The $500 you could spend for the new Xbox One X seems high — because it is — but other systems have cost even more once you factor in inflation.
After several months of leaks and speculation, Nintendo unveiled the Switch Lite Wednesday.
This new iteration of its handheld/home console hybrid system, arriving Sept. 20 for $199.99, will make Nintendo huge piles of cash this holiday while also complicating your decision regarding which version to buy.
If you were thinking of getting one, you really only care about a single question, though there are two versions of it:
I already have a Switch. Do I need a Switch Lite?
No. You already have something that does everything the Lite does. All you’re giving up by not buying it is slightly better battery life and a proper D-Pad on the left controller.
I don’t have a Switch now. Should I buy a ‘normal’ one or get a Lite?
This is the more interesting question. Let’s look at the major differences between the original and Lite, from most to least impactful:
• $199.99: This can’t be overstated. $200 is an important barrier to break as it puts the video game system in the category of “not an impulse buy, but not far from it.” The price alone will entice millions, especially as the system arrives shortly before the first mainline Pokémon game on the system.
• No more docking and connecting to a TV: Without the ability to switch from handheld to TV, is the Switch Lite still a Switch?
When docked, the Switch’s CPU and graphics chipset can “rev up,” producing better visuals and frame rates at the cost of power consumption. Even then, though, it still runs a distant third behind the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One when it came to raw horsepower. Except for Nintendo’s stellar 1st-party games such as “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” and “Super Mario Odyssey,” the Switch will usually be your third- or fourth-best option for playing games on your big screen.
As a handheld, though? It’s arguably the best option you can get for gaming on the go without falling down the rabbit hole of mobile phone chipsets. The graphics are worse than what you would get docked, but the touch screen’s size goes a long way in hiding bad resolution and frame rate. The ability to play games like “Doom” (2016), “Skyrim” and “Civ VI” without a TV will never stop feeling a bit like sorcery.
• No more detachable Joy-Cons: The controllers are built into the plastic shell, meaning the rails to the sides of the screen on the original are no longer there to serve as the design’s Achilles heel. While this means you won’t be able to replace a controller should it go bad, it also means it won’t snap off.
• A new D-Pad: The cross-shaped directional pad has been synonymous with Nintendo since the ’80s, so it was sorely missed with the original Switch, which substituted four buttons in a diamond pattern. Now that it doesn’t have to worry about the detachable left Joy-Con being used as controller, Nintendo has brought the D-pad back.
• Smaller: The Lite is approximately 21 percent smaller physically and 31 percent lighter. Part of that shrinkage, however, is created by reducing the 720p touch screen to 5.5″, from the original’s 6.2″.
• Colors! Since the various Game Boys in the ’90s, it’s been folly to doubt Nintendo when it comes to the appeal of colored systems. While you can buy replacement Joy-Cons for the original Switch in various colors, the system itself is still a boring dark gray. The Switch Lite, though? Turquoise! Yellow! More gray!
• Improved battery life and chipset: It’s not earth-shaking, but Nintendo said a full charge on the Lite will last an additional half an hour on both the low and high range, going from the original’s 2.5-6.5 hours to 3-7 hours. Your playtime will be determined by what you’re actually playing, with more graphically and computationally intensive games burning through the battery faster. As an example, “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” will drain the original’s battery in 3 hours and the Lite’s in 4, according to Nintendo.
• No HD Rumble or IR Motion camera: Removed from the controllers, but won’t be missed. You won’t be able to play “1-2-Switch” without connecting another set of Joy-cons, but were you really going to anyway?
• The kickstand is gone: That plastic “flap” on the back of the original Switch is for more than just protecting the slot for the SD card. It also props up the system on a table to let people gather around it for multiplayer games. The kickstand also unfortunately had a habit of snapping right off, so removing it in favor of a simplified SD card cover is an improvement.
• No Labo for you! Nintendo’s cardboard-based DIY kits are designed around the dimensions of the original Switch. With its smaller shape, the Lite won’t be held snugly.
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