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Best Video Game Consoles

Updated June 2018
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 21 Models Considered
  • 8 Models Tested
  • 98 Hours Researched
  • 3 Experts Interviewed
  • 187 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best video game consoles

    Last Updated June 2018

    If you play video games in your living room, chances are you're doing it on a console. What sets a console apart from a handheld (like the Game Boy) or a PC is that it connects to your TV, and it's easy to set up and use.

    There was a time when consoles were vastly different from each other. Some used cartridges, some used CDs, and it was usually easy to decide which one was right for you. These days, though, video game consoles not only look alike, but they share the same architecture and for the most part, even the same games.

    If you're looking to buy a video game console, please check the matrix above for a quick rundown of each of the five best current models available on the market.

    To learn even more, read on below for a breakdown of the differences between the products and some facts that will help you to make a determination.

    You don't have to worry about virus scans and drivers with a console. Any maintenance will be done automatically by the console itself.

    Video game console features

    Video game consoles are incredibly complex machines, and an emphasis is placed on being a one-stop shop for all your entertainment needs.

    Playing Blu-rays, watching your favorite streaming services, and playing current and retro games are all possible on most consoles.

    The factors that play into whether a console is right for you or not will typically come down to what kind of TV you have, and what extra features interest you most.

    What are 1080p and 4K UHD?

    It seems like just yesterday 1080p was the hot new TV tech on the street, but it's already old news. The new resolution standard is 4K UHD, and these displays pack in about four times the amount of pixels 1080p does.

    We're in this weird transition period where the market is still in the midst of making the orientation toward 4K.

    This video game console generation came out just before 4K became affordable for the everyday consumer, so the original versions of those consoles were geared towards 1080p.

    Original consoles vs. upgraded consoles

    Not to be left behind by TV manufacturers, Sony and Microsoft have released an updated version of the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One that pack more power and have the capability of outputting a 4K video signal.

    However, just because the PlayStation 4 Pro and the Xbox One X are the newest consoles doesn't mean that the older versions aren't supported any longer.

    These new, more powerful consoles are just a half-step up and still use the same games as the original PS4 and Xbox One.

    Resolution

    A huge factor in what console you should buy is the kind of TV you have. If the set you want to game on is 1080p, go for the PS4 Slim or Xbox One S.

    If it's 4K UHD, then you'll probably want to spend the extra money on the PS4 Pro or Xbox One X.

    The PS4 Pro and Xbox One X can output 4K video, and the original models can't. The thing is if your TV isn't 4K you're not going to get the full effect of the improvements these new models offer.

    If you're planning to wait a few years before you upgrade to 4K, then getting the Xbox One X or PS4 Pro just isn't worth the extra money.

    Game library

    There's no use in getting a video game console if it doesn't have decent games to play. The Xbox One and the PS4 have very similar libraries, so it comes down to which system has the better exclusives.

    Exclusives are games that only come out for one particular console. For example, you'll always see games like Call of Duty come out on both Xbox and PlayStation, but you'll only ever see Halo on the Xbox. There are also some games that may have limited-exclusivity to a particular console or limited-exclusivity for downloadable content.

    The Nintendo Switch is in another bracket entirely when it comes to its library. The Switch is a lot newer than the PS4 and Xbox One, so there aren't as many games for it. A lot of the games that are available for it are titles that were originally released for other consoles.

    Usually, they don't have as good graphics because the Switch isn't as powerful as Microsoft and Sony's systems. However, Nintendo produces some of the best system-exclusive games, so if you're a huge Mario, Zelda, or Metroid fan, the Switch is the only console where you'll find those.

    Media playback

    You can do more than just play games on a console. These robust devices can provide a whole suite of functions to make them an all-in-one entertainment device.

    All models of the PS4 and Xbox One have access to major streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, HBO GO, Vudu, Crackle, and just about any others you can think of that aren't from Apple (sorry, no iTunes). Sony and Microsoft's consoles are also equipped with Blu-ray drives that will allow you to watch standard Blu-ray movies.

    If you're looking for something a little more cutting edge when it comes to media playback, you'll want to get an Xbox One S or Xbox One X. Both of these consoles have 4K Blu-ray players built in, which will allow you to watch movies in stunning quality.

