The next generation of video game consoles is here, along with a raised standard for graphics, processing power, and game lineups. With the recent release of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, two powerhouse consoles occupy the market — and they surely will be front and center for the next several years.
We’ve spent time with both next-gen consoles and have decided the PS5 is the more revolutionary piece of hardware thus far. Since the specs of the consoles are similar, a lot of early reviews have focused on Sony’s launch lineup — something that’s tough for Microsoft to compete with after so many of its first-party titles were delayed. That said, the Xbox Series X still is an impressive machine, with plenty of potential and plenty of content on the horizon.
Or, you might want to save yourself some money and snag a Nintendo Switch, the best portable console to buy, despite its age. Or go back further and jump into retro gaming with a SNES Classic Edition or Sega Genesis Mini.
Whatever your gaming needs are, we’ll help find the right video game console for you.
The best gaming console: PlayStation 5
Why you should buy this: It’s the latest iteration of one of the most popular consoles of all time and has the best launch lineup of any console to date.
Who it’s for: Everyone.
Why we picked the PlayStation 5:
With lightning-fast load speeds, a new controller, and a phenomenal lineup of launch titles (including fan favorites and new exclusives), the PS5 is the best plug-and-play gaming platform available.
First off, the PS5 currently has the upper hand when it comes to games. PlayStation gamers have been binging titles like Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Demon’s Souls, and Godfall since the get-go, while Xbox fans have been stuck clamoring for Xbox exclusives like Halo Infinite and The Medium, both of which have been delayed until mid-2021. Sony also has finally brought backward compatibility into the fold, too, and the PS5 will be able to play most PS4 games, so you won’t miss out on late-gen titles like The Last of Us Part II and Ghosts of Tsushima. The PS5 simply has the best game library out there right now.
The PS5’s solid launch lineup is only part of the equation, however. Slightly larger than the DualShock 4, the new DualSense controller refines haptic feedback, incorporating a precise sense of touch into the gaming experience that force feedback never achieved. If you’re draining your stamina bar to pull back a bowstring or attempting to bust down a locked door, for example, the hand triggers can convey that tension. The new technology, combined with ongoing support for PSVR, makes for a more immersive gaming experience.
Speaking of peripherals and hardware, both iterations of the console use AMD chips across the board, including an eight-core CPU running on a modified version of the Ryzen line. The PS5’s GPU also is from AMD and provides 10.28 teraflops of power, while supporting resource-intensive processes like ray tracing, which allows for more advanced lighting in games. It also comes with a 4K Blu-ray player, putting it in line with the Xbox One S and Xbox One X. In layman’s terms, the PS5 is technically less powerful than the Xbox Series X, but still packs a punch and represents a massive upgrade from last-gen consoles.
If discs aren’t your thing — or you simply want to save some cash — look no further than the PS5 Digital Edition. It retails for $100 less than the standard PS5, but is identical in terms of specs. The only difference between the two is that the Digital Edition has no disc drive, meaning Ultra HD Blu-rays are out of the equation and you’ll need to rely on digital downloads. Everything else, including the launch lineup, remains the same.
Read our full PlayStation 5 review
The best Microsoft gaming console: Xbox Series X
Why you should buy this: It’s the most powerful Xbox available right now, and Game Pass is an attractive value.
Who it’s for: Players who want to play as many new games as possible with the best visual fidelity.
Why we picked the Xbox One X:
The Xbox Series X is a tech powerhouse. The console features 12 TFLOPS of power and up to eight times more graphical performance than Xbox One, not to mention twice as much as the Xbox One X. The Xbox Series X also has 16GB of GDDR6 RAM and supports variable refresh rate, Variable Rate Shading technology, and a low-latency mode that allows for better responses out of your games. The power in this next-gen console is sure to wow gamers — that is, when there are true next-gen games available for it.
There’s no discussing the Series X without acknowledging the delay of Halo Infinite. Microsoft pinned the launch of the game to the Series X over a year ago, but the game missed its deadline and isn’t set to arrive until next year, leaving loyal fans feeling left in the dust. Sure, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and NBA 2K21 look phenomenal, but we need some exclusives! Luckily, there will likely be a slew of great games for Xbox Series X down the road, including the long-awaited Halo Infinite, State of Decay 3, a new installment of Fable, and plenty of other titles.
In the meantime, Xbox Series X owners have no shortage of games to play. Xbox Series X will support every previous generation of Xbox games, similar to how Xbox One did. This means you’ll be able to play select Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X games all on the new machine — a huge win for game preservation. The Xbox also is home to Game Pass, the best deal in gaming. With more than 100 heavy-hitting games on the roster and promises of Project xCloud integration, gamers can explore and test out new titles for a low monthly fee. The library isn’t made up of last-gen throwaways, either; there are plenty of newer first-party titles that’d cost you a premium if you were to go out and buy them right now. Given Game Pass is available on PC as well, the Series X also allows for more cross-platform opportunities than Sony’s offerings.
While the Xbox Series X is a powerful machine, it’s also a surprisingly quiet one. The console’s cooling architecture is incredibly efficient, so much so you might wonder if the console is even on at times. The Xbox One, by comparison, is as loud as can be.
Read our full Xbox Series X review
The best portable game console: Nintendo Switch
Why you should buy this: You want a console gaming experience — but on the go with unmatched first-party support.
Who it’s for: Everyone.
Why we picked the Nintendo Switch:
Nintendo sidestepped the current console arms race by changing not how you use your console, but where. The Switch is a hybrid device that plugs into a TV like the PS5 and Xbox Series X, but also works as a handheld.
While it doesn’t quite have the oomph to play the latest 4K, 120 fps releases slated for next-gen consoles, the Switch can play Doom at a smooth 30 FPS anywhere you want, and that’s more than enough for a lot of gamers. In addition to contemporary titles like Control, the Switch is a fantastic venue for reviving modern classics, such as The Witcher 3, L.A. Noire, and Dark Souls Remastered.
More than just a clearance house for lightly-aged AAA titles, the Switch also offers an ever-growing catalog of fantastic first-party games like Super Mario Odyssey, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the