All you need to know about playing Switch while charging it

You’re deep into a Switch session and the low battery notification pops up: Can you just plug your charger in and carry on? How long does a Switch take to charge?

Can you play Switch while charging it?

Yes, you can play your Nintendo Switch while charging it in either handheld or docked mode. This applies to all Switch models (original, OLED, Lite) and it’s perfectly OK to do so.

In this article, I’ll talk about what happens when you play your Switch while charging it in handheld or docked mode, whether or not doing this damages the battery, how long it takes to charge your Switch, and what you can use to charge it. 

Handheld mode

If you’re playing in handheld mode, just plug the charging cable (USB-C) into the Switch console and you’ll be able to play as usual. 

GIF showing my Nintendo Switch playing The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild while charging with animated lightning bolts next to the charging port

I was certainly glad to be able to play Breath of the Wild while charging – it’s the only Switch-exclusive Game of the Year winner for a reason.

A notification pops up in the top left corner of the screen when you plug your charging cable in to confirm that the console is charging and display the current battery percentage. 

You’ll also see a lightning bolt on the battery indicator in the top right of the Switch home screen (which disappears at full charge).

The position of the Nintendo Switch USB-C port – in the middle at the bottom – is annoying if you want to use the kickstand or rest your hands on something (like a cushion) while charging and playing. 

For comparison, the Steam Deck’s charging port is on the top of the console so the cable doesn’t get in the way so much. I find it much more comfortable to play my Steam Deck while it’s charging than my Switch. 

Does the Switch charge on the Dock?

Yes, the Nintendo Switch charges while in the dock. The console’s screen will turn off and the battery will begin charging once it is properly docked.

Does keeping the Switch docked ruin the battery?

Leaving the Nintendo Switch in the dock does not damage the battery as the console’s charging system is designed to prevent overcharging. Once the battery is fully charged, the charging system will stop charging the battery to prevent damage.

In other words, it’s safe to leave the Nintendo Switch in the dock when not in use.

Does playing Switch while charging damage the battery?

Playing a Nintendo Switch while it is charging will not damage the battery.

‘Overcharging’ electronic devices is much less of an issue now that Lithium Ion batteries (like the one used in the Switch) are commonplace. 

The vast majority of modern devices (including the Nintendo Switch) are manufactured so as to prevent a battery from receiving charge when it is already full. 

It is normal for battery life to decay gradually over time and after many charge cycles. My calculations based on Nintendo’s official numbers show you can expect more than three years of significant daily play before your Switch battery capacity starts to reduce.

Some devices are even able to reduce the charge received when the battery gets close to full (e.g., at 95% capacity and above) to minimize degradation. 

This all makes sense when you think about the Switch’s dual role as both a handheld console and a traditional home console: It wouldn’t be much use if the Switch battery was damaged every time you played it while it was charging on the dock.

What battery does the Nintendo Switch have?

All Nintendo Switch models have a lithium ion internal battery. 

The original and OLED Switch models both have a 4310mAH lithium ion battery, which Nintendo says will last anywhere from 4.5 to 9 hours, depending on which game you are playing (less resource intensive games like Toem or A Short Hike will obviously be towards the 9-hour end of this range).

The lithium ion battery in the Switch Lite has a slightly smaller capacity at 3570mAH. According to Nintendo, that’ll give you anywhere from 3 to 7 hours of gameplay depending on the game you are playing and other settings.

That’s plenty for a handheld console, and it’s partly due to the fact that the Switch is not that powerful overall.

Here’s a great video comparison of the real-life battery performances of each Nintendo Switch model: 

Spolier: At medium settings playing Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, you’ll get around 3 hours of playtime on a V1 Switch (manufactured pre-August 2019), 4 hours on a Switch Lite, and over 5 and a half hours on the V2 (original models manufactured post-August 2019) and OLED Switch. 

How long does a Switch take to charge? 

It takes approximately 3 hours to charge a Nintendo Switch when using the official AC adapter and USB-C cable (and the Switch console is in sleep mode or powered off).

Some testing has actually demonstrated that the Switch charges more quickly when being played than when in sleep mode. This is because the Switch draws more power under stress conditions (i.e. playing energy-intensive games) than in sleep mode. 

The difference between power use is lower than the difference in power drawn between gaming and sleep mode, therefore more power goes to the battery in gaming mode.

What about while you are playing in handheld mode?

If you’re playing your Switch in handheld mode while charging, the time to 100% charge will depend on:

  • The game you are playing
  • Your settings (such as brightness, sound, and WiFi)
  • The charger you are using

Using WiFi for anything (such as playing multiplayer or downloading games that you have archived or deleted from your Switch) is energy-intensive – your Switch may charge more quickly in airplane mode. 

If your Switch battery is completely dead, it should reach 1% (enough for your to turn it on and play while charging) after around 15 minutes of charging.

Does the Switch charge faster in the dock?

When in gaming mode and not fully charged, a docked Switch draws less power than a Switch in handheld mode. This implies that it would charge faster in this situation.

The amount of power drawn in sleep mode is roughly comparable when docked or in handheld mode.

Charging your Switch using the official dock will be faster than using third-party docks or cables.

Does the Switch charge faster without Joy-Cons attached?

This analysis at indicates that the Switch console draws more power when the Joy-Cons are attached if it is on and partly charged, or charging but in sleep mode. 

That makes sense when you think about the useful Joy-Con features that all need a little power. 

When fully charged, the amount of power drawn with or without Joy-Cons is identical. 

These results were the same whether the Switch was docked or in handheld mode, and they mean that the console likely charges more quickly without the Joy-Cons attached.

(Note that these results may differ for an original V2 or OLED model). 

Can you use any USB-C cable to charge the Nintendo Switch?

Yes, you can use any USB-C charger to power up your Nintendo Switch.

However, for best results (fastest charging times and to avoid any potential damage), it’s best to use the official Nintendo AC adapter and cable supplied in the box. 

Why does the Switch charge slower with a phone charger?

The Nintendo Switch requires a cable and AC adapter that deliver a certain amount of power in order to charge efficiently. Some phone chargers don’t deliver enough power, so charging takes a lot longer. 

Some phone chargers may not even deliver enough juice to keep the Switch console powered on while in docked mode because the dock’s USB ports and other power inefficiencies mean the power usage is more than double that of the console on its own:

A piechart showing power draw of the Nintendo Switch console and dock while in docked mode
Power usage of the Nintendo Switch Dock – data and image credit:

Can you use a power bank to charge the Switch?

Yes, you can use a power bank to charge the Switch. 

Using a power bank is unlikely to damage your battery (or do anything like blue-screen your Switch). However, the console may charge slowly if the power bank is unable to deliver sufficient power. 

Summary: Can you play Switch while charging it?

You can play your Switch while it’s charging. Some tests have even demonstrated that the Switch charges more quickly when being played than in sleep mode. For best results, use the AC adapter and cable supplied by Nintendo. 

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