Handheld consoles are always a tradeoff between portability and screen real estate. [Pavlo Khmel] felt that the Nintendo Switch erred too much on the side of portability, and built an extension to embiggen his Switch. (YouTube)
[Khmel] repurposed a Dell XPS 12 LCD panel for the heart of this hack and attached it to an LCD controller board to serve as an external monitor for the Switch. A 3D printed enclosure envelops the screen and also contains a battery, speakers, and a dock for the console. Along the top edges, metal rails let you slide in the official Joy-Cons or any number of third party controllers, even those that require a power connection from the Switch.
Since the Switch sees this as being docked, it allows the console to run faster and at higher resolution than if it were in handheld mode. The extension lasts about 5 hours on battery power, and the Switch inside will still be fully charged if you don’t mind being constrained to its small screen while you charge it’s bigger-screened exoskeleton.
Despite the seat of honor it enjoys in literally millions of households, the official Nintendo Switch Dock is certainly far from perfect. For one, it’s not milled out of a hefty block of aluminum. A less apparent but no less important issue is that the ports are positioned kind of awkward – [Kevin] from Modified believes that the USB ports should be facing the front side, while the HDMI, Ethernet, and charging inputs should be on the backside — a reasonable position. He set out to fix both of these problems at the same time, and tells us the CNC-heavy rebuild story in a short but captivating video.
The original dock consists of two PCBs, and these two boards are the only thing [Kevin] didn’t redesign from scratch. As they’re connected with a flexible cable, he could freely rotate and thus completely reposition the ports-equipped board without soldering. He added some standoffs to secure this board to the case, and after 3D printing a few iterations for test-fitting, the milling went on for all of us to marvel at.
The resulting dock is pretty, functional, and even has some extra features — for instance, the “i” in the embossed Nintendo logo lights up when the dock is in use. In no small part due to the Nintendo logo, we don’t expect this one to grace store shelves, but we hope that it provides inspiration to other makers to do their builds. If you like this rebuild and crave more, whether you’re looking for inspiration, CNC work insights, or pretty milling videos, [Kevin]’s milled Xbox case project is an excellent “Watch next” choice.
Good news for fans of PlayStation Vita — a new project from [Sergi “xerpi” Granell] allows users to run software written for Sony’s erstwhile handheld system on Nintendo’s latest money printing machine, the Switch. To be clear, there’s a very long road ahead before the vita2hos project is able to run commercial games (if ever). But it’s already able to run simple CPU-rendered Vita homebrew binaries on the Switch, demonstrating the concept is sound.
On a technical level, vita2hos is not unlike WINE, which enables POSIX-compliant operating systems such as Linux, Mac OS, and BSD to run Windows programs so long as they use the same processor architecture. Since the Switch’s ARM v8 processor is capable of executing code compiled for the Vita’s ARM v7 while running in 32-bit compatibility mode, there’s no emulation necessary. The project simply needs to provide the running program with work-alike routines fast enough, and nobody is the wiser. Of course, that’s a lot easier said than done.
According to the project page, the big hurdle right now is 3D graphics support. As you could imagine, many Vita games would have been pushing the system’s graphical hardware to the limit, making it exceptionally difficult to catch all the little edge cases that will undoubtedly come up when and if the project expands to support commercial titles. But for homebrew Vita games and utilities that may not even utilize the system’s 3D hardware, adding compatibility will be much easier. For instance, it’s already able to run [xerpi]’s own CHIP-8 emulator.
[xerpi] provides instructions on how to install vita2hos and the Vita executable to be tested onto an already hacked Nintendo Switch should you want to give it a shot. But unless you’ve got experience developing for the Vita or Switch and are willing to lend a hand, you might want to sit this one out until things mature a bit.
It constantly amazes us what we hackers can build these days, (electronics shortages aside) we have access to an incredible array of parts, with specifications that only a few years ago would be bank-breaking and longer ago just fantasy. It’s nice to see people building one-offs just for fun, in spite of the current difficulties getting parts to actually be delivered. For example, check out this miniaturized Nintendo Switch created by [scottbez1] that plays animated GIFs from an SD card on tiny 1.14″ LCD display.
