12 things you didn’t know your video game console can do: PS5, Xbox, Nintendo Switch

12 things you didn’t know your video game console can do: PS5, Xbox, Nintendo Switch

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Marc Saltzman  |  Special to USA TODAY

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The best hard drives for gaming

Want to keep from running out or storage or prevent your gaming session to from lagging? Read on.

Marc Saltzman, Special to USA TODAY

With intense heatwaves impacting as many as 100 million Americans across the nation, perhaps you need a bit of reprieve. Staying indoors – with air conditioning or a powerful fan and a cold drink – should do the trick. (Just remember to stop once in a while to check in on unwell and aging relatives as well as your pets.)

To remain entertained, many will reach for a video game controller to virtually escape to another world for a few minutes.

Whether you own a PlayStation 5 (PS5), Xbox Series S/X or Nintendo Switch, perhaps you’re not getting the most out of you beloved console. And so, to “level up” your knowledge on what’s possible, the following are a dozen lesser-known features of your gaming system.

Note: Where specified, some tips work for more than one machine.

Sony Playstation 5

Built-in mic: Want to “trash talk” with online friends you compete against? If cash is tight, you might not know the PS5 DualSense Wireless Controller has a built-in microphone – allowing you to chat, strategize or yell online without having to purchase anything. To avoid an embarrassing moment, like your doting mom bringing you a plate of cookies while you’re gaming, players can quickly switch off voice capture via the controller’s dedicated mute button. There is also a small speaker on the PS5 controller, too, but it will sound much better if you plug a headset into the 3.5mm jack.

Get help (not spoilers): To make gaming more accessible for all skill levels, the PS5 introduced a new feature called “Game Help” to assist players quickly and easily. Compatible with several games (including one of my favorites, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart), players can access hints (and pin them to the side of the screen), watch videos and more – all inside the game – to get some help without revealing any “spoilers.” While in your game, press the PS button and in the control center, select the game card on the left marked with “Hints inside” (if that title is supported).

Expand storage: Now that many gamers are downloading games opposed to buying them on plastic, consider adding more storage to your PS5, which you can connect externally (via USB) or better yet, add solid-state drive (SSD) inside your PS5. New this summer from Western Digital and Sony Interactive Entertainment is Western Digital’s WD_BLACK SN850 NVMe SSD for PS5 Consoles ($169 for 1 terabyte), the first officially licensed M.2 SSD for the PlayStation 5 for super-fast read and write speeds and an all-in-one heatsink design to keep things cool. The 2TB model costs $279. (Note: Xbox Series S/X and Nintendo Switch also let you expand storage.)

Thanks for the (computer) memory!  Here’s how to buy the right data storage for your needs

Download games via your smartphone: Many of today’s PS5 games are huge and so it can take some time to download digital games onto your PS5. Thankfully, you can jumpstart the process and start the download using the PlayStation App on your smartphone or tablet. You simply need to make sure your console is linked to app (Settings > Console Management, in the app) and that your PS5 always remains connected (on your console: System > Power Saving > Features Available in Rest Mode > Stay Connected to the Internet). Inside the app you can now select a game and you’ll see the option to “Download to Console.”

XBox Series S/X

Transfer games from your Xbox One: If you spent money on Xbox One games a few years back, there’s no reason why you couldn’t still enjoy it on your newer console – and there’s a fast way to do this. Press the Xbox button > My Games & Apps > Full Library > All Owned Games. While you can download any of these games, it will be faster to transfer them from your old console. So long as both consoles are on the same Wi-Fi network, on Xbox Series S/X, go to Settings > System > Backup and Transfer > Network Transfer and then check the option, select your old console, choose what you want to copy over.

Play Blu-ray discs: While plastic may seem passé, Blu-rays look and sound better than what your streaming services can deliver, not to mention all those extras often packed onto the disc. While there isn’t an app built into your Xbox Series X (there is no optical drive for Xbox Series S), you can still play 4K Blu-ray discs by popping the disc into the tray and you’ll be prompted to download the app from the Microsoft Store. Those who have a connected audio-video receiver should also go to Settings > Devices & Connections > Blu-ray and turn on Let My Receiver Decode Audio.

Use your controller elsewhere: Did you know you can use your Xbox Series S/X controller with your Windows PC or Mac? Or your Android phone, iPhone, iPad or other tablet. Even Apple TV. Yep. This wireless controller uses Bluetooth to pair other devices and will work with any compatible game – and there are many. When you search for nearby Bluetooth devices on your gear, press the Xbox button in the center of the gamepad for it to be discoverable and then pair. (Pro tip: even older wired Xbox controllers can be plugged into the USB port of a laptop or desktop to play games).

Control Xbox with Google Assistant or Alexa: Finally, you can navigate your Xbox Series S/X by using your voice, such as turning the console on and off, launching a specific game, pausing a movie, inviting a friend to play, snapping a screenshot, starting a broadcast and. Go to Settings > Devices & Connections > Digital Assistants. Here you can enable your preferred digital assistant and then follow the relevant instructions to get started with Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa (Apple’s Siri is not supported).

Nintendo Switch

Use wireless headphones: Sure, there’s a 3.5mm jack in the top right of your Nintendo Switch, but what if you own a pair of wireless earbuds or headphones? No problem, as you can pair your favorite headset to the console through its Bluetooth connection. From your home screen, tap the System Settings icon (which looks like a little sun) and then select Bluetooth Audio down the list (it’s near the bottom). Finally, tap Pair Device and search for your headphones listed nearby (which you should first place in “pairing” mode, too). And don’t worry: up to two wireless controllers can also connect while using Bluetooth audio.

Find lost Joy-Con controllers: If you misplace those small wireless Joy-Con controllers (or one of them), navigate to the Controllers icon on the Home screen and select Find Controllers. This will bring up a menu of currently paired controllers, including any paired Nintendo Switch Pro Controllers. Selecting a controller will cause it to vibrate, which may make it easier to locate. (You’re welcome.)

Parental controls app: You might not be aware of the free Nintendo Switch Parental Controls app, available for iOS (iPhone and iPad) and Android devices (or go to p.nintendo.com to find it). Sign into the app with the same Nintendo account that’s on the Nintendo Switch and now you can set the daily limit on play time (such as 2 or 3 hours), age restrictions (such as not letting your 8-year-old play “Mature” rated titles), track the amount of play time for each family member on the system and more.

Free games: As is the case with Also available for PS5 and Xbox Series S/X, you can find a lot of free content to play on the Nintendo Switch, including several demos available for download in the Nintendo eShop, enabling players to try some titles before they buy. Recent free demos include Kirby and the Forgotten Land and Metroid Dread. Demos for Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes and LIVE A LIVE are also available and allow players to carry their progress over to the full game, if purchased.

Follow Marc on Twitter @marc_saltzman for his “Tech Tip of the Day” posts. Email him or subscribe to his Tech It Out” podcast. The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.



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