Video Game Console Buying Guide

With the plethora of home video game consoles currently on the market, it can be difficult to decide which console best suits your needs. Each console has its own unique strengths that could make it an enticing addition to your home, based on personal preference. Here are they key features which will help you determine the best video game console to purchase.

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The Big Three

There are currently three traditional major home consoles on the market right nowthe PlayStation 4, the Xbox One, and the Nintendo Switch. All three take varying approaches to many of the features sought out by console shoppers today. Let’s take a look at a few common questions you may ask yourself when considering a new console and see how they each stack up.

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Online Gaming

Do you prefer single-player experiences, or are you looking to join a thriving online community? While each console has a healthy selection of solo experiences, it’s really neck-and-neck between Sony (PlayStation Network) and Microsoft (Xbox Live) as to who has the most robust online experience.

Both companies offer their online service at a subscription fee. They each provide comparable access to some of the most popular online multiplayer gaming experiences today. If online multiplayer gaming is at the top of your list of priorities, you may want to consider which platform your friends are playing on. These two services do not cross over!

Nintendo on the other hand, will not be charging for its online services until September of 2018. That said, its online services and multi-player offerings are significantly bare compared to those of Sony and Microsoft.

Local Multiplayer and Family Gaming

While the Nintendo Switch may pale in comparison to the online multiplayer offerings available from its competitors, it has a much stronger collection of unique local multiplayer selections. The Nintendo Switch is designed to be played together. Detachable joy-cons and great titles like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Arms make it easy to play side-by-side with your family and friends.

Nintendo’s history of developing family-friendly software also makes the Nintendo Switch a strong candidate if you are looking for a console for the whole family to enjoy. It’s true that the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 have a number of E-rated family titles as well. In comparison however they are arguably outdone by Nintendo’s deep line-up of AAA titles that play well for all ages.

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Power and Performance

Are you looking for the most powerful, graphically intense home console experience available today? The competition for this title is currently a two-horse race between the Xbox One X and the PlayStation 4 Pro.

Both Sony and Microsoft have released mid-generation upgrades in the form of these two souped-up consoles. Overall, they stack up fairly well against each other, although with a few noticeable differences:

The Xbox One X has a slight edge in overall power. It boasts 6 teraflops of processing power and 356GB/s of memory bandwidth. Compared to the PlayStation 4 Pro, it has just a little extra under the hood.

Both consoles are capable of 4K HDR gaming. Xbox One X however also has a built in 4K Blu-ray player, meaning that it can play 4K movies from a disc. The PlayStation 4 Pro on the other hand, can only stream 4K content.

While the Xbox One X may have the edge when it comes to hardware specifications, the difference is marginal. Either console will offer outstanding performance when paired with your 4K TV. The PlayStation 4 Pro’s biggest strength lies in its impressive library of console-exclusive software. We will look at game libraries in greater depth a little later on.

Gaming on the go

When it comes to options for taking your gaming console with you on the go, Nintendo has all the bases covered.

The Nintendo Switch is probably the most intriguing option. It is currently the only console that can be considered both a traditional home console and a portable. The Nintendo Switch connects to your primary TV through its “docked” mode, and converts to a portable simply by lifting the console out of the dock. In its undocked “handheld mode” the Nintendo Switch can be played wherever your travels may take you.

Taking Nintendo Switch on the go is great, but some gamers may still prefer a dedicated handheld-only system for portable gaming. Nintendo’s stable of consoles includes a few different models designed purely for handheld entertainment.

Dedicated Handhelds

The New Nintendo 3DS XL is Nintendo’s flagship 3D handheld. It features enhanced 3D tracking technology, amiibo support, and a faster processor than earlier 3DS models. The upgraded processor in the “New” 3DS line is very important. Some recent titles (such as Fire Emblem Warriors) will not run on earlier 3DS hardware.

The New Nintendo 2DS XL is similar to the 3DS. It has the same clamshell design, amiibo support, and improved processor as its New 3DS cousin. The difference in the New Nintendo 2DS XL is that the removal of 3D capability, making for a more economical console. Given that the 3D technology present in the New Nintendo 3DS XL isn’t recommended for young children anyway, the 2DS is generally a better option for young gamers.

Finally, the Nintendo 2DS sheds the clamshell design altogether for a one-piece wedge shaped design. This model does not contain advanced features such as the upgraded processor or amiibo support. It is by far the most economical model of the three however. This, combined with its sturdier hinge-less design makes it a great entry level option for younger children.

