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Consoles

Nintendo Switch Lite vs. new Switch vs. old Switch: How to choose

There will be two new Switch consoles in the fall. Do you go affordable or versatile? Do you wait for a sale? And, how do you tell Old Switch and New Switch apart?

nintendo-switch-3

Old Switch, New Switch. Red Switch, Blue Switch.

Amy Kim

Update: As of Aug. 14, Nintendo Switch V2 units, which include a more efficient processor for better battery life, are available in some stores. This guide will help make sure you get the latest Switch hardware when shopping. 

Nintendo Switch buyers used to have one console to choose from, but soon there will be three. On Sept. 20, Nintendo will be releasing a new Switch game system, called the Switch Lite. But the original Nintendo Switch isn't going away. In fact, it's also getting an upgrade in mid-August with better battery life. Maybe we should call that the Switch 1.5?

Now what do you do, potential Switch buyer? I admit, even I'm confused right now by Nintendo's many staggered microannouncements. But I think we can help the answer become clear. If you're looking for the best Switch and have $300 (£280, AU$450) to spend, the new extended-battery version is the best bet. But there are reasons you might still want a Switch Lite instead, such as price, portability and convenience. 

I've played the Switch Lite briefly and the original Switch a ton. My advice is below. But also, here's how to make sure that the New Switch you're getting with longer battery life isn't the old one.

Note that CNET may get a share of the revenue if you buy anything featured on our site.

nintendo-switch-lite

The Switch Lite is more compact, costs less, loses features.

Nintendo

Switch Lite is for handheld/budget gaming, and feels better to hold

In short: The upcoming Switch Lite, at $200 (£200, AU$300), costs less but only works as a handheld game system. You're saving $100, more or less. But the $300 original Switch can also connect to a TV with an included dock, and its controllers are detachable. You're losing those features on the Lite.

The Lite is smaller, and easier to carry. It feels more like a variation on Nintendo's other handheld game systems, such as the Nintendo 3DS or 2DS or Sony's departed PlayStation Vita.

You're removing features for savings. It's also a little more compact in handheld play, and that might matter for you, or for kids. The onboard screen is also smaller.

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The New Switch will look exactly like the old Switch (here), but with significantly improved battery life.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The 'new' Switch is the king of battery life, and probably the best overall choice

Nintendo's internal revamp of the original modular Switch looks to offer between 50 and 100% more battery life at 4.5 to 9 hours -- the original Switch, per Nintendo, lasts 2.5 to 6.5 hours. That's a big deal, even compared with the Switch Lite's promised 3 to 7 hours. The new Switch otherwise looks exactly the same as the previous model and may be confusing to find in stores: Nintendo's website suggests you look by model number (HAC-001(-01)) or serial number (starts with "XKW"). New Switch boxes are all-red, which should also help.

It'll be worth waiting a few weeks: The extra battery life promise is so good that it makes me immediately want that new Switch over any other model.

According to Nintendo, the new Switch with the better battery replaces the old model. But there may be overlap for a while, especially in retail stores. Here's how to make sure you're getting the new one.

Switch vs. New Switch vs. Switch Lite


Original Switch New Switch Switch Lite
Price $300 (£280, AU$450) $300 (£280, AU$450) $200 (£200, AU$300)
Screen size 6.2 inches, 720p (touch) 6.2 inches, 720p (touch) 5.5 inches, 720p (touch)
Controllers detachable Joy-Cons detachable Joy-Cons built-in, no rumble (but has d-pad)
TV out support? Yes Yes No
Battery life 2.5-6.5 hours 4.5-9 hours 3-7 hours
Storage 32GB internal + microSD 32GB internal + microSD 32GB internal + microSD
Kickstand Yes Yes No
Size 4 inches x 9.4 inches x 0.55 inches 4 inches x 9.4 inches x 0.55 inches 3.6 inches x 8.2 inches x 0.55 inches
Weight 0.88 pounds (400 grams) 0.88 pounds (400 grams) 0.61 pounds (277 grams)
Now playing: Watch this: Nintendo Switch Lite first impressions
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The Switch has other perks the Switch Lite lacks

There are a lot of modular things the Switch (and the new Switch) can do:

  • It can stand on a table, and its removable controllers can turn it into a portable two-player console.
  • It has vibrating controllers, which offer rumble feedback (the Switch Lite doesn't have this).
  • It has auto-brightness sensors that tune brightness without going into settings.
  • The replaceable controllers mean less wear and tear on the hardware.
  • It works with Nintendo Labo, those weird folding cardboard games (the Switch Lite doesn't fit in most of them).

Should you get the original Switch if it's on sale?

Here's a good question: If the original Switch ends up seeing a sale when the new longer-battery Switch is released, is it worth the discount? I'd rather have a better battery, but at a significant enough discount ($50 or more), it might be worth getting if you're not planning on super long trips away from power outlets. It's possible that deals on old systems may pop up.

Should you wait for a possible Switch 2?

Nintendo was expected to release two new Switch models this year. Are these those models, or is another upgrade still to come? I wouldn't wait for it, and Nintendo hasn't confirmed any "Switch Pro" plans even exist. At this point, these may be your only options.

Switch owners: Do you need a better battery? 

If not, stick with what you've got, or consider Switch Lite as a second Switch. 

I'm sorry if you just bought a new Switch, because the extended-battery model will be a better choice. It's annoying, especially right after Amazon Prime Day. That bonus battery life really matters to me, especially for long plane rides. But, the nice thing about the USB-C-equipped Switch is it's pretty easy to buy a compatible external battery pack and use that for charging up.

The Switch Lite still could be tempting, especially if you've been looking for a more portable portable. But…

Sharing games between Switches?

Will it be easy? Will it be a pain? It's worth waiting to find out. 

Right now, Nintendo makes game transfers annoying, and you basically have to pick one Switch to live on. Nintendo of America President Doug Bowser hinted that some improvement in sharing will be announced soon. If that means enabling game transfers between a Switch and Switch Lite, it would make owning a second Switch a lot more tempting. 

This might be an absurd idea for someone just looking for their first Switch, but for serious all-in Nintendo gamers, it's not a crazy proposition for an extra $200 to just get a Switch Lite, too.

Do you care about connecting to a TV?

Simple question here. Are you a dock-to-the-TV person, or do you just like playing games on the go? (See the results of our poll here.) The cool thing about the first Switch is it offers a choice. Nintendo's new Switch Lite shaves $100 off the price, but removes the choice.

If you're fine with a PlayStation Vita-like, Nintendo 3DS, DS or Game Boy-like handheld experience, get the Switch Lite. It felt great to hold, still had a pretty big 5.5-inch screen, and is a bit more portable.

But the original Switch's flexibility in being a TV-connected console is really cool. And you can't do that on Switch Lite.

Finally: What matters most to you?

If you care most about:

Size/comfort: Edge to Switch Lite

Screen size: Edge to New Switch

Kid-friendliness: Edge to Switch Lite

Battery life: New Switch

Most flexibility: New Switch