Here's what I liked most about Nintendo's Switch Lite after an hour

Jacob Krol, CNN Underscored
Updated Tue August 27, 2019

We're approaching the launch of the Nintendo Switch Lite, the new portable from Nintendo that ditches the multimode functionality of the flagship Switch and gives consumers everywhere a simple console.

At $199.99, it's about $100 cheaper than the original Switch. It's smaller, and it doesn't dock into a console. After about an hour and a half with the Nintendo Switch Lite, I can tell you it's an enjoyable device to play with. Before I describe the experience, here's the most up-to-date information on preordering before the launch on.September 20:

  • Nintendo Switch Lite in Turquoise ($199.99; amazon.com)
  • Nintendo Switch Lite in Yellow ($199.99; amazon.com)
  • Nintendo Switch Lite in Gray ($199.99; amazon.com)

What makes it different?

For starters, the Nintendo Switch Lite is all one piece. Joy-Cons, the controllers on the original Switch, aren't here. Instead, you have controls built into the left and right sides of the Switch Lite. Over on the right side, you get a home button, joystick and a set of four XABY buttons. Another joystick and a standard four arrow buttons are on the left side. A set of four bumpers is on the rear of the Switch Lite, same placement as on the Switch.

You'll find a smaller, but still sharp, 5.5-inch touchscreen instead of that 6.2-inch display. It's a good chunk smaller than the flagship, as is pretty evident from the photos throughout this piece.

As with any portable gaming device, battery life is going to vary, depending how intense the game is. Nintendo says the Switch Lite will go anywhere from three hours all the way up to nine, which is better than the Switch. For more of a direct comparison, you can see our buying guide comparing the two consoles here.

Most importantly, you won't find rumble in the built-in controllers on the Nintendo Switch Lite. That's right, it won't vibrate on bumps or other aspects. You can get the experience by connecting Joy-Cons to the Switch Lite, but it won't be native.

It feels great in the hand and can fit in your pocket

One of the first things I noticed was how good the Switch Lite felt in my hands. I was wondering how it would feel, especially with the smaller size, just over 3 inches shorter than the original, and the cheaper price. It has a plastic build, like most gaming portables, but it feels quite nice, with a grip-like texture on the back, and has a good weight to it. It can fit in the front or back pocket of my jeans, and that's a pretty good metric to have for a game console.

I also really like the removal of the kickstand, which means the microSD card now sits behind a closable door. I haven't had a microSD card fall out on me, and I don't want to.

This just feels like a more durable console overall, and the three colors are a really nice touch.

Games perform well on it

In my hour and a half with the Switch Lite, I got to play Mario Kart, Super Mario Maker 2 and a bit of Zelda. All of them performed well, and the key responses were especially great on Super Mario Maker 2. It was crucial with this title, as you need to be able to build maps and run through them, on top of the storyline.

The new D-Pad on the side gives you a certain ease with titles that are scrollers. Since you have to move left and right a lot, in addition to up and down via jumps, it's really nice to have a classic input method to play with. After playing with this, it felt a little strange moving back to my flagship Switch that has separate buttons.

Mario Kart and Zelda were equally fun, but I had less time with both of them. While these three games run on the Switch Lite just fine, you'll only be able to play titles that support handheld mode. If you're coming from a flagship Switch, some of the controls might be different for titles that work on the Switch Lite as well. For instance, a title like 1 2 Switch won't run on the Switch Lite, since it utilizes a full console mode and needs the Joy-Cons for the extra sensors these pack in.

It's similarly specced to the original Switch, but it's not the same processor and chips inside. However, in my brief test, I didn't notice any extended load times or experience any crashes. We'll definitely be putting it to the test in a full review closer to September 20.

The Switch Lite isn't for everyone, but it's portable with a lot going for it

After that brief encounter with the Nintendo Switch Lite, I'm hungry for more. But anyone who's considering a preorder should remember it's strictly a handheld and can't handle the docking. It's a little weird to view it as a Switch, considering this, but it gives you access to plenty of titles for the console in a smaller size.

If you're someone who really only uses the portable aspects of the Switch, then the more affordable Switch Lite makes perfect sense.

It's not the Switch 2.0, but it's safe to say that the Switch Lite is a good console and makes sense as a portable in 2019. It will make plenty of people happy, especially at the $199 price. And yes, it will likely be a hit this holiday season and is definitely a good gift to consider giving.

Note: The prices above reflect the retailer's listed prices at the time of publication.