Nintendo Switch Lite: Charging and Power Usage

Newly purchased Nintendo Switch Lite

In September 2019 the Nintendo Switch Lite came out. A smaller, cheaper, handheld only version of the Nintendo Switch. It uses many of the same hardware improvements found in the revised Nintendo Switch. Including more power efficient system-on-chip (CPU and GPU combo), flash storage, and RAM. Here we’ll take a look at the Lite’s play times, power usage, and charging of the console.

Newly purchased Nintendo Switch Lite

Newly purchased Nintendo Switch Lite

Play TimePower UsageCharge TimeCharging | AC Adapter & DockSummary


Nintendo Switch Lite Play Time

Nintendo listed the Switch Lite as offering 3-7 hours of play time. That’s more than the original Switch. But less than the new Switch.

Nintendo's tech spec comparison of battery life for the Switch and Switch Lite.

Nintendo’s tech spec comparison of battery life for the Switch and Switch Lite.

Play Time Test Results

I performed testing on a brand new Nintendo Switch Lite HDH-001. And compared the results with earlier testing on the other two Switch models.

New & Original Nintendo Switch Play Times

 Nintendo Switch Lite, Stress TestNew Nintendo Switch, Stress TestOriginal Nintendo Switch, Stress TestNintendo Switch Lite, Travel TestNew Nintendo Switch, Travel TestOriginal Nintendo Switch, Travel Test
Conditions:Korok Forest
Screen Brightness: 100%
Auto Brightness: N/A
Wi-Fi & Bluetooth: On
Korok Forest
Screen Brightness: 100%
Auto Brightness: Off
Wi-Fi & Bluetooth: On
Screen Brightness: 100%
Auto Brightness: Off
Wi-Fi & Bluetooth: On
Cliff at start of game
Screen Brightness: 75%
Auto Brightness: N/A
Wi-Fi & Bluetooth: Off
Cliff at start of game
Screen Brightness: 75%
Auto Brightness: On
Wi-Fi & Bluetooth: Off
Screen Brightness: 66%
Auto Brightness: On
Wi-Fi & Bluetooth: Off
Play Time:3:033:432:363:565:143:06

Zelda: Breath of the Wild was used given its popularity. And as it is one of the more power hungry games for the Switch. In all tests the console and Joy-Cons (as appropriate) were at 100%. Time ran until the Switch turned itself off. The right analog stick was rigged to keep the camera moving. Thus keeping the Switch active without the screen dimming.

In game location for stress test condition

In game location for stress test condition

Nintendo Switch Lite stress test

Nintendo Switch Lite stress test

Better Power Efficiency, But Smaller Battery

The Switch Lite has similar power efficiency as the new Nintendo Switch. This gives it more play time than the original, less efficient model. But the Lite also has a smaller battery. Both the original and new Switch have a 4,310mAh battery. The Lite has a 3,570mAh battery.

The smaller battery is necessary to get the smaller form factor used by the Lite. And is a big factor in its weight reduction. But with less capacity comes less play time. So the new Switch wins in terms of endurance. Assuming you don’t mind holding the extra weight.

I would not be surprised if development of the Switch Lite lead to the improvements in the new Switch. Nintendo had to improve power efficiency to make a meaningful handheld console. The new hardware found in both the Lite and new Switch offer that. From a production supply chain stand point it makes sense for Nintendo to use as many of the same components in the Lite and regular Switch as possible. So we got the new Switch with its increased play time and reduced power demands. Along with the Switch Lite.

What Does This Mean?

The Nintendo Switch Lite meets Nintendo’s listed play time minimum. Given I stressed the system beyond normal most users will see more than 3 hours. The 7 hour max is possible with reduced screen brightness and a low demand game.

I would recommend Switch Lite owners assume 3 hours of play time. Then bring a charger or power bank as needed for longer trips. With the lack of auto brightness you need to be aware of your Switch’s brightness settings. And turn it down when you can to extend play time. You can adjust it in game by pressing and holding down the Home button.


Nintendo Switch Lite Power Usage

As we learned from the new Nintendo Switch, much of the hardware in the Lite improves power efficiency. Research done into the new chipset found in both before their release came to the same conclusion. The Lite has two more advantages. Its smaller screen (5.5-inch vs 6.2-inch) demands less power. And there are no Joy-Con batteries leeching power.

Power Usage Test Results

I measured how much power each model Switch drew under various conditions. A Power-Z KM001 power meter and software provided the measurements. The console and Joy-Cons (as appropriate) were at 100%. So the power drawn was used to run the Switch.

