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#1 Posted by Junkerman (517 posts) -

So I work in the Arctic flying in Twin Otters around -40 and colder conditions; I'd love to take my Nintendo Switch along on these trips for periods of downtime but I'm afraid of the cold just obliterating the life of this thing.

I do run laptops and other fieldgear (poorly) in those conditions so I know they can still work, as its mostly the batteries that die on them and energy is not an issue with all the generators and battery banks I pack, but all that gear is also a little more rugged in its design.

Would having the Switch completely powered down during the travel/work day protect it from any damage or is the warming/cooling of this unit going to shorten its lifespan over time?

Thanks for your time technophiles!

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#2 Posted by BisonHero (11564 posts) -

I have no firsthand experience as I've never worked somewhere that cold, but after doing some very cursory research, isn't the cold always going to shorten the lifespan of pretty much all electronics you're bringing into that environment? Aside from running down the battery, the huge temperature variation of going from the outside cold to room temperature is going to cause some condensation within the device (unless your inside humidity is super low I guess), and some expansion/contraction of components. I can't speak to the Switch specifically, but at some point that's going to take a toll on the circuitboard, or fatigue some plastic somewhere, or something. I doubt the temperature would break the Switch within the first few months (this is literally a wild guess), but overall you're probably shortening the system's lifespan in some way.

At the very least, definitely a good idea to completely power it down while traveling in the cold, and only power it back up when the Switch is back at room temperature. Most temperature testing seems more concerned with hotter temperature, but there's a Reddit thread about this topic (here), but nobody seems to have a hard idea of the temperature limits other than the very basic guidelines in Nintendo's manual (recommended Switch operating environment: 41-95 degrees F). Some choice quotes from Reddit:

"I’m an idiot who keeps his [Switch] in unpressurized jet baggage. Mine regularly hits -60c for hours on end and so far no issues. Your results may vary. Also be careful about condensation when it’s cold soaked and brought back to a humid environment."

"Mine worked after spending the night on Neptune."

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#3 Posted by SkullPanda1 (1623 posts) -

@bisonherosummed it up pretty well. I'd be nervous about the extreme cold, but I've also used my Switch in warmer weather, so what do I know?

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#4 Edited by Charongreed (110 posts) -

My understanding of electronics is that, besides the batteries, it should only really suffer damage if it has water in it to freeze the electronics, right? As long as you aren't trying to operate the switch at -40 ambient temperatures, you should be ok. But getting there is where the danger lies, and I have an idea for that: they make 1.5"x2'x4' sheets of polystyrene insulation foam (link to example). I would make a book-like case for the switch and controllers by hollowing out a space in the foam big enough for the Switch and controllers and duck taping it shut along the seam, and put that in the bag. Its cheap so no worry about damaging it, and your bag should keep it warm enough that it never really even reaches freezing. You could do a similar thing with towels I guess, but that looks more sinister getting on a plane and would probably carry way more water from humidity, and I would worry about that damaging the Switch in transportation. Good luck, let us know how it worked out when you get back!

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#5 Posted by Junkerman (517 posts) -

@bisonhero: Good info thanks!

I kinda figured it would wreck something eventually... but if the alternative is me just never even using my switch because all my travel is on Hoth for half the year then I'm not getting any value out of it in the longer term either.

Ill keep it powered down definitely while traveling and will try not to activate it again until it has had time to slowly warm up to room temps when I'm at camps.

Good to know about the moisture, something that's really hard to manage at those temperatures because EVERYTHING gets frost on it from peoples breathing when you're in an enclosed space. Hopefully keeping it in a sealed container will solve that.

I've toyed around with putting usb chargable heaters in with some of my kit but its so hard to gauge how much heat they'll produce under those conditions, I'd hate to create too much heat and cook something as much as I would be worried about it freezing.

My field gear has been alright over the years, usually just the batteries that go.

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#6 Posted by BisonHero (11564 posts) -

@junkerman: Best of luck! Nintendo builds stuff tougher than it needs to be, so maybe the Switch can survive your Arctic job no problem. Charongreed had a good idea about insulating your Switch, or your idea of the heaters could help if you can make it work. Let us know how it goes!