Pros and (Joy)Cons of the new Nintendo Switch Lite!

 

First things first, take the clickbait with a grain of salt. The 3DS PLATFORM is most certainly not dead. At least not yet. Nintendo says it will continue to support the platform as long as demand for it persists. More on that “demand” in a moment. While Nintendo has no plans for more 1st party releases like Mario or Zelda, the 3DS platform is still wide open for 3rd party developers as always. Online features are still currently fully supported, such as the eShop and online multiplayer. That is, you can still download Smash Brothers and play it with online multiplayer.

But remember Nintendo’s comment about support as long as demand continues? Let’s look at that before we dive into the Switch Lite.

Since the launch of the original Nintendo Switch, demand for the 3DS platform has sharply declined, naturally, both in hardware and software sales, but it isn’t dead…yet. According to the last data available, in March 2019 Nintendo sold over 2.5 million units of hardware worldwide, the vast majority being the 2DS and 2DS XL. Now software sales is most interesting as software sales in Japan are far less than the rest of the world. Still, total software sales were about 13.2 million units. Even if each title cost $1, that’s still over 13 million dollars. Now add the $20, $30, and $60 titles…Nintendo is still generating and incredible amount of money off the 3DS platform.

So, is the 3DS platform dead? Absolutely not, and despite a natural decline of sales, it’s far from the grave. I mean, the Wii only breathed its desperate last breath less than a year ago with the elimination of the last remaining streaming services.

So yes, the 3DS platform is nowhere near its prime, but it still draws a healthy crowd in the minor leagues, largely helped by the cheap cost of entry. The 2DS costs as little as $80 brand new, which brings us nicely to the Switch Lite.

The Switch Lite launches September 20, 2019 and will cost $200. That’s $100 cheaper than the original Switch. This $200 is also a far cry from the $80 2DS, but will absolutely cannibalize hardware sales of the New 3DSXL. Again, not the death blow for the 3DS platform as a whole, just possibly the most expensive model of 3DS.

So let’s talk about what you get for $200 with the Switch Lite.

The most obvious being the built in and lightly redesigned controls. Since this is a handheld focused device, we get a new left D-Pad. Nice. I like that. Joy Cons will still be compatible for pairing, however. Also, will Nintendo have fixed the Joy Con Drift issue? I can only hope Nintendo is aware of it enough to make sure the Switch Lite resolves this issue. Quick side note, for those unaffected or yet to be, “Joy Con Drift” is when one or more of your analog stick switches is broken all together or constantly pulls your character or screen cursor in one direction. It’d be like your mouse cursor constantly moving to one side of the screen or not moving at all with input. For the Joy Con, the fix is relatively cheap and simple. There are plenty of tutorials. Order a new thumbstick on Amazon, manipulate a few tiny screws, and that’s it. Still, it shouldn’t be an issue at all and one would only hope Nintendo uses better thumbstick hardware in the Switch Lite, especially if the enter reason for its existence is increased portability. Ease of thumbstick repair on the Switch Lite is to be determined if needed at all. Sure repairing Joy Cons yourself is way cheaper, but most people can’t be bothered and shouldn’t have to pay for repairs or drop upwards of $80 on a new pair of Joy Cons.

Anyways, back to the Switch Lite. The next, and perhaps most polarizing change, is the omission of TV compatibility. You can’t put it into a cradle and play on the big screen like the original Switch. I was supremely disappointed by this at first. I’m still disappointed, but the more I think about it, I can see why Nintendo did this. First, this is $200. If the $200 Switch Lite connects to your TV just like the $300 version, would you spend the extra $100? Most people wouldn’t cough up the extra $100, or at least Nintendo thinks so.

That being said, if the $200 Switch Lite did plug into the TV, people would have to buy more Pro Controllers and Joy Cons to play from the couch. If you bought a Switch Light and extra Joy Cons, that’s almost $300 right there. That’s fine for one player, and 2 in a pinch of you share a Joy Con like it was designed for. For the sake of this video, I’ll cap the speculation and spending combinations right there. All you need to know is that Nintendo doesn’t want to chew into sales of the $300 Switch.

But the $200 Switch Lite will already do that by default…alright alright. Let’s move on. It does my head in to think about Nintendo’s reasoning. Oh to be a fly on the wall in that meeting.

Before we move on to more specs and features, I will say that eliminating detachable Joy Cons and the ability to play on your TV completely eviscerates the name “Switch.” By definition, the Switch Lite is no longer a Switch at all. You’re not Switching anything. You aren’t Switching from console mode to portable mode. It is only one mode, Portable. They should have just called it the “Nintendo Portable”. I know, I know. That’s sounds stupid. I agree. But is it anymore stupid than the Wii U? Or Windows going from 8 to 10? Or Apple resetting the iPad nomenclature back to just “iPad”? Or the Nvidia 1080?

“Nintendo Portable” would be confusing, but at least it’d be accurate. What Nintendo Portable? The Gameboy? The DS? The 3DS? The freaking undocked SWITCH? I digress…

All that being said, to my knowledge, incompatibility with a TV dock is merely a software lock-out. The USB C connection is still there. I mean yes, it definitely won’t fit in the current dock, but if it’s just a software lockout, perhaps Nintendo will unlock the feature in the future? I’m not holding my breath, but it would be nice.

If someone can shed some light on whether or not the display lockout is physical or software, please let us know in the YouTube comments or on the Geek Therapy Radio Facebook page. I’m sure it will come to “Lite” soon.

