Thanks to the continuous progress of technology, video gaming continues to get better, with more realism, action, heartfelt stories, and more worlds to explore. While there are multiple new consoles to experience this new generation of video games, I have listed down the best gaming consoles, not just for 2021 but possibly of all time!
Let’s dive in-depth and help you decide which works best for you!
Disclaimer: The prices for the consoles may vary from the base price due to availability issues. You’re more likely to find the consoles at higher prices (in some cases, bundled with accessories).
1. Sony PlayStation 5: Editor’s choice
- CPU: 3.5GHz, 8-core AMD Zen 2
- GPU: AMD RDNA 2
- Storage: 825GB
- RAM: 16GB GDDR6
- Optical drive: 4K UHD Blu-ray Drive
Sony’s latest offering promises to bring a generational leap in hardware and gaming in general. This is quite a claim, as Sony’s PlayStation 4 was one of the most popular gaming consoles of all time. Read on to know how it fares across different parameters.
Media and gaming
The PlayStation 5 promises to be a complete media center, with the option to use streaming services such as Spotify and Netflix. However, its primary selling point is its performance. While it doesn’t reach the same heights in specs as its main competitor, the Xbox Series X, Sony has continually optimized its consoles to deliver buttery-smooth performance in most games.
The issue with consoles, especially those that mark a new shift in gaming, is deciding if the price is worth it. As of now, there aren’t too many next-generation games for the PlayStation 5. However, the ones that have been released, such as Insomniac’s Spider-Man, have received praise for bringing some great gameplay and graphical enhancements (such as ray-tracing).
Sony’s controller for the PlayStation 5 has completely hit it out of the park, though. This new version of the DualSense controller provides excellent haptic feedback, and the controller’s triggers have been refined to a great extent. Sony may have changed the way gaming is interpreted with the numerous ways that the DualSense controller works.
PlayStation 5 and exclusivity
Sony continues to dominate in AAA games due to its partnerships with various development studios. This is where it continues to trump Xbox, as the PlayStation 5 launch titles promise to be breathtaking. It also has partnerships for exclusive releases that will give heavy competition to the new Xbox Series X/S.
The PlayStation 5 comes in two variants – one with an optical drive for physical copies of games and the other as a digital version that only allows game downloads. There’s not much difference between the two in specs. In fact, with the internals remaining the same, the Digital version of the PS5 is slightly slimmer. It also costs about $100 less.
Regardless of the variants, the PlayStation 5 is perfect for jumping into the next generation of gaming. It’ll continue to receive massive updates and exclusive games that will justify its pricing in the long run. If you’re a PS4 owner, I’d still recommend you to go ahead and shift to the PlayStation 5. It is the future of console gaming!
- Ridiculously fast SSD
- Amazing UI
- 8K/60 support
- Inventive DualSense controller
- Limited PS5 games
- No Dolby Vision or Atmos
- Size is a little too big
Price: $1,199 – $1,299 with accessories
2. Microsoft Xbox Series X: Best for Windows users
- CPU: Custom 8-core AMD Zen 2 @ 3.8Ghz
- GPU: Custom AMD RDNA 2 GPU 52 CUs @ 1.825Ghz
- Storage: 1 TB SSD
- RAM: 16GB GDDR6
- Optical drive: 4K UHD Blu-Ray
Microsoft and Sony have been at war over the title of “Best Gaming Console” for a fair amount of time now. More often than not, Sony has been edging out Microsoft through its PlayStation deliverables. Moreover, Sony’s partnership with numerous brands and companies gives it an upper hand for game exclusivity. With the new generation of gaming consoles, Microsoft plans to change the narrative.
Microsoft catching up to Sony?
In the previous generation of consoles, Microsoft tried its best to make a dent in PlayStation’s supremacy. They offered a towering Xbox One to compete against the PlayStation 4. However, Microsoft suffered in sales and popularity due to its limited game library and overall experience against PlayStation 4.
