The long-rumoured Switch Lite is taking Nintendo’s hybrid console concept, dumping the ‘hybrid’ bit and going full ‘PlayStation Vita’. Leaving aside the fact that you should never go full PlayStation Vita (can we expect Nintendo to swiftly pull all support, disown the console and leave it to third parties to fill it with saucy visual novels?), the announcement was met with enthusiasm from many, although it’s personally not for me and introduces enough caveats to dissuade me from an impulse purchase. The bezel’s a bit too thick, the colours too conservative, not to mention the fact that it doesn’t ‘Switch’ anymore.
Switch Lite simply sacrifices too much of what I love about the Switch. The current screen size feels perfect already, and while the console isn’t pocket-sized, you wouldn’t catch me throwing it in with my keys and loose change anyway. Add to that the fear that those analogue sticks may be no better than their Joy-Con counterparts and it’s an easy pass (unless that Game Boy livery became official – then I’d have to reevaluate). For now, the original SKU is still the one for me.
Or is it? The Switch Lite announcement was soon followed by news that the standard Switch is also getting a revision on the quiet which will improve the unit’s battery life. This, too, had been rumoured, but I’d assumed the improvements would be negligible and the primary reason for the update would be to close the security holes in the original chipset.
But no – battery life is significantly improved on this upcoming model, jumping from the old minimum of 2.5 hours (when you’re really gunning it on a power-hungry game) to at least 4.5 hours. According to Nintendo’s estimates, playing something less strenuous with WiFi off and the brightness low should get you a whopping 9 hours of gameplay from a single charge, up from 6.5 for the current model.
According to the specs, the battery seems to be unchanged, so we can assume that the revised ‘Mariko’ version of the Tegra X1 chipset reportedly buried in the Switch Lite’s smaller case (enabling cooler running and thus its smaller form factor) is being put to work in this regular Switch update.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m very happy with my Switch. It’s by no means perfect (as evidenced by the various Joy-Con issues and other warping quirks of the hardware that many have encountered), but what launch hardware is perfect? Early adopters inevitably end up with hotter, noisier units than those who wait a year or two for a revision to filter through the manufacturing pipeline, but that’s the price of jumping onboard on Day One. Its pick-up-and-play nature fits in with my life far better than a conventional home console – I’d love to play more Forza Horizon 4, but the last four times I’ve sat down for a half-hour blast, my brief window of opportunity was stolen by interminably long mandatory updates.
Nope, minor issues aside, my Switch is holding up remarkably well. However, the promise of a shiny new unit with a hefty jump in battery life is very tempting, especially if it runs cooler and potentially avoids some of the issues that have befallen colleagues’ systems at Nintendo Life Towers. My Switch gets mighty hot in that dock sometimes and after over two years of heavy use, a refresh is an attractive prospect. I'd also get a fresh pair of Joy-Con, which should keep me from having to crack out the tri wing screwdriver for a few months at least.
It’s perhaps worth mentioning that I’ve got form in this area; I owned three 3DSs over the course of that system’s life, starting with Aqua launch unit, upgrading to a red and black XL before finding the happy medium with a New 3DS. I could easily have gone for a fourth had I found the beautiful SNES-themed New 3DS XL for a sensible price.
Each of those upgrades represented something substantial, though. A HAC-001(-01) Switch isn’t cosmetically different in any way from my current console, and it almost certainly won’t offer performance improvements beyond better thermals and battery life. I know all this, but still… new hardware! The obvious answer is simply to wait for the inevitable ‘Pro’ variant and ignore this ‘silent’ internal revision, but there’s another factor clouding the issue: Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
Arriving in March, it’s highly likely that several family members will take the plunge into the Switch pool for Animal Crossing alone – no fewer than three of them bought a 3DS just to play the last entry in the series. The Switch Lite will be the cheapest option for them, but the ability to throw the game on the TV and share it by snapping off the Joy-Con is a novelty I think would go down very well. Then again. dropping another hundred notes might be too much of a deterrent.
Fortunately for all involved, I am here to selflessly – gallantly, even – offer another way to share the joy(con). For argument’s sake, say I sold one of them my used Switch for the price of a Lite; a bargain, I’m sure you’d agree. I could then make up the rest to get a shiny 'new' Switch with the most modest of upgrades. More to the point, my tragic gamer self would have that most valuable thing: peace of mind that I’ve got the ‘best’ SKU going.
I know, I know – you’re all thinking I’m crazy and I should just sit tight for a true revision. I imagine, though, that there’ll be some readers in a similar position. After all, I wasn’t the only one to buy three 3DSs, and I dare say there are a bunch of people out there that bought even more. Those readers will be itching to find a way to upgrade to the new SKU and take advantage of its extra battery life, stretching to justify a purchase that, on paper, simply isn’t worth it. You people understand me. Sure, the ‘Pro’ is likely coming next year, but that’s next year – what about now?!
It’s a poser. My head and my heart are going in opposite directions. Of course, it’s inevitable that I’ll pick up the Switch ‘Pro’ when that comes along, too, so this stopgap ‘upgrade’ is even less meaningful. And has the current model’s battery life ever been a real issue for me? Probably not, but let’s not cloud the decision with inconvenient things like ‘facts’! The probability is that my heart will win out and I’ll end up opening up a brand new-old Switch when they roll onto shelves August-September time. Whatever I decide, Nintendo wins. Clever girl.
Will you be upgrading your standard Switch to the 'new' SKU? (544 votes)
Oh yes – that extra battery life makes it worth it
Maybe, if I trade in my current Switch or offload it on an unsuspecting family member...
Nope, I'll sit tight and see what's on the horizon
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