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(Pocket-lint) - The Nintendo Switch has proven hugely successful since its introduction in 2017. Worldwide sales top 85 million just four years later and the Japanese gaming giant seems to have found its feet again.

There's just one problem: which of the three Switch consoles should you buy?

The standard Nintendo Switch was joined by the handheld-only Switch Lite in 2019, with the upgraded model - Switch OLED - now officially in the wild, too.

In this guide, we'll be providing a brief overview of each console in order to help you separate them more clearly and discover which is the right one for you. 

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Which Nintendo Switch? Switch v Switch Lite v Switch OLED

No matter which Nintendo Switch you choose, you will be able to play the vast majority, if not all, of current or future Switch games. The only caveat is that, as a handheld-only console, the Switch Lite is not capable of playing games designed for motion gameplay using individual Joy-Cons. The other two consoles can play all Switch games without exception.

The Nintendo Switch and Switch OLED models are capable of playing in handheld and TV modes. You can also use either to play multiplayer games by using their respective screen's tabletop stand and each removable Joy-Con as an individual controller.

They both come with a dock that offers a HDMI output, plus USB ports for connection to external gamepads and other accessories. When plugged into a dock, Switch games are presented in up to 1080p (Full HD) and 60 frames-per-second. When used in handheld mode, they run at 720p and 60fps.

The Switch Lite is not compatible with a dock, nor can it plug into a TV. However, its screen is capable of 720p and 60fps too.

Read on to find out what each model is all about, and also consider our dedicated Switch v Switch OLED and Switch v Switch Lite comparisons.

Pocket-lintWhich Nintendo Switch is best for you? photo 6

Nintendo Switch OLED 

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  • Dimensions: 102mm x 242mm x 13.9mm (with Joy-Cons attached)
  • Weight: 320g
  • Display: 7-inch OLED, 720p60
  • Storage: 64GB
  • TV mode: Yes, 1080p60
  • Battery life: Up to 9 hours (claimed)

Now officially available, the Nintendo Switch OLED is the latest edition to the family.

Consider it a slight upgrade to the original Switch, but not perhaps as different as some might have hoped.

It is identical in many ways to the Switch, including size and form factor, but has a 7-inch 720p OLED display, instead. This provides a wider viewing angle, more punchy colours and greater contrast. Also, as there is no backlight (OLED pixels are self-illuminating) the bezel is smaller. This allows for the larger screen to fit the same dimensions as the standard version.

The Joy-Cons are the same as the original, but there is now a significantly larger kickstand on the back of the display unit to make for more steady two-player action when used on a tabletop.

Processing, RAM and the rest of the inner spec are identical to other Switch models, but you do get double the internal storage: 64GB this time. It's probably still not enough for most, who will want to add a Switch microSD card, but it can fit more games natively.

The new included dock has been very slightly restyled, too, with a curvier edge and a new LAN port for those who prefer to connect to their internet router by cable.

Other than that, there's little else different about the Switch OLED. That improved display might well be enough for many, though, and justifies the little extra you have to pay for the privilege.

Nintendo Switch

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  • Dimensions: 102mm x 239mm x 13.9mm (with Joy-Cons attached)
  • Weight: 297g
  • Display: 6.2-inch LCD, 720p60
  • Storage: 32GB
  • TV mode: Yes, 1080p60
  • Battery life: Up to 9 hours (claimed)

The Nintendo Switch you can buy now is not technically the original - it was upgraded a couple of years ago, with a tweaked processor and better battery life. You can make sure you're not buying the older model in our handy guide here: How to tell if you're buying the new Nintendo Switch or the old one.

Apart from those minor updates, the premise is identical - it is a games console that works as effectively when plugged into a TV as it does when used as a handheld, either somewhere else in the home or on your travels.

Games can be downloaded or plugged into a cartridge slot on the top, although you will likely need to buy a microSD card separately, as the internal 32GB of storage will fill quickly. It might not even be enough for just one of the most popular titles.

The Switch is a 2-in-1 console - it comprises a handheld unit with a 6.2-inch 720p LCD touchscreen, plus two detachable Joy-Con controllers. These can be used when clipped to either side of the screen, for solo portable gaming, as separate controllers for two-players or more, or as motion controllers for certain games.

The screen can also double as a portable display, with a small kickstand enabling you to place it at an angle on a tabletop.

The Switch also doubles as a TV console, when slotted into an included charging dock. As well as charge your device, it has an HDMI output so you can play the same games on a TV in 1080p. Both the screen and TV output are capable of up to 60fps.

Essentially, this version of the Switch is still great for those who want to play both at home and when out and about. The OLED model is the better console overall - particularly if you'll use it in handheld mode a lot - but, with the standard Switch now coming in at a lesser price, this continues to be a very viable option.

Nintendo Switch Lite

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  • Dimensions: 91.1mm x 208mm x 13.9mm
  • Weight: 275g
  • Display: 5.5-inch LCD, 720p60
  • Storage: 32GB
  • TV mode: No
  • Battery life: Up to 7 hours (claimed)

The Nintendo Switch Lite is a bit different to its larger stablemates. It is a handheld-only console, so does not come with detachable Joy-Con controllers or dock. It cannot be plugged into a TV, either.

Instead, it is lighter, as its name suggests, and even more portable. The controls are built into the device and the screen is more compact. It has a 5.5-inch 720p LCD touchscreen that is capable of up to 60fps gaming.

The processing unit is identical to the rest of the family, however, so it is not less capable. It can also play nigh-on every Switch game available now or coming soon. The only exception are many of those that require motion - as you don't have detachable motion controllers. There is still a motion sensor inside the Switch Lite, so some work but not all.

Like the Nintendo Switch above, you only get 32GB of storage inside the Switch Lite, so you should consider a microSD card for expanding that. A cartridge slot is also present for boxed Switch games.

Essentially, the Switch Lite is an ideal option for those who don't need to plug their device into a TV and just want something smaller and easier to chuck into a bag.

Writing by Rik Henderson. Editing by Conor Allison. Originally published on 9 July 2021.