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A photo comparing the smaller Switch Lite with the slightly bigger standard Switch model. Both Switches are displaying the Mario Kart 8 main menu. Photo: Michael McWhertor/Polygon

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Nintendo Switch vs. Switch Lite: What’s the right system for you?

Here are the differences between the Switch and the cheaper Switch Lite

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Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Nintendo has two models of the Nintendo Switch available for sale right now: the Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Switch Lite. Both systems play Switch games, but there are some key differences between the two consoles — namely price and functionality — you should know about if you’re in the market to buy your first Nintendo Switch.

The biggest thing to consider is how you can play games on Nintendo Switch vs. Nintendo Switch Lite, and the decision to buy which system will likely come down to cost vs. flexibility.

Which Switch works with my TV?

The Nintendo Switch earned its name because of the various ways it can be played: hooked up a TV or monitor with the included dock, sitting on a tabletop and played with wireless controllers, or in handheld mode, kind of like a classic Game Boy.

The Switch Lite, on the other hand, is purely a handheld device. It can’t be hooked up to a TV, and the Joy-Con controllers — which can be popped out of a standard Nintendo Switch and played with wirelessly — are built-in and permanently attached to the Switch Lite.

TL;DR: If you want to play Switch games on a TV, or have multiple people play together, get a standard Nintendo Switch. If you just want to play handheld, get a Switch Lite.

What’s the difference in price?

The standard, more feature-rich Nintendo Switch is more expensive. It costs $299.99.

If you’re looking for something cheaper, the Switch Lite costs $100 less at $199.99.

A Nintendo Switch and the new Nintendo Switch lite, side by side
The Nintendo Switch (left) with red and blue Joy-Cons; a Switch Lite (right) in yellow
Photo: Michael McWhertor/Polygon

What games play on Switch vs. Switch Lite?

As you might expect, all Switch games are compatible with the standard Nintendo Switch. But the Switch Lite is slightly more limited; it only plays Switch games that support handheld mode. What this means is that some games that require separating the Joy-Cons from the Switch in order to play them don’t play well (or at all) with the Switch Lite. This includes titles like Ring Fit Adventure, Nintendo Labo games, and launch game 1-2-Switch.

If you’re looking to play the most popular Nintendo games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Super Mario Odyssey, Pokémon Sword and Shield, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, or The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, you can’t go wrong with either system.

What’s the difference in size and screen size?

The Nintendo Switch is larger and heavier than the Nintendo Switch Lite (yeah, I guess the name pretty much implies that). With a pair Joy-Con controllers attached to a Switch, the system weighs 0.88 lbs, compared to the Switch Lite, which weighs 0.61 lbs.

The Nintendo Switch also has a slightly larger touch screen, measuring 6.2 inches diagonally. A Switch Lite screen is 5.5 inches.

There’s a difference in battery life, too. The Nintendo Switch that Nintendo currently sells features a battery that lasts between 4.5 to nine hours, depending on which game you’re playing. The Switch Lite battery has a slightly shorter battery life, between three to seven hours depending on the game.

(Slightly complicating this issue is that the Nintendo Switch that Nintendo currently sells is different from the original launch model, which has the worst battery life. Don’t worry about it too much; if you’re buying a new Nintendo Switch from a store, you’re probably going to get the one with the new and improved battery life.)

a hand holding up a turquoise Nintendo Switch Lite showing Super Mario Maker 2
A Nintendo Switch Lite in turquoise, playing Super Mario Maker 2
Photo: Michael McWhertor/Polygon

What colors are available?

If you’re buying a Nintendo Switch, you can choose from a variety of Joy-Con colors. The standard models come in a modest gray or in “neon” red and blue. Nintendo sells many other colors of Joy-Con controllers, including pink, green, purple, orange, yellow, and blue. Those extra Joy-Con are sold separately, and typically cost $79.99 for a pair.

The Switch Lite is available in four colors: yellow, turquoise, gray, and coral. They all look nice and are more understated than the bright colors of the Switch Joy-Cons.

Additional reading

If you’re looking for a deeper dive into the Nintendo Switch, you can read Polygon’s full review of the original system and our review of the Switch Lite. You can also read up on our favorite Switch games if you’re looking for recommendations. Or, if you’re looking to see how a Switch compares to other consoles, like the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, we’ve got you covered there too.

Full hardware specs

For a full breakdown of the Nintendo Switch vs. Switch Lite hardware specs, check out the table below.

Nintendo Switch vs. Switch Lite

Specs Nintendo Switch Nintendo Switch Lite
Specs Nintendo Switch Nintendo Switch Lite
Size Approx. 4" high, 9.4" long, .55" deep (with Joy-Cons attached) Approx. 3.6" high, 8.2" long, and .55" deep
Weight Approx. .88 lbs (with Joy-Cons attached) Approx. .61 lbs
Screen Multi-touch capacitive touch screen
6.2" LCD Screen
1280 x 720 resolution
Capacitive touch screen
5.5" LCD
1280x720 resolution
Storage 32 GB (expandable using microSDHC or microSDXC cards up to 2 TB) 32 GB (expandable using microSDHC or microSDXC cards up to 2 TB)
Networking Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac)
Bluetooth 4.1
Supports wired LAN adapter in TV mode
Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac)
Bluetooth 4.1
Video output Up to 1080p via HDMI in TV mode
Up to 720p via built-in screen in tabletop mode and handheld mode
Audio output Compatible with 5.1ch Linear PCM output
Output via HDMI connector in TV mode
Built-in speakers
3.5mm audio jack
Built-in speakers
3.5mm audio jack
Internal battery Lithium-ion battery 4310 mAh Lithium ion battery 3570 mAh
Battery life Approx. 4.5-9 hours (Model number HAC-001-01) Approx. 3-7 hours (Model number HDH-001)

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