Every Nintendo Switch comes with a Joy-Con Grip, an accessory that holds two Joy-Con controllers in a form factor that resembles a standard gamepad. But that unit won’t charge the Joy-Con devices — for that, you may want to buy a separate peripheral known as the Joy-Con Charging Grip.
This may or may not have been obvious to you; the Charging Grip is listed as a $29.99 accessory on the Nintendo Switch website. Either way, Nintendo didn’t make it completely clear until a livestream on Friday morning, during which Nintendo Treehouse employees showed off the Switch hardware and various games.
Nate Bihldorff, senior director for localization at Nintendo Treehouse, was discussing the standard Joy-Con Grip as he held it in his hands. He then explained the difference between the two Grips: “There’s also a Charging Grip accessory that’ll come as well, that you can actually plug these into — plug a spare set of Joy-Con into — and charge.”
As you can see in the image above, the two units are not identical. The Grip that’s included in the Switch box is opaque, with a matte gray finish. The Joy-Con Charging Grip is also gray, but it’s translucent — just like the $69.99 Switch Pro Controller.
In case it wasn’t clear, the standard Grip is essentially just a plastic shell that holds two Joy-Con controllers. Only the Charging Grip will charge the batteries of the Joy-Con pads; there’s a USB-C port on top of the unit. While you won’t need to buy the Charging Grip in order to keep your Joy-Con controllers powered — they’ll charge whenever they’re attached to the Switch unit — there does not appear to be a way to plug the Joy-Con pads directly into USB power or a wall outlet.
Joy-Con controllers contain a nonremovable 525 mAh battery that will last for approximately 20 hours, according to Nintendo. The company notes that the capacity of those batteries — as with all lithium-ion batteries — will degrade over time. Whether the pads are hooked up to a Charging Grip or a Switch, it will take about three and a half hours to charge them from empty to full.
Update: As our own Nick Robinson points out, this setup means that if your Joy-Con controllers die while you’re using them wirelessly and you don’t own a Charging Grip, the only way to keep playing is to use the Switch in portable mode — i.e., pick up the unit and slide the Joy-Con pads onto it, so you can use them while they charge. Not ideal!