Best Nintendo Switch Settings You Should Be Using

Since the Nintendo Switch serves double duty as a home and handheld console, it has more moving parts (figuratively speaking) than rival consoles. Some settings can vastly improve your enjoyment.

Nintendo Switch OLED
Photo: Nintendo

When Nintendo introduced gamers to the Switch, early commercials painted the system as a highly mobile gaming platform as well as a home console. That is mostly true, but reality rarely measures up to the idealism of commercials. If you’re looking to maximize the Switch’s potential, you’ll need to make the most out of the console’s settings.

You can easily use the Switch straight out of the box with the standard settings, and you will probably enjoy the results. But what if we said you can get even more out of the console by changing a few settings? Some of these options can extend your Switch’s battery life, speed up download speeds, and even fix some potentially serious system errors. Turns out the Switch is hiding more than just a few secret features.

Controller Calibration

Joy-Con Drift is a plague upon modern gamers. Because of how Joy-Cons are built, they are susceptible to phantom inputs: a condition where their processors think the control stick is moving when it isn’t. Since those false inputs commonly show up in-game as characters or cursors “drifting” across the screen, the name stuck. But just because the control stick isn’t working as it should, doesn’t mean it is suffering from Joy-Con Drift. Before sending a Joy-Con in for repairs, you should double-check its settings.

If a controller is acting up, you might only need to recalibrate it. The relevant menu is found in the “Controllers and Sensors” tab within the System Settings menu. While in this tab, scroll down until you find “Calibrate Control Sticks,” and then select it. Tilt the stick you suspect isn’t working, and a new screen should pop up that shows the stick inputs. If you aren’t touching the stick and see a “+” in the center of the screen, you’re ok. If you see a dot instead, then it’s time to calibrate (NOTE: don’t recalibrate if your stick is fine. Seriously, don’t.). Press the X button and follow the on-screen instructions. Assuming Joy-Con drift isn’t the problem, then a fresh calibration is all you need.

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Sometimes, the internal gyroscope of the Switch and its controllers go a little wonky. When that happens, you can calibrate them much like a joystick. From the “Controllers and Sensors” tab, pick “Calibrate Motion Controls” and choose to either calibrate the Switch itself or a controller. Whichever you pick, follow the on-screen instructions, which will involve either undocking your Switch or holding down the plus or minus button on the controller, and then placing either down on a flat surface and leaving it be for a few seconds. The Switch’s hardware will do the rest, and it will tell you when calibration is complete.

Airplane Mode and Other Battery Saving Settings

Rechargeable internal batteries are standard for many modern electronics, especially gaming peripherals (excluding Xbox controllers). They cut down on waste since you don’t have to keep throwing out single-use batteries, but as a trade-off, they don’t last as long. So why not squeeze as much time as you can out of those batteries?

Depending on the game you play and the Switch model, the console’s battery can last anywhere between 2.5 and 9 hours. But if you turn on the Switch’s Airplane Mode, you can extend the console’s battery life. After all, much like a modern laptop, the built-in battery isn’t just powering the processor, speakers, and screen, but also the wi-fi and Bluetooth adapters. If you are playing, say, Hades while in a car, every milliampere hour (mAH) spent searching for wi-fi signals is a milliampere hour wasted.

So why bother? Activate Airplane Mode from the System Settings menu, and you will turn off the Switch’s wi-fi and Bluetooth capabilities, thus extending its battery life. Just remember that since Joy-Cons and other Switch controllers use Bluetooth, you can only play games if Joy-Cons are physically docked to the Switch.

If you want to squeeze your Switch’s battery for all it’s worth, you can tweak a few more settings. For instance, from the System Settings menu, you can scroll down to “Screen Brightness,” and use the corresponding slider to lower the Switch screen’s illumination. Lower lumens mean more battery life, but don’t turn it too low if you want to still see your game.

Match TV Power State

Who doesn’t love a good universal remote? Instead of using one controller for your television, one for your soundbar, and one for your HDMI splitter, wouldn’t it be great to use one controller for all of them? The Switch actually offers a similar function, but only if you turn on the proper settings.

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In previous console generations, in order to play games, you had to turn on your television, switch to the proper channel or input, and turn on the console. Thanks to the magic of HDMI, modern consoles can automatically do all of the above. This feature goes by many names, but on the Switch, it is known as “Match TV Power State,” which is found in the “TV Settings” tab in the System Settings menu. Once active, all you have to do is turn on the Switch, and it will automatically activate the TV and set it to the proper input.

