Designing a game console in itself is sort of stupid hard on itself. There are no real rules to govern them. Sure, it needs to sit nicely and be as stable as possible while in use, offer good airflow and all that, but there are no ergonomic rules to follow. Not even the buttons are required to follow any set standard. The Famicom was designed to look like a toy, with short cords to the controllers and such, whereas the NES could be mistaken for a grey VCR at a quick glance. The Mega Drive was supposed to be cool with its sleek lines and shapes, contrasting shiny bits with stark black plastic. The PlayStation was supposed to sit among other grey AV station equipment, something all the subsequent PlayStations followed. Things like that, but never anything truly set in stone. What if you have some clear-cut necessities and rules determined by use? The Switch has its official docking station that is designed around the necessities to house the console and offer HDMI stance. It’s also far from being the only dock, or stand, the system has, as third parties and DIY groups have put out numerous iterations. I’ll be covering three in this review, covering the best and worst parts of each of them.
Let’s start with the Nintendo official dock.
I have to say that from the start this has been a disappointing hunk of plastic. It has weight behind it, but that’s because it is just a huge hunk of plastic. The way the Switch sits inside of it, and how the front covers it, means that whenever you move the console up or down the front will have hard plastic pushing against the screen, scratching it at worst. Only at the very base there are itty bitty rubber pads to keep the console in place, which is laughable. You’d imagine there had been some more effort to prevent scratching. At least it guides the console in just the right way, as the USB-C port at the bottom is rigid and does not move.
At the back we have this this cover flap for whatever reason, perhaps to make it look more uniform. It’s really another useless piece of plastic that should be thrown away. You can see the air vent slots there, which don’t really do much. The other vent actually goes through the PCB housing on the right, meaning the heat that it puts out goes directly inside the dock’s most important bits. A single USB and HDMI ports, with USB-C for power. Nothing much to see here. You don’t see any of them here, because I’ve already taken the stuff out and put them into another dock.
The stock Nintendo dock is pretty terrible. It doesn’t look attractive and is mostly just waste of resources. You could cut its size down by half and not lose in stability or usability. It’s like a last minute idea that just had to be pushed through, a necessary evil. That doesn’t excuse it from being excessive.
The PCB from this went into a DIY kit that’s sold all around the net, from Amazon to eBay and some random Chinese auction sites. I picked this one from eBay for about seven euros.
In terms of size, it is one of the smallest docks for the Switch, and it of course brings some stability issues. The dock itself sits down just fine, but due to the design necessitating taking the main connecting parts from the stock dock itself means that the Switch will rock back and fort just slightly enough to make you worried. While the idea to make this DIY dock portable, it should have a base that extents whole of the main body of the console. This would have made it a very clear choice for all situations. The extensions could have been optional or foldable for added portability, but either option would have raised the price. Then again, perhaps not a bad idea.
You really get what you pay for. You are required to do some work because it is DIY, but taking the Switch dock apart and installing the PCB into this one takes about five to ten minutes. The airflow is better in every respect and the ports are easily accessible. It’s a very straightforward dock, which can be made even better with some additional work. It is DIY after all, no reason to just leave as-is if there are additional ideas how to make it better. The only major problem is that the Switch, as mentioned, does wobble a bit while sitting on it, and this can cause some stress to the USB-C connector, as it is rigid as ever. Well, those added softpads help a lot.
Sure, it has more mass and size than the DIY dock before it, but considering it has a folding design means it is carries easy. It’s air vents on the back do not obstruct airflow at all either. The Switch sits on the console without any real wobble despite having no locking mechanism present. This is because of the two rubber pads put on the dock that keep the console in place just fine. There is no moving accepting level like with the stock dock. The USB-C connectors moves back and forth instead, meaning it takes more stress to break it accidentally. This is a grand design choice and shows how HORI understands some of the more important details that the Big Three often miss.
The dock sports four standard USB ports, meaning each of the four players can plug in their own USB controller, though none of them are USB 3. Sadly, HORI’ s PS3 controller’s don’t work with it. USB-C port means you can charge the console on this dock as well, or just use it to play any game in portable mode. The dock has multiple angles that will do the job more than fine. This would be an excellent dock to the point of replacing the Nintendo’s official one, except it has not HDMI port. While this is a dedicated portable mode stand, the addition of HDMI capability would have made this probably the best dock the Switch has. Now, that goes to many of the other variants that recycle Nintendo’s official PCB in their housings. Well, it does advertise itself as Portable Table Mode on the cover, so perhaps it is a bit unfair to harp on the lack of HDMI. Despite having a folding design, it just bulky enough not to fit with any of them smaller Switch carry cases. Still, far more portable than the base dock.
Another losing point is that it has no support for vertical mode whatsoever. You can put it sideways and have the whole contraption sitting rather awkwardly and somewhat unstable on the table, but it’s far car what it should be. HORI missed this altogether, which drops the dock’s overall score a bit. Sure, none of the other docks to either, but this is supposed to be dedicated tabletop mode dock.
Out of all these three, there really is no one better over the other. They all lack something, while beating others in some aspect. It all depends which mode you enjoy your Switch the most. If you’re all about portable mode, Hori’s tabletop dock is your best choice. For TV play, you could do worse than the small DIY dock. Ranking it higher than Nintendo’s own product may seem cheap, but the sheer bulk is its downfall. I have to say that it is disappointing that none of the docks I’ve seen thus far have not taken vertical mode into account to any significant extent, meaning playing games in that mode is still difficult.