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The Nintendo Switch's brains are in its handheld unit, not the dock

Dock handles power and TV output

Nintendo Switch gallery
Sliding the Nintendo Switch into its dock.

Yesterday’s Nintendo Switch reveal left plenty of questions in the air, and while Nintendo isn’t providing many further details, the company is clarifying a few points. For one, the primary piece of the hybrid console is the unit with the screen, not the dock, the company said in a statement to Polygon.

The news was first reported by IGN.

“The main function of the Nintendo Switch Dock is to provide an output to the TV, as well as charging and providing power to the system,” a Nintendo representative told Polygon. Of course, that could mean that the dock performs some computation or processing in order to format the game for output to a TV, or handles other tasks.

But the handheld unit of the Nintendo Switch contains all the hardware components of the system — games are running directly on the device, which is why you can slide the Switch’s Joy-Con controllers onto either side of it. When you drop the unit into the dock, the dock begins charging it and outputting the game to an external screen over an HDMI connection.

Nintendo Switch console/dock photo
Note the two USB ports on the left side of the Nintendo Switch Dock.

There are also two USB ports on the left side of the dock, which could be used for charging controllers or connecting other accessories. We don’t know whether the Nintendo Switch uses USB or some kind of proprietary connection for its peripherals; Nintendo has only revealed one so far, the wireless Nintendo Switch Pro Controller.

This is the exact opposite setup from the design of the Wii U. Nintendo’s current console has a traditional set-top box containing all the guts of the Wii U. The Wii U GamePad can’t function without that box — the console wirelessly streams video and audio to the handheld unit. (The Wii U does not need to be connected to a television, however; as long as it’s plugged in, you can play entirely on the GamePad.)

The Nintendo Switch represents the strongest attempt yet by the company to blur the lines between console and portable. This time around, the games will run just the same whether the screen is sitting in the dock or sitting on an airplane seat’s tray table.

Nintendo will launch the Switch worldwide in March 2017.

Update: Polygon later received comment from Nintendo on the dock’s capabilities; we’ve edited the article to reflect this.

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