The only way to connect the Nintendo Switch to an external display is to use the included dock; the system automatically switches to your television or monitor the moment you slide it into the plastic slot. The system switches back to the built-in 720p display when you remove it. It’s pretty simple, right?
It would even make sense to buy multiple docks if you wanted to make it as simple as possible to move the console from one room of the house to another. All you would need to do is slide the hardware out, take it to the other TV and put it into the second dock.
The only problem, as we now know, is that the docks cost $90 each. What the heck is the little chunk of plastic doing that’s justifying the price?
Why you need the dock
The dock itself is more or less a plastic shell that manages the power cable and the HDMI cable you connect to your television. Here’s a picture from Nintendo that shows you exactly what’s inside:
The dock is kind of neat in that it will keep everything nice and tidy while the connections themselves are kept inside the accessory’s cavity, but there’s nothing going on in there that justifies the $90 cost of the unit if something were to happen with the pack-in dock or you’d like another one.
The Switch itself connects to the dock through its single USB-C port on the bottom to draw power and move the video signal to the television. The system will be able to output a 1080p image when plugged in due to the higher power draw from a wall outlet, but there’s no reason Nintendo couldn’t have simply added an HDMI and power cable to the Switch itself and turned the dock into a literal plastic stand that could be replaced for $10.
The upside to this approach is that it is very simple to slide the Switch in and out of the dock due to the single USB-C connection that handles everything, and it’s unlikely that many people were with me in hoping to buy multiple docks for around the house. Nintendo also has the advantage of hardware that looks like a traditional console and not a tablet with an array of cables running around your entertainment center.
Third-party USB-C docks that can power devices while outputting to HDMI aren’t that much more expensive than what Nintendo is asking, so it’s very possible the company decided that simplicity and aesthetics, not to mention cutting down on ports, was a worthwhile tradeoff.