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Further ReadingHands-on with Nintendo Switch: Jack of all trades, master of someWhen I first tried the Nintendo Switch nearly three years ago now, I summed up the experience by saying that “Nintendo has made a great portable console that just happens to connect to your TV, rather than a great TV console that happens to be portable.” This week’s launch of the Switch Lite really underscores that claim, refining some of the design compromises that were necessary to allow to allow the Switch to, well, switch between TV and portable modes. Thirty years after the launch of the original Game Boy, Nintendo has created what is easily its most compelling portable console yet.
Some of the most striking differences about the Switch Lite are apparent before you even open the box. The packaging is so small that a standard Switch would have trouble fitting inside, and the massive dock that accompanies the standard system would stand no chance. Inside the box, there’s a Switch Lite, a USB-C wall outlet charger, and a small FCC safety pamphlet. That’s it.
On paper, the differences between the Switch Lite and the original model seem pretty modest. It’s 0.4in (10mm) shorter from top to bottom (a 10% reduction), 1.2” (30mm) narrower side to side (13% reduction) and about 0.27lb (115g) lighter (about 30% reduction). In the hand, though, the difference in bulk is immediately noticeable. This is a system designed, from top to bottom, to be comfortable to hold for long periods of time. The reduced size also helps the unit fit better in a bag or back pocket (though the analog sticks still poke out annoyingly in the latter case).
The slight tackiness of the Lite’s matte finish also makes for a better handheld grip than the smooth plastic finish of the original. And the Switch Lite gains a subtler comfort advantage over the original by being housed in one continuous casing. Getting rid of those removable Joy-Cons—and the fiddly snap-on connection tying them to the main system housing—just makes the Switch Lite feel more solid in the hands.
Portability aside, the biggest improvement on the Switch Lite is the introduction of a traditional d-pad on the left side of the controls. The familiar cross-shaped, digital, directional inputs are the tiniest bit smaller than the ones you might remember from an NES or SNES pad. Regardless, it’s still a head-and-shoulders improvement over the round, disjointed directional buttons on the original Switch Joy-Con. The change causes an instant improvement in any game that requires quick digital precision, from 2D platformers to fighting games to reflex-based puzzle titles.
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