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Video Game Console Buying Guide

Video game console may be losing some of its market to mobile gaming on smartphones and tablets. However, these devices are also evolving into all-round entertainment devices by featuring video streaming and web surfing capabilities. This buying guide would outline the main features of gaming consoles. If your mind is not made up about getting a personal console, this guide is a good place to start with.

Types of Consoles

Home Video Game Consoles

These consoles are designed, primarily, for playing games at home. They are made up of the main gaming unit and a connected controller. The console is connected to an output device like a television. The major home video game console manufacturers are Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo.

Microsoft Xbox One

Initially released in 2013, this is Microsoft's latest game console in its Xbox series. In August 2016, Microsoft released a revised version of the Xbox One, the Xbox One S. The Xbox One S is smaller and supports 4K video playback, among other improvements. Microsoft has also announced it would release another revision of the Xbox One, codenamed Project Scorpio. Project Scorpio would support 4K gameplay and virtual reality headsets.

Microsoft Xbox 360

Microsoft's Xbox 360 was first released in 2005. It was the first Xbox console to support motion sensing and a native wireless controller. Microsoft released revised models of this console, the Xbox 360 S and the Xbox 360 E, in 2010 and 2013, respectively.

Sony PlayStation 4

The Sony PlayStation 4 was first released in 2013 in North America. It replaced Sony's PlayStation 3. Sony is working on releasing a revised version of the PlayStation 4, codenamed PlayStation Neo. The Neo would feature support for 4K gaming.

Sony PlayStation 3

Sony's PlayStation 3 was the successor to Sony's previous console, the PlayStation 2. It completed with Nintendo's Wii and Microsoft's Xbox 360. It was the first console to have a Blu-ray drive. Sony released the PlayStation Slim model in 2009. The Super Slim model was released in 2012.

Nintendo Wii U

The Nintendo Wii U was released in 2012 as a replacement for the Nintendo Wii. The Wii U is the first console from Nintendo to support High Definition graphics. Any game played on the Wii can also be played on the Wii U.

Nintendo Wii

First released in 2011, the Nintendo Wii was successor to the Nintendo Gamecube. In 2011 Nintendo released the revised model, the Wii Family Edition. This revised edition, unlike the initial release, was originally designed to sit horizontally on a surface. Also, the Wii Family Edition doesn't support games made for the Gamecube, a feature the 2011 edition supports.

Handheld Game Consoles

A Handheld game console is a self-contained gaming unit which has built-in screen, controls and sound. They are easy to move around as some are small enough to fit in your pocket. Major handheld console manufacturers are Nintendo, Sony and Nvidia.

Sony PlayStation Vita

The PlayStation Vita replaced the PlayStation Portable in Sony's brand of handheld gaming devices. It mainly competes with Nintendo's 3DS console. Initial release date was in 2011 and the revised version, the PlayStation Vita 2000 series, was released in 2013. You can also connect to your PlayStation 4 console and use the Vita as the primary screen, in place of a television.

Nintendo 3DS

Nintendo's 3DS was released in 2011 to compete with the PlayStation Vita. It can display 3D video effects without using additional accessories like 3D glasses. It replaced the Nintendo DS. Nintendo DS games can be played on the 3DS. Redesigned versions, the Nintendo 3DS XL, the Nintendo 2DS, the New Nintendo 3DS and the New Nintendo 3DS XL were released in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2014, respectively.

Nvidia Shield Portable

The Nvidia Shield Portable was released in 2013. It runs on Android operating system. It has a 5-inch flip-up touchscreen display and the controls are on the base of the console. You can use the Shield as a monitor to play games installed on a computer. The computer must be equipped with a compatible Nvidia Graphics Card. This console can also output its display on a television. Games are downloadable on the Shield via the Google Play Store or Nvidia's TegraZone 2 android app market.

Features to look out for in a Game Console

Home Video game Consoles


The Microsoft Xbox One controller has undergone several changes since its initial release. It currently features a 3.5mm stereo headset jack, automatic pairing with Microsoft's motion sensor (Kinect 2.0), USB port and Windows Operating System support. PlayStation 4's controller, called dualshock 4, also features a touchscreen input, motion detection, non-removable batteries, a light bar, a 3.5mm stereo headset jack, a microUSB port, and a dedicated SHARE button to allow players upload gameplay videos. The Wii U controller has a touchscreen display controlled either by hand or an included stylus. The screen can be used as the primary display for the Wii U console or as a supplementary gameplay display. Other features of the controller include a front-facing camera, NFC support, and it can be used in conjunction with other Wii U-compatible controllers.


