine on launch day. I already bought Breath of the Wild and some eshop cards.

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      August 27, 2019 9:10 AM

      Huh, the higher brightness I did not expect

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      August 27, 2019 10:21 AM

      Ah man. I am so on the fence. $100 off for the portability and brighter screen and battery life increase is a steal but no HDMI out is tough. Beating SMO on a big screen was essential because the games so beautiful looking

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      August 27, 2019 12:54 PM


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      August 27, 2019 1:32 PM

      Switch Lite will support HDMI? > the Switch Lite will not support HDMI output _at launch_

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