Nintendo Switch Charger Speed Ratings
I categorize potential Nintendo Switch chargers into one of five speed ratings. The rating scale comes from the power usage and power draw of the Switch. A charger’s speed rating is determined by its connection type (USB-A or USB-C) and power output profiles (Volts/Amps). This infographic shows the rating system and its specifics.
This rating scale applies equally to wall chargers, car chargers, and power banks.
A rating is not an endorsement or review. The rating is based on the listed specs of a charger.
Different USB-C devices need different power profiles. A charger speed rating for the Switch may or may not be “as good” for your other USB-C devices. You can take what you learn here and apply it to your other devices to make a more informed purchase.
You can find details on my safety rating scale here: Switch Charger Safety Ratings.
USB Charger Specifications
There are a lot of terms when looking over the listing for a charger or power bank. They all mean something, but they don’t all mean something for the Switch.
This is the physical connection type used on the charger. For the Switch we’re only interested in USB-C and USB-A.
USB-C aka USB Type-C is the type of connector the Switch takes, the port on its bottom edge. It is not USB 3.1; that is a data transfer specification and not a connector. USB-C may use USB 3.1 for data transfer, but it isn’t required. USB-C offers greater power transfer capability than USB-A.
For the Switch USB-C is always the ideal connector for a fast charge.
USB-A aka USB standard A is the type of connector you think of when someone says USB. It is not USB 1.0/2.0/3.0; those are data transfer specifications and not connectors. A USB-A port or cable may be compatible with USB 3.0 or only USB 1.0, but that doesn’t impact its power transfer performance. USB-A has much more limited power transfer capabilities.
For the Switch USB-A can work using a USB-C to USB-A cable. It offers a slower charge, but it is considered safer by many. There is no evidence that USB-C chargers are unsafe in real world usage.
A charger’s power output is measured in volts (V) and amps (A). Watts are sometimes listed in the product’s name or description.
Volts are the unit for electric potential. Different devices need various volts. A charger must match at least one of those volt requirements to be compatible, else damage can occur.
For the Switch in handheld mode a charger needs to provide 5V, 9V, 12V, or 15V. A docked Switch needs both 5V and 15V available.
Amperage aka amps are the electrical current. Different devices need various amperage. The number of amps can fluctuate during a normal charging process. A charger must offer at least as many amps a device requires, but it can safely offer more amps than needed. The device should only draw what it needs.
For the Switch in handheld mode the number of amps required depends on the voltage offered. The Switch will take the highest voltage which provides enough amps:
A docked Switch requires 15V/2.6A and 5V/1.5A.
Watts are a unit of power. You can calculate the watts of any charger: V * A = W. With USB chargers a watt listing can indicate its volt and amp profiles, but always check the specs. Some chargers don’t follow USB power standards (like the Switch’s own AC adapter).
With power banks you want to pay attention to both its power output and power input. Output is the charge available to the Switch or other USB device. The input is the charge the power bank itself can draw from a USB charger to recharge itself. A large capacity (mAh) power bank with a low input can mean a long recharge time.
USB Power Delivery
USB Power Delivery aka USB PD is a power transfer specification. USB PD 2.0 and 3.0 works with USB-C, but it is not required for USB-C (all PD 2.0 are USB-C, but not all USB-C are PD 2.0).
Power Delivery 2.0/3.0 protocols use four voltage levels: 5V, 9V, 15V, and 20V. Amperage varies from 0.1A to 5A. Under the specification a single charger could range from 0.5W (10% of what your phone needs) to 100W (run a 15-inch MacBook Pro with power to spare).
For the Switch any Power Delivery 2.0/3.0 compliant charger should meet its greatest draw capacity in handheld mode.
Qualcomm’s Quick Charge is technology found in some USB devices. It manages power delivery over USB, offering more power than normal USB specifications. As such the supported devices charge faster.
The Switch does not support Quick Charge, so it offers no benefit. But neither is it harmful to the Switch, the tech will be inert. A Quick Charge charger or power bank may be of benefit it your phone supports Quick Charge and you want a single charger for your phone and Switch.
