If you've quit the Nintendo switch development scene so late, you've noticed that there are many cool things happening right now. Between the launch of L4T (Linux 4 Tegra) Ubuntu by ByLaws and the release of emuMMC to Switch, there has never been a better time to own a (hackable) Nintendo Switch. Now ByLaws has itself, as you can quickly turn your Nintendo Switch into a complete Android tablet – complete with dock and Joycon support. Before publishing, we were able to test Android on the Nintendo Switch to see what it can do.
Nintendo Switch XDA Forums
How Android works on Nintendo Switch
Nintendo Switch was never meant to run Android. It is a portable gaming console with a 6.2-inch 720p display powered by the Tegra X1 chipset (also available in NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV), 4GB LPDDR4 RAM and a 4.310 mAh battery. It runs games like Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Super Mario Odyssey and Mario Kart 8: Deluxe . These specifications make it a beautifully carnal handheld game console, but imagine an Android tablet with these specifications? This is actually what we have here, thanks to ByLaws and other developers, and although it is certainly not perfect yet it is already quite powerful.
One of the most appealing aspects of Switch is the fact that it is a hybrid console. When you put it in the Switch Dock and remove the controllers on the pages, it becomes a full-fledged console with 1080p output via HDMI and higher CPU and GPU clock rates. When you're done, just plug the controllers back in, take the power switch out of the dock and use it anywhere. A similar idea was employed by NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet, an Android gaming tablet that could send to a TV up to 8K resolution. Android on Switch works just as it once did on NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet. Dock your switch and it will display the display via HDMI, where you can continue to use it as usual on a larger screen. The Switch Dock also has 3 USB ports that you can plug into a keyboard, mouse and other peripheral into. Currently, USB mass storage mount does not work.
Otherwise, Android on the Nintendo Switch works like a tablet.
Typically, the first reason is that someone gets an Android tablet for media consumption. A bigger and nicer screen is great for watching videos and playing games, which is where the contact comes in. It has full support for all apps on the Google Play store, so lets you see Netflix YouTube, listen to music … pretty much all the usual things you can expect from an Android tablet. There are a few kinks to be smeared of course, but none are too serious. Think of this as the first build of LineageOS for an Android smartphone: It's almost not finished or polished yet.
If you are a media fanatic and would like to have files stored offline, then I have good news for you. Android for the Nintendo Switch can have as much storage as the SD card you put it on. This is because part of the setup means that the expand / data partition is the size you want before you start, so I expanded it to fill the rest of my 64GB micro SD card. This means that you are not limited to 32 GB of eMMC storage onboard the Switch, and more importantly you will not change anything on the device itself.
As you might expect from the Tegra X1 is a breeze. There are a few hiccups here and there, although I expect them to be due to the lack of optimization at this time. For example, I tested PUBG Mobile, and while Joycons didn't work, the game went well on balanced graphics. I used balanced as the game wouldn't let me go higher, telling me that these opportunities will come to my unit "soon".
Joycon is another thing, as they currently do not work as smoothly as you would expect yet. They must be connected via Bluetooth and let them be physically connected to your Switch on the pages, will still use them in wireless mode. There are no weird delays that we had on OnePlus 7 Pro. Technically, you can navigate the entire system UI with them. Not everything supports the joycons yet. I had problems with Dolphin Emulator and Steam Link when trying them, even though it seems like they were working perfectly in a previous building. As a result, I am convinced that they will work again when publishing.
There was an emulator that I worked perfectly: DraStic. DraStic is one of the best Nintendo DS emulators on the Google Play store and runs smoothly on Switch. It's a massive performance, as there are no other DS emulators that work perfectly on it yet. I was able to play Pokemon Black with just my exposed Joycons and my docked Switch via DraStic, which made it an enjoyable experience.
 To mimic other game consoles, I recommend using RetroArch. I played Pokemon Leaf Green through it, and it worked with a single couple Joycon, even though I was having trouble when I also paired the other. Apart from that, it worked well and ran perfectly. You do not need the functionality of two Joycons to play Pokemon either. SNES emulation is amazing and I played some of A Link to the past through Snes9x.
Currently there are performance janks across the system that I can only imagine being stretched out over time. The Tegra X1 on the switch is under-clicked over SHIELD TV, but Switch 8.0 update-enabled game developers to increase the clock's speed while loading screens, which the Android building will also utilize on release (clock control has been added in the latest private building). The Nintendo Switch is already turning into an excellent Android-powered gaming device, and the future of it is bright. I am also told that virtually everything is functional, as it has all been transferred from NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV. There should be full support for SoC and all its capabilities.
What Doesn't Work
Unfortunately, using the Nintendo Switch as an Android tablet has a number of disadvantages. For example, the switch does not support GPS or has a microphone or even a camera. That means no Pokemon Go no voice and video calls with Google Duo, and no apps like Snapchat either. You can use a Bluetooth headset for audio even though it uses basic A2DP to connect. There are no LDAC or other more advanced Bluetooth codecs in use here. Joycons are also not compatible with all applications yet and it seems to be wildly inconsistent with what they are working with and what they do not. RetroArch identified all four buttons on the left Joycon D-Pad to have the same functionality when, of course, they didn't. Also, you cannot use the L and R buttons on each Joycon's rail, which can be problematic when using only one. You can't even take screenshots yet.
You asked, we tested
We published on the XDA Developers Twitter account and asked our readers what they wanted to be tested on Android on the Nintendo Switch. We had a number of requests to test different games and applications that you can read above. We were also asked about Spotify (it works) and Fortnite (it doesn't).
Flappy Bird was also requested. I tested it. It works . YouTube, Spotify and Twitch also work.
When does it solve?
ByLaws and others involved in Nintendo Switch's development are working to make it ready for publication. There will be an easy installer to use to create your SD card, which is currently being started via Hekate. There is no expected ETA, even if you should check out our Nintendo Switch forum and watch the thread for Android on Switch!
Nintendo Switch XDA Forums
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