Nintendo Switch is out of stock: Here's how the cheaper Switch Lite compares

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If you're trying to buy a Nintendo Switch at the moment, you've got a lot of searching ahead of you. At many stores, the standard Nintendo Switch is out of stock, and while there are likely still a few to be found at the Switch's standard retail price, many of the listings you'll find have asking prices of $400 or even $500.

I love the Switch, but it definitely is not worth that much money. As for why the Switch is out of stock, it's almost a perfect storm of circumstance that brought us to this point. We knew that stock shortages were potentially coming as early as February, when the coronavrius outbreak and subsequent Chinese quarantines interrupted Nintendo's supply chain.

Back then, Bloomberg predicted that stock shortages would start hitting the US and Europe in April, after existing stock had sold through. Unfortunately, the major push for self-quarantine and the release of Animal Crossing: New Horizons accelerated the Switch's sell through rate, resulting in those stock shortages hitting earlier than anticipated. There's no telling when stock will return to normal, so there's a chance we might not see the Switch at retail for weeks or even months.

Interestingly, the Switch Lite is still in stock at some retailers. While Amazon is currently sold out of both the standard Switch and Switch Lite, it's restocking the Switch Lite on April 14th (there's no such restock notice for the standard Switch). GameStop is similarly sold out of the standard Switch, but the turquoise, gray, and yellow Switch Lites are all in stock. The same is true for Best Buy – the standard Switch isn't available online, but both the yellow and the gray Switch Lite are.

Switch vs. Switch Lite: What's the difference?

If you're bored in self-isolation and you're looking for a way to pass the time, there's no denying that the Switch is a great way to do that. Nintendo has released a number of truly stellar games for the console in its three-year lifespan so far, and the Switch is also a formidable indie machine. The Switch is great for pretty much anyone who enjoys Nintendo's games, but the standard Switch and the Switch Lite are not equal in terms of capability or price.

The biggest difference between the two is that the Switch Lite is a purely handheld console. It doesn't come with a dock and it can't output to a TV like the standard Switch can. So, with the Switch Lite, you're losing one of the big selling points of the standard Switch.

Though the screen size is a little bit smaller on the Switch Lite, resolution is the same: 720p. This means that visuals can sometimes look sharper on the Switch Lite than they do on the standard Switch, which can certainly be a point in the Switch Lite's favor.

Battery life is similar between the two models, assuming we're talking about the standard Switch refresh that Nintendo launched in August of last year – model HAC-001(-01). In my review of the Switch Lite, my battery testing found that the Switch Lite lasted for around 3.5 hours while playing The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, compared to around 4.5 hours for the HAC-001(-01) standard Switch. So, while it's true that the Switch Lite doesn't last quite as long as the standard Switch, that's to be expected given the Switch Lite's smaller size.

Speaking of size, the Switch Lite is also much more portable than the standard Switch is. Clocking in at 3.6 inches tall by 8.2 inches wide, the Switch Lite is quite a bit smaller than the Switch, which is 4 inches tall by 9.4 inches wide (both consoles have the same depth of 0.55 inches). As I said in my review, that might not seem like a huge difference, but once you see them side by side, it's clear that the Switch Lite is a lot smaller – it's also significantly lighter than the standard Switch as well.

The Switch Lite is a bit more durable than its big brother, too. While the Switch has detachable Joy-Cons that can quickly become points of failure in the event the console is dropped, the Switch Lite has a unibody design. I'm not about to suggest that you hurl a Switch Lite across the room, but in the event that you drop it, it has a better chance of coming out unscathed than a standard Switch does.

Finally, we come to the most important difference of all: price. The Switch Lite costs $199.99, compared to the $299.99 asking price of the standard Switch, making the handheld a full $100 less expensive than its predecessor. If you're looking to get a Switch without breaking the bank, the Switch Lite is definitely the way to go.

Should you get a Switch Lite?

In determining whether or not you should get a Switch Lite, you really only need to ask yourself one question: do you care about playing on a TV? If the answer is no, then you'll be perfectly happy with a Switch Lite. Just keep in mind that there's no way to get a Switch Lite to connect to a TV – for instance, there's no third-party dock you can buy for the Switch Lite because the console simply does not have the capability to output to an external display.

If you think you might like to play on a TV, then the answer to the question becomes a little more difficult. A big reason why the Switch has been so successful is because of its hybrid design; people find the ability the switch between TV and handheld modes to be a novel feature, and for me, the novelty hasn't worn off even after three years.

One more thing to keep in mind is the fact that the Switch Lite can't play games that don't support handheld mode. There aren't many games out there that don't support handheld mode, but there are a few, including Super Mario Party (though that game specifically might be worth a pass even for standard Switch owners).

In the end, it's also worth remembering that we're in the middle of a pandemic right now and there's no telling when we'll see the other side in it. We may be asked to practice social distancing for the better part of a year, which means that we'll need plenty of entertainment options at home. If you're looking for a Switch to pass the time, it could very well be worth buying a Switch Lite now, even if you think you'd buy a standard Switch under more normal circumstances.