    The Nintendo Switch, unfortunately, doesn't have much in the way of non-gaming activities. It does have a Hulu app, but as of November 2017 when we wrote this, there's no other streaming services available. The Switch also lacks an optical drive, so there's no watching your Blu-rays or DVDs with that console.

    True 4K Gaming

    The Xbox One X is the latest refresh of Microsoft's Xbox One console. While it still plays the same games as the original Xbox One, it adds support for 4K gaming with a much more powerful set of components. It's the most powerful console on the market right now, but you'll pay a premium – it's also the most expensive.

    Check that your new console has backward compatibility so you can play your old games as well as new ones.

    How video game consoles work

    In days past, each video game console had its own architecture. This means that each one was designed from the ground up with custom sets of instructions that did not work with any other machines. That's all changed in the latest console generation.

    The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are based on the same technology you'll find in a laptop or desktop PC. They use the same x86-64 CPU instruction set that your Windows, Linux, or Mac computer does, and that makes it easier for game developers to get their products to run on PC and console.

    The Nintendo Switch is a bit different. It uses the ARM instruction set, which is the same as the one your phone or streaming box is designed around. It's nox too hard for developers to port a game from x86 to ARM, but because the Switch is a bit different, you'll likely see some games come out for it a little later than they did on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.

    EXPERT TIP

    Don't hoard games and fill up your hard drive. You can always redownload digital games again.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    EXPERT TIP

    Check that your new console has backward compatibility so you can play your old games as well as new ones.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Video game console lifespans

    Buying a video game console is a significant purchase, so it's good to have an idea of when it'll be obsolete. Consoles, unfortunately, aren't like toaster ovens. As the years pass, technology improves and becomes cheaper, and eventually, your console will become outdated.

    The systems on the market right now are considered to be part of the eighth-generation of video game consoles. The seventh generation consoles were on the market from 2006 until 2013, and that's about a typical timeframe. Consoles usually have a lifespan of around seven years before the next model is released.

    However, as stated above, this generation is a bit different since both Sony and Microsoft released a half-step console, so there's a possibility it might be longer before they release a ninth-generation console.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    If you don't want your children to play online, look for consoles that have parental controls so you can choose to lock this feature.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Digital game purchases are convenient, but if you have slower internet or a data cap, physical game copies cost the same and can save you some hassle.

    Video game console prices

    Under $100

    You won't be getting a current-gen console for under $100.

    If someone offers you one, and they're not close friends or family, then odds are it's stolen or broken.

    $100 to $200

    It's possible that you can get a used model of the original PlayStation 4 or Xbox One in the upper end of this price range.

    If buying used, always make sure you see the console tested with an actual game on disc before you buy it. This will show you that it can power on, play games, and that the disc drive isn't bad.

    $200 to $300

    In this price range, you can find an Xbox One S or PlayStation 4 Slim brand new. Often you'll find these two consoles bundled with a game or extra controllers that will help save you some money.

    Over $300

    You'll have to spend over $300 if you want to get the very latest models of video game console. The Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 Pro, and Xbox One X are all going to be in this price range.

    There are video games for any taste. You can make playing with your console a family activity with party games and even play digital versions of your favorite board games.

    FAQ

    Q. Why should I buy a console instead of a PC?
    A.
    This is an age-old question that really comes down to a matter of preference. With a PC you get the freedom to spend as little or as much as you want on gaming performance. You'll also have access to a broader gaming library since PC games from as far back as the seventies can still work on today's computers.

    However, the initial cost of a PC is higher than that of a console, and dealing with drivers and tweaking settings might not be for everyone. If you want a more personalized gaming experience, you might want to look into a PC. If you want something that just plugs in and works, go for a console.

    Q. What kind of input ports do I need to have on my TV to play a current-gen console?
    A.
     The only port you need to connect any of the current consoles is an HDMI port. That will provide all you need for gameplay in 1080p. For 4K, though, you'll need to make sure you plug your 4K-capable console into an HDMI 2.0 port on your 4K TV or A/V receiver. Some TVs only have HDMI 2.0 ports, while on others just the HDMI 1 port is 2.0 capable. You'll have to refer to your user manual to make sure you've got your console connected to the correct input.

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