The Wii U is the smallest sized console, followed by the PlayStation 4 (PS4). The Xbox One S, a revision of the initial Xbox One, is sized smaller than the initial Xbox One release. The first release of the PS4 has the most powerful graphics card, followed by the Xbox One. Comparatively, the Wii U has much weaker hardware. The Xbox One and the Wii U can support up to 8 controllers at once while the PS4 supports half that number. The Wii U is also the only console that directly supports games made for its previous version. Unlike the other 2 consoles, the Wii U doesn't feature a removable internal drive. But all 3 consoles can be connected with an external hard drive.


Some top games such as Watchdogs and Call of Duty: Black Ops II are released on all 3 consoles (cross-platform games). Many other top games like Witcher 3 and Grand Theft Auto 5 are released for just the PlayStation 4 (PS4) and the Xbox One. The Wii U has more Wii U-exclusive games, like Mario Kart 8 and The Legend of Zelda, than cross-platform games. Some exclusive Xbox One games include Forza Motorsport 5 and Halo Wars 5. Similarly, games like Uncharted 4 and God of War III Remastered are made just for the PS4. It is best to know the types of games you want to play before purchasing a console.

Motion Controllers

All 3 consoles (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Wii U) have motion controllers. Motion controllers have sensors that can detect motion, position, orientation, acceleration, gestures, etc. These controllers are used in action oriented games like sports and shooting. The Wii Remote popularised the use of motion controllers for gaming. Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo's current motion controller offering are the Kinect 2.0, the PlayStation move and the Wii U GamePad.

Virtual Reality Headsets

Virtual Reality Heatsets are head-mounted devices display that may feature head tracking sensors, integrated sound, eye tracking sensors and a game controller. Sony is scheduled to release its virtual reality headset, the PlayStation VR in 2016. Microsoft's next Xbox One revision, the Project Scorpio, would support virtual reality headset integration. No concrete information is available for virtual reality headset support for the Wii U.

Alternative Playing Modes

PlayStation games can be integrated and played from a PlayStation Vita console. The PlayStation App, available on Android and iOS operating systems, features using your smartphone as a second screen for the PlayStation 4 (PS4). Selected Sony Xperia devices, like Xperia X and Xperia Z4 tablet can be used as the primary screen for a PS4. With Xbox Play Anywhere you can play your Xbox One games across Windows 10 computers and tablets. The Xbox App, available for Android, iOS and Windows Phone, can be used as a media controller for the Xbox One console, to buy video games, share Xbox game content, etc. Multiplayer games can, for the first time, be played between Xbox One and PS4 owners. The 3DS console can be used as a controller for the Wii U when playing Super Smash Bros. The Wii U also supports a number of other peripherals like Wii Wheel, Wii Fit U with Balance Board, and Wii Remote Plus.

Handheld Game consoles

Compared with the Nintendo 3DS console, the PlayStation Vita has a much better graphics hardware. Both have front and back facing cameras. Exclusively, the 3DS can display and record 3D images. Both consoles have 1GB internal flash memory. However the 3DS supports off-the-shelve SDHC cards while the Vita supports a more expensive proprietary external card. The Vita is physically longer but the 3DS is thicker when it is closed. Games on the Vita and the 3DS are almost always exclusive of each other. However the 3DS has a more unique gaming experience like the pokemon game series, the 3D display feature and the 3DS C-Stick. The Nvidia Shield Portable has more powerful graphics hardware than the Vita. Although both have the same screen size of 5 inches, the Shield has a wider screen resolution. For games found on both consoles, it generally costs more to buy the same game on the Vita. Your choice of games should inform your choice between these two console. Nvidia Shield games are more mainstream, as many of them are also played on mobile phones and computers. Meanwhile, Vita games, such as Tearaway and Gravity Rush, are more exclusive to Sony devices.

What’s your Budget

Currently the Xbox One console is priced lower than the PlayStation 4 console. The Wii U console price varies based on the package you are buying and the games bundled with it. A Wii U console could cost more than or the same as the other 2 consoles. The primary game controller and available video games for the Xbox and the PlayStation are closely priced. Games and controllers generally cost less on the Wii U. The Nintendo 3DS is the cheapest of the 3 handheld consoles, followed by the PlayStation's Vita.

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