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What can the Nintendo Switch do?

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Switch handheld mode

Since launching 2017, Nintendo’s Switch console has taken the gaming world by storm. It has broken numerous selling records and has re-established Nintendo as the world’s pre-eminent gaming company.

One of the most common questions we get asked is what can the Switch do? It’s a fair question given the fact it’s a hybrid console, already packing in a remarkable amount just in order to play games. In this post, we’ll aim to answer some of the most specific queries we get about what the Switch can and can’t do.

Scroll down, or navigate directly to a specific question using the following links:

Can the Switch connect to the TV?

Yes. Although much of the marketing around the Switch focuses on it being played on the move in portable mode, each console comes packaged with a dock that enables you to connect the Switch to the TV via an HDMI connection.

Doing so will improve the resolution and performance of some games compared to handheld mode, and the dock will also charge the Switch while you play.

Currently, there’s no official way to connect your Switch to a TV without the dock, as the Switch itself doesn’t have an HDMI port.

Can the Switch connect to a laptop?

In almost all cases, no. Though many modern laptops feature an HDMI port, these are almost always HDMI out only, meaning they do not accept an input.

Can the Switch play old games, such as Wii and Wii U games?

Currently, no. The Switch uses cartridges rather than discs, which means any physical Wii or Wii U games you still own can’t be played on the Switch.

There’s also no Virtual Console yet. This is the system that lets gamers buy old games digitally. It’s widely expected that Nintendo will launch this service, but there’s so far been no confirmation of when. The paid online subscription service will launch in September, and it’s possible that Nintendo will launch the Virtual Console then.

There’s also been no word on whether games purchased via the Wii U Virtual Console will be transferable to the Switch.

Are all Switch games on cartridges, or can they be downloaded?

Switch games are available both on cartridges and as downloads. Most major games are available in both formats, but a lot of smaller, independent games aren’t available physically.

Owning games on cartridge means getting a physical copy for your collection, and also takes up less of your Switch’s internal memory. On the downside, there’s always the possibility of misplacing one of the cartridges.

Digital games negate the possibility of losing the cartridge, but if you play a lot, you can quickly take up a lot of your 32GB memory.

Which brings us to…

Can any SD card be used in the Switch?

At the present time, the Switch is only available with 32GB of memory, which can be eaten up pretty quickly if you’re downloading any major titles. Thankfully, the Switch supports microSD cards, so you can expand your storage if necessary.

The Switch uses microSD cards, so standard SD cards will not work. Nintendo recommends either microSD, microSDHC or microSDXC cards as the best choices to work with the Switch.

They also recommend opting for high speed cards. These cards will be marked as supporting UHS-1. This means the Switch will be able to read the card faster and play the games stored on it better.

Can games be shared?

There’s two parts to this question – can they be shared on the same Switch, and can they be shared across Switch consoles?

Sharing games on the same Switch

The Switch allows you to create multiple profiles for different players. However, all profiles will have access to all games (unless restricted via parental controls), regardless of which profile installed a game (via cartridge) or downloaded it. There’s no need to worry about which profile buys which games.

Sharing games between Switch consoles

In terms of cartridge games, the Switch operates in the same manner as Wii U discs. All game save data is saved to the system, not the cartridge itself. This means that if you want to play a cartridge-based game on a different unit, your data won’t move across with the cartridge.

Likewise, you can download all your e-Shop purchases onto a new console without paying again by following these steps.

It’s important to note that as all save data is stored on the system itself, the above methods of sharing games won’t transfer your save files across.

Nintendo have introduced a way to transferring your save data from system to system:

Unfortunately, this method does require having both systems in front of you at the same time. This means that if you lose or seriously damage your Switch, unfortunately you won’t be able to recover your save data.

Nintendo are rumoured to be working on a cloud save solution which would tie your save data to your profile digitally. Until this is implemented, be extra careful!

Can you play online on the Switch?

Yes, some games support online play. You can connect with friends via their unique friend code and compete against them in games such as Splatoon 2 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. In order to utilise more advanced features such as voice chat, you’ll need a special headset and the smartphone app.

Currently, this service is free. However, it will switch to a subscription service in September.

Does the Switch let you browse the internet?

Although the Switch has WiFi and can connect to the internet to let you download game and system updates, as well as play online, there is currently no official way to browse the internet.

There is a browser hidden within the Switch, but Nintendo have yet to make it readily available. In some cases, they make allowances for accessing the browser. One example would be when trying to get on a WiFi network in a hotel or coffee shop that requires you to provide login credentials. Some enterprising gamers have utilised this to unofficially access the Switch’s browser.

Expect to see a browser available relatively soon, once Nintendo have ironed out the kinks of how certain media (such as video) performs on the console.

Can I watch Netflix, YouTube and BBC iPlayer on the Switch?

Unfortunately, not at the moment. There have been several hints that the Netflix app is nearing completion, and Netflix addicts can rest easy in the knowledge that US video on demand service Hulu have managed to create an app for the Switch. That should mean that a Netflix app isn’t too far away.

It’s been quieter on the YouTube and BBC iPlayer front, but it’s fair to assume that both are technically possible and could see the light of day in the future.

Can the Switch play music?

Not currently. As with video on demand apps like Netflix and YouTube, there is no support currently for any of the major music streaming services such as Spotify or Apple Music.

The Switch also doesn’t have any kind of file playing app, so while you can load music files onto an SD card and insert it into the Switch, there’s no way at the moment to play them.

Does the Switch support Bluetooth headphones?

The Switch does not have Bluetooth built-in, meaning you can’t simply connect wireless Bluetooth headphones straight to the system. However, don’t despair! The system now supports wireless headphones via USB dongles.

Check out this handy video from the folks at Nintendo Life explaining the set up:

Essentially, a standard USB dongle can slot straight into the dock and should work straight away. Playing in handheld mode is a bit more complicated, as with a lot of headsets you’ll need a USB to USB-C adaptor to plug into the Switch.

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