Moving on. The Switch Lite is smaller. Screen size comes in at 5.5 inches diagonally, compared to the original’s 6.2 inches. This means more densely packed pixels while retaining the original 1280 by 720 and therefore a sharper image. For overall size and weight, the Lite comes in at 3.6 inches tall and 8.2 inches wide. Down from 4 inches and 9.4 inches respectively. Weight comes down to .61 pounds, versus the original’s .88.

Other eliminations include Joy Con rumble, and IR camera, however these features will be enabled on any paired Joy Cons, just not on the built-in controls themselves. These compared to the smaller screen size means an increase in battery life. Nintendo claims an increase in play time by about 20-30% versus the original. Nintendo also says the battery life increase is partially due to a “more power efficient chip layout.” This makes me add another question to the TV docking question. If it’s a less powerful chip, maybe it’s not designed to kick into boost mode like the original Switch allowing for better frame rates and 1080p. Then again, why would that matter? Just keep the Lite at 720p and simply pass thru the display output to the TV. Also, “more efficient chip layout” doesn’t necessarily mean a lower powered processor, it could more likely simply mean more efficient components like capacitors, resistors, ICs, and shorter circuit traces. Any combination of which can result in increased power efficiency. Now we’re getting bogged down yet again with speculation.

The Switch Lite keeps Near Field Communication, or NFC, for supporting things like Amiibo. It does get rid of the kick stand which makes sense given the exclusively hand-held nature. The kick stand was terrible anyways. I just call it what it really is, the SD card cover.

Oh man what else…oh, manual backlight control. No more ambient light sensor. I’m completely ok with this. Automatic brightness can be finicky. I often prefer manual control.

The last feature I’ll mention comes to your Nintendo account. It was a massive, massive pain in the butt when you replaced your 3DS or bought a backup. For instance, keeping your original 3DS and also buying a 3DS XL. You were only allowed one Nintendo account at a time per device. Meaning, you could redownload everything you already own on the extra device. You either had to transfer your account to one device along with software which was a maddeningly slow process, or create a new account for the new device. For instance, I have 2 Nintendo accounts. One for my original 3DS (and Switch) and one for my 3DS XL. I only have Mario Kart 7 on my 3DS XL. If I want it on both, I have to pay full price for it again on my other account. It’s a nightmare.

Well, it still sucks if you have 2 Switches, but it’s at least a little better. If you have an Original Switch and buy a Switch Lite, you can use the same account, but the secondary device must be connected to an internet connection to play duplicate software. For instance, if you buy Smash Brothers on your original Switch, you can download it again on your Switch Lite but can only play it thereafter with an internet connection. What that means is you can’t play Smash Brothers on your Switch Lite if you’re camping in the boonies unless you wifi tether it to your phone…if you still have a signal.

So, as far as your Nintendo account and the eShop is concerned it’s still a pain in the butt, but just slightly less.

Alllrighty. Let’s wrap this up with my personal opinion of the Switch Lite and I’ll start with the Pros and Cons of what I was originally wishing for.

I was originally hoping for a clamshell design. Since I knew this would be a strictly portable design, I thought maybe screen and button protection would be built in to the design. Sort of like a supped up 3DS. One of my main gripes with the vanilla Switch was that while it was portable, you still needed to treat it delicately both with the screen and controls. Matter of fact, I promise a lot, if not most, of the Joy Con drifting issues can be a direct result of the thumbsticks snagging and bending during transport in a purse, bag, or backpack. I always thought the portability aspect suffered if it meant I needed a bulky case and accessories to transport it safely.

So while I absolutely appreciate the landscape control layout from a comfort perspective, part of me wished for a more rugged clamshell design. THAT said, if Nintendo has made the Lite’s thumbsticks more durable this time around, it will be a non issue.

As for controls, it’s a con that the Lite omits HD rumble. The IR camera omission makes sense since the controls aren’t detachable, but it’s kind of silly HD Rumble got the axe. Some people won’t care, but I liked the option of having it or disabling it myself. A big pro however is the new left D-Pad. I haven’t used it yet obviously, but I expect it to pass the hadoken test with ease.

To conclude, all things considered, I am excited for it and I will most likely wind up buying one. Maybe not on launch day, but within a few weeks or months after. It really seems that just like the 2DS, a large component to Nintendo’s consideration for the Switch Lite is kids. I bet a lot of mommy and daddies will prefer to save $100 for this less fragile, kid friendly version. I’d wager that the vast majority of children use the vanilla Switch almost exclusively undocked while mom and dad watch Netflix or play Xbox on the living room TV.

Also, I like the idea of keeping a smaller Switch in my backpack exclusively. Remember, I quite often think twice of bringing my vanilla Switch anywhere unless I can safely transport it. I carried it in my backpack quite often until I found the left thumbstick at the bottom. I can’t be alone in that scenario, and yes that’s ultimately on the end-user to properly care for their electronics, but since I bought my Gameboy Pocket in 1998 I’ve NEVER had to repair it. It has spent literal decades being thrown in bags, pockets, and being tossed around. So if the main selling point of the Switch Lite is portability, it better be much, much tougher than the vanilla Switch.

So overall, I think it’s really cool and I will definitely buy one in time, but I struggle to recommend it to people who are already 100% happy with their existing Switch. In other words, if you already have a Switch, the Lite is a novelty, but I personally want the novelty, and it will be interesting to see how many people share the sentiment.

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Geek Therapy Radio

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