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The 4 best game consoles: Which knocks it out of the park?

What is the best game console? Sony's PlayStation 5 is ZDNet's top choice. With a futuristic look, it truly brings in next-gen style along with its next-gen internal components. But it's not the only console worth considering. We analyzed design, pricing, functionality and more to come up with the four best gaming consoles.
josh-slate
sean-jackson-author.jpg
Written by Josh Slate and  Sean Jackson on
Reviewed by Elyse Betters Picaro

Do you have a friend who tells you to pick one console over the other -- just so you can play online together? I know I do. But with the emergence of cross-platform play in today's gaming world, the console you choose can be based purely on your preference. 

Still, the decision on what console to get has never been more difficult, especially with both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X battling head to head. But there are other options you should consider before trying to secure one of the top next-gen consoles.

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Charles Sims

Features or tech specs

  • CPU: AMD Zen 2-Based CPU with 8 Cores at 3.5 GHz
  • GPU: 10.28 TFLOPs, 36 CUs at 2.23 GHz
  • Internal Storage: 825GB
  • Optical Drive: 4K UHD Blu-ray drive
  • Dimensions (L x W x H): 3.97x8.79x15.74 inches

You know your product is a good one when you can't keep it on the shelf even two years after you released it. That is the case with the PlayStation 5. Due to chip shortages, production of this console has been limited, making it hard to supply the record-breaking demand we are seeing with this product. If you're a serious gamer, this is the console you want. With its breathtaking 4k graphics, players are fully immersed in the game. 

The console wasn't the only thing that got a complete makeover. The new DualSense controller has all the features you need to take full control of your gaming experience. The controller features haptic feedback, adaptable triggers, and a built-in microphone. The features that this controller offers are unmatched by competitors and make this controller the best we have seen in console gaming.

Getting your hands on this console is a struggle and probably will continue to be for a while, but you can try getting in a queue or requesting an invitation to purchase on PlayStation Direct or Amazon.

Pros

  • Updated controller
  • Lightning-fast loading speeds
  • 4k graphics at 60 fps

Cons

  • Hard to find a spot for it due to its large size
  • 825GB internal storage fills up quick
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Billy Freeman

Features or tech specs

  • CPU: Custom Zen 2 CPU with 8 Cores at 3.8 GHz
  • GPU: 12 TFLOPs, 52 CUs at 1.825 GHz Custom RDNA 2 GPU
  • Internal Storage: 1 TB
  • Optical Drive: 4K UHD Blue-ray Drive
  • Dimensions (L x W x H): 5.94x5.94x11.85 inches

When the next-gen consoles were released, the PlayStation 5 emerged as the top console in the gaming realm. But while the Xbox Series X is behind in gaming, it is ahead in the versatility category.

While this console fell short among dedicated gamers, this console is a perfect product to put on your living room TV due to the large amount of apps and streaming platforms the Microsoft Store holds. From binge watching your favorite shows to gaming with your friends across the world, this console checks all the boxes.

This console is easier to obtain than the PlayStation 5, so if you're looking for a powerful console you can get right now, this is the best choice.

Pros

  • Console has a modern, clean look
  • Large library of games and applications
  • Incredibly quiet

Cons

  • Seems like a slightly updated Xbox One
  • Only 800 GB of the 1TB internal storage can be used
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Nintendo Life

Features or tech specs

  • CPU: 1GHz Cortex-A57
  • GPU: NVIDIA Tegra X1
  • Internal Storage: 64GB
  • Optical Drive: N/A
  • Dimensions (LxWxH): 9.5x.55x4 inches

In a world where most gamers focus on getting the highest performing monitor or the biggest TV, the Nintendo Switch is doing things differently. While this console gives you the option to play on your television, the handheld 7-inch OLED screen provides gamers with a gaming experience you can transport with you.

Additionally, the Nintendo Switch offers a variety of titles that you can find on any other console, including Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Super Smash Bros Ultimate, and Animal Crossing. That being said, there are still a lot of non-Nintendo games on the Switch that are available in the store.

Nintendo creates a lot of exclusive games that cover a wide range of genres, making this console perfect for families that like a little competition.

