While it can be great to play with your Nintendo Switch docked to your TV, sometimes it can raise some problems with your controller. Ever felt like the game was slightly delayed? Like your character moved half a second after you pressed a button?
You might think this is because of lag, that your internet connection is experiencing difficulty playing online, but if this controller delay problem persists while playing offline or on a singleplayer game, then your internet can´t be the issue. In that case, what´s happening?
Why does my Nintendo Switch get input lag while on the dock?
The most likely explanation is wireless interference, other objects in your house broadcasting on a similar wavelength as your joy-cons and making it harder for their signal to reach the Switch.
Pretty much every modern electronic device emanates some sort of wireless wavelength, be it Bluetooth, Wi-fi, or just plain old static electricity. Things like your router, laptop, cellphones can fill your room with invisible waves.
Even objects that don´t broadcast anything, can still do a good job at blocking wireless signals, like aquariums for example.
These little broadcasts all mount up in your room and make it harder for your Nintendo Switch to detect the signal on your joy-cons among all the wireless noise. The result of this clutter is increased latency, your game takes a bit longer to detect your controller´s commands.
This increased latency doesn´t appear on handheld mode because there is a direct connection between the Joy-cons and your Switch, so there isn´t any interference. Your inputs don´t have to "travel" a lot to reach the Switch since they are directly connected to it.
Now, electronic interference isn´t the only cause for input lag, there are a few other causes that might give your Joy-cons some delay. Your Joy-cons drivers might be outdated and clashing with the firmware of your up-to-date Switch games, for one.
Another reason for the lag might be that you are playing too far away from the console, the Joy-Cons have a maximum range, play any further than 2 meters away and their signal may become too weak by the time it reaches your Nintendo Switch.
The final likely cause is a bad connection between your TV and your dock. This can happen due to a badly connected cable, run-down hardware, or if the TV is not on "game mode" when you play. The problem here is that the information is not shared properly between your Nintendo Switch and TV.
How can I find the cause of the input lag?
Finding the cause of your input lag is quite easy. First off, if it only happens when you play online games, then it´s not input delay, but plain old lag. Check out our article here to improve your latency when playing online on the Switch. Try out a couple of different games too, some titles have a bit of input delay baked into them, so it might not be your controller but the game.
Play your Switch on handheld and then tabletop mode. If there is no delay in handheld mode, then you can rest assured that your joy-cons aren´t the issue. If there isn´t a delay in tabletop mode either, then the most likely culprit of your delay is electronic interference in your room.
Why? Because you usually play on tabletop mode close to the Switch, so there is less distance for the joy-con signal to travel or to get interference. However, If you tried playing tabletop mode by putting your router or laptop between you and your Switch, then yeah, some interference is to be expected.
If you do have input lag when playing on handheld mode, then yes, there is something wrong with either your joy-con or Switch. Try using another controller or updating your joy-con drivers to see if the problem persists. If it does, the only way to fix it is by asking for Nintendo´s support or buying a new controller/Nintendo Switch.
How to fix input lag on the Nintendo Switch
If your input lag is caused by electronic interference, then you can try to do the following steps to improve it.
The first and easier step you can try is simply playing closer to the Switch and seeing if the lag improves, if it doesn´t, then it´s time to redecorate the room. Move your Switch away from any device that might cause interference and try to play without any such machine between you and the TV.
But what machines exactly? At the very least, try to avoid or turn off the following:
Wireless devices such as headsets, mouse, speakers.
USB 3.0 devices such as hard drives, thumb drives, LAN adapters, etc.
Ok, so now you know what to avoid, but where can you place your console to minimize the interference? Well, in Nintendo´s own words, your Switch should not be:
Behind a TV
Near an aquarium
Placed in or under a metal object
Pressed against a large number of wires and cords
Within three to four feet of another wireless device, such as a wireless speaker or a wireless access point.
And just like that, with a little bit of redecoration, you should be able to reduce the wireless interference in your room to a minimum. With it, your input lag should also decrease. If the problem persists, then try the following solutions:
Update your Switch and Joy-con´s firmware.
Make sure the TV is set to game mode (if it has one).
If your TV has Bluetooth, turn it off.
Play closer to your Switch, at least less than 2 meters (7 feet).
Check that the HDMI cable is properly connected.
If you are still experiencing problems after all that (or can´t rearrange the room you play in) then your last resort might be ditching the joy-cons and trying to play with a wired gamepad like a Pro Controller. Needless to say, playing through a third-party capture software as a capture card may also cause lag.
When connected directly to the console with a cable, your input lag should be reduced to the minimum, and you won´t have to turn off any other electronic devices, the only disadvantage is that you´ll have to pay extra for the wired controller. If you are playing with a third-party controller, you might need a USB-C cable to connect it to the Nintendo Switch.
(As an aside, these steps also work to improve the quality of your connection to the kart in Mario Kart Home Circuit)
And that´s it, hopefully, you have been able to fix your problem. If you haven´t, let me know in the comments and we´ll see about doing a bit of troubleshooting. Another common problem with docked Nintendo Switch is overheating, if you have that issue too, check out our article on how to prevent it.