Safely Charge the Nintendo Switch

Safety Ratings

Safety Ratings

It is safe to charge the Nintendo Switch with a third-party USB charger or power bank. There have been no confirmed reports of quality charger damaging a Switch console. There have been problems with third party docks. But those issues stem from bad Power Delivery protocols on the dock’s power transfer chip. As with any accessory do your homework and buy well-reviewed and quality products. Here we’ll go over Nintendo’s history with third-party chargers. Licensing and certifications you can look for. And why there are concerns with safely charging a Nintendo Switch in the first place.

Chargers for the Nintendo Switch | Portable Chargers for the Nintendo Switch

Listed wall chargers and power banks on this site are considered safe to use with the Nintendo Switch and other devices. You can also check out my reviews which dig deeper into their safety.

Have questions about fast charging your Switch? Check out How Nintendo Switch Charging Works.

Nintendo On Third-Party Chargers

Nintendo’s position on using third party chargers varies across their different regions. Their universal message is that unlicensed accessories are not guaranteed by Nintendo. As said when Nintendo of America released this statement during the third party dock bricking scare:

Unlicensed products and accessories do not undergo Nintendo’s testing and evaluation process. They might not work at all with our game systems, and they could have compatibility problems with certain games, the Nintendo Switch system itself, and other licensed accessories and peripherals.

Nintendo Co., Ltd. (parent company, covers East Asia) has a support Q&A for Japan and Hong Kong. They go over using a USB-A power bank with the Switch. They do “not guarantee the operation,” but they do go over getting the best results. Nintendo recommends using the cable included with the Pro Controller and Joy-Con Charging Grip. Or use a third-party USB-C to USB-A cable with a 56k Ohm resistor. Note a USB-C to USB-C cable doesn’t have the same 56k Ohm resistor requirement.

Nintendo of America’s Switch support site discusses using the included AC adapter. They make no mention of other charging options.

An episode of Nintendo Minute featured travel tips for the Switch. In it, they suggest having power banks for long flights. They showed off unreleased MimoPowerDecks with Nintendo licensed designs, which are USB-A power banks.

It is important to note that none of these statements have specific concerns with safely charging the Nintendo Switch. Nor has any other statement from Nintendo. They are reasonably covering themselves from liability when it comes to accessories they do not control.

Nintendo Licensed Third-Party Chargers

Nintendo licensing means Nintendo has tested a product. And guarantees its compatibility and performance with their console. As well that it will safely charge the Nintendo Switch. Licensed by Nintendo products offer Switch owners a way to use an accessory not made by Nintendo. But remain under Nintendo’s support umbrella.

Anker PowerCore 13400 Nintendo Switch Edition

  • 22.5W USB-C Power Delivery
  • Charges Switch as fast as possible in handheld mode
  • Provides an extra 5 to 7.5+ hours of playtime, depending on your model Switch
  • Includes USB-C to USB-C cable
  • A unique offering from Anker

Review of the Anker PowerCore 13400 Nintendo Switch Edition

Anker PowerCore 20100 Nintendo Switch Edition

  • 24W USB-C Power Delivery
  • Charges Switch as fast as possible in handheld mode
  • Provides an extra 8 to 12+ hours of playtime, depending on your model Switch
  • Includes USB-C to USB-C cable
  • Discontinued

Review of the Anker PowerCore 20100 Nintendo Switch Edition

Nintendo Switch High Speed Car Charger by HORI

  • 15W USB-C
  • Built-in cable, 6 feet
  • Charges Switch while you play in handheld mode
  • Not a fast charger, but more than enough to keep playing throughout a long road trip

PDP Nintendo Switch Play & Charge Car Adapter

  • 15W USB-C
  • Built-in cable, 5 feet
  • Charges Switch while you play in handheld mode
  • Not a fast charger, but more than enough to keep playing throughout a long road trip

PowerA Nintendo Switch Car Charger

  • 15W USB-C
  • Built-in cable, 6 feet
  • Charges Switch while you play in handheld mode
  • Not a fast charger, but more than enough to keep playing throughout a long road trip

There are no licensed, third party wall chargers. Only Nintendo’s own Switch AC Adapter.

USB-IF Certification

The USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) is a non-profit organization. Formed by Agere Systems, Apple, HP, Intel, Microsoft, and NEC. It promotes and markets USB. It also maintains USB specifications and a standards compliance program. They offer certification (USB-IF certified) for USB-C products that meet their strict compliance. To gain certification a product must pass their USB-IF Compliance Program. And the producing company must be a dues-paying member of the USB-IF.

USB-IF certification is a strong indicator of a good product. But the lack of certification is not a strong indicator of anything. In some cases, certification is forgone to support extra standards. For example, Quick Charge 3.0 is not allowed on a USB-C port under USB-IF standards. But such devices exist, without any bad reports. Certifications started in late 2017. Products which pre-date that often don’t submit for certification. And some companies are not dues-paying members of the USB-IF, such as RAVPower and Inateck. These are even members of the USB-IF who ignore certification, such as Apple and HP.

If you see USB-IF certification that is in the product’s favor. But lack of certification is not a red flag on its own.

USB-C Cables

In the first couple of years USB-C was on the market there were problems with poor quality USB-C cables. Some damaged smaller electronics. With today’s cables, this is rarely the case. Most of the bad cables were found and pulled before the Switch’s release. And USB-IF certification was also introduced. Amazon has taken efforts to remove known bad cables from their listings. But you should remain vigilant when buying cables. Especially from an unknown brand with few reviews.