Obviously such a diminutive hack requires a custom PCB, which was a job for KiCAD. Armed with a 3D model of the LCD, the casing and PCB outline were drawn using Fusion 360. The PCB hosts a LilyGo ESP32 module for all the heavy lifting, with the WiFi adding some fun future capabilities not yet explored. The design is about as tight as it can get without pushing the limits of the PCB process too far, including a neat trick of sneaking passives inside the body of the SD card! That’s another space-saving idea we’ll be banking.
All-in-all a neat little hack, showing some good modelling and construction techniques and a good looking end result. Code for your reference may be found on the project GitHub, but as of writing the hardware design is not available.
Whilst this project shrinks the Switch, here’s one that goes the other way and super-sizes it, and if you have a switch lite but crave a little modern charging magic, then look no further than this Qi wireless charging hack.
The whole idea behind the Nintendo Switch is that the system isn’t just a handheld, but can be converted into a more traditional home game console when placed into its dock. The wireless controllers even pop off the sides so you can kick back on the couch and enjoy your big-screen gaming from a distance. Judging by how many units Nintendo has sold of their latest system, it’s clearly a winning combination.
Lucky, this crew is no stranger to developing impressive GBA SP add-ons. Last month they took the wraps off of an expanded 3D printed rear panel for the system that housed a number of upgrades, such as an expanded battery pack and support for Bluetooth audio.
This mod uses a similarly expanded “trunk” for the GBA, but this time it’s to hold the rails the Joy-Cons mount to, as well as the electronics required to get the modern controllers talking to the Game Boy. Namely, a Raspberry Pi Zero and a custom PCB designed by [Kyle] that uses a dozen transistors to pull the system’s control inputs low when the Pi’s GPIO pins go high.
[Tito] doesn’t seem to mention it in the video below, but we’re assuming the dock component of this project is just a 3D printed box with a connector sticking up for the GBA SP’s link cable port, since that’s where the TV-out modification outputs its video. Incidentally that means you don’t really need the dock itself, but it certainly looks cool.
At the end of the video [Tito] goes over a few of the rough edges of the current build, including the rather lengthy pairing process to get the Joy-Cons talking to the Raspberry Pi. But ultimately, he says that not only does the system feel good in his hands, but playing those classic games on the big screen has been a nice change of pace.
The Nintendo Switch is a monstrously popular machine, and it’s had no difficulty raking in the bucks for the Japanese gaming giant, but there’s no denying that it’s technologically a bit behind the curve. Until the long-rumored “Pro” version of the Switch materializes, industrious gamers like [Robotanv] will simply have to make up for Nintendo’s Luddite ways by hacking in their own upgraded hardware.
In this case, [Robotanv] wanted to add Qi wireless charging to his Switch Lite. He figured that if all of his other mobile devices supported the convenient charging standard, why not his portable gaming system? Luckily, the system already supports the increasingly ubiquitous USB-C, so finding an aftermarket Qi receiver that would connect to it was no problem. He just needed to install it into the handheld’s case.
After liberating the Qi receiver from its protective pouch enclosure to get it a bit thinner, [Robotanv] taped it to the inside of the system’s case and ran thin wires to the rear of the USB-C port. As luck would have it, Nintendo was kind enough to put some test pads for the power pins right behind the port, which made for an ideal spot to connect the charger.
At first he only connected the positive and negative lines from the charger, but quickly realized he also had to connect the CC pin to get the juice flowing. After that, it was just a matter of buttoning the system back up. All told, it looks like a pretty simple modification for anyone who’s not bashful about taking a soldering iron to their $199 console.
If you liked playing Super Mario Bros. 35, the unique multiplayer battle royale Mario game that Nintendo released last year on the Switch to celebrate 35 years since the original NES version of Super Mario Bros, then it’s likely that you have been disappointed since April. The gaming giant ended support and removed the game’s servers once their 35 year celebrations were over, leaving the game’s players hanging. Happily there’s a solution, because [Kinnay] has presented a reverse-engineered Nintendo game server replacement along with a game patch, that should keep gamers in multi-Mario fun forever.
While it’s a boon for fans of this particular game, the real value here is in introducing us to the reverse engineering work on those Nintendo servers. We learn about their various foibles over several generations of console, and perhaps most importantly we learn something of their inner workings.