Whether for having fun, decompressing after a long day of work or for competing against other gamers, video games occupy an important place in the daily lives of many people. While some gamers prefer to play on their computers, video game consoles – which are more affordable than gaming PCs – remain popular and new models are periodically released. This guide was written to help you find your bearings in the somewhat overwhelming video game console market.
How to choose a gaming console?
The 3 most important video game console manufacturers are Nintendo (Wii, Switch, DS), Sony (Playstation) and Microsoft (Xbox). But, we have taken this guide even further by including other interesting alternatives.
The first thing to take into account when choosing a gaming console is the type of games you would like to play since the same games are not available for all brands/models. The most popular games are usually available for the majority of living room consoles, but sometimes a particular console manufacturer will have exclusive rights to a particular game.
Also, check what consoles your friends have since you will probably want to play online with them and since a PS4 console will be incompatible with an Xbox One for example.
The next thing to pay attention to is the console’s different components, functionality, and type of gameplay that it is able to offer (multimedia, network, family, etc.). And, if you have a 4K definition TV, you will surely want to have the best possible gameplay experience – that’s also important.
Living room consoles
PlayStation 4 Slim
The PlayStation 4 is equipped with an eight-core x86-64 processor as well as a 1.84 teraflops graphics processor with 8 GB of RAM. It is also possible to share game sequences directly from the controller with the press of a button. With a subscription, you can have access to PlayStation Plus (available for PS3, PS4, and PS Vita), a service which grants access to “free” games every month; it also allows players to connect to online game modes.
Compared to the PlayStation 4, the Slim has exactly the same components. The only difference between them is that the Slim is 30% thinner and 16% more lightweight.
It is available for around 300 dollars; it is also sold in several different packs which may include a game such as FIFA 18, a game pack (The Last of Us, God of War 3 and Uncharted: The Nathan Drake) or even an extra controller.
PlayStation 4 Pro – 4K compatible
The PS4 Pro offers a more fluid gameplay experience as well as better gameplay performance. In fact, instead of the 1.84 teraflops processor that the PS4 and the PS4 Slim are equipped with, it has an SoC which can achieve 4.2 teraflops. This heightened performance allows it to run certain games in 4K definition, it is also capable of delivering better performance in Full HD definition. Lastly, it offers HDR processing on some games.
It is currently being sold on e-commerce sites for around 400 dollars. It is also sold in a number of packs such as the Destiny 2 pack.
Microsoft Xbox One S and X
In 2016, Microsoft released the Xbox One S which is in direct competition with the PS4. Smaller than the Xbox One, the Xbox One S is also equipped with HDR technology which provides more vivid colors, a 4K Blu-Ray reader as well as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X audio technology. In terms of performance, it is similar to the PS4 with its 8 core 1.75 GHz AMD processor and 1.3 teraflops capacity. It is being sold as a standalone unit for around 240 dollars (making it one of the cheapest 4K UHD Blu-ray readers on the market). For a few dollars more, it is possible to purchase the console in one of several different packs which include games such as FIFA 17, Assassin’s Creed Origins (preorder) or Middle-earth: Shadow of War.
All Xbox users can have access to the Xbox Live Gold social network which allows gamers to access multi-player functionality, live events and to communicate with other Xbox Live members.
Of course, this option is paid, but it does allow users to access a selection of “free” games every month.
The Xbox One X will become available at the beginning of November (it is already possible to preorder it for around 500 dollars). Its characteristics are similar to those of the PS4 Pro, however, its performance goes beyond that of the PS4 Pro; it promises to offer up to 40% better gaming performance than other consoles. It has 12 GB of RAM and 6 teraflops capacity. It also supports 4K games and allows for the recording and sharing of 4K gameplay captures at 60 images/second.