Nintendo Switch Lite Power Usage Results

 Nintendo Switch Lite, Stress TestNew Nintendo Switch, Stress TestOriginal Nintendo Switch, Stress TestNintendo Switch Lite, Low Demand TestNew Nintendo Switch, Low Demand TestOriginal Nintendo Switch, Low Demand Test
Conditions:Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Korok Forest
Screen Brightness: 100%
Auto Brightness: N/A
Wi-Fi & Bluetooth: On
Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Korok Forest
Screen Brightness: 100%
Auto Brightness: Off
Wi-Fi & Bluetooth: On
Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Korok Forest
Screen Brightness: 100%
Auto Brightness: Off
Wi-Fi & Bluetooth: On
Nintendo Entertainment System - Switch Online, Excitebike
Screen Brightness: 100%
Auto Brightness: N/A
Wi-Fi & Bluetooth: On
Nintendo Entertainment System - Switch Online, Excitebike
Screen Brightness: 100%
Auto Brightness: On
Wi-Fi & Bluetooth: On
Nintendo Entertainment System - Switch Online, Excitebike
Screen Brightness: 100%
Auto Brightness: On
Wi-Fi & Bluetooth: On
Average Power Usage:5.9W6W8.25W3.5W3.25W4.75W
Max Power Usage:7.26W7.95W10W4.6W4.7W6.25W

We can see the improved power efficiency at work. The Switch Lite numbers are close to the new Switch. Expected given similar internal hardware. What differences we see are mostly due to the smaller screen and built-in controllers.

The reduced power usage means the Switch Lite can charge while playing with a wider assortment of chargers. Any that offer it up 7.5W or better will keep up with the most demanding conditions. That includes most any USB-C charger. And a number of USB-A chargers.

Nintendo Switch Power Usage Data

 

What Does This Mean?

The Nintendo Switch Lite is the most efficient/least power hungry of all three models. It only loses out to the new Switch in a few cases because it lacks auto brightness. This allows it to use a smaller, lighter battery will less impact on your play time.

Additional Benefits of Reduced Power Usage

Better power efficiency means less heat waste. Which gives several added benefits:

  • Switch is cooler to the touch on average
  • Internal fan doesn’t become audible as often
  • Longer battery lifespan (heat is one of the killers of lithium batteries)

It would also allow Nintendo to enable more overclocking of the system. That said, I would not expect it to happen. Nintendo already introduced Boost Mode with update 8.0.0. Which loads compatible games faster by momentarily overclocking the system. With the reduced heat it should be possible to overclock full time. With some hardware hacking the original Switch can be overclocked. But the results include significant power usage and temperature increases. The Switch Lite may be able to handle those issues better. It has a lower starting point. But its smaller size also give it a lower ceiling for temperature tolerance. Nintendo tends to keep system performance conservative. In favor of a more reliable end user experience under any condition.


Nintendo Switch Lite Charge Time

The Nintendo Switch Lite charges faster than the original Switch. But not much faster than the new Switch. This is surprising, as we would expect a faster charge time with a smaller battery. It comes down to the Switch Lite limiting its max power draw more so than the other models.

Charge Time Test Results

I charged a brand new HDH-001 Nintendo Switch Lite from 0 to 100%. For both tests the Switch was turned on after 5 minutes of charging. For the gaming test Zelda: Breath of the Wild ran under stress test conditions. For the sleeping test the Switch was put back to sleep with no game running in the background. For both tests Wi-Fi and Bluetooth were left on.

Nintendo Switch Charge Times

 Nintendo Switch LiteNew Nintendo SwitchOriginal Nintendo Switch
Sleeping Charge Time:2:593:143:30
Gaming Charge Time:2:552:583:15

I expected the Switch Lite to have a faster charge time in all cases. Its power usage is the same as or better than the other Switch models. And it has a smaller battery to fill, with no Joy-Con battery leeching. But it only showed a charge time improvement in the sleeping test. Not in the gaming test.

Switch Lite Is More Sensitive to Heat

The slower than expected gaming charge time was due to this.

Charging graph of the Nintendo Switch Lite with game running, stress conditions

Charging graph of the Nintendo Switch Lite with game running, stress conditions

That is not how any of my other Switch charging curves look. You almost always see consistent voltage. And current which ramps up, then goes down as the battery fills. Here the current goes down, but then shoots back up and repeats its downward curve. The pattern repeated itself over several tests with several different chargers. So what’s going on?

I reached out to some other USB-C experts on Reddit at /r/USBCHardware. It was suggested it could be a thermal event. The Switch Lite getting too hot and lowering it power draw. Then increasing once it had cooled down enough. A few new tests confirmed that idea.

When I charged the Switch Lite from 50-100% the curve was normal. The same when I charged from 0-100% while playing a less demanding game. And provided for better ventilation.

