What to do with your brand new console before you start gaming

You want to make sure your console works exactly how you like it before you dive into gaming.
Close up to hands holding a Playstation 5 controller
Change the key settings on your console before you start gaming.

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If you’ve got yourself a brand new PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, or Nintendo Switch, your first instinct will probably be to dive in right away and start gaming. And as much fun as that sounds, it’s worth pausing and spending some time tweaking the console’s settings first.

From making sure the graphics are optimized on your television screen, to reducing the amount of power your gaming machine draws, playing around with these settings can make a significant difference. Once you’ve configured them to your satisfaction, the gaming can begin.

How to configure your brand new Sony PlayStation 5

On the PS5 you can get to the Settings screen via the cog icon in the top-right corner of the main interface. One key option that’s worth changing is Performance Mode or Resolution Mode, which you’ll find under Saved Data and Game/App Settings and Game Presets. Here you can either prioritize performance, resulting in higher frame rates and smoother on-screen graphics; or resolution, resulting in a higher pixel count and a crisper image. Some games can max out both, but if you need to compromise, here you can choose where you’d rather cut resources.

[Related: Xbox Series X vs PS5: How to pick between the two biggest new game consoles]

Another feature we’d recommend turning on is the variable refresh rate or VRR. This feature pushes frame rates higher by allowing your hardware to change the game’s refresh rate on the fly, resulting in smoother gameplay and less stuttering on compatible games and screens. To set this up on the PS5, open Settings and head to Screen and Video, Video Output, and VRR. Only some titles, TVs, and monitors support VRR, so if you’re not sure if your setup is among them, search online for the make and model of your display to find out. 

To get a better idea of how much power your PS5 is using up, go to Settings and head to System, and then Power Saving. There are three options to configure here: How long the console should wait before going into rest mode, which features (such as internet access) remain accessible in rest mode, and how long the delay should be before the controllers automatically turn off. Each option affects how much energy the PS5 consumes.

It’s also a good idea to take some time to customize the setup of your controllers—you’re going to be spending a long time holding them, after all. From Settings, choose Accessories and Controller (General). As well as options for adjusting the intensity of vibrations and trigger effects, you can change the controller’s speaker volume and even remap certain buttons to suit your way of playing.

How to configure your brand new Microsoft Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S

On the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S you can get to the Settings screen via the cog icon in the top right corner of the main interface. Once you’re there, if your console is hooked up to a TV, your first stop should be to make sure they play nicely together. To check if your Xbox is set to the right resolution for your screen go to General, TV & display options, and then Resolution. From TV & Display options you’ll also be able to give your console the power to turn your TV on and off automatically—just go to Device control then HDMI-CEC.

To customize the level of energy your Xbox needs through features like Remote Access and Sleep mode, go to Settings, pick General and then go to Power options. You can either pick one of the presets or choose Customize power options for more detailed control. Notice the bar on the right: it will keep updating to show you how much power your device will use while it’s off under the current settings.

You definitely don’t want to dive into gaming without customizing the screenshot options—otherwise, you might miss capturing a moment of glory. In Settings, you can pick Preferences then Capture & share to change which controller buttons do what in terms of screen capture, and set defaults for the video capture resolution and clip length.

It’s also a good idea to make sure that notifications from games and the Xbox system itself work just how you like them before you load up any games—you don’t want a pop-up appearing in the middle of the action. Choose Preferences and then Notifications from the Settings screen, to configure which type of events generate notifications, how long they show up for, and where on screen they appear.

How to configure your brand-new Nintendo Switch

To find the Settings panel on a Nintendo Switch, select System Settings (the button showing the cog icon) from the main home screen. If you’ve bought the console for a child, you might want to put an age limit on the games they can play by selecting Parental Controls and Parental Control Settings. You’ll find more advanced controls, such as screen time restrictions, through the companion app available for Android and iOS.

The Nintendo Switch was designed for gaming on the go, and with that in mind, it’s important that you always know how much battery life you’ve got left. The default indicator up in the top right corner is pretty helpful, but you can get a more accurate reading by selecting System and then Console Battery % from Settings.

[Related: Nintendo Switch vs. Lite: Which of Nintendo’s handheld gaming consoles should you buy?]

You’ll also want to control when your Switch console goes to sleep, which you can configure through Settings by picking System Settings and then Sleep Mode. Here you’ll be able to set the amount of time your device should sit inactive before it starts to conserve energy. And if you’re using your Switch to watch a lot of videos, you might want to check the Suspend Auto-Sleep While Playing Media Content option so that the screen doesn’t suddenly go dark in the middle of viewing.

Finally, remember that Nintendo built the Switch to be social. Select your profile picture (top left) from the main home screen, and you’ll be able to add specific friends and see suggestions the Switch has for you. You should also pay attention to the User Settings option—here you can set which friends can see which bits of your activity on the device, as well as configure what you’re sharing to your social media accounts.