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The Switch was an impressively fun piece of hardware. Thanks to the removable Joy-Cons and the HDMI-based dock system it picked up where with Wii U left off, offering portable and TV-based gameplay in one small package.

But that package was for kids. Traveling with the Switch was a chore. The Joy-Cons were fiddly and the size, while fine for a kid toting Switch in a Splatoon case, was a bit much for inflight or subway entertainment.

The device cased in monochromatic plastic and comes in blue, yellow, and grey. The blue – the one I bought – is bold without being too wild and the entire package looks like a kindergarten toy: rugged, colorful, and designed for single purpose.

If you travel, this is the Switch for you. The non-removable joysticks ensure that you don’t lose anything in your bag and the compact size make it a great “briefcase console.” Because it doesn’t pretend to be a home console there is no kickstand, no dock, and no fear that the removable parts will snap off.

The real question, however, is why would you need a Switch when there are so many other ways to amuse yourself in line at the DMV.

Nintendo’s specific Switch offering is simple: offer expansive games in a portable format that pushes all of the nostalgia buttons. You can’t really play Breath of the Wild – or even A Link to the Past – on your phone. Believe me: I’ve tried all of the emulators out there and nothing is quite as satisfying as this thing.

You can’t really fire up Mario Kart or SMB or anything that isn’t a Nintendo clone of Flappy Bird or Candy Crush. And in the end the offerings available from Nintendo are rich, nuanced, and fun. It’s a higher level of mobile gaming, a level that few devices can match.

I bought a Switch Lite because I wanted to play Civilization VI on a device that wouldn’t die in an hour and had a big enough screen to be viewed with my aging eyes. You’ll buy a Switch Lite – a steal at $199 – to play Mario or Zelda games or to play Untitled Goose Game or whatever strikes your fancy. You won’t miss the detachable Joy-Cons. You won’t miss the bigger screen. You won’t need the dock.

And, thanks to Nintendo’s oddly consistent ability to get things right, you’ll have fun.


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By John Biggs

John Biggs is an entrepreneur, consultant, writer, and maker. He spent fifteen years as an editor for Gizmodo, CrunchGear, and TechCrunch and has a deep background in hardware startups, 3D printing, and blockchain. His work has appeared in Men’s Health, Wired, and the New York Times.