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Video Game Consoles Buying Guide

A comprehensive guide that will give you all the information you need on how to buy video game consoles.
Getting Started
Whether it's your first game system or your fifth, choosing the right platform can make all the difference. With a slew of features and a long list of platform-exclusive content, it's important to recognize that there is no "best console," and the decision depends on your style and how you want to play.

Modern gaming can be broken down into three major manufacturers. Each manufacturer has its own independent consoles that carry their own advantages and peripherals to enhance your experience. Let's break it down into a little more detail.
Microsoft
Xbox One
Released in November 2013, the Xbox One is considered to be the Xbox 360's successor. It's the best gaming console for those who want all of their entertainment options in one place. Sold in 500GB and 1TB hard drive models, the updated Xbox One console streams games, movies and music that you love. It also features a Blu-ray player for those who enjoy Blu-ray DVDs. Not only does the newest Xbox provide fantastic visuals with it's AMD Radeon graphics card, but it comes with a solid controller that's essential for playing demanding games. Its impulse triggers, responsive thumbsticks and D-pad deliver much greater intensity, precision and comfort in action-packed titles. Not to mention, the Xbox One also supports Xbox 360 games, making it easy to enjoy them even with your new system.

Xbox 360/Kinect
Released in November 2005, the Xbox 360 features a simple user-friendly interface that plays your favorite games, movies, and music. Sold in 4GB and 250GB hard drive models, the Xbox 360 boasts full 1080p resolution, wireless controllers, and built-in Wi-Fi for online gaming with an Xbox Live subscription. A simple download from Xbox Live allows for backwards compatibility, turning that stack of original Xbox games into hours of nostalgic game play. Users can also import media through the multiple USB ports into their photo, music, and video libraries.

Xbox Live
With a built-in wi-fi adapter making internet connection easier than ever, Xbox live offers a wealth of online multi-media and gaming content. Users can stream movies and TV from providers like Netlflix and Hulu, or integrate their Facebook or Twitter to share scores and achievements with friends. Xbox Live also features the Xbox Marketplace where users can download tons of content like game trailers, arcade games, or even full versions of older games. Xbox Live is available for free and subscription basis.

Xbox Kinect
Released in November of 2010, the Kinect is a motion-controlled sensor that attaches to the Xbox 360. Using your voice or body, you can control everything through the Xbox without every touching a controller. As an alternative to static, on the couch game play, the Kinect offers users the chance to truly interact with their game; running, jumping, and dancing their way to the leader boards and even a healthier lifestyle with content directed at fitness and health.

Best For
Novice to Expert gamers, online players, anyone who wants an all-in-one experience, workout fiends and those interested in motion-senor, controller-free gaming.
Sony
Playstation 4
Released in November of 2013, the Playstation 4 (PS4) is the newest gaming console from Sony. Thanks to its upgraded software and hardware, the PS4 outdo's many of its competitors in the game system market. Users have access to 500GB of hard drive space to store all of their media, along with a speedy eight-core AMD processor and AMD Radeon graphic processor for fast, clear play time. In addition, the Sony Playstation 4 comes with 8 GB of GDDR5 RAM (memory), which is considerably faster than the new Xbox One console's. Another neat feature is the PlayStation Network, or Sony's online community. You can sign up for a PS Plus account and easily play online with other members.

On top of that, the Playstation 4 is not just a gaming console. When the games are over, you can switch over to the Playstation Store and rent or buy a movie, TV show, and even stream music or more media from popular platforms such as Netflix and Hulu. The PS4 console comes with one DualShock 4 wireless controller, a wired headset, USB charging cable, HDMI cable and power cable. The new wireless controller is also a nice upgrade from the previous PS3 model. It has a built-in speaker and LED lights that double as motion control. So if you're looking for the latest and greatest video game console, the Sony Playstation 4 is definitely one of the best gaming system's in its class.

Playstation 3
Released in November of 2006, the Playstation 3 (PS3) is a gaming console that moves way beyond gaming. Users have the ability to import music onto its 160GB hard drive and customize a soundtrack for their games. This same import feature allows users to store and display photos from a digital camera or memory card. A big draw to the PS3 is its ability to not only play DVDs and CDs, but to also play Blu-ray movies in full 1080p. Just like its Microsoft counterpart, the PS3 features a built-in wi-fi adapter and the play Playstation Network, complete with downloadable and streaming content but, unlike the Xbox 360, this service is offered to users free of charge.

Another unique feature of the PS3 is the cell broadband engine. Like a processor for a computer, the CBE allows artificial intelligence (A.I.) to adapt to your game play. For example, if you're a playing the newest Madden football game and keep running the same play with success, the A.I. will adapt the defense so to force you to change your strategy. Not only does this bring a completely new level of intensity to any game but makes you a better gamer at the same time.

Best For
All ranges of gamers who aren't concerned with the ultimate online experience, fans of 3D, Blu-ray fans, and media consumers.

