Best Gaming Console 2019 - Top Video Game Systems to Buy
We researched and evaluated seven gaming consoles to recommend the best ones for your family gaming and entertainment needs. Our overall winner is the Xbox One X. The console has a full artillery of features, powerful hardware and a large selection of current and backwards-compatible games that are fun for new and seasoned gamers of all ages to enjoy. With the Xbox One X, you have access to free apps for streaming videos, listening to music, watching sports, getting gaming news and even chatting online.
Xbox One X
Not only does the Xbox One X have a large library of new and classic game titles – it’s also an extremely powerful unit that’s great for both gaming and multimedia app usage.
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.
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.
With the Xbox One X, you get the most powerful console on the market as well as access to the most home entertainment center options.
It’s a great choice for serious console gamers and those who just want to watch the latest shows from streaming services or enjoy other online apps.
The One X is smaller and more stylish than its predecessor, the One S. It also eliminated the annoying power brick that was the hallmark of older consoles. In fact, this console was designed to be closer to a gaming PC than a traditional console, and it’s got the hardware to back it up. It has an AMD Polaris GPU with 6 teraflops of computer power, a 2.3GHz eight-core AMD Jaguar processor, 8GB of flash memory, 12GB of GDDR5 RAM and 1TB of HDD storage. It supports 4K gameplay and video playback with HDR for the cleanest and sharpest video no matter what you’re using the console for.
The Xbox One X offers a huge library of new and classic cross-platform titles and indie games. Though the console is not known for its exclusive games, Xbox offers a multitude of backwards-compatible options so long-time gamers can easily access cherished older titles like Halo: Reach, Bayonetta, Super Meat Boy and Fable II. The console also offers extensive apps that non-gamers can use to watch videos, read news, listen to music and chat with friends online.
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.
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.
Most Exclusive Games
Sony’s PlayStation 4 Pro is a powerhouse for gamers and multimedia users alike. Its hardware was designed to be comparable to dedicated gaming PCs, and it can stream 4K video.
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 more exclusive titles than any other console on the market, including Uncharted, Spider-Man and Driveclub.
Though the console is the largest on the market, its modern design makes it look slim. Plus, its matte black exterior helps it blend in with your other electronics. It ships with a 1TB hard drive, though you can opt to upgrade it to 2TB or plug in an external hard 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 controller boasts Bluetooth connectivity and can charge via micro-USB so you aren’t permanently tethered to your console. The glowing light bar located along the front of each controller helps identify player one from player two, and even adds a little atmospheric lighting. New features on the controller include a capacitive touch pad, a 3.5mm audio jack, a built-in speaker and a dedicated screen capture button for saving screenshots and sharing them online.
Best for Kids
Nintendo’s latest handheld portable gaming console, the Nintendo 2DS XL, has a more refined design than its predecessor, the Nintendo 3DS XL.
It also comes with new exclusive game titles, additional buttons and a lower price, making it a smart choice for both seasoned gamers and new Nintendo fans.
The redesign of the 2DS, in comparison with the 3DS, is mostly physical. Certain features, like the speakers, card slot, stylus and power button, were relocated. It has additional new buttons, including an analog C stick and secondary trigger ZL/ZR buttons to enhance gameplay. The clamshell’s hinge now protrudes behind the device, instead of being more internally hidden, and houses the front-facing camera and microphones. This destroys the clean lines of the 2DS XL when closed and makes selfies look awkward unless you take that into account and adjust the angle.
The included stylus is much smaller than its previous iteration, making it slightly harder for adults to grip. However, Nintendo’s choice to completely omit the 3D display makes the device less top-heavy and more balanced and easier to hold. In fact, the 2DS XL is thinner and lighter overall, making it easier to hold for lengthy gaming sessions.
All existing DS and 3DS games can be played, though now only in 2D. New exclusive titles that launched with the 2DS XL include Xenoblade Chronicles and Fire Emblem Warriors, as well as the Super NES Virtual Console games.
Why Trust Us?
We’ve tested gaming consoles rigorously for over four 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 console 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 Much Do Gaming Consoles Cost?
New gaming consoles cost between $130 and $500, and includes traditional consoles as well as handheld and hybrid consoles. Prices increase according to processing power, but there are other factors to consider such as game selection and home entertainment center multimedia options, like streaming video. Special or limited edition consoles can cost more.
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 both a small flat-screen TV and a brand new 4K UHD TV with HDR capabilities.
We then evaluated each console’s interface, looking for a smart layout that’s easy to use. We navigated through menus, 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, and secondly as novice or non-gamer users looking for multimedia tools and apps. We found that the best consoles are the ones that make your favorite apps and games easy to access from a central place.
Key Features to Look for When Buying a Gaming Console?
Many video games are available for multiple platforms, like Minecraft for example. However, some games are made exclusively for a specific console. So if you’re dying to play Halo or Forza, you'll need an Xbox. Heard great things about Uncharted or The Last of Us? Sony’s PlayStation is the only place they are available. Likewise, any title in 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 really only work on the latest Xbox and PlayStation devices, since those systems have such similar capabilities. Nintendo’s consoles, however, have fun and unique features but aren’t nearly as powerful as the others, which makes it harder for developers to create comparable versions of their games for Nintendo consoles. But with the advent of the Switch, Nintendo has begun collaborating with third-party game developer companies, and now games available on the Switch have improved greatly both graphics- and capacity-wise. The lesson here is to discover what kinds of games you and your family like to play, then choose a console that supports most of them.