Pros

  • Small and portable
  • Advanced OLED screen
  • Capability to play on TV or on handheld screen

Cons

  • Game library is small
  • No 4k options
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Mika Baumeister

Features or tech specs

  • CPU: 8 Zen 2 Cores at 3.6 GHz
  • GPU: 4 TFLOPs, 20 CUs at 1.55 GHz Custom RDNA
  • Internal Storage: 512 GB
  • Optical Drive: N/A
  • Dimensions (L x W x H): 11x5.9x2.6 inches

The Xbox Series S is the less advanced counterpart to the Xbox Series X. Though this console is noticeably smaller than the Series X, it comes at a cost. That cost being the lack of an optical drive, meaning all games have to be downloaded digitally. Along with having no disk drive, the Xbox Series S displays games at 1440p, while the Series X displays games in 4k.

If you're a fan of the Xbox consoles and consider yourself an avid gamer, the Series X would be your best choice. But if you want a new console, and you can live with sacrificing the 4k graphics, save the $200 and purchase this Xbox Series S.

Pros

  • Storage expansions inserted into back of console
  • Capable of doing everything the Xbox Series X can

Cons

  • No disk drive
  • No 4k capabilities

What is the best game console?

When it comes to gaming, most people are either Team Xbox or Team PlayStation, and the Nintendo Switch is typically ignored. But you can't discount the Switch, because of its exclusive games and the ability to be played on the go or at home.

Here are a few features of each console you should be aware of before making that big purchase.

Game console

Price 

Games available for specific console

Graphics resolution

PlayStation 5 

 $499.99

 503

 4k

Xbox Series X

 $499.99

 364

 4k

Nintendo Switch OLED Model 

 $349.99

 5,000+

 1080p

Xbox Series S 

 $299.99

364

 1440p

Which is the right game console for you?

Finding a game console that works for your gaming needs is tough. There aren't many options among game consoles, but the competition is so tight, it makes the choice hard. 

Consider this table before selecting which game console you want to buy.

Choose this game console...If you...
PlayStation 5Like to play high-quality games on a competitive level
Xbox Series XAre a casual gamer but want to use the console for other purposes as well
Nintendo Switch OLED ModelNeed a console that has a wide variety of games for the whole family
Xbox Series SWant a cheap console that can do most of the things the top-tier consoles can do

How did we choose these game consoles?

When I was first looking at making my newest console purchase I researched heavily before making that hefty purchase of a PlayStation 5. Let me tell you, I don't regret it at all. The PS5 is a clear front-runner in the game console industry due to its elaborate design both inside and out. Oh yeah -- the controller is also the best controller we have seen in gaming. 

Though the clear top pick was the newest PlayStation, the competition below is quite tough. With the Xbox Series X's versatility in the gaming world as well as the streaming world, the console had to be included as Microsoft went all out with this unit. In contrast, the Xbox Series S is less powerful but still worth the money if you are a casual gamer. While the graphics aren't as good on the Series S, most of the specifications are similar to the Series X.

Lastly, the Nintendo Switch OLED Model was selected because of its ability to not only be a console but also a handheld system. Nintendo games are very popular, with Mario Kart being a staple in the Nintendo community, but you can only find those games on the Switch or other Nintendo products. If you love to game and you travel a lot, the Nintendo Switch is the perfect console for you.

Where can I get a PS5?

After two years, the PlayStation 5 is still one of the hottest selling consoles we have seen. You can find them at PlayStation Direct, Amazon, Best Buy, and Walmart. But you have to act quickly if you want to get one before they're out of stock.

Why is the PlayStation 5 still out of stock?

There is an ongoing chip shortage that has hindered the tech industry since the pandemic began, making it hard to keep the PlayStation 5 on shelves.

Do gaming consoles go on sale on Black Friday?

Yes, you might be able to snag a great deal on a gaming console on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Luckily, ZDNet keeps you apprised of all sales. Circle back in the fall to see how much you'll be able to save. You can also check retailers such as Target, Best Buy, and GameStop to see what Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals they'll have. 

How much does Xbox Live cost?

You can purchase a one-month subscription for $9.99, a three-month subscription for $24.99, and a 1-year subscription for $59.99.

Are there alternative game consoles worth considering?

There aren't many game consoles on the market, but this PlayStation 5: Digital Edition is a great purchase if you want the power of the standard PS5 without the disk drive.

If none of these game consoles speak to you, check out our best gaming PCs.

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