Playstation Move
Introduced in November of 2010, the Playstation Move is a motion-sensing gaming controller for the PS3. With the Playstation Eye as the receiver, the glowing orb on the Playstation Move controller interacts with the games environment allowing users to navigate menus, control DVDs and Blu-Rays, aim a laser rifle, or direct a paint brush.

Playstation Vita
The newest addition to the Playstation family, the handheld Vita debuted in February of 2012. Unlike any handheld device of the past the Vita offers users a completely unique experience. Users can traverse an augmented reality or just talk to friends using the front and rear cameras. A six axis motion sensor lets users engage their favorite games and characters like never before by steering, tilting, and even touching their way to success with the front and rear touch screens.

A major feature of the PS Vita is the cross-platform play. If a player owns a copy of a game for both PS3 and Vita, they can begin the game on one console and finish on another. The multiplayer experience allows Vita users to seamlessly engage their PS3 counterparts (and vice versa) through a Wi-Fi, or 3G (AT&T) connection. This online access and a built-in GPS help users to connect with friends, in-game or with social media.

At the core of the device is a quad core processor, and a 5-inch OLED screen that displays your game in 960x544 resolution. Gamers can enjoy wireless play for about three to five hours between charging.

Best For
Mobile gamers, media consumers, social network fiends on-the-go
Nintendo
Wii
The Nintendo Wii was released in November of 2006 and was the first console to introduce a motion sensor experience. Its unique controller, nicknamed the "Wiimote", uses a combination of built-in accelerometers and infrared detection to sense its position in 3D space when pointed at the LEDs built into the systems Sensor Bar. This allows user to navigate menus and control their game through motion gestures and traditional buttons. Through a variety of controller add-ons like steering wheels and nun chucks, users can enhance their experience.

Again, users have access to downloadable and streaming content through the marketplace, however, the content is not near as plentiful on this side of the fence. The Wii also features the familiar backwards compatibility feature so users can enjoy Nintendo GameCube games as well. A nice little feature is the compatibility with the Nintendo DS, where users can use their DS as a controller for the Wii.

Best For
Parents with children who are beginning their gaming adventure, family gaming, party gaming, loyal fans of classic Nintendo titles.

Nintendo DS Family
The original DS was introduced in 2004 as the successor to the classic Gameboy. Several versions of the DS have made their way onto shelves but the current lineup at Abt is DSi, DSi XL, and the 3DS. They are all very similar with minor modifications.

The current Nintendo DSi was released in 2009 and features dual 3.25" touch screens, a 0.3 MP camera, VGA video camera, stereo speakers, and Wi-Fi connectivity. Users can listen to music, edit photos, and play games (even old DS games). The DSi Shop gives users access to downloadable content and applications. The DSi XL was launched in 2010 and has all the same features as the DSi with dual 4.2" LCD screens and a battery life of 13-17 hours.

The latest model, the 3DS, was released in 2011. It has most of the same features of the DS and DSi but, the addition of an accelerometer, gyroscope, 3D effects, and a new round nub-like analog stick on the left side amplify the experience. The 3.53" screen lets users enjoy a full 3D gaming and movie experience without glasses. A single inside camera captures 2D images and two rear facing cameras capture 3D. Photos can also be edited. Up to 10 minutes of 3D video footage can be taken through normal (with sound), stop motion, interval, and montage modes.

An interesting feature of the 3DS is the activity log that not only tracks game play and keeps a record of games which have been played, but also physical activity, counting each step taken while carrying the device. The more steps you take, the more coins you can get to spend on a variety of rewards.

The 3DS also features an augmented reality experience, and an internet browser. Finally, users can connect with other DS devices using the SpotPass Mode, or to Wi-Fi with StreetPass Mode for an extensive multiplayer experience.

Best For
All kinds of gamers on the go, 3D enthusiasts and amateur 3D video directors.
Best TV For Gaming
When it comes to choosing a TV for your video game console, great picture quality is essential for the best possible gaming experience. When talking about TV's or Monitors, the term Hertz (Hz, *per second) is often heard, however it's not relevant for TV gaming. What is important to remember is that today's gaming consoles render games at a maximum of 60fps (frames per second), or even lower. Gaming systems also cap out at 1080p HD resolution and do not support 4K at all.

In regards to choosing the right TV for gaming, the number to focus on is the one that defines lag. For example, when playing games you want the TV to react to the game controller instantly and the amount of delay can be measured as "input lag". In other words, the time it takes the input signal to show up on the TV display, which ideally should be as low as possible. Lag happens when the input signal is negatively affected by the "picture enhancement" systems that many manufacturers use. It can be reduced by turning these systems off or calibrating your TV. Many TV's also offer the option of using "game mode" too.

Input lag of 200 milliseconds (one fifth of a second) is not uncommon on TV's that are set to default settings. However, for gamers this is a problem, especially for racing and first-person shooter games. Input lag below 50 ms is considered acceptable on most TVs but if you play often, you'll appreciate input lag below 30 ms.