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  • The best video game consoles for 2020

    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, there are now two powerhouse consoles on the market that will surely 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 consoles are similar spec-wise, 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 is still 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.

    Gaming on a tight budget? Lucky for you, we’ve rounded up the best Cyber Monday gaming deals, as well as the?best Cyber Monday sales going on now.

    See more

    The best gaming console: PlayStation 5

    PlayStation 5 side view

    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 currently 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 has also 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 instance, 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 is also 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’re 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

    Xbox Series X and S

    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 is also 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, in 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 Wild, and Animal Crossing: New Horizons, as well as excellent indies such as?Stardew Valley,?Celeste, and?Ori and the Will of the Wisps. Add in some old school Nintendo nostalgia with a growing list of NES and SNES games through Nintendo Switch Online, and the Switch is a well-rounded console.

    If you plan on only using your Nintendo Switch in handheld mode, the Nintendo Switch Lite makes for a great option at a slightly lower price point. It lacks the television docking support of the standard system, but features a smaller size and a slightly better battery life than the updated Switch console that launched last year. It’s compatible out of the box with nearly every Nintendo Switch game, as well, and is perfect for games like Pokémon Sword and Shield.

    The Nintendo Switch is also a great companion console for anyone who already own a PlayStation or Xbox console. It can do things the competition can’t, and offers a host of great titles that will likely never appear on a Sony or Microsoft system.

    Read our full Nintendo Switch review

    Best retro game console: SNES Classic Edition

    The SNES Classic Edition and both of its controllers laying against the corners
    Mike Epstein/Digital Trends

    Why you should buy this:?It has 20 of the best games ever made for only $80.

    Who it’s for:?Nintendo fans old and new, and those who grew up with video games.

    Why we picked the SNES Classic Edition:

    The 16-bit era saw Nintendo at the peak of its creativity, releasing popular, acclaimed games like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Super Metroid alongside cult hits like Earthbound. Third-party companies didn’t take a backseat, with Square Enix’ Final Fantasy VI and Konami’s Super Castlevania IV among the best games of all-time.

    With the plug-and-play SNES Classic Edition, you can experience all over your?favorite classic Super Nintendo games as you remembered them. There’s even a CRT filter option mimicking the look of your old television.

    With the addition of a save-state feature, playing old Nintendo games on the SNES Classic is significantly less frustrating than it was 25 years ago, and when you’re ready to sit down and game with a buddy, classics like Super Mario Kart and Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting give you a chance to compete for bragging rights.

    The SNES Classic Edition is also the only way to play Star Fox 2,?outside of the Nintendo Switch Online service,?a game Nintendo canceled just before its original release date. To unlock it, you just need to beat the first level of the original Star Fox, but it will be very tough to pull yourself away once you start playing.

    Read our full SNES Classic Edition review

    4K, HDR, and buying game consoles

    The PS5 and the Xbox Series X support high-resolution gaming that can take advantage of emerging display standards, 4K, and High Dynamic Range (HDR). Some people don’t have a 4K TV, and fewer still have quality HDR support, which is broken down into its own sub-categories.

    While there was just a small selection of games for last-gen consoles that took full advantage of these features, the newest slate of consoles will better leverage these technologies moving forward, essentially standardizing them. Keep in mind, however, that no console requires you to own a 4K or HDR-compatible TV, meaning you can buy a new console and hold off on buying a more capable TV until you’ve done more research, found games you feel are worth upgrading for, or are otherwise ready to commit.

    If you do decide to purchase a new TV for the sake of the console, you should look for a 4K TV that runs at 60Hz and supports HDR 10, as opposed to HDR “Premium.”

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