Best Video Game Consoles of 2018

Suzanne Humphries ·
Electronics & Software Writer
Updated
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We researched and evaluated seven gaming consoles to recommend the best ones for your family gaming and entertainment needs. Our overall winner is the PlayStation 4 Pro. The console’s full artillery of features, powerful hardware and straightforward interface lets you quickly jump into a game or switch between applications without missing a beat. With the PlayStation 4 Pro, you have access to a library of over 500 games, along with the most exclusives available, and be able to play them on a console comparable to a gaming PC.

Best Overall
PlayStation 4 Pro
Not only does the PlayStation 4 Pro have the most exclusives of any console on the market – it’s also an extremely powerful unit that’s great for both gaming and multimedia usage.
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Best Value
Xbox One S
With its 4K UHD Blu-ray playback capability and aesthetically pleasing and modern white design, the Xbox One S lets you enjoy gaming and plenty of multimedia entertainment without breaking the bank.
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Best Hybrid
Nintendo Switch
The Nintendo Switch is a portable hybrid console that you can play anywhere, solo or with friends. You can play exclusives or third-party titles, record your gameplay and pair your Amiibos.
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Best Overall
Sony’s PlayStation 4 Pro is a powerhouse for gamers and multimedia users alike. Its hardware was designed to be comparable with dedicated gaming PCs, and it can stream 4K videos.
With it you can browse games in the Official PlayStation Store, which has access to over 500 titles for when you need something new to play. You’ll have access to cross-platform titles, indie games and re-releases from past consoles, along with exclusive PlayStation titles like Driveclub and Uncharted. Though the console is the largest on the market, it still has a modern design and a matte black exterior that helps it blend in with your other electronics. It ships with a 1TB hard drive, and you can opt to update it to 2TB or plug in an external drive. Inside you’ll find a 2.1GHz eight-core AMD Jaguar CPU and a 4.2 TFLOP AMD Radeon-based graphics card, which is paired with 8GB of GDDR5 RAM. The powerful system consistently maintains 1080p output and high frame rates. The updated DualShock 4 boasts Bluetooth connectivity and can charge via micro-USB. The glowing light bar located along the front of each controller helps identify player one from player two, and can even add a little atmospheric lighting for certain games. New features on the controller include a capacitive touch pad, 3.5mm audio jack, built-in speaker and a dedicated screen capture button for saving or sharing screenshots on social media or Twitch.
Pros
  • Its processor is paired with 8GB of GDDR5 RAM.
  • Sony has the most exclusive titles.
  • It offers 4K gaming and video streaming.
Cons
  • It has a large footprint.
  • It doesn’t play UHD 4K Blu-ray discs.
  • It’s not a big upgrade for current PS4 owners.
$399.00Amazon
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Best Value
Despite being labeled as the stepping stone between the original Xbox One and the new Xbox One X, the One S offers a beautiful, sleek design, 4K capabilities and powerful multimedia options, making it a great console for families with its midrange price point.
You can choose a model with 500GB, 1TB or 2TB of storage in the default white color scheme, or opt for a special edition or a bundle for a more unique look. The One S is 40 percent smaller than the original Xbox One, and its elimination of the bulky power brick lets it fit neatly into your home entertainment center. Along with its refined size and high-quality hardware come HDR and 4K capabilities, although they aren’t fully available for gaming. Inside its modern-looking chassis, the Xbox One S houses a 1.75GHz eight-core AMD custom CPU and 8GB of DDR3 RAM. Microsoft offers unique controller customization options – you can customize colors for the controller, joysticks and other buttons, with over a billion combinations available including sports team themes and metallic touches. And although Xbox consoles aren’t known for having many exclusive titles, they have tons of backward-compatible games and a variety of apps available, like YouTube, HBO, Pandora, ESPN and others.
Pros
  • It is the multimedia powerhouse on the market.
  • Its power supply is internal, thus eliminating the bulky brick.
  • It’s 40 percent smaller than the standard Xbox One.
Cons
  • The One X has more processing power than this console.
  • It doesn’t support 4K native gaming.
  • Microsoft doesn’t offer as many exclusives as Sony does.
$259.99Amazon
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Best Hybrid
The Nintendo Switch has revolutionized gaming and made it more convenient. The entire console is a 6.2-inch tablet-like device that offers a versatile gaming experience.
You can keep it in its dock to enjoy gaming in TV mode, remove it from its dock to play it in handheld mode or flip out its kickstand and set it on a table. The Switch’s battery life is decent but not outstanding and can last for anywhere from 2.5 to 6.5 hours depending on how intense the game is. The Switch’s controllers – called Joy-Cons – are equally versatile. Each one can slide onto a side of the tablet, creating a comfortable and immersive handheld experience. Or you and a friend can each use a Joy-Con for multiplayer fun. The Switch also comes with a controller frame that you can slide the Joy-Cons onto, or you can buy the Pro controller for a more traditional experience. With the Switch, Nintendo continues its tradition of making gaming devices with simple, intuitive interfaces and family-friendly game titles. You’ll have access to exclusive game franchises like Mario, Xenoblade Chronicles and Zelda. Additionally, Nintendo has now opened the door for third-party indie developers to create games for the Switch, so you’ll have access to additional titles – and even cross-platform titles like Splatoon 2, Disgaea 5, Rayman Legends, Minecraft, Stardew Valley and Skyrim.
Pros
  • Its small, lightweight design makes it incredibly portable.
  • You can play solo or with friends online or locally.
  • Its hybrid design supports handheld or dock-connected playback.
Cons
  • The screen feels small when you’re playing local multiplayer.
  • The kickstand only allows a single angle.
  • It lacks support for microtransactions.
$299.00Amazon
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Why Trust Us? 