Nowadays, it’s the industry standard that new consoles have internet connectivity and basic online multiplayer abilities for other users of that same console. However, at least for the time being, you cannot 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 as is Nintendo Switch Online. Even playing with people who are on older systems isn’t really a possibility at this point.
Another option is local multiplayer. You can play using two TVs in a single location or using the split-screen feature on a single TV. Many modern games don’t support local multiplayer on a single TV, as it consumes too much processing power to render a game twice over on one screen. However, Nintendo continues to create games and consoles that can abide by this option, making its consoles great for local gaming.
Many consoles have media streaming apps such as Netflix, YouTube, Hulu and more. These let you watch your favorite shows or listen to music directly on your console; some consoles can even connect to your cable source, thus centralizing your home’s entertainment center. Consoles also have parental controls, which give concerned parents more control than ever over the kinds of games, apps and videos their kids can access.
Most of the latest consoles have the necessary power to play media smoothly and effortlessly. Some can even read Blu-rays and DVDs, so you can watch your entire physical movie catalog without buying a separate disc player. And since the consoles constantly receive automatic software updates, the viewing experience is ever improving.
The newest heavy-duty console to hit the market – the Xbox One X – has 4K HDR playback and the most powerful gaming console processor on the market. The Xbox One S and PlayStation 4 Pro also have some 4K and/or HDR playback abilities, though to a lesser degree than the One X. Any of these is a smart choice if you have a compatible TV and access to 4K games and video, and they can make for the perfect binge session of Netflix’s latest 4K content.
It’s easy to see that Microsoft’s consoles put a heavy 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.
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.
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. You can also opt for a handheld console. Though they lack the power of high-end consoles, the New Nintendo 2DS and 3DS XL both have extensive game libraries and great functionality, and they let you game anywhere.
Otherwise, consider classic or used consoles. Sure, classic consoles are more for the collector 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 that doesn’t bother you, it’s a wonderful way to save money. You can also save a ton by buying used accessories. By shopping at these local retailers, not only are you helping out a small business, but you’re also connecting with your local gaming scene – a value that’s too great to pass up. Most of the time, the people running these stores are avid gamers as well and can give you recommendations and keep you notified of upcoming releases, sales and in-store events.
Gaming for Kids
Gaming consoles are designed primarily for adults, as they can advertise mature games with scary or inappropriate content. Additionally, their interfaces can be rather utilitarian, making them hard for young children to use. Also, if you save your credit card information on the system for game purchases, it may be easy for your child to buy games without your permission. Some consoles have media streaming apps on them as well, making it easy for your kids to access shows or movies they shouldn’t view.
But knowledge of this, along with adjusting the parental controls on your console, makes any game console infinitely more kid-friendly. Beyond that, 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 the kid-safe titles in its library, like the Mario, Donkey Kong and Pokémon franchises as well as other arcade classics that typically don’t have unsavory content. The Nintendo Switch also has a ton of exclusive and indie titles available that kids should enjoy, although it is slightly pricier than the DS consoles. The Switch supports both solo and multiplayer gaming on its small screen, and you can choose to play it on your TV or handheld on the go. With their small designs and simple interfaces, the Nintendo consoles are great options for younger kids.
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.
The Online Gaming Community
For most gamers, a functional console, a comfortable place to sit and a steady supply of new games is all they need. Other gamers, however, have discovered that they want more, like a community built around gaming – a place where video game lovers can come together to share strategies alongside tales of victory and failure, and maybe even some laughs along the way. Luckily, such a place exists: the internet.
Gamers around the world share videos with friends and fans alike on websites such as YouTube and Twitch. Here you can find live streams of your favorite gamers playing the latest AAA and indie titles, or even watch e-sports competitions. There are also millions of other popular gaming-related videos, including strategies, gaming news, rage quits, walkthroughs, fail compilations, achievements, tips, game reviews and more. Individual games and gamers alike have garnered cult followings online. It’s also easy to find more niche subcultures. They exist for bigger topics, like for certain console or game studios, as well as for more precise interests, such as a particular game franchise or character.
Even offline, much like the comic book and general geek communities, the video game community boasts multiple annual conventions. The community in general has generated as much merchandise, cosplay, meetups, fanfiction, movies, internet shows, and music as other mediums do. It’s a big industry that’s only continuing to grow each year.
According to a recent report completed by the Entertainment Software Association in 2018, 64 percent of U.S. households own at least one gaming device, and 60 percent of Americans play video games daily. And though gamers are predominantly male, gamers of all ages and genders are present in the study. The report also shows that consumers spent $36 billion on the gaming industry in 2017, predominantly on content.
The gaming community is not without its issues, however. From video game release dates being delayed repeatedly to sexism against female characters and gamers, this dynamic community has as many battles and growing pains to deal with in real life, just as in a video game. But considering how fast this community is growing – and given how many new branches within the community have recently appeared and come to thrive – it’s proof that this is a vibrant community that gamers of any skill level can contribute to, appreciate and share with others.