5 reasons to buy the new Nintendo Switch Lite, and 3 to skip it – CNET

The Switch Lite, in all three colors. It's handheld-only, but it feels great.

Sarah Tew/CNET

It feels good. This is the second time I've held Nintendo's upcoming game system, the Nintendo Switch Lite. The first time, right before Nintendo announced the handheld, I played for about 15 minutes. This time, I got to look at it for over an hour in a New York loft, a preview before the hardware is available Sept. 20.

Should you buy one? The Switch Lite is already available to preorder. It's mostly just a more affordable, handheld-only version of the Switch. And, actually, there's a lot to love about the Switch Lite... but there's also some stuff that's not so great.

First of all: Consider that Nintendo has just updated the larger Switch to include better battery life. We call that version the Switch V2 (yes, it can get confusing -- here's how to tell the difference between the Switches). Also, consider that Nintendo's method of transferring games and saves between systems is really not fun.

But for those who want the latest and most affordable Nintendo game system and don't care that it doesn't connect to a TV, the Switch Lite is for you. If you want flexibility and are thinking about playing two-player games a lot, I'd get the V2 version of the regular Switch instead.

What still strikes me as great about the Switch Lite

The lower price. $100 less matters when you're considering paying $200 instead of $300. (It's £200 versus £280 in the UK, or AU$330 versus AU$399 in Australia.) It's the least expensive Nintendo Switch system available. That's a key price difference, although sometimes the original Switch ends up being available in specially priced hardware bundles that could be tempting.

The smaller size feels great: I prefer it. Even with a smaller 5.5-inch screen, I haven't seen a game that doesn't look good on it. I've played bits of Super Mario Maker 2, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Mario Kart 8 and Super Mario Odyssey on it, and so far, so good. The more compact size is also great. The Switch Lite isn't as small as a Nintendo 3DS, but it feels a lot more portable -- it's about one Joy-Con width shorter, and not as wide.

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Holding both side by side.

Sarah Tew/CNET

In fact, this feels sturdier and better than the original Switch. Playing games, mashing buttons, holding it while standing... the Switch Lite feels like the superior hardware. I'd rather play games on this in handheld mode than the bulkier-looking, slightly creakier Switch.

The D-pad on the side is new, and good. I prefer having a real cross-shaped D-pad on the left side of the Switch Lite than the four round buttons that the Switch has. It makes games like Super Mario Maker feel so much better.

Hey, I also like the colors. Blue is my favorite, but yellow and gray are nice, too. It just looks more Nintendo-ish than the black original Switch.

5 reasons to buy the new Nintendo Switch Lite, and 3 to skip it     - CNET

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What's not great, though

You can't dock this into a TV. Losing video-out through USB-C, which the regular Switch has, means it's not a TV console at all. That not only means no big-screen couch gaming, but it effectively kills multiplayer without buying another Switch. You could gather around a Switch Lite's smaller screen and pair other controllers, technically, but that sounds terrible, because the Switch Lite lacks a kickstand, and…

Its controllers can't be detached. The Switch is awesome because its Joy-Con controllers can pop off and be swapped if they wear out, or they can each be used as mini controllers for two-player games. The Switch Lite ditches that for fixed controls, like other 3DS/2DS game handhelds. The problem is, Nintendo has been having some Joy-Con drift issues for some people. Will those issues continue on the Switch Lite? At least, on the Switch, problematic controllers can be swapped out.

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The length difference between Switch and Switch Lite (also, those controls can't be removed on the Lite).

Sarah Tew/CNET

Nintendo has a game-sharing problem. If you thought you'd easily swap games between a Switch and Switch Lite, I have bad news for you. While physical game cards are no problem, Nintendo still hasn't solved digital game family sharing. Nintendo of America President Doug Bowser seemed to suggest that a better solution was coming when I spoke to him earlier this summer, but it turns out, much to my frustration, that no better fix is happening after all.

There are ways to share digital games between systems if you either transfer your system data completely from one Switch to another (Nintendo's support page for transferring account data is here). Or, you could make one Switch a "primary" system and one a "secondary" system... but then one Switch would be able to play games anywhere, while the other would require online authentication every time a game was played. (Read Nintendo's support page for an explanation of what that means -- good luck.)

It means that anyone considering a Switch Lite as a second household Switch should think about whether or not this awkward setup would work for them, or whether a workaround (using physical game cards) is OK. Also note that transferring either your entire user account or an individual game's save data will cause that same data to self-destruct on the original console. You could keep going back and forth, but it feels risky trusting dozens of hours of Zelda time to such a wonky system.

That last sticking point is what makes me consider the Lite really just an option for players who were only interested in being handheld. Yes, it's basically the same as a Switch in most other ways, as far as gaming and memory card support (and USB-C charging). But until Nintendo makes its family of Switch hardware easily share game libraries the way Apple or Google do with tablets, phones and Chromebooks, it's not quite the perfect choice for as many people as you might think.

5 reasons to buy the new Nintendo Switch Lite, and 3 to skip it     - CNET

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