11 essential Nintendo Switch tips and tricks

Nintendo's portable console is a hit – but are you making the most of it?

Nintendo Switch

The Nintendo Switch has been impressing the T3 staff and gamers at large ever since it first hit the ground running in March 2017, but whether you've just picked up the device or you've been using it ever since launch day, you can always learn a few more Switch tricks.

That's why we're here to pass on 11 essential tips and tricks for the Nintendo Switch: they'll take your gaming to the next level, from ways to boost the battery life of your device, to some of the settings that can improve the picture quality on bigger screens.

1. Bring up the Switch Quick Menu

Have you found the Quick Menu yet? It's accessed with a long press on the Home button, and it means you can access some key options without quitting the game you're in – you can quickly put your console into sleep mode with just a few button taps, for example.

Long press on the Home button in any game and the Quick Menu slides in from the right. You'll see the menu includes options for putting the Switch into aeroplane mode and adjusting the brightness of the screen via a slider, as well as powering the console down.

2. Pair your Joy-Cons with other gadgets

Nintendo Switch

The Switch on the go

One of the coolest tricks we've found with the Nintendo Switch Joy-Con controllers is that you can connect them up to Android, Windows or macOS to control mobile or desktop games. The controllers use standard Bluetooth so they should be easily detected.

Whether your games will support these input sticks is another matter, but the connections work fine: just press the Sync button (the black button on the connector part of the Joy-Con) to pair. Apps like JoyToKey (Windows) and Joy-Con Enabler (Android) can help.

3. See how long you've been playing a game for

Want to know how many hours you've sunk into Breath of the Wild or Mario Kart while you've been on your Switch? From the home screen, select your avatar (top left), then scroll down your Profile page to see how long you've dedicated to each game.

The readings aren't all that precise and only show up after you've been using your Nintendo Switch for 10 days or more, but it's a fun way of looking at which games you love the most. If you select the Friend List option you can check the stats for your friends too.

4. Charge your Joy-Cons while playing

Nintendo Switch Charging Grip

The Nintendo Switch Charging Grip

The Joy-Con Grip that comes with the Nintendo Switch makes it easy to control games when they're up on the big screen, but don't be fooled into thinking they're charging at the same time – if you want to avoid running out of juice, a third-party solution is required.

Enter the aptly named Nintendo Switch Charging Grip, yours for £24.99 or $29.99. Similar in shape and feel to the bundled Grip, this is a touch more stylish, and you can carry on gaming safe in the knowledge that you won't be running out of battery life anytime soon.

5. Change the colour settings

If you're playing with your Switch on a computer monitor rather than a television set, try experimenting with the settings you'll find under TV Settings in the System Settings menu – specifically the one that says RGB Range. Try selecting the Full Range option here.

On a computer monitor, this should give you a better range of colours. It can improve the picture on certain TV sets as well, as long as they support full RGB range as well (check the documentation) – otherwise leave the setting as RGB Limited to retain all the details.

6. Take screenshots on the Switch

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

We're only a year into the lifespan of the Switch and we've already seen plenty of gorgeous-looking games appear for the console. What you might not know is that you can grab any frame of any of these titles anytime you like, using the built-in screenshot tool.

All you need to do is hit the button near the bottom of the left-hand Joy-Con – yes, it is a dedicated screenshot button. Hold down the button to record a clip of up to 30 seconds. Your images and videos are saved for you in the Album section of your home screen.

7. Get a better idea of remaining battery life

Those of you who like your battery life to be measured in precise percentages rather than vague icons will like this one: from the System Settings menu, choose System then the Console Battery (%) option to have the battery symbol always show the percentage left.

You can now be more sure how long you can go for before you'll need a recharge. There are a couple of other options for bringing up this percentage as well – you can actually tap on the battery icon itself, or you can press the ZL and ZR buttons together to bring it up.

8. Attach keyboards and headsets

Nintendo Switch

The Nintendo Switch

That USB-C port on the bottom of your Nintendo Switch is good for more than just charging up your device. You can plug in a pair of USB-C headphones, for example, if you want to immerse yourself in sound and don't want to use the regular 3.5mm jack.

Another option is to attach a USB-C keyboard, which should work straight away, no configuration required. Alas, you can't use a keyboard to play games with – but on login screens where you need to do a lot of typing, it's a quick trick that could come in handy.

9. Save on battery life

Battery life is a precious commodity and could mean the difference between you finishing a level on the bus ride home and having to wait. There are a few tricks you can try here, like dipping the brightness a little from the Screen Brightness menu in System Settings.

Turning the Wi-Fi off can help too – you can do that by activating aeroplane mode from the Quick Menu (press and hold the Home button). Also, disable controller vibration for another extra battery boost, via the Controllers and Sensors menu inside System Settings.

10. Keep the kids well protected

Nintendo Switch Parental Controls

Nintendo Switch Parental Controls

No doubt your kids are keen to get in as much gaming time as possible on the Switch, while you're keen to keep an eye on their well-being. Head to the System Settings and you'll find a Parental Controls menu that lets you limit games based on age rating.

For a more detailed set of controls, download the app for Android or iOS. These apps let you set limits on playing time, and even put the Switch into sleep mode remotely if the kids are taking liberties. You can also see which games your children are playing the most.

11. Perform a hard reset or factory reset

We hope you never have problems with your Switch, but there's always the chance that something could go wrong. If a simple restart doesn't help, hold down the power button for at least 12 seconds to switch the device off, then wait 30 seconds and power it back up.

A factory reset is your last resort and returns the Switch to its unboxed state. Hold down the power button to turn it on, keep holding, then press down on the two volume buttons as well. You'll then get into Maintenance Mode, which lets you choose a factory reset.

David Nield

Dave has over 20 years' experience in the tech journalism industry, covering hardware and software across mobile, computing, smart home, home entertainment, wearables, gaming and the web – you can find his writing online, in print, and even in the occasional scientific paper, across major tech titles like T3, TechRadar, Gizmodo and Wired. Outside of work, he enjoys long walks in the countryside, skiing down mountains, watching football matches (as long as his team is winning) and keeping up with the latest movies.