We’ve tested gaming consoles rigorously for over three years. Our most recent evaluations took over 80 hours. Our writer and product tester is a lifetime avid gamer who thoroughly researched and tested each of the consoles, pushing each to their limit to test their quality, features, performance and ease of use. We considered each console’s interface, gaming and video playback, exclusives, price features and overall ease of use, all while examining how effective each program would be for users of all gaming experience levels and budgets.


Our team of reviewers and test assistants worked together throughout the evaluation process. This helps us consider the widest possible variety of features and use cases.

How We Tested 

We evaluated each gaming console’s performance, design and features, testing their interfaces, gameplay options and multimedia capabilities. We played a variety of games, from graphics-intensive online multiplayer shooters to simple puzzle games, on a small flat-screen TV as well as on a brand new 4K UHD TV with HDR capabilities.

We evaluated each console’s interface, looking for a smart layout that’s easy to use. We navigated through menus and adjusted the settings and compared ease of use. We approached this process twice over, first as gamers looking for quick access to new titles and already-installed games. Then we tested the multimedia tools and apps. The best consoles are the ones that keep your favorite apps and games easily accessible.

Key Features to Look for When Buying a Gaming Console? 

Exclusive Games
Many video games, Minecraft for example, are available for multiple platforms while some games are made exclusively for a specific console. If you’re dying to play Halo, you’ll need an Xbox. Heard great things about Uncharted or The Last of Us? Sony’s PlayStation is the only place where they’re available. And likewise, any title within either of Nintendo’s Mario or Zelda franchises can only be played on its devices.

While there are more multiplatform games than exclusives, it’s important to keep in mind that most cross-platform games are really just on the latest Xbox and PlayStation devices, since those two systems have such similar capabilities. Nintendo’s consoles have fun, unique features but just aren’t as powerful, which makes it harder for developers to create comparable versions of their games for their consoles. As a result, Nintendo’s catalog is filled with many more exclusives. The lesson here is to discover which games you want to play, then choose a console that supports as many of them as possible.

Multiplayer Gaming

Nowadays, it’s the standard that new consoles have internet connectivity and basic online multiplayer abilities. However, you can’t play with a friend who owns a different console than you. Xbox Live, Microsoft’s online multiplayer network, only works with other recent Xbox consoles; the PlayStation Network – Sony’s equivalent – is similarly restricted. Even playing with people who are on older systems isn’t a possibility.

Another multiplayer option is local multiplayer. You can play using two different TVs in a singular location, or using the split-screen feature on a single TV. Though many modern games don’t support local multiplayer, as it can consume too much processing power to render a game twice over on one screen, Nintendo continues to abide by this option, making them great for local gaming.

