The Switch’s ability to dock and connect to a TV is still one of its most iconic features (it’s right there in the name), but in the two-plus years since the console was released, there haven’t been reliable third-party dock options out there. If you want to connect a Switch to a TV, you’re basically stuck with Nintendo’s dock or nothing.
Switch accessory company Genki — which is fresh off a successful Kickstarter last year for a Bluetooth headphone adapter for Nintendo’s portable console — wants to change that with the Genki Covert Dock, a miniature GaN charger that also promises to work as a fully functional portable Switch dock. It sounds like the makings of the perfect Switch dock... if it works.
Genki is by no means the first to try this. When the Switch first came out, there was a slew of USB-C hub and docks that claimed to offer the same thing, but most of them failed to work properly. Then there was the infamous Nyko Portable Docking Kit, one of the most high-profile alternative docks that customers claimed would break their console’s ability to charge or even brick them entirely. In other words, Genki has a lot to prove here to show that it can succeed where everyone else (other than Nintendo and its comparatively large and clunky first-party dock) has failed.
historically, third-party Switch docks have had problems
Genki thinks it knows where other companies have gone wrong: as Andrew Geng, an engineer working for Genki, wrote in an extremely detailed Reddit post a few days ago, the issue with other docks has been a combination of poor USB-C and the peculiarities of the specific charging chip that the Switch uses, which can only handle 6V inputs before frying. It’s still using the USB-C PD (Power Delivery) specification, but, essentially, if companies don’t implement it exactly right for the Switch by regulating the power supply, issues can come up.
Genki claims that the Covert Dock is set to use “only standard Switch charging profiles when used with the console and conform to PD standards for other USB-C devices,” with a dedicated chip that’s designed to manage and prevent the dock from sending too much current or voltage through. The company also says that the dock’s firmware can be updated after the fact, should Nintendo change its docking process in the future.
Also minimizing issues is the fact that the Covert Dock isn’t really a “dock”; it’s a wall brick, so users are free to use whatever USB-C to USB-C cable they like. Geng’s post also highlights dock manufacturers trying to emulate Nintendo’s non-standard USB-C design that allows the Switch to slide easily out of the dock as an issue, so this should help avoid those problems by allowing customers to use cables they know won’t fry their Switch.
Whether all that is enough to convince a skittish Switch owner to drop $49 on a historically problematic product category will likely depend on the user in question, but it’s good to see that Genki is aware of the problems and has thought a lot about solving them.
Genki’s also promising that it’ll work as a laptop dock, too
With all that out of the way, we can finally talk about the actual product, which looks pretty impressive for a portable Switch dock. Genki has built the entire dock into a fairly small (thanks to GaN technology) USB-C wall brick, with an extra HDMI port and USB-A port added on.
The dock can push up to 30W of power, which is enough to charge a smaller laptop, and Genki says that it’ll also work as a full USB-C dock for laptops or phones. The USB-A port serves several purposes: it can work as a second wall charger for non-USB-C devices, but it also does data transfer, allowing you to connect accessories to a Switch (like a GameCube dock or Ethernet adapter) or laptop (like a flash drive or... Ethernet adapter).
The Genki dock is currently looking for funding on Kickstarter. Genki has successfully run a campaign for its Bluetooth Switch adapter (which the company now sells on Amazon), so it does have some experience there. Early bird pricing is $49 for a Covert Dock, with shipping estimated for December 2019 (although due to its crowdfunded nature, I’d treat the release date with some healthy skepticism).
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