After months and months and months and months and months of credible rumors, Nintendo this morning confirmed that the Switch Lite is real in a short video announcement. The cheaper system, which is “dedicated to handheld play” and is not compatible with docking to a TV set, will be available for $200 starting September 20, 2019 in three different colors.
The more compact system shrinks the original Switch’s 6.2-inch screen to 5.5 inches diagonally. The screen keeps the same 1280 × 720 resolution, though, resulting in a small increase in PPI and overall sharpness. The Lite system also reduces the original’s weight (from about 0.88 pounds to about 0.61 pounds, including Joy-Cons), height (4.0″ to 3.6″), and width (9.4″ to 8.2″).
Nintendo says there should be no performance difference between the two versions of the console when it comes to portable mode. And the smaller system still supports games on physical cards, eShop downloads to SD card storage, standard wired headphones, and a Wi-Fi connection to the Nintendo Switch Online service.
Nintendo promises the Switch Lite will get 20 to 30 percent more battery life than the original system. That means the official “approximately 2.5- to 6.5-hour” battery range for the first Switch should approach three to seven hours on the Switch Lite, with actual performance heavily dependent on the processing and display requirements of the game being played. And despite the lack of TV docking support, the Switch Lite still sports a USB-C port on the underside for charging.
As rumored, the Switch Lite won’t sport the Switch’s signature detachable Joy-Cons and will instead feature the same basic controls integrated into the body of the system. The four distinct buttons on the left side of the console have been replaced with a more traditional d-pad, in the style Nintendo itself popularized with the NES in the ’80s.
This means Joy-Con features like HD rumble and the IR camera won’t be supported directly on the Switch Lite. Games that require these features—such as 1-2-Switch, Super Mario Party, and Nintendo Labo—can still be used with the system if players buy separate Joy-Cons (which will need to be charged with a separate, original system or an accessory like the Charging Grip).
But the Switch Lite does not include the (flimsy) built-in kickstand of the original unit, making it awkward to play games in “tabletop mode” without an additional accessory to prop it up. Otherwise, the Switch Lite is compatible with all Switch games that run in Handheld Mode, which includes the vast majority of the system’s existing library.
Last year, Nintendo of America’s future President Doug Bowser told Ars Technica that overall play time on the Switch was “about even” between portable and docked modes. And in an October 2017 investor presentation, the company suggested roughly 30 percent of the Switch audience plays “primarily” in handheld/tabletop mode, compared to just under 20 percent that play primarily docked.
Switch owners who buy a Switch Lite as a secondary system will be able to easily share digital purchases across both units, thanks to a September system update that allows “non-primary consoles” to log in to the same Nintendo eShop account. The secondary system “must have an active Internet connection” to play downloaded games, however.
The introductory video for Switch Lite includes a brief, glossy advertisement showing beautiful young people pulling the system out to play at a skate park, a rock climbing gym, a waterfront party, a camping trip, and even floating in a space station. That’s somewhat reminiscent of the three-minute trailer that first introduced the world to the Switch in 2016.
In addition to the three colored versions launching alongside Link’s Awakening HD on Sept. 20, Nintendo is also planning a “Zacian and Zamazenta” version, styled after Pokemon Sword and Shield, which will launch alongside those games on November 8.