Charging graph of the Nintendo Switch Lite with game running, low temperature

Charging graph of the Nintendo Switch Lite with game running, low temperature

Impact On User Experience

The Switch Lite can charge in less than 3 hours while playing. But it’ll depend on what game and the environmental temperature. The Switch Lite produces less heat than the original Switch. But it doesn’t have the same amount of space to deal with heat increases. It has a lower starting point, but also a lower ceiling. Once it reaches a certain temperature it ramps down its power draw to cool down. Once sufficiently cool it goes back to full power draw. Under either condition it is charging the battery while you play.

This is the kind of behavior we want in our portable devices. It is monitoring and protecting itself. And doing so in a way which has the least impact on the user. We can plug it in and play. Knowing the Switch Lite will take care of itself. And do what it can to not interrupt our game play.

Nintendo Switch Charging Graphs

 

What Does This Mean?

The Nintendo Switch Lite will charge faster due to its smaller battery. Provided it stays cool enough. If it gets too hot it will lower its power draw. Which will slow down total charge time. But won’t impact performance.


Charging the Nintendo Switch Lite

Besides play times and power usage I also tested the power draw rates of the Nintendo Switch Lite. Its results are similar to the new Switch, given similar hardware. But overall the Lite has lower demands. And so it also has lower power draw.

Nintendo Switch Lite Power Draw Rates

I tested a brand new HDH-001 Nintendo Switch Lite in handheld mode. Its battery was at 20%. And it ran Zelda: Breath of the Wild under stress test conditions. This was all done to force the Switch to its max draw rate.

Charger SpecsPower DrawnTotal WattagePercent of Current Drawn
5V/1.5A USB-A5V/1.5A7.5W100%
5V/2A USB-A5V/2A10W100%
5V/2.4A USB-A5V/2A10W83%
5V/3A USB-C5V/1.5A7.5W50%
9V/2A USB-C PD9V/1.5A13.5W75%
9V/3A USB-C PD9V/1.5A13.5W50%
12V/1.5A USB-C PD12V/1.1A13.5W73%
15V/1.2A USB-C PD15V/0.9A13.5W75%
15V/2A USB-C PD15V/0.9A13.5W45%
15V/3A USB-C PD15V/0.9A13.5W30%

The draw rates are similar to the new Nintendo Switch. And typical for a USB Power Delivery device. The original and new Switch both have an ~18W max draw rate. The Switch Lite might have that as well. But I wasn’t able to get it higher than 13.5W. This makes sense given the lower power usage, smaller battery, and increased temperature sensitivity.

Chargers used to test the Nintendo Switch Lite

Chargers used to test the Nintendo Switch Lite

Chargers used:

The Switch Lite has power draw improvements similar to the new Switch. The exception being 15W USB-C (no Power Delivery). That didn’t work any better than a USB-A charger. Keep this in mind if looking at a battery case for the Lite. Most battery cases for the regular Switch can only output up to 15W USB-C (5V/3A).

Otherwise any USB-C PD charger will offer the same performance for the Switch Lite.

Nintendo Switch Lite Power Draw Data

 

But Is It Safe To Use a Third Party Charger?

I saw no unusual behavior during any of my tests. And I used third party chargers for everything. As the Nintendo Switch AC Adapter is weird. And doesn’t always cooperate with my testing hardware.

It has always been safe to charge the Switch with a third party charger or power bank. There have been no reports of quality chargers damaging a Switch. There have been problems with third party docks. But those issues stemmed from poor build quality of the dock itself, not any charger. For more details check out Safely Charging the Nintendo Switch.

What Does This Mean?

A wider range of third party chargers will perform well with the Nintendo Switch Lite. If you try a USB-A charger that provides 5V/2A or better you’ll have a good experience in handheld mode. Regular USB-C is not an improvement. But any USB-C PD offering 9-15V will all perform equally well. If buying a new USB-C PD charger you don’t need to worry about its exact specs as much.

USB-A Charging Is Viable for the Nintendo Switch Lite, But Not Optimal

The improved power efficiencies and draw rates mean USB-A charging works well. It is viable under most conditions with the Nintendo Switch Lite. But you still need to use a USB-A power source which offers at least 7.5W. An iPhone’s 5W charger, for example, won’t get the same results.

Nintendo Switch Lite USB-A testing

Nintendo Switch Lite USB-A testing

In all tests the Switch was connected to an Anker PowerCore 10000 power bank. Super Mario Odyssey was running. Screen brightness was at 100% with auto brightness off. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth were on. And the Joy-Cons were fully charged.