PowerIQ, iSmart, and Other Marketing Terms
Anker’s PowerIQ, RAVPower’s iSmart, and similar “smart power” is fast charging tech. Their chargers attempt to offer more power than the USB specification. You can identify them by their USB-A output specs: 5V/2A and 5V/2.4A (standard is 5V/1.5A). These also align with Apple’s own fast charge USB “hack” standard.
In most cases the Switch does not take advantage of this technology. The only 5V/2.4A charger I know can charge the Switch faster is Apple’s 12W USB Power Adapter. It can recharge the Switch at 5V/2A (10W), making it the only known “Good” rated single port USB-A charger. A high quality USB-C to USB-A cable is required.
Switch Power Requirements
The charger is only half of the connection. The other half is the Switch itself. How much power it actually draws depends not only on the charger but its own status.
Switch Power Consumption
The most power it’ll need is ~8.75W.
The more watts used, the faster the Switch’s battery will drain and the slower it’ll recharge. Reducing screen brightness and turning off Wi-Fi will reduce power consumption.
To recharge the Switch while playing a game the charger needs to provide more power than is being used. A charger providing 10W (USB-C) will recharge the battery during game play. That is regardless of power usage. How well a charger providing 7.5W (USB-A) helps the Switch’s battery life will depend on the power usage. At max usage it’ll reduce the battery drain, extending game play by ~5 hours. At equal usage (less demanding game, reduced brightness) it may hold the line. At low usage (idle) it’ll recharge the Switch.
Switch Power Input
The Switch’s actual power input depends on the charger’s connection type and power output.
USB-A Charger’s Output: 5V/2.4A (12W)
Switch’s Input: 5V/1.5A (7.5W)
USB-C Charger’s Output: 5V/3A (15W)
Switch’s Input: 5V/2A (10W)
USB-C PD Charger’s Output: 9V/3A (27W)
Switch’s Input: 9V/2A (18W)
USB-C PD Charger’s Output: 15V/3A (45W)
Switch’s Input: 15V/1.2A (18W)
While docked the Switch changes its power input needs.
USB-C PD Charger’s Output: 15V/3A (45W)
Docked Switch’s Input: 15V/2.6A (39W)
The dock without a Switch will take in 5V/1.5A (7.5W) of power. This charges any connected USB devices, such as a controller.
For a charger to work with the dock it must provide both 5V/1.5A and 15V/2.6A. Remember the volts must be exact, but a charger can safely provide more amps than required.
Switch Charger Speed Rating Scale
Now we get into how my Switch charger speed ratings brings this all together.
USB-C chargers with the right power profiles to run the Switch’s included dock. The dock, with a Switch connected, requires 15V/2.6A (39W) of power. The dock also requires 5V/1.5A for when a Switch isn’t connected, but a USB device is charging from the dock.
Some advertised 45W or higher chargers will meet this criteria, as they should provide 15V/3A and 5V/3A. But don’t rely on the watt number, check the volt and amps. Apple’s USB-C laptop chargers (61W and 87W) will not power a Switch’s dock, as they don’t have a 15V power profile.
A Superb charger will also charge a Switch in handheld mode at the fastest possible rate.
USB-C chargers with enough output to maximize the power input of the Switch in handheld mode (18W). They provide the fastest possible charge, recharging the Switch under any condition.
Any advertised USB-C PD (Power Delivery) charger should meet this criteria. But as not all chargers follow standards be sure to check their specs.
USB-C chargers with the standard power output of 5V/3A. They provide a charge under any condition, but not as fast as a Great charger. When idle you won’t notice a difference, but during game play you will.
You can find Great and Superb wall chargers at the same price or a few dollars more. With power banks this is your “best value” level.
USB-A chargers that offer 1.5A or more. They can keep you playing provided you reduce screen brightness and turn off Wi-Fi. Worst case you’ll get an extra 5 hours of game play.
You may already own a charger or power bank at this rating. If your needs are low or you only recharge between game sessions it may not be worth buying an upgrade, get the required USB-C to USB-A cable instead. But if you are buying something new consider going with USB-C.
USB-A chargers which offer 1A or less. These are small phone chargers and USB ports in cars and planes. They can only charge your Switch when asleep, otherwise it won’t draw any power. Under powering the Switch can hurt its battery’s lifespan.
Spend some money and get a proper USB-A or USB-C charger.