Safely Charging the Nintendo Switch
What Chargers & Power Banks Are Safe?
Any good quality charger is safe to use with the Switch, provided you also use a safe cable. I have seen no evidence to make me think otherwise. Most of the Switch community feels this way as well.
But not everyone feels this way. There has been testing which showed the Switch doesn’t behave as a USB-C device should. And not everyone views their Switch and/or their game time at the same level of investment. With that in mind I put much more into the question of Switch charging safety. Check out my safety rating scale, then continue to read to see all data available. You should find the level you feel comfortable with third party chargers for your Switch.
I categorize potential Nintendo Switch chargers into one of five safety ratings. This rating scales takes into account all the topics below. It also reflects the risk tolerance levels of the Switch community. Most people are a 3, some and a 5, and the rest fall between.
My ratings are not an endorsement or review. It is a reflection of the device’s specs in comparison to known factors of charging a Switch.
★★★★★ – Nintendo Produced/Licensed
- Nintendo tests licensed products and guarantees their compatibility and performance.
- For Switch owners who don’t want to leave Nintendo’s support umbrella. They are willing to give up savings and convenience for security.
★★★★☆ – USB-IF Certified, USB-A
- A USB-C device that meets the USB Implementors Forum’s strict standards can receive USB-IF certification.
- Several Nintendo support sites and agents have suggested using USB-A power banks. Use a USB-C to USB-A cable with a 56k Ohm resistor or USB-IF certification.
- For Switch owners who want convenience, but also reassurance.
★★★☆☆ – USB-C with Standard Power Profiles
- USB-C chargers with power outputs that follow USB-C or USB-C PD standards. Use a USB-IF certified USB-C to USB-C cable.
- Lack of USB-IF certification does not make a charger unsafe. In some cases certification is forgone to support extra standards. Such as Apple/Android fast charging. A company also has to be a paying member of the USB-IF to advertise certification.
- For Switch owners who are comfortable with third party products. They feel safe based on the fact there hasn’t been a confirmed issue with a third party power source and Switch.
Anything above this is safe to use for the Switch in handheld mode. There has been no good evidence of real world issues. What negative reports we have are anecdotal, lack details, and don’t support one another. That said, a bad product is still a bad product, regardless of its specs. Do your homework and get something you feel comfortable using. This site does not list any products below these ratings.
★★☆☆☆ – Unusual Power Profiles, 2+ USB-C Ports, >3A Output
- Chargers to avoid.
- 2+ USB-C ports and >3A output are some of the specs with overdraw concerns.
- I’ll also put unknown chargers with unlisted specs or poor reviews/review analytic scores here.
★☆☆☆☆ – Known Issues
- Do not use!
Third Party Accessories
In electronics a third party accessory is from a company who is independent of the device’s producer. In this case an accessory that works with the Nintendo Switch but is not made or licensed by Nintendo.
Third party accessories are common across all electronics. They enhance and fill niches users want. Generally they are safe to use, with more risk of poor performance than damage. But there is the occasional bad apple. It is standard for the primary manufacturer to not support or recommend third party accessories. Their warranty only covers their own products. They don’t spend resources testing “compatible” products on the market. And some of the third party accessories compete against their own products.
Nintendo On Third Party Chargers
Nintendo’s positions on using third party chargers varies across their different regions. The universal message is that unlicensed accessories are not guaranteed by Nintendo. But they make no direct statement that unlicensed products are unsafe.
Nintendo Co., Ltd. (parent company, covers East Asia) has support Q&As 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.
Nintendo of America’s Switch support site discusses using the included AC adapter. They mention no other charging options. During the reports of third party docks bricking Switches in March 2018 NoA released this statement:
“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.”
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.
USB-IF certification means a USB product has met standards set by the USB Implementers Forum.
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.
For a USB product to gain USB-F certification is must pass testing by the USB-IF Compliance Program.
For a USB product to advertise USB-IF certification the parent company has to register (and pay) to become a member of the USB-IF.
USB-IF certification is a strong indicator of a good product. Lack of certification is not a strong indicator of anything. In some cases certification is forgone to support extra standards. Such as Apple/Android fast charging. Some companies choose not to pay to become members. Or they may sell products that are USB-IF certified from the factory, but they can’t advertise it as they themselves aren’t paying members.
56k Ohm Resistor
When the Switch connects to a USB-C power source there is a “negotiation.” Then the Switch draws from the power source. Older USB connections, such as USB-A, do not support the communication lines USB-C does. Improper design could lead to a USB-C device attempting to draw 3A (standard for USB-C). Most USB-A power sources cannot handle that much current. The result can be a dead power source, and in some cases a damaged USB-C port.
The 56k Ohm resistor prevents this possible overdraw. Nintendo and others recommend using USB-C to USB-A cables with the resistor. Some cables do not have the resistor, or they have a 10k Ohm resistor which isn’t enough.
The cable included with the Pro Controller and Joy-Con Charging Grip has the resistor. As does the Nintendo licensed cable made by PowerA. Many other cables have the resistor and list it in the product description. A USB-IF certified C-to-A cable would also have the resistor.
USB-C to USB-C cables do not have the same potential overdraw issue. You don’t need to look for this particular resistor with them. For USB-C to USB-C it is best to get USB-IF certified cables.
The Switch is Not USB-C Compliant
Nathan K, a hardware engineer who did a lot of 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 are the source of warnings the Switch could overdraw by 300%.
- Part 1
- Part 2
- Detailed Writeup
- USB-C Compliance Rant
- Nathan’s comment to his work getting attention on Reddit
The overdraw (seen in Part 1) occurs with a docked Switch connected to an Anker USB-C power bank. At the time of the test no Anker power bank had enough output to power a docked Switch. This is before Nathan found a docked Switch will only operate with a specific power profile (15V/2.6A). The Switch requests 15V/0.5A, then improperly shifts to 1.5A (300%). The 1.5A output is not beyond either device’s specs. The particular function involved is common in power banks, charges with 2+ USB-C ports, and >3A output.
In the Detailed Writeup 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. Nintendo could fix the issue with a firmware update. There have been several such updates since this testing. But we don’t know if the issue has been addressed. Nintendo doesn’t share update details on this level. And no similar testing has been done since. In the event of such an overdraw it would most likely damage the power source.
As 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 a lot of USB-C devices on the market are outside USB compliance.
Nathan’s comment to the Switch community more than a year after his tests are to remain calm. He stands by the data, but it is old and he is a lone tester. It is also worth noting Nintendo has since licensed USB-C power banks from Anker for use with the Switch.
Third Party Docks
There have been issues reported with third party docks for the Switch. A third party dock includes any product which connects to the Switch to output video to a TV or display. Several brands have “bricked” (device won’t function and isn’t recoverable) Switches. Nyko is the most infamous, but there are others. If a bricked Switch gets repaired/replaced under warranty the saved game data is often lost. There is currently no way to backup your data except to transfer it to another Switch. For that your Switch must be functional. You can read more about this issue in my Switch Bricking FAQ.
Stick with Nintendo’s dock and use its included power adapter. Nintendo is bringing cloud saves with the Nintendo Switch Online program. That will be available in September 2018 and cost $20/year.