Entertainment Center
Consoles can work with media streaming apps such as Netflix, YouTube, HBO, Hulu and more. These make it easy to watch your favorite shows or listen to music directly on your console. Some consoles even allow you to connect your cable source, thus centralizing your home’s entertainment center. Consoles also have parental controls, giving concerned parents more control over what kids can access.

The latest consoles have the processing power needed to make your viewing experience smooth and effortless. Most of the traditional consoles have Blu-ray players built into them so you can easily watch your entire Blu-ray and DVD library without having to buy a separate disc player. And since they’re constantly receiving automatic software updates, the console viewing experience is ever improving.

The newest console to hit the market – Microsoft’s Xbox One X, also codenamed Project Scorpio – has 4K HDR playback ability and the most powerful processor on the market. Additionally, the Xbox One S and the PlayStation 4 Pro also have some 4K and/or HDR playback abilities, although not as much capacity as the One X. Any of these is a smart choice if you have a compatible TV and access to 4K games and video, and can make for the perfect binge session of Netflix’s latest 4K content.

It’s easy to see that Microsoft’s consoles seem to have a heavier focus on entertainment over gaming. The best way to compare it is to say that an Xbox is a media center that also plays games, and the PlayStation is a gaming console that also plays media.

Portable Gaming
Nintendo understands that not all consoles are meant for the living room. The current-gen handheld consoles include the New Nintendo 2DS and 3DS XL, as well as the Nintendo Switch. Though the hardware of the DS XLs isn’t comparable to traditional consoles, they allow you to game wherever you are. You can play AAA titles on them, and some even allow for 3D gameplay. If you want something more powerful and versatile, which allows for handheld gameplay as well as traditional couch-and-TV-based gaming, for both solo and multiplayer fun, go with the Switch.

Budget Gaming
Current-gen consoles offer top-tier gaming and premium graphics, but for an equally premium price. If you’re watching your budget, consider second-generation consoles – like the Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii U or PlayStation 3. Another option is handheld consoles. Though they lack the power of high-end consoles, the New Nintendo 2DS and 3DS XL both have extensive game libraries and great functionality, letting you game anywhere. Otherwise, consider classic or used consoles. Sure, classic consoles are more for the collector’s crowd, and their games may be difficult to find, but there are many classic consoles available from third-party retailers for under $100, sometimes for as low as $50.

Most cities have small, local game stores where you can often find deeply discounted – albeit used – consoles and games. If you don’t mind that, you can really save a ton of money. You can also save a ton by buying used games and accessories. By shopping at these local retailers, you’ll not only be helping a small business, it’s also a great way to connect with your local gaming scene – a value that’s too great to pass up.

Gaming for Kids
Gaming consoles are primarily designed for adults, as they can advertise M-rated games with scary or inappropriate imagery. Additionally, their interfaces can be rather utilitarian, making them hard for young children to use. And if you’ve saved your credit card information in the system, it’s easy for a child to buy a game without permission. Some consoles also have video streaming apps on them, as well, making it easy for your kids to access shows or movies they shouldn’t be viewing.

Beyond this, it comes down to game selection: If a console doesn’t have a variety of kid-friendly games, it probably isn’t the best choice for the family room. A handful of games on the Xbox and PlayStation are great for kids, but again – neither console is really geared toward children.

Nintendo is the obvious choice for family-friendly gaming. It’s known for its kid-safe titles like the Mario, Donkey Kong or Pokémon franchises, and other arcade classics. The Nintendo Switch also has a ton of exclusive and indie titles available, although this console is slightly pricier. However, the Switch supports solo or multiplayer gaming on its small screen, or you can opt to connect it to your TV or take it with you on the go. With its small build and simple interface, your kids can easily navigate it.

Should You Buy a Gaming Console?  


Gaming consoles are obviously a luxury, but they are rapidly becoming the center of living rooms and entertainment centers, since they combine gaming, listening to music, watching videos, chatting with friends, browsing the web, livestreaming, shopping and more. Consoles are a fantastic way to combine all of your digital entertainment into a single place. Consider your gaming habits, title preferences (past, present and future) along with your budget to ensure you find the perfect console for your needs.

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