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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

The world of games is always evolving. With the ever-expanding variety of game systems, crowning any one of them the "Best Gaming Console" simply doesn't make sense. Each system brings something different to the table. Figuring out which features matter most to you will make it easy to pick out the best gaming console for you.
Over the last two decades, the choice of video game systems has boiled down to a choice between three companies, Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft. Nintendo reinvents itself with new play styles and unique names with each console. Sony and Microsoft keep things simple, focusing on more and more life-like graphics and using the same basic name for every generation of consoles. The current battle for the top spot pits the Nintendo Switch vs PS4 vs Xbox One. We'll dive into the details of each below so that you can pick out the best gaming console for you.

Nintendo Switch - The Best Game Console for Kids

Released on March 3rd, 2017, the Nintendo Switch is the newest console on the list that was built from the ground up. In September of 2019, Nintendo launched the Switch Lite, a less expensive option that can only be used in handheld mode. Even though the Switch and Switch Lite were released much later than their competition, they're also the least powerful of the new game systems. For their last few consoles, Nintendo has focused on providing fun and unique gaming experiences rather than the lifelike graphics other companies have aimed for.

Pick Your Favorite Way to Play

The most unique aspect of the Nintendo Switch is its versatility. Unlike most video game systems, the Switch has a built-in 6.2" screen and a battery, allowing you to play anywhere. While you can play it on the go, the console also connects to TVs or monitors with an included dock. Two detachable controllers, Joy-Cons, slide into the edges of the screen, making it easy to hold the console while playing in handheld mode. A single person uses both joy-cons to play when in handheld mode. However, once detached from the console, many games can be played with a single joy-con, allowing you to share the fun with a friend.

Share the Screen

Playing with friends is another highlight that sets the Nintendo Switch apart from other video game systems. While all of the new game systems have multiplayer titles you can enjoy with friends, both locally and online, Nintendo is known for its dedication to games that groups can enjoy together. Much of the success earned by Nintendo's wildly popular Mario Kart and Mario Party games stems from the fun friends have competing and cooperating while sharing a couch. On a single Switch, each of these games supports up to 4 players locally, so everyone can get involved in the fun.

Fun for Everyone

The Nintendo Switch is typically considered the best game console for kids because of their cartoony heroes and aversion to adult themes. However, their avoidance of adult themes doesn't exclude adults from the fun. Engaging gameplay paired with universally relatable storytelling makes Nintendo games enjoyable at any age. Plus, a handful of third party games do offer the shoot-em-up titles many gamers enjoy. However, the Switch makes it easier than ever to get even non-gamers to join the fun. Many games make use of sensors in the controllers, allowing you to mime the action you want to perform in the game. Even grandma can enjoy twisting the controller like a steering wheel to navigate while driving, or swinging it like a tennis racket to return a serve.

In Summary

With an abundance of family friendly games and a dedication to the social aspect of gaming, the Nintendo Switch has earned the title as the best game console for kids. Its built-in screen makes it the best handheld gaming system. And, its innovative playstyles make it the best gaming console for party games and casual gamers. Nintendo has been making video game systems longer than anyone and their unique vision of this art continues to set them apart from the pack.

PlayStation 4 - Best Gaming Console for Exclusive Games

The original PlayStation 4 (PS4) was released on November 15th, 2013. Since then, Sony has replaced the original hardware with two alternate game systems, the PS4 Slim and the PS4 Pro, both of which hit stores in late 2016. PlayStation VR (PSVR), a virtual reality headset powered by the PS4 was also released in late 2016. The PS4 Slim upgraded the original's wireless and USB capabilities, while shrinking the size of the console. The PS4 Pro expanded on the Slim's improvements by increasing the clock speed of its CPU (Central Processing Unit), replacing its GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) with a more powerful chip, and increasing the RAM (Random Access Memory) and storage. Basically, the PS4 Pro is more powerful, allowing it to play games in 4K.

Games for Gamers

The impressive processing power offered by every version of the PS4 allows it to render beautiful worlds with complicated ecosystems. Series like God of War and Uncharted have drawn gamers to PlayStation for years with a of mix compelling narratives, striking visuals, and challenging puzzles that are only available on Sony's video game systems. Younger gamers can enjoy the action adventure classics Knack or Ratchet & Clank that offer action/adventure gameplay with a bit of platforming. Artistic games like Little Big Planet and Shadow of the Colossus pull in another crowd together with beautiful imagery and unconventional gameplay. With several dozen titles available only on the PS4 and thousands of non-exclusives, Sony's PS4 has earned the honor of being the best gaming console for exclusive games. When looking at PS4 vs Xbox One, Sony's library of exclusives becomes all the more impressive, given that Xbox One has only a handful of games that can't be found elsewhere. The PS4 also lets you stream games from the console to a computer or to mobile devices made by Sony or Apple, even if the two devices are on different networks. While the connection isn't perfect, the option to stream is an interesting feature that sets it apart from other video game systems.

