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Best for Mobility: Nintendo Switch at Amazon
"Makes playing on the go easy."
Best for Graphics: Xbox One X at Amazon
"If you’re looking to get the highest sense of realism from a current gaming console with the most powerful displays, the Xbox One X takes the cake."
Most Popular: PlayStation 4 Pro 1TB Console at Amazon
"With close to 64 million sold worldwide, it’s hard to doubt the 62% market capture and user base of Sony’s PlayStation 4."
Best Handheld: Nintendo Switch Lite at Amazon
"A cheaper, more portable option for gamers who want to experience all the best Nintendo titles on a budget."
Best Streaming Platform: Google Stadia at store.google.com
"Stream games like Destiny 2 straight to your phone, PC, Smart TV, or ChromeCast."
Best Value: Xbox One S All-Ditigal at Amazon
"A first for gaming: a truly disc-less all digital console for the modern age."
Best Re-Release: Super NES Classic at Amazon
"Resurrects the glorious gaming era of the 1990s."
Upon its first reveal, the Nintendo Switch marketed itself as a mobile gaming system that not only could be played at home on your television, but also carried around and playable wherever you go. Nintendo’s innovative console makes playing on the go easy and comes with a disassembling controller with split screen options, so you can play with friends.
The Nintendo Switch has 50 third-party publishers in partnership for developing its future games. Hits like Mario Kart 8, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Mario Odyssey have given it a strong lineup. The Switch makes for a great system for parties with its mobile snap-off joy-con controllers–once out of its docking station, it acts like a tablet with its own dedicated screen that can be shared with others through split-screen multiplayer games.
The Xbox One X capitalizes on its former Xbox One model with some of the most powerful tech you’ll find in a gaming system today. If you’re looking to get the highest sense of realism from a current gaming console with the most powerful displays, the Xbox One X takes the cake.
The Xbox One X contains six trillion floating point operations per second with 326GB/s and 12GB GDDR5 RAM, giving it the most graphical horsepower in rendering native 4K HD graphics at 60 frames per second. This makes games like Call Of Duty: WWII have a heightened sense of realism, detailing everything from flowing hair, rays of the sun and clothing fiber. All Xbox One games are compatible and run better on the Xbox One X in Full HD display as well. Microsoft even plans on bringing Original Xbox and Xbox 360 backward compatibility to the system too.
With close to 64 million sold worldwide, it’s hard to doubt the 62 percent market capture and user base of Sony’s PlayStation 4. It’s latest model, the PlayStation 4 Pro 1TB Console brings an updated version of the system with even more robust power.
The PlayStation 4 Pro version antes up the frame rates for its PS4 games – many to 60 fps – bringing 4K high definition gaming and video streaming, as well as twice the GPU power of a standard PS4. The PlayStation 4’s huge library includes 1,648 games, all of which can be played in HD with its Pro version. The system is also good for its multimedia functionality, playing Blu-ray discs, as well as streaming TV, music and more with dedicated apps and downloadable games on its PlayStation Store. Due to its popularity, there’s always someone willing to play online with you, so you’ll never miss out on the fun.
The Nintendo Switch Lite is a cheaper, more portable option for gamers who want to experience all the best Nintendo titles on a budget. It ditches the dock and Joy-Con from the Nintendo’s original Switch, establishing itself as a handheld-only device, and comes in multiple colors that pop, like bright turquoise or banana yellow.
At two-thirds the price of a standard Nintendo Switch there's a much lower barrier to entry, but it does come with a few sacrifices. Most notably, the Switch Lite doesn’t dock to a television, meaning you can only play games in handheld mode. Along with the lack of a built-in kickstand, that severely limits local multiplayer, but there are a handful of improvements over the OG Switch as well. The form factor feels better in the hands, and the smaller size makes it easier to take with you on the go. There’s a real directional pad that works better than the OG Switch’s directional buttons, especially for platformers or fighting games. These upgrades make the Switch Lite perfect for anyone who plays exclusively in handheld mode who's looking for a better option on the go.
Google’s gaming experiment technically isn’t a console, it’s an online streaming service designed to let you play games anywhere on any device. If you have a strong enough internet connection, you can stream games like Destiny 2 straight to your phone, PC, Smart TV, or ChromeCast. For players with weaker internet, there are options to turn down the graphical fidelity to boost the performance. In addition to multiplatform third-party games, Google has opened its own development studio to create Google Stadia exclusives. With many other companies venturing into cloud-based gameplay, Stadia’s premise is an interesting concept for players wondering what gaming could look like in the future.
Hardware-wise, Google created a Stadia-specific controller that can connect directly to WiFi to reduce latency. However, it’s not necessary to buy Google’s official Stadia controller—you can instead grab a third party controller like the Xbox One Elite or Dualshock 4.
If you do go with Google’s controller, you’ll have easier access to the suite of social features Stadia is experimenting with. Stadia looks to build on the groundwork laid by platforms like Twitch, putting gameplay, streaming, and social media in one place. Google has a lot of work to do to establish Stadia as a main player in the video game landscape, but its premise is certainly intriguing.
