What’s going on with Nintendo Switch’s USB-C charging cables?

Sub-standard USB-C cables have caused a lot of trouble, and Nintendo is the latest company to feel the burn. Within the last couple years, Nintendo has released one its newest gaming consoles, Nintendo Switch, which combines a home console and a handheld gaming device.

Nintendo SwitchLast month, many Switch users reported their Switch units were being bricked, meaning they were no longer able to power their devices – turns out that cheap USB-C-to-A cables were to blame.

Nintendo was quick to comment, releasing a statement saying, “Nintendo (recommends) that Switch owners only buy officially licensed Switch products . . . Unlicensed products and accessories do not undergo Nintendo’s testing and evaluation process”. Furthermore, Nintendo’s FAQ section was updated to include an entry regarding third-party cables. Nintendo highlights that not all USB-C-to-A cables are the same and using a USB-C-to-A charging cable is perfectly fine as long as it has a 56 kΩ resistor mounted.

USB-C is different from traditional USB in many ways. USB-C cables can carry up to 100 watts of power, versus 2.5 watts with USB 2.0 or about 15 watts with USB 3.1. Many third-party manufacturers do not follow the USB-C specification properly; as a result, cheap USB cables may be missing the resistor that regulates the higher power.

How Are USB-C Charging Cables Verified?

Total Phase’s Advanced Cable Tester helps manufacturers ensure that cables are of high-quality and perform well and as advertised. The Advanced Cable Tester examines E-Marker, Continuity, DC resistance, and Signal Integrity with results delivered in under 20 seconds.

Advanced Cable Tester

Third-party cables that are missing 56 kΩ resistors would be identified by the Advanced Cable Tester, as it reports on Rp (pull up resistor) and Rd (pull down resistor) functional signals. For USB-C-to-A cables, a 56 kΩ resistor is required, and the resistor value would show up in the Rp section of the test results. If the Rp value is anything other than a 56 kΩ resistor, the Advanced Cable Tester would flag it as an error. The continuity testing capability is included in the Advanced Cable Tester - Level 1 Application.  With the Advanced Cable Tester – Level 2 Application, signal integrity testing is added for quality checks. Here’s a quick look at a test result from the Advanced Cable Tester showing cable continuity tests: Advanced Cable Tester Results

Click here to learn more about the Advanced Cable Tester.

Feel free to reach out to sales@totalphase.com if you have any questions.