Nintendo Switch USB-A Power Bank Charging

 Nintendo Switch Lite @ 100%New Nintendo Switch @ 100%Original Nintendo Switch @ 100%Nintendo Switch Lite @ 50%New Nintendo Switch @ 50%Original Nintendo Switch @ 50%
Power Bank's Run Time:6:306:424:254:193:594:15
Switch's Final Battery Level:100%100%98%100%100%39%
Total Expected Play Time:10:3010:427:008:208:005:15

The original Switch needed to plug in at 100%. Otherwise the demands on both the game and a reduced battery were too much. And the Switch’s battery would continue to drain. While the drain was at a reduced rate it affected total play time of both the Switch’s battery and power bank.

The new Switch and Switch Lite are able to play and charge under both conditions. Thanks to lower power usage. And an increased power draw from 5V/2.4 USB-A chargers. But plugging in at 100% is still ideal, as it gave the most possible play time.

Not every USB-A charger will give similar results:

  • 5V/2A – 5V/2.4A: Will charge and play under all conditions
  • 5V/1.5A: Will charge and play under most conditions
  • 5V/1A: Will charge and play under some conditions

Nintendo Switch Lite USB-A Power Bank Data

 

So Should I Buy a USB-A Charger Instead of USB-C PD?

I maintain my general advice to buy a USB-C Power Delivery charger  over USB-A.

If you already own a USB-A power bank, then by all means give it a go. If it meets your needs, great.

But if you need to buy a new power bank for your Nintendo Switch (any model) a USB-C PD is better value.

  • USB-C PD charges the Switch faster, and charges while you play under any condition
  • Fast charges other USB PD devices, including newer iPhones, Samsung Galaxy, and Google Pixel
  • The same USB-C PD charger could handle your phone, Switch, and laptop
  • Future proofs you against new USB-C devices
  • USB-C charger can include the proper USB-C cable, a USB-A charger requires a separate cable

A USB-A power bank is generally cheaper than a USB-C PD power bank of the same capacity. But keep included cables in mind, as the total cost different may be $10 or less.


AC Adapter & Dock

The Nintendo Switch Lite includes the same AC adapter (HAC-002(USZ)) included with both the new and original Nintendo Switch. Exact same specs and model number. It’ll charge the Switch Lite at its max limit. And can be used with the regular size Switch models. Or even their dock.

A dock is not included with the Nintendo Switch Lite. It physically cannot fit into a regular Switch’s dock. The analog sticks get in the way, due to its smaller size.

If you use a replacement case for your Nintendo Switch’s dock then you can use it to charge the Switch Lite. These dock cases are popular for travel. You remove the electronics from the original dock and place then in a much smaller shell. And their more open design gives the Switch Lite room to plug in. The Lite treats it like any other USB-C PD charger and draws power.

You cannot output video with the Switch Lite, even with a dock solution where it fits. The regular Switch outputs video as MyDP over USB-C. The Lite is missing the component used for that video output. Data still transfers, so you can plug in a wired controller or USB-C to Bluetooth adapter. But don’t have any hopes of someone “figuring out” a way to get video out of the Lite.


Summary

Play Time

The Nintendo Switch Lite lives up to its promised play times. My testing was on the more demanding end. Less demanding games with lowered screen brightness could get up to 7 hours. Though you’re better off assuming only 3 hours and bringing a spare charger as needed.

It has increased play time over the original Switch even with a smaller battery. Thanks to its improved power usage efficiency. And the benefits of a handheld only version of the Switch. Including a smaller screen and no separate Joy-Cons to power. The smaller battery keeps it from outperform the updated Switch in gaming endurance. Both systems share much of the same hardware. And the Lite has some power usage advantages. But it isn’t enough to account for the capacity difference in their batteries.

Charging

Charge times for the Switch Lite are faster than the larger models. But only if you can keep the internal temperature down. Charging while asleep we see a 15 minute improvement. But charging while gaming increases heat. And if the Lite gets too hot it will lower its power draw. Worst case it results in the same charge time as the larger Switches.

Like the new Switch, the Lite has improved power input specs as well as efficiencies. With USB-C PD chargers it draws the same amount of power. Meaning an 18W charger and 45W charger offer the Lite the same performance. Less power demand also means a lower max draw. I could not get it to draw more than 13.5W. Which allows it to work equally well with any 18W or better charger. And it can charge while playing with an older USB-A charger. Provided it offers 5V/1.5A or better output.

The Switch Lite includes the same power adapter as the other Switch models. You can mix and match it with another Switch or even dock.

You cannot put the Lite in a Switch dock. Its size prevents it from fitting, the analog stick get hung up. If you use some kind of alternative dock with a more open design you can make some use of it. The Switch Lite will charge from the dock once connected. But you won’t see video output, as Nintendo told us. The chip needed for video output is missing from the Lite’s motherboard.