Even if the Match TV Power State feature only offered that setting, it would still save gamers time and headaches. But when Nintendo decided to call this setting “Match TV Power State,” they meant it. When turned on, not only does this feature let the Switch turn on the television, but users can turn off the Switch just by switching off the TV. The fewer devices you have to power down, the less likely you are to forget one. 

Improve Switch Download Speeds By Changing the MTU Setting

The internet is a crucial aspect of modern gaming. Not only can you play against other gamers who aren’t in the same room (or country, for that matter), but you can also download entire games and updates with relative ease. If you own multiple consoles, though, you might notice the Nintendo Switch’s download speeds are slow compared to rival platforms. However, you can improve the situation by playing with an obscure setting.

Like many consoles these days, you either connect your Switch to the internet via wi-fi or a wired cable. You can even alter some connection settings, such as the MTU. This acronym stands for “maximum transmission unit,” and it determines the size of data your console can receive. The larger the MTU (up to a certain point), the larger the packets, and the larger the packets, the faster the download speed. The Switch’s MTU is set to 1400 by default, but many owners on Reddit and elsewhere claim they can speed up downloads and reduce online game lag by setting a network’s MTU to 1500.

To change your Switch’s MTU, enter the console’s System Settings, scroll down to “Internet,” and select “Internet Settings.” Pick the network you are connected to and click on “Change Settings.” Scroll down to “MTU,” and then select it to enter a new value. However, you can’t enter just any number, and even if you could, the MTU is a “your mileage may vary” kind of setting. Unless your router can handle a high MTU, changing your Switch’s value won’t fix anything. Before fiddling with this option, use a Ping Test to figure out your optimal MTU size.

Color Settings For Graphics Optimization

Not all displays are built the same. Even though most games perform worse while undocked, the Switch’s screen is optimized to play Switch games. But what are the odds any random TV will provide the same color experience when the console is docked? Sometimes, you need to change a few settings to make a game look right.

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The most common difference between Switch games in handheld mode and docked mode is the colors. More often than not, colors are washed out on the big screen. To prevent this problem, you need to visit the “TV Settings” tab in the Switch’s System Settings menu. From there, you should see several options, including “TV Resolution” and “RGB Range.” Odds are these are set to “Automatic” by default. Change TV Resolution to match your TV’s resolution (e.g., if it’s 1080p, change the Switch to 1080p), and as for RGB Range, set it to “Full Range.” Once done, you should see a noticeable difference the next time you start a game.

Unfortunately, while you can change the Switch’s outputted colors and resolution from the Switch itself, any other tweaks need to be done from your TV’s built-in settings. For instance, you might have to adjust the color temperature and contrast settings to get the screen just right, but when you do, your experience will skyrocket.

Recovery Mode

Calling customer service is often a matter of when, not if. Something is bound to go wrong sooner or later, and turning your Nintendo Switch off and on again won’t always fix the problem. Luckily, the console includes a nuclear option that should solve everything, albeit at a cost.

When you are faced with severe system issues and have exhausted all other options short of sending a console in for repairs, a factory reset will usually clear up even the worst problems. As the term suggests, this feature wipes the device clean of all programs and updates, reverting the Switch to its state fresh out of the factory. In a PC, factory resetting is as easy as using the built-in reset program, which is usually found via the search function. The Nintendo Switch also has one, but you need to press buttons in the right order (sort of like entering a cheat code in retro titles).

In order to access the Switch’s recovery mode menu, first turn it off. Mind you, I don’t mean “just put it into sleep mode.” Hold down the power button until the console switches all the way off. Then hold down both volume buttons on the Switch and turn the console on. Keep holding down the volume buttons until the recovery mode menu pops up. From there, you have three options: Update System, Initialize Console Without Deleting Save Data, and Initialize Console. The first is self-explanatory, and who knows; maybe a fresh new patch will fix whatever is ailing your Switch. If not, then it’s time to factory reset. Choose “Initialize Console” to delete all data on the Switch, but if you want to keep saved data, pick “Initialize Console Without Deleting Save Data.” With any luck, this factory reset will fix the Switch. If not, all that you can do at that point is send it in for repairs.