The Nintendo Switch may have a weaker-than-desirable Wi-Fi radio, according to numerous reports of signal strength issues with Nintendo’s new console.
Switch owners in places like the GameFAQs forums, NeoGAF and Reddit are saying that they’re getting slow internet speeds, which is causing issues such as long buffering times for trailers in the eShop. The Switch reports wireless signal strength in an icon that displays bars from zero to three, and the users who are affected by the issue say that even with the device sitting relatively close to their wireless router, the signal strength never goes above two bars.
The Switch’s wireless networking chip — which is a Broadcom BCM4356, according to iFixit’s teardown — supports 802.11ac Wi-Fi on 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. The latter frequency offers higher speeds but reduced range; the former frequency often encounters a greater degree of interference, because so many devices use it.
Nintendo’s support site features a few different pages for error codes related to network connection issues. A common recommendation from the company is to move the Switch closer to a router, at least for the troubleshooting process. “If possible, place the Nintendo Switch within 10 to 15 feet of the wireless router to improve the signal strength during troubleshooting,” the support site says. “It may be helpful to remove the Nintendo Switch console from the Nintendo Switch dock while troubleshooting, and then return the console when troubleshooting is complete.”
Distance doesn’t seem to be the issue, however. Here’s the experience of Polygon video producer Nick Robinson:
anyone else getting kinda shitty wifi signal strength on their Switch? i'm 15 feet from my Nighthawk getting 1 or 2 bars max, even on 2.4GHz— Nick Robinson (@Babylonian) March 3, 2017
And try as they might, these Switch owners haven’t been able to solve the problem.
“I noticed I was only getting one bar connection from my bedroom which is about 10 metres from the router,” said Reddit user PantsWithoutPockets. (That distance translates to just under 33 feet.) “It seems I can only receive full strength when I stand right next to router. I can also receive half-strength about 3 metres from the router. But, as soon as it hits 5 metres or more, it drops to the lowest strength.”
A common thread in these reports is that other Wi-Fi-enabled devices are getting a much stronger wireless signal than the Switch at the same distance from the router.
“I and many other people are receiving extremely low signal strengths despite other electronic devices picking up full signal in the same vicinity as the Switch,” wrote Polygon reader Connor in an email.
“Both 5 ghz and 2.4 ghz report 2 bars signal despite being metres from the router across the room,” said Lucifon on NeoGAF, noting that their Switch was getting download speeds of 50 megabits per second on a 250 mbps connection. “The XB1 and PS4 right next to the Switch both get 100% WiFi connections.”
“My Wii U connects just fine 40 feet away from my router, but my Switch has to be like 10 feet maximum to get any sort of signal capable of downloading,” said Ryoki on the GameFAQs forums.
As with any hardware issue at the launch of a new product, it’s hard to tell how widespread this problem actually is. It seems to be less prevalent than the Switch’s other main wireless connectivity issue — the weak syncing between the device and the left Joy-Con controller. A page that Nintendo posted on its support site last Friday, the Switch’s launch day, suggests that the Joy-Con problem is caused by wireless interference. Players are also running into other hardware problems, such as bricked consoles.
Players may not notice a weak Wi-Fi signal right now, since there aren’t many online multiplayer-focused games available for the Switch yet. But with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe coming in late April and Ultra Street Fighter 2: The Final Challengers at the end of May, any network issues will soon become apparent.
We’ve reached out to Nintendo for comment on the Wi-Fi issue, and we’ll update this article with any information we receive.