By the very nature of being a hybrid console, one of the big advantages of the Nintendo Switch is the ability to plug it in in a bigger monitor or TV and monitors to enjoy a much higher resolution than the little screen can provide. However, this ability is not universal.
There are a lot of devices on which you´ll think you should be able to connect your Switch, but can´t. Computer laptops are chief among them. However, is there truly no way to play with your Switch on your computer?
Can you connect a Nintendo Switch to a laptop?
You can´t connect a Nintendo Switch to most laptops (or most computers, including macs) on their own. Their HDMI port is usually not compatible with Nintendo´s console. Why? Because the average laptop uses an output-only HDMI port, meaning it can stream data out of it, but not receive it.
Since the Nintendo Switch (or more accurately, the dock) can´t send the data to your computer, the latter can´t display what´s happening on your game. Usually.
There are a few exceptions, computers that come with an input-capable HDMI port. The problem is that they are usually quite old, or quite expensive. The Alienware MX17, M18, 18, and R4 are examples of such computers.
To check what kind of HDMI port you have, take a look at it. If it says IN in the port label, then it is input-capable. You can always google your laptop model online to make sure or try to connect something to the port to see if it works, like your Switch.
However, there is a workaround around this issue. A way to use your Switch on a laptop that only has an HDMI-out port.
Connecting a Nintendo Switch to a laptop with a capture card.
Capture cards are little devices that record what you do on your computer or game console. They are typically used to capture gameplay before uploading it to Youtube or Twitch. They can also be employed to connect your Nintendo Switch to a laptop.
To do this, all you need to do is plug a capture card into your computer (and install its drivers if you haven´t) and then connect the Switch HDMI cable to the port in the device. Open the game capture software on your computer and turn on the Nintendo Switch.
If everything worked, you should be able to see your Switch screen on your laptop. From there, select full-screen mode, and there you go. You should be able to play with the Switch on your computer so long as you don´t press any keys or click the mouse.
This method should work as long as your laptop is compatible with the card (this usually means if it has a USB-C port), and the card has an input-capable HDMI port (which most modern cards have).
There are a couple of drawbacks to this method, however.
Number one is the prize. Capture cards aren´t exactly cheap. An Elgato card, for example, can cost you from two hundred to three hundred dollars. There are cheaper alternatives like Avermedia or the Hauppauge, but you don´t want to skimp on quality and buy a cheap card. Why? Because of drawback number two.
Drawback number two is the latency. There will be a slight delay between the game and the display on your computer´s screen. Depending on your capture card this delay might be minimal, akin to a bit of lag on an online game, or it could render the game unplayable. Sadly, there are no easy fixes like if it was normal input lag.
If you are planning on dropping hundreds of dollars on a capture card, this is something to be very wary of. However, there is a potentially cheaper, if more cumbersome, way to connect your Switch to a laptop.
(As a small curiosity, you can use this method to connect your Nintendo Switch to the Steam Deck, as it is technically a handheld computer and not a console.)
Connecting a Nintendo Switch to a laptop with an extra monitor.
While most laptops only have an out- HDMI port, the opposite is true for monitors. After all, their purpose is to display all sorts of images from other computers and devices.
A slightly roundabout way of playing with your Nintendo Switch on a laptop, or just any old computer, is to simply buy an extra monitor for it and plug your Switch into it. Of course, then you won´t be technically playing "on" your laptop unless you go ahead and add it as a second screen.
The concept of buying a second monitor for a laptop might seem counterintuitive, after all, it goes against the concept of a "portable computer", but you don´t need to buy a bulky 45 inches screen, there are more portable alternatives that can be carried alongside your computer.
Sure, it´s less portable than a capture card, but you don´t have to worry about delays or lag between the game and your screen. On the other hand, you might prefer the portability of the capture card, lag notwithstanding. Whichever one is the best option depends on your preferences (and a bit of luck).
Can I connect a Nintendo Switch Lite to a laptop?
No, the Switch Lite doesn´t have the hardware to stream to the TV or even connect to a dock. It has no video output. You can connect it to neither a laptop nor a desktop. The Lite doesn´t even come with an HDMI cable included in the package.
Even if you somehow acquire an HDMI cable and connect the Lite to a monitor, it will not display anything, as the console will not send any data. Same for Capture cards, they don´t work on the Switch Lite.
Without the internal hardware to connect to a dock, the Nintendo Switch Lite is incapable of streaming video data to any device on the market, including laptops.