The Nintendo Switch launched in March 2017 and has gone on to become one of the best-selling consoles of all time. Part of that success is thanks to the quality of its library of games. The rest of that success stems from Nintendo releasing multiple iterations of the console.

This is nothing new. Nintendo has done this with their handheld systems ever since the wild success of the Game Boy Color in 1998. (Other console manufacturers have done it as well. The PlayStation 2 had several different versions over its life cycle.) This is great for Nintendo’s bottom line. But it is super confusing for parents who want to buy a Nintendo for their kids. 

Fear not though because we’ve got the solution! Below is a handy guide to the three different versions of the Nintendo Switch console and our thoughts on each one!

What is the Nintendo Switch?

The Nintendo Switch is a hybrid video game console that can serve as both a handheld device (like the Nintendo 3DS) and as a home console (like the Nintendo WiiU).

The console itself is a tablet that features detachable controllers that Nintendo called “Joy-Cons.” Most versions of the console come with a special dock. You can use the Switch dock to charge the tablet OR use it to display your game on the TV.

This was completely unheard of when Nintendo announced and, while there have been some competitors on the market since then, it has remained a market leader.

Why is the Switch so Popular?

Nintendo handhelds are almost always popular. Families have more than thirty years of experience buying Game Boys and the like. for their kids. The Switch may not be a traditional handheld, but it does fit that bill. I can’t help but think that momentum plays at least a small part in that.

There can be no doubt though that the Nintendo Switch has a fantastic library of great games helping it along as well. The Switch’s launch year included The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (which is one of the best games ever made) and Super Mario Odyssey. They are both on our EFG Essentials list five years later.

The Three Current Switch Models

Nintendo has released a new Switch model every other year since 2017 so we’ll probably need to update this article in 2023. Until then… here are the details on the three existing models.

The Original Nintendo Switch

MRSP: $299.99

Release Date: March 3, 2017 Weight: .66 lbs or .88 /w Joy-Cons Screen: 6.2 in LCD Screen @ 1280 x 720 pixels Resolution: 1080 p resolution to TV // Up to 720 p in handheld mode

Battery Life: 4.5 – 9 Hours /w up to 3 hours max charge time

The original model of the Nintendo Switch is still available and is a great system. Generally speaking, the OLED edition (listed below) is the better option for new adoptees. But, this is worth grabbing if it is available!

Nintendo Switch Lite

MRSP: $199.99

Release Date: September 20, 2019 Weight: .61 lbs (integrated Joy-Cons) Screen: 5.5 in LCD Screen @ 1280 x 720 pixels Resolution: (Implied up to 720 p in handheld mode but not listed on the site)

Battery Life: 3 – 7 Hours /w up to 3 hours max charge time

The Switch Lite is interesting because it doesn’t “Switch.” This is a handheld-only version of the console. It eschews the dock and TV gameplay for longer battery life, a lower price, and a smaller form factor.

It is lighter, less expensive, and perfect for younger kids who are looking for a replacement for a 3DS. It plays almost all the same games with less of an investment. 

Nintendo Switch OLED Edition

MRSP: $349.99

Release Date: October 8, 2021 Weight: .71 lbs or .93 /w Joy-Cons Screen: 7 in OLED Screen @ 1280 x 720 pixels Resolution: 1080 p resolution to TV // Up to 720 p in handheld mode Battery Life: 4.5 – 9 Hours /w up to 3 hours max charge time

The most recent edition to the Switch line is the OLED model that was released in 2021.

It functions similarly to the original model in that it can be used both handheld and docked to play on the TV. This newer model includes an OLED screen that is brighter and clearer so playing games in handheld mode looks better. 

I’m not sure what market niche Nintendo was hoping to move into with this model, but this is NOT a “pro” version of the Switch that some fans have been asking for.

That isn’t necessarily a problem. But, it is something to keep in mind while making purchasing decisions.

What Are Joy-Cons Again?

Joy-Cons are what Nintendo calls the proprietary controllers that attach to the side of the Nintendo Switch tablet. They come in a wide variety of colors and you can even mix/match them.

It’s worth noting for parents that they are relatively small and expensive so you’ll want to have a plan for keeping track of them when you buy a Switch.

Our Official Switch Recommendations

The Switch is approaching the end of its life cycle. Industry insiders have been talking about the arrival of a Switch successor for years. We don’t have it yet (we don’t even have an announcement yet), so we can’t recommend waiting for a new system just yet.

All three models have value right now, but the real decision is between the OLED version and the Switch Lite.

If you are buying a new Switch, then the OLED model has better battery life and a slightly larger screen that is MUCH brighter.

Parents buying a Switch for younger gamers should consider the Switch Lite. It is less costly than other models and is smaller and lighter for smaller hands.

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

The EFG Essentials

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By Stephen Duetzmann

Editor in Chief Founder/EiC Blogger, Podcaster, Video Host RE: games that families can play together.

3 thoughts on “The Differences Between the Three Nintendo Switch Models – A Parent’s Guide”
  1. We have the original switch and I have a lite. If we hadn’t bought the original we may have held out for the OLED. This is a great explanation though. Thank you.

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