Nintendo Switch third-party dock bricking explained by an engineer

There is a rather big market for third-party Nintendo Switch accessories but the one thing that continues to worry Switch owners is the charging dock. Nintendo's Official version is large and expensive but third-party options risk bricking the gaming handheld. The latter has largely been blamed on Nintendo's implementation of the USB-C Power Delivery feature which is believed to be non-compliant with the standard spec. According to an electrical engineer, however, those third-party docks might be the ones to blame instead.

A certain VECTORDRIVER went on Reddit to apply both his electrical engineering background and his Nintendo Switch chops to put one of the console's biggest mysteries to rest. With Switches being refusing to charge after using third-party docks, who is to blame? Is Nintendo just being greedy by wanting all users to buy only first-party original accessories or are those third-party OEMs also to blame?

According to the engineer, it might be the latter. Most bricked Switches exhibit malfunctioning Power Deliver chips. With a bit of sleuthing, VECTORDRIVER discovered that the Switch's chip can only accept 6 volts max on the Configuration Channel (CC) pin. Some docks like Nyko's apparently send 9 volts through that pin, thereby frying the PD chip in the Switch. Others may have also made manufacturing errors in the USB C plug in attempts to emulate Nintendo's design, causing the VBus pin, which carries 15 volts, to accidentally cross with the CC pin beside it.

In other words, VECTORDRIVER is suggesting that third-party dock makers have cut corners by not implementing proper PD controllers or have bad quality USB C connectors which causes the bricking. While the engineer doesn't deny that Nintendo's implementation is not PD compliant on a technical level, the divergence is not enough to cause the reported bricking from third-party docks.

Some might take this analysis with a grain of salt but, unfortunately, there is no definite way to confirm nor deny VECTORDRIVER's claims. Even more unfortunate, the USB-C world itself is a bit of a mess at the moment and the Nintendo Switch's case is actually just one in a sea of many cases involving the relatively young technology.