With intense heat waves affecting up to 100 million Americans across the country, maybe you need a little respite. Staying indoors – with AC or a strong fan and a cool drink – should do the trick. (Remember to stop occasionally to check in if you are not feeling well and aging parents as good as your pets.)
For entertainment, many will turn to a video game controller to virtually escape into another world for a few minutes.
Whether you own a PlayStation 5 (PS5), Xbox Series S/X, or Nintendo Switch, you might not be getting the most out of your beloved console. And so, to “enhance” your knowledge of what’s possible, here are a dozen lesser-known features of your gaming system.
Note: When specified, some bits will work for multiple machines.
Sony PlayStation 5
Built-in microphone: Want to “talk trash” with online friends you compete with? If money is tight, you might not know PS5 DualSense wireless controller has a built-in microphone – allowing you to chat, strategize or shout online without having to buy anything. To avoid an awkward moment, like your doting mom bringing you a plate of cookies while you’re playing, players can quickly mute voice capture via the controller’s dedicated mute button. There’s also a small speaker on the PS5 controller, but it will sound much better if you plug headphones into the 3.5mm jack.
Get help (no spoilers): To make the game more accessible to all skill levels, the PS5 has introduced a new feature called “Game Help” to help players quickly and easily. Compatible with multiple 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 in the game – to get help without revealing any “spoilers”. During your game, press the PS button and in the control center, select the game map on the left marked with “Hints inside” (if this title is supported).
Expand storage space: Now that many gamers are downloading games rather than buying them on plastic, consider adding more storage to your PS5, which you can connect externally (via USB) or better yet, add a solid state drive (SSD) inside your PS5. New this summer from Western Digital and Sony Interactive Entertainment is Western Digital 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 heat sink design to keep things cool. The 2TB model costs $279. (Note: Xbox Series S/X and Nintendo Switch also allow you to expand storage.)
Thanks for the (computing) memory! Here’s how to buy the right data storage for your needs
Download games via your smartphone: Many PS5 games today are huge, so downloading digital games to your PS5 can take a while. Fortunately, you can start the process and start the download using the PlayStation App on your smartphone or tablet. You just need to make sure that your console is linked to the app (Settings > Console management, in the app) and that your PS5 always stays connected (on your console: System > Power saving > Features available in mode rest > Stay connected to the Internet ). In the application, you can now select a game and you will see the option “Download to console”.
Xbox S/X series
Transfer games from your Xbox One: If you spent the money on Xbox One games a few years ago, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy them on your new console yet – and there’s a quick way to do it. Press the Xbox button > My games & apps > Full library > All owned games. Although you can download any of these games, it will be faster to transfer them from your old console. As long as both consoles are on the same Wi-Fi network, on Xbox Series S/X go to Settings > System > Backup & Transfer > Network Transfer then check the option, select your old console, choose what you want to copy more.
Play Blu-ray discs: Although the plastic might seem outdated, Blu-rays look and sound better than what your streaming services can offer, not to mention all those extras often packed onto the disc. Although there is no 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 inserting the disc into the tray and you will be prompted to download the app from the Microsoft Store. Those with an AV receiver connected should also go to Settings > Devices & Connections > Blu-ray and enable Let My Receiver Decode Audio.
Use your controller elsewhere: Did you know that 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. Yeah. This wireless controller uses Bluetooth to pair other devices and will work with any compatible game – and there are plenty. When you search for nearby Bluetooth devices on your gear, press the Xbox button in the center of the gamepad to make it discoverable, then pair it. (Pro tip: Even older wired Xbox controllers can be plugged into a laptop or desktop USB port to play games.)
Control Xbox with Google Assistant or Alexa: Finally, you can navigate your Xbox Series S/X using your voice, such as turning the console on and off, launching a specific game, pausing a movie, inviting a friend to play, taking a screenshot, starting a dissemination and. Go to Settings > Devices & connections > Digital assistants. Here you can activate your favorite digital assistant, then follow the relevant instructions to get started with Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa (Apple’s Siri is not supported).
Use wireless headphones: Sure, there’s a 3.5mm jack on the top right of your Nintendo Switch, but what if you have a pair of headphones or wireless headphones? No problem, as you can pair your favorite headset to the console via its Bluetooth connection. From your home screen, tap the System Settings icon (looks like a little sun), then select Bluetooth Audio from the list (it’s towards the bottom). Finally, tap Pair device and find your headphones listed nearby (which you also need to put into “pairing” mode first). 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 little wireless Joy-Con controllers (or one of them), go to the Controllers icon on the home screen and select Search for Controllers. This will bring up a menu of currently paired controllers, including all paired Nintendo Switch Pro controllers. Selecting a controller will cause it to vibrate, which can make it easier to locate. (You’re welcome.)
Parental control app: You may not be familiar with 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). Log in to the app with the same Nintendo Account as on the Nintendo Switch, and you can now set the daily play time limit (like 2 or 3 hours), age restrictions (like not letting your child out of 8-year-olds playing “Mature” rated titles), track each family member’s play time on the system and more.
Free games: As is the case with Also available for PS5 and Xbox Series S/X, you can find plenty of free content to play on the Nintendo Switch, including several demos available to download in the Nintendo Online Store, allowing players to try certain titles before purchasing. 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, allowing players to continue their progression to the full game, if purchased.
Follow Marc on Twitter @marc_saltzman for his “Tech Tip of the Day” posts. Send him an e-mail or subscribe to his “Tech It Out” podcast. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Game consoles: hidden features of PS5, XBox, Nintendo Switch