Backward Compatibility

It may seem funny to consider old games when selecting a new console, but nostalgia can be a key influencer when selecting a new console. Not to mention that library of previous generation titles that you just don’t want to let go of.

Currently the Xbox One S / Xbox One X are the only consoles to support backwards compatibility. While not every past title works, they do support a growing list of hundreds of games from the Xbox 360/original Xbox days. Popping in your original disc will entitle you to play these games. Having owned them digitally on Xbox Live will also add them to your current library.

Sony does also offer a decent library of older (and some newer) titles on its streaming PS Now service, which requires a paid subscription. Prior ownership of these titles however does not entitle gamers to use them under PS Now. Paid access remains necessary to play them. Microsoft also has a similar program in Xbox Game PassXbox Game Pass does allow players to download the games offered by paid subscription, as opposed to PS Now’s streaming-only model.

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Parental Controls

Are you concerned with monitoring how much time your children spend playing games, or what kind of content they can access? Each console has strong features when it comes to parental controls.

The Nintendo Switch features an app which you can download to your cell phone. Via the app you can monitor play time, and even set automatic system interruptions when gamers exceed time limits. The app will also let you control age-restricted content based on pre-set age categories or custom options.

Both the Nintendo Switch and the Nintendo 3DS/2DS family of consoles also feature a PIN authentication system that allows for easy restriction on in-game messaging and online interaction. Your pin can also lock access to shopping via Nintendo’s online store.

Parents can access PlayStation 4’s parental controls within the system menu. They can restrict online network features and internet browsing and set age rating levels for games and Blu-ray/DVD discs. Adults may also impose monthly spending limits on the PlayStation online store.

Xbox One offers a similar approach, with age-restricted content and online accessibility monitored and managed through the console dashboard. Xbox One also features the “Ask a Parent” feature, which will notify parents for approval when their child wishes to make a purchase in the Microsoft Store.

Game Library

Sony and Microsoft share much of the same game library when it comes to titles developed by cross-platform studios such as Electronic Arts and Ubisoft. These “third-party” publishers tend to release their games on both respective consoles. However, Sony is currently finding much success with additional games exclusive only to the PlayStation 4. Look at recent titles such as God of WarHorizon Zero Dawn, and Detroit: Become Human. Not to mention highly anticipated upcoming releases such as Spider-Man and The Last of Us: Part II.

Many consider the heft of Sony’s exclusive offerings to outshine their competition at Microsoft by a healthy margin. That isn’t to say that Microsoft doesn’t have at least a few notable titles of their own. Xbox One is currently the only console where gamers can play the immensely popular Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds. They will also undoubtedly continue to lean heavily on tentpole franchises such as HaloGears of War, and Forza.

Microsoft also made a big splash recently by announcing that all future exclusives developed by Microsoft-owned studios will be playable on release day with a subscription to Xbox Game Pass. This includes recent releases such as Sea of Thieves and State of Decay 2, as well as upcoming titles such as Crackdown 3.

Historic Franchises

Nintendo, on the other hand, has a fraction of the cross-platform developer support that Sony and Microsoft boast. If you are looking for some of the biggest multi-console blockbusters such as Call of Duty Black Ops 4Red Dead Redemption 2, or Far Cry 5, you won’t find them on Nintendo Switch. What you will find however are some of the most regarded and well-reviewed console-exclusive titles of the past year or two.

Nintendo Switch features two of the most highly rated games of 2017, in The Legend of Zelda Breath of The Wild and Super Mario Odyssey. Not to mention other Nintendo franchise favourites such as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Splatoon 2. Furthermore, upcoming titles in the works include Metroid Prime 4 and soon-to-be-announced entries to the Smash Bros. and Pokémon franchises.

Nintendo Switch may not be the optimal choice for those who want to play all the latest cross-platform first-person shooters that often tend to come to Microsoft and Sony consoles only, but it boasts a very strong catalogue of its own exclusive titles. These are beloved franchises that have endured the test of time. They make a strong case for anybody who has a history with Nintendo consoles.

Take the next step

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By now you probably have a very good idea of which console best suits your personal preference. Whether you prefer the top shelf power and performance of the Xbox One X, the awesome PlayStation 4 console exclusive library of games at Sony, or the unique dual functionality of the family-friendly Nintendo Switch, there’s a lot to love regardless of which console you elect to make your own.

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