The Xbox One S is already a good value, aimed specifically at people who want the modern-gen console experience, without the price tag of the flagships, and are okay sacrificing a bit on power. The Xbox One S All-Digital Edition has the same 8-core Jaguar processor with 1.75GHz of speeds and 8GB of DDR3 RAM. It only comes in one storage size—1TB—which is a good size for digital storage, but it doesn’t include the Blu-ray drive. That ends up benefitting the build as this console is a full pound lighter than its optical drive version.
What the all-digital version of the Xbox One S really gives you is a 100% download-based system. This is a double-edged sword because, on the one hand, you save some money without the need for an optical drive, but on the other hand, you can’t play DVDs or buy used physical copies of games. But, if you’re planning on building a game collection that is only digital (and let’s face it, that’s pretty likely anyway), then you really aren’t missing much with the One S All-Digital. Xbox is even getting you started with three games included: Minecraft, Sea of Thieves, and Forza Horizon 3.
A drive-free, disc-less console is an interesting move on Xbox’s part, but it seems in line with the direction gaming is going, especially with systems like the Nintendo Switch pitting portability and simplicity above power.
When news dropped that Nintendo would be re-releasing updated classics of its former consoles like the NES and Super NES Classic, gamers rejoiced. The Super NES Classic resurrects the glorious gaming era of the 1990s with 21 different games, including Starfox 2.
With the original look and feel of the 16-bit home console (only smaller) the Super NES Classic acts as a sort of timepiece for when gaming was reaching its peaks. Some of the best two-player games of its era are included and ready to play, such as Super Mario Kart and Street Fighter II Turbo. Defining games such as Megaman X, Earthbound, Kirby Super Star and Super Mario RPG return, too. Any gamer wanting to relive their youth or introduce new gamers to a simpler time when the Internet was first starting should get the Super NES classic. Included are two wired Super NES Classic controllers for multiplayer action.
We bought three top-rated gaming consoles that our reviewers tested for 85 hours. We asked our testers to consider the most important features when using these consoles, from their price to their graphics. We’ve outlined the key takeaways here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.
Price - The newest gaming consoles can be pricey, but you don’t have to spend a lot for an exciting gaming experience. Nintendo’s mobile gaming system, Switch, for instance, is more than $100 cheaper than many of its competitors. You can also find great deals on classic systems.
Compatibility - If you’ve previously owned a gaming console, you should consider buying a new console that’s compatible with the library of games you’ve likely collected. For example, your PS4 won’t play games from older Sony consoles, but you can still access hundreds of older PlayStation titles using the PS Now streaming service. Xbox One, on the other hand, has much better backwards compatibility, not to mention a digital redemption scheme that lets you download newer versions of your existing games for free.
4K or VR support - How important is it to you to be able to play your favorite games in true 4K? If you’re answer is “very,” you’ll want a console that supports 2160p, like the Xbox One X, but if your answer is “not really,” you can settle for something else. The same goes for virtual reality, as not all systems will support it.
Perfect portable size
Great for local multiplayer
Relatively low cost
Graphics aren't as good as other consoles
Lackluster online service
No Ethernet port, Wi-Fi only
The Nintendo Switch won our testers over with its lightweight feel, “perfect” size, and “amazing” library of games. “It's like having a modern Game Boy but with better games and graphics,” raved one of our reviewers. Our testers also loved that it easily connects to the TV and has an extensive battery life. One of our reviewers declared, “For a casual gamer, you don't need any other consoles.” You’ll need to buy a memory card, though, according to our testers, as space for downloaded games is limited.
4k graphics and enhanced visuals for Full HD
Blu-ray drive for movies
Super quiet while running
Cost of getting initial setup high
No SSD, still a hard drive
Only improves certain games
The Xbox One X came highly recommended by our testers for serious gamers looking for incredible display quality, tons of storage, and the added bonus of being able to use the device for streaming TV and video. “This console is able to process a massive open world video game worth ~40 GB of space,” explained one of our reviewers. “With such a huge game, graphics are still displayed in 4K and looks phenomenal.” Our testers didn’t like that downloading a game could be quite time consuming, and one of our reviewers wished the controller came with a USB wire for charging. Bottom line: “For the retail price, this 1TB device with 4K display, that is capable of multitasking on many different things is incredible,” gushed one of our reviewers.
Beautiful 4K graphics
Improved hardware with more RAM and power
Faster UI, load speeds, and downloads
Lacks Ultra HD Blu-ray player
Enhanced graphics not supported on all games
1 TB hard drive, not SSD
“Though it has an expensive upfront cost, it pays out tenfold with a wide selection of games that fit anyone’s style, mind-blowing graphics, and a variety of entertainment options,” one of our testers declared of the PlayStation 4 Pro 1TB Console. Our reviewers also liked the simple setup — “You can easily get connected in under five minutes,” noted one tester. And while the online functionality, which you need to play most of the popular games, requires a $60/year membership, one of our reviewers explained its value: “It is worth noting, however, that you get a lot in return for this service, including free games every month that you keep for as long as your membership is active.” Our testers also mentioned long update times and download speeds, but felt the overall product was a great buy “for serious gamers.”