How to Use Your Laptop as a Monitor for Switch


how to use laptop as monitor for switch

The Nintendo Switch has some incredible exclusive titles, such as Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey. They look amazing on the Switch’s little built-in screen, but playing them on a bigger display really makes them stand out. Thankfully, the dock that comes with the console has an HDMI port that allows you to connect the Switch to other displays.

You may already know that plugging in an HDMI cable and playing on a TV or monitor is a fuss-free experience. However, using a laptop’s screen as a monitor is a whole other story. There are a few ways that allow you to play Switch games on your laptop. Here is a guide that will explain how to use a laptop as a monitor for Switch.

Use an HDMI Input Port

Some gaming laptops have both HDMI input and output ports. Others have one HDMI port that can do both in and out. An input port allows you to connect an input device (here it would be your Nintendo Switch) to your laptop’s screen and use it just like any other display. Some Alienware laptops have HDMI input ports because Dell (the owner of Alienware) believes that their laptops have superior displays that should be used by gaming consoles or even gaming computers in addition to the laptop’s hardware.

Unfortunately, most laptops only have an HDMI output port. An output port, on the other hand, can only output data. In other words, you can only use that HDMI port to connect it to other external displays. This is great because it allows you to watch movies using your laptop on much larger displays or connect a second monitor to improve productivity, which is especially useful in these COVID times.

You can check if your laptop has an HDMI input port by looking at the user manual or by looking up your laptop model on the manufacturer’s website. If you are lucky enough to have an HDMI input port, then set it up is very easy and quick. 

Here is what you will have to do:

  1. Turn off all programs on your laptop and turn off your Switch.
  2. Put the Switch into the dock.
  3. Take an HDMI cable and plug one end into the dock.
  4. Plug the other end of the cable into the laptop’s HDMI input port.
  5. Turn on the Switch and you should automatically see it work.

If it does not work immediately, you may have to restart both devices while still connected. You can also try turning both of them off and then connecting them. If that does not work either, maybe you need to check your display settings in Windows on your laptop. Also, double-check if the cables are plugged incorrectly. Sometimes HDMI input ports on laptops can be buggy because the laptop is already using the display.

If the audio signal does not work, you can check if it has been disabled in the Windows audio settings. Simply re-enable the HDMI signal as a sound device and it will work.

Since most people do not have laptops with HDMI input ports, this method won’t be the most popular one. Nonetheless, it is the best method because it is fuss-free, convenient, and it works exceptionally well. The signal will be strong and the image will be crystal clear because you are connecting the two devices directly. If you can’t use this method, then maybe the next one is for you.

See Related Topic: How to Connect a Laptop to a Blu-ray Player Wirelessly

Use a Capture Card

A capture card is essentially an HDMI-to-USB adapter that will allow you to use any HDMI input device with anything that has a USB port. This means that you can connect your Nintendo Switch to your laptop through a USB port and use it that way. Originally, capture cards were meant for video capture hardware, like cameras, to be used with computers. Nonetheless, you can use it for your Switch without any problems too.

Elgato makes capture cards that are marketed toward gamers because they have proprietary software for game capture. However, you can use any other capture card for the same purpose. Remember that you will experience some input lag whenever you use any sort of adapter and capture cards are not an exception. If you are very sensitive to that, then playing games on the Switch’s screen will be a more fun experience.

But if you want to use a bigger display to have some fun with friends or by yourself, then the capture card method is basically your only option. 

Here is how to connect your Switch to your laptop with any capture card:

  1. Turn off all programs on your laptop and turn off the Switch.
  2. Put the Switch into its dock.
  3. Plug the HDMI cable into both the dock and the capture card.
  4. Next, plug the capture card into your laptop and turn on the Switch.
  5. You should see it work immediately through the capture card’s software. If not, you can download and install OBS Studio and add the Switch as a new scene.

Once you are done, playing the games is straightforward. Do not touch the laptop keyboard because it can kick you out of the full-screen mode and it will stop working. 

The problem with capture cards, in addition to the aforementioned input lag, is that they can cost a pretty penny. If you already own one or can borrow one from a family member or friend, then it is not a huge issue. But getting one just to play some games on your laptop’s screen is not a good idea because you can easily get a TV that will look much better. Not to mention that a TV is significantly larger and it is more comfortable to kick back and play games on a TV than on a laptop screen.

Play on the Computer

how to use laptop as monitor for switch

This is not a perfect solution by any means because you already have a Switch and merely want to use your laptop as a monitor, but it is still viable. You can download and play many games that are on the Switch on your laptop as well, but you will have to purchase paid titles again if you want to play them. And you will miss out on exclusive titles which are the main reason why people get a Nintendo Switch in the first place. 

You could also use an emulator, but they are very buggy and laggy. Not to mention that they require extremely beefy hardware. Also, you can’t get copyrighted ROMs on emulators in a legal way when using an emulator.

Still, if you must play Nintendo Switch games on your laptop, then this is the next best thing if you do not have an HDMI input port or a capture card.

Are Capture Cards Worth It in General

You might wonder about capture cards and why they are so expensive in the first place. There are a lot of things that make capture cards as expensive as they are, such as R;D, licensing fees, and hardware. Still, they are worth it for people that want to use HDMI devices with their computers. Since HDMI has been a standard for a long time now, chances are it is still going to be very popular for years to come.

Since pretty much everyone is either working or attending classes from home via Google Meet, Zoom, Skype, and other platforms, having a high-quality web camera is very important. If you have a DSLR lying around that you never use, a capture card would quickly turn it into the world’s best webcam. So why don’t you get a capture card for that purpose alone and then play Switch games on your laptop as a nice bonus?


how to use laptop as monitor for switch

Using a laptop as a monitor for your Nintendo Switch is possible. It is also very easy to set up if you have an HDMI input port on your laptop. Since the vast majority of laptops do not actually have an HDMI input port but only an output one, a more realistic option for most people will be to use a high-quality capture card. A capture card will essentially convert the HDMI cable and allow you to use the laptop’s USB port instead.

Capture cards are great, but they also introduce a lot of input lag. There are some capture cards for gamers that promise a low input lag, but they are also pretty expensive. Unless you already own one or plan to get one for your camera, getting it just to play some Switch games on your laptop is not worth it because they are very expensive.

The last method is to simply play games that you would otherwise play on the Switch on your computer instead. This is not ideal, especially if you want to play paid games because you will have to buy them again. However, some free games track progress across all your devices, which means that you won’t lose anything.

About the Author Marcus

Marcus has a graduate degree in computer engineering and has many years of experience in cutting-edge technology research and development in both startups and Fortune 500 corporations. In his free time, he enjoys RTS gaming.

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