The New World - PlayStationVR

Standing apart from the other new game systems, PS4 lets you play hundreds of games in virtual reality with the addition of a PlayStationVR (PSVR) headset. While Nintendo does dip their toe into the waters of virtual reality with their Labo VR Kit. Nintendo's product is literally a pair of goggles secured to the console's screen with cardboard and a very limited library of worthwhile experiences. Meanwhile, PSVR competes with demanding headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive that require powerful, expensive gaming computers to operate. PSVR lets players experience games in a new way, through the lenses of a headset that completely obscures their surroundings and replaces them with the world of the game. A screen within the headset offers up slightly different images for each eye similar to the way 3D glasses work. The result is a truly immersive gaming experience. Turning your head lets you investigate the world around you in a way that convincingly tricks your brain into believing you're actually there. To navigate the world, most games use the standard DualShock 4 controller that comes with the system. However, some games make use of the Move Motion Controllers (sold separately) that let you physically act out tasks like swinging a sword or throwing a punch to perform them in the game. Because the PSVR only uses a single camera to track your location, you can't stray far before on screen notifications usher you back to your starting position. While the PSVR works well with both versions of the PS4, the PS4 Pro does provide slightly sharper images. When it comes to virtual reality on consoles, the Nintendo Switch vs PS4 vs Xbox One debate unquestionably goes to the PS4, making it the best gaming console for VR.

In Summary

If you want the biggest library of exclusive games or have an interest in the immersive world of virtual reality, the PlayStation 4 is the best gaming console for both. With two versions of the console available, the PS4 Slim and the PS4 Pro, deciding between the two mainly boils down to gaming in 4K. If you can afford it, the Pro does offer better all around performance, delivering higher frame rates for demanding games. However, it doesn't provide access to any new content. All PS4 games can be played on either system. So if you don't have a 4K TV and you're unsure if the Pro justifies its cost, stick with the PS4 Slim, one of the best new game systems ever created.

Xbox One - The All-Around Best Gaming Console

The Xbox One first hit stores November 22, 2013. Since then, Microsoft has released two alternate versions, the Xbox One S in August, 2016 and the Xbox One X in November, 2017. The Xbox One S offered a smaller frame, a slightly improved graphics processor, and support for 4K/HDR Blu-rays. The Xbox One X dramatically improved the graphics processor, central processor, memory, and storage, making it the most powerful console currently available. All Xbox One games are playable on each of these video game systems, like the PS4 and its variants.

So Many Games!

Even though the PS4 has a bigger library of exclusive titles, the Xbox One has the biggest games library of all the new game systems. To achieve this somewhat counterintuitive feat, Microsoft made hundreds of games from the Xbox 360 and the original Xbox playable on the Xbox One. Additionally, several games that are available on the Xbox One are not available on the PS4 but still don't count as exclusives because they are available on PCs. Popular franchises like Forza, Gears of War, and Titanfall are all examples of these Xbox/PC exclusives.
Microsoft also offers the Netflix-like Game Pass, a subscription service that provides access to more than 100 high quality games like Gears of War 5. Although brand new games typically aren't offered, the service lets gamers play dozens of exciting titles for the cost of about two new games a year, $9.99/mo.

So Many Games!

The Xbox One wants to be a one stop shop for all of your favorite forms of media. An HDMI input on the back of the console lets you connect your cable box so that you can watch TV through the Xbox. Doing so provides a robust TV guide and lets you pause live TV for up to half an hour. The Xbox One S and One X models also double as 4K Blu-Ray players. And, like the PS4 Pro, these two models support 4K streaming via Netflix, Prime Video, and files hosted on your computer, network storage, or USB drive. Similarly, music apps like Spotify and Pandora are available for all versions of both Xbox and PS4. While both systems offer excellent online experiences, Xbox has historically been more reliable in this regard when compared to the PS4, which has had a handful of prolonged outages over the years.

In Summary

The Xbox One X is the most powerful of the new game systems, offering 4K gaming and streaming for a wide variety of titles. It has the largest game library of any modern video game systems thanks to backwards compatibility. And with Xbox Game Pass you can play dozens of games for a low monthly fee. Plus, the seamless integration with your cable provider and streaming services makes the Xbox One today's all-around best gaming console. If you're deciding between the One S and One X, 4K gaming is the deciding factor. If you don't need top of the line performance, stick with the One S. Otherwise, enjoy the best gaming console available today, the Xbox One X.

Don't Forget…

When the dust settles in the epic battle of Nintendo Switch vs PS4 vs Xbox One and you've decided which of these new game systems you'll be taking home, you'll want to find at least one game and potentially some accessories to go with it.

Play with Friends

If you want to share the experience with friends, you'll need at least two controllers or a subscription to your new game systems online service. For online play, Xbox Live Gold and PS Plus both cost about $60 per year. Nintendo's online service only runs $20 a year and also offers a family plan for up to 8 accounts at just $35 per year. All three of these subscriptions include access to a variety of games. However, Nintendo's games are decades old NES games while Xbox and PlayStation offer games from the current generation, occasionally top tier titles. Nintendo's network also struggles with issues like lag significantly more often than Xbox or PS4.
If you want to play with friends in the same room, you'll need to buy another controller, or two, or three. The Nintendo Switch comes with two Joy-Cons which can be used together as a single controller or (in many games) as two distinct devices to bring friends into a game. However, if you plan on playing with friends regularly, you might want to consider the Switch Pro Controller, a more ergonomic option that resembles the Xbox and PS4 controllers. Alternatively, you can purchase another pair of Joy-Cons so that four people can play together.
The Xbox One and PS4 have more familiar controller options. The Playstation DualShock 4 is an incredibly comfortable controller and the only official option. The Xbox One has a few controllers, offering wired and wireless options, as well as a highly customizable Elite Controller. The Xbox One also offers an incredible Adaptive Controller that was designed for individuals who find it challenging to use traditional controllers, making the system infinitely more accessible to a wide variety of gamers.

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