USB-C to USB-C Cables

You would use a USB-C to USB-C cable with the Switch and a USB-C charger. Most of any you find today can safely charge the Nintendo Switch. There are many more certified cables than chargers. And those from big brands are reasonably priced.

  • USB-IF certified cables have proven they meet USB specifications and safety requirements
  • Major charger brands (Anker, RAVPower) usually have good cables, if not certified
  • Nylon-braided cables have more durable exteriors, but their internal components are the same

USB-C to USB-A Cables

You can use an older USB-A charger with the Switch. But USB-A doesn’t support the communication line USB-C uses to “negotiate” power transfer. As a result, it is possible a USB-C device could attempt to draw 3A from a USB-A power source. And most USB-A power sources cannot handle 3A. This could result in an overdraw, potentially damaging the charger. And in rare cases the Switch.

  • Use cables that list having a 56k Ohm resistor. The resistor prevents the overdraw issue.
  • A USB-IF certified USB-C to USB-A cable will also have the resistor.
  • The cable included with the Pro Controller, Joy-Con Charging Grip, and Poké Ball Plus have the resistor. As does the Nintendo licensed cable made by PowerA.

USB-C to USB-C cables do not need the resistor, as they do not suffer from the same overdraw issue.

Listed USB-C cables on this site are considered safe to use with the Nintendo Switch and other devices.

Nintendo Switch is Not USB-C Compliant

The Nintendo Switch does not fully conform to USB-C specifications. Partly because its development pre-dated the finalization of USB-C specifications. And partly because USB-C is a complicated system that supports lots of technologies. Few devices, including the Switch, support all included capabilities. So it isn’t uncommon for a device to “skip” over the parts it doesn’t use. This disrupts the universal compatibility promised by USB-C. But given the costs involved it is unexpected. And Nintendo is by no means alone when it comes to such practices. But lack of compliance does not necessarily mean safely charging the Nintendo Switch is difficult.

Safely charging Nintendo Switch rating system

My old Switch charger safety rating system

Overdraw Concerns

Nathan K, a hardware engineer who does reviews of USB-C accessories, tested the Switch in May 2017. He found many issues where the Switch did not behave as it should according to USB-C standards. His posts were the source of warnings the Switch could overdraw by 300%. Unfortunately, his original post is no longer available. As it was on Google+, which has since shut down.

Nathan K’s Posts Summary

The overdraw mentioned occurs with a docked Switch connected to an Anker USB-C power bank. The Switch requests 15V/0.5A. The power source re-advertised its available options. When it did the Switch improperly shifted to 1.5A (a 300% increase). It did so without proper negotiation, which is against the Power Delivery protocol.

Nathan specifically notes concerns with power banks, 2+ USB-C chargers, and >3A chargers. The overdraw occurred during a split PDO. A split PDO is when a power source advertises one set of Power Data Objects (PDO), then lists a different set on a second advertisement. At the time of his post, those types of chargers tended to use split PDO. It has since become normal behavior for more USB-C PD chargers. It is used to offer a lower, safer power profile at first and figure out the optimal power profile later. For the end-user, their device starts charging immediately, without signs of delay. For the device, it and the charger work out the best power profile to use safely.

Nathan also noted the issue could be resolved with a firmware update.

In another post, Nathan sees similar behavior with a handheld Switch. But he doesn’t give the same warning. The Switch requests 0.5A then moves on to full amperage. The behavior is a function of the Switch. It is against USB-C protocols and causes errors, but it appears to be intentional. Nathan also notes a lot of USB-C products from 2016-2017 are outside of standards. When the Switch was being developed standards were volatile and certification testing unfinished. Because of this many USB-C devices on the market are outside USB compliance.

Evaluating Nathan K’s Posts

At the time of the test, no Anker power bank had enough output to power a docked Switch. This was done before Nathan found a docked Switch will only operate with a specific power profile (15V/2.6A).

The 1.5A draw in and of itself isn’t dangerous to the Switch or USB-C power source. Both are capable of the current. And improperly changing voltage is far more likely to result in damage. Regardless, the behavior is not allowed under USB-C PD standards.

Since the test (May 2017) several firmware updates for the Switch have been released. Nintendo does not share complete details on these updates. So the issue may be no longer present. Nathan borrowed his test Switch and has not revisited his work. To date, there have been no confirmed issues reported between a Switch and a power bank. In the summer of 2018, Nintendo licensed USB-C power banks from Anker for use with the Switch.

Nathan’s comment to the Switch community more than a year after his tests was to remain calm. He stood by the data, but it is old and he is a lone tester. The technical information is complicated, as is the USB-C PD protocol.

Concerns with 65-100W Chargers

A 65-100W USB-C PD charger does so by providing more than 3A at 20V. The Switch doesn’t make use of 20V. But such chargers negotiate differently than a 15-60W charger. They need to verify the connected USB-C cable can handle more than 3A. And unfortunately, there isn’t an industry-standard way to do so.

Most USB-C cables only support up to 3A. Those which support 5A must also include an eMarker. Which is used to share the cable’s capabilities with the charger and device. The ideal way for high output chargers to negotiate is to advertise up to 60W when a device is connected. Then re-advertise (split PDO) its full capabilities once it verifies the cable’s eMarker.

But the ideal is not always how things work. Apple’s 87W USB-C power adapter offers 20V/4.3A. To deal with potentially non-5A cables it forces the device to 5V/2.4A (12W, way below 60W) until it can verify the cable. This behavior has caused reports of forcing a restart of the Switch. Those many users report no issues, too.

Other high output chargers can approach this issue in other ways. As such they should be taken on an individual basis. Rather than all clumped together as being good or bad for the Switch and other low power draw devices.