Nividia Shield 2017 – 4K compatible
The Nvidia Shield 2017, smaller than the previous version, is a 4K box which is able to, among other things, run almost all Android games and is compatible with a good number of different controllers. We have included it in our buyer’s guide because it offers three different gaming modes. The first is called GeForce NOW, the least interesting mode, which grants access to the catalog of PC games for around 10 dollars a month. Unfortunately, this catalog is somewhat limited. The second gaming mode is the most interesting: it allows you to use the Shield Android TV as an extension of your gaming PC in order to play PC games on your 4K TV – a comparable gameplay experience to that offered by a conventional living room gaming console. The third mode is for Android games, it is able to access the totality of the Play Store.
It is also worth remembering that NVIDIA holds the exclusive rights to some games such as Portal, Doom 3 and Half Life 2. Under the hood, it is equipped with an NVIDIA Tegra X1 SoC, 3 GB of RAM and from 16 to 500 GB of storage space.
Nintendo Switch – a viable alternative
The Switch is a hybrid console developed by Nintendo, it works equally well as a living room gaming console or as a portable gaming console. It is equipped with a 6.2-inch touchscreen, a customized Nvidia Tegra X1 chip (the one used on the NVIDIA Shield 2017) as well as with 32 GB of storage space. The console has access to its own game catalog and Nintendo is constantly developing new games.
It is currently being sold for around 350 dollars. Several packs are available and include such games as Super Mario Odyssey (preorder), Mario Kart 8 Deluxe or The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
Nintendo 3DS XL
The New Nintendo 3DS is equipped with an upper 3.8-inch 3D capable LCD display, a lower 4.8-inch LCD touchscreen as well as with facial recognition. It has up to 6 hours of battery autonomy and is compatible with all DS, 3DS and New Nintendo 3DS XL games.
It retails for a little over 200 dollars, the XL version is available for a little under 200 dollars.
The Nintendo 2DS allows gamers to play Nintendo 3DS games in 2D. While it is best suited to a younger public, its retro-compatibility allows users to test out the full Nintendo DS game catalog – this catalog is sufficiently well stocked to be able to offer something of interest to just about anyone. Like the 3DS, it has StreetPass and SpotPass. Its upper display measures 3.5 inches and its lower display measures 3 inches; the device’s stereo sound is only available when using headphones, not via the device’s speakers.
Nintendo 2DS XL
Compared to the Nintendo 2DS, the displays on the XL version are 82% larger (upper display measures 4.8 inches, lower display: 4.1 inches). Contrary to the 2DS, the XL version has an integrated NFC reader which makes it possible to use allows using amiibos; it also has stereo sound.
It is currently retailing on Amazon for around 173 dollars.
Sega Mini Megadrive
The Mini Megadrive had its moment of glory in the 1990s with popular games such as Mortal Kombat and Sonic. This console will be re-released at the end of the year in a pack containing 85 games and two wireless controllers. The console maintains the design of the original device while adopting an HD 720p display and an HDMI output. It is also compatible with the original game cartridges.
Nintendo Super NES Classic Mini
This console from the 90s is sure to please nostalgic players. It is being sold in a pack with 21 games – among which are Super Metroid, Final Fantasy 3 and Street Fighter 2 – as well as with two controllers and an HDMI cable.
It is currently retailing for around 140 dollars although its official price is 70 dollars; we recommend that you keep an eye on stock levels. You can also buy this console in certain retail stores.
Nintendo NES Classic Mini
Another leading console from the 90s, the NES Classic Mini is being sold with a controller and 30 integrated games to allow users to experience classic games such as Castlevania, Donkey Kong, and Pac Man.
Raspberry Pi 3
The Raspberry Pi 3 is a nanocomputer with an ARM Cortex-A53 quad-core 1.2 GHz processor, 1 GB of RAM, a dual-core GPU, a MicroSD card reader, HDMI and USB ports, a connector for a touchscreen and for APN as well as Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity. With the software, Recalbox, it is possible to transform a Raspberry Pi into a retro-gaming console. Our counterparts at Numerama have written this step-by-step guide.