The Xbox Series X is Microsoft’s entry for the best gaming console in the market today. It’s the beefier sibling of the more affordable Xbox Series S and comes with a range of enhancements.
While most consoles released from the same parent company tend to have minor differences in specs and prices, the differences between the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S are significant. They offer a substantial change in both specifications and prices.
With this console, Microsoft aims to bring 60FPS gaming at 4K resolutions. Considering this, they’ve set up a beefy rig in the Xbox Series X. Microsoft partnered with AMD to include an 8-core processor that has a maximum clock speed of 3.8GHz, and it’s paired with 16GB of RAM. There’s expandable storage of up to 1TB and an output of HDMI 2.1
If you like buying physical copies of games, you’re in luck. The console has a 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray drive for the latest games. It also supports Dolby Atmos. Moreover, if you like to turn on the latest bells and whistles for graphical games, you’ll find absolutely no issues with the ray-tracing support.
Now, what if you want to play older Xbox games on new hardware? Well, Microsoft stated that the Xbox Series X is backward compatible with a huge number of older games for the Xbox One.
Since the new console uses a solid-state drive instead of the usual HDD, you can load these games a lot faster. This helps you switch between games quickly, too – a feature that Microsoft calls the Quick Resume.
Now, the difference between the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X lies in the graphical department. Microsoft has managed to beat Sony in this department. The Xbox Series X claims a whopping 12.15 teraflops, while the Sony PlayStation 5 can manage 10.28 teraflops.
While this isn’t a complete comparison, in theory, the Microsoft Xbox Series X should be able to push the graphical boundaries slightly farther than its competitor.
Xbox launch titles
In the games available on the consoles, you will get the major AAA games released through the next few years. However, you will have to miss out on the PlayStation 5 exclusive titles. This is an issue that Microsoft will have to address in the future.
All in all, Microsoft’s Xbox Series X is a good video game console if you don’t care much about Sony’s exclusive games. Moreover, the lack of PlayStation 5 availability today might increase the sales of Xbox Series X priced at $499. It is a worthy upgrade if you want to enter the ecosystem.
If you have an Xbox One X, though, I’d recommend you to hold off until the next Xbox generation (or version), as the expenditure for upgrading to Xbox Series X won’t be justified.
- Powerful CPU
- Backward compatibility for older Xbox games
- Impressive 1TB storage
- Bland design
- Launch titles aren’t as good as PS5
- Pricing could be more competitive
3. Microsoft Xbox Series S: Most affordable option
- CPU: Custom AMD Zen 2 CPU @ 3.6Ghz
- GPU: Custom AMD RDNA 2 GPU 20 CUs @ 1.565Ghz
- Storage: 512GB SSD
- RAM: 10GB GDDR6
- Optical drive: None (Digital download only)
The Microsoft Xbox Series S doesn’t have a PlayStation 5 equivalent, and this is its biggest advantage. In comparison to the Xbox Series X, there’s a lot left to be desired. Nonetheless, you can’t expect too much from a console that costs almost $200 less, right? This console is affordable, portable, and won’t cost you an arm or leg.
While Microsoft cut corners with the specs considering its budget, the Xbox Series S has a reasonably powerful spec sheet. If ray-traced games at 1080p and 1440p are good enough for you, the Xbox Series S can be your choice of console.
Compared to its sibling, the Xbox Series S isn’t too far behind. It won’t provide you with the Blu-Ray drive, but you can download digital-only games from the Microsoft Store. There’s a 512GB internal HDD available too. While it may not be much, it can store a few of the AAA games together. Microsoft has decreased the RAM inside the console, with a 10GB memory instead of the 16GB available in Series X.
Despite the minimal size, the console does well in cooling. There isn’t too much issue with the console getting too loud after being used for a substantial period. You will miss the extra graphical power that Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 provide, though, as the Xbox Series S can only muster 4 teraflops of graphical power. It is still enough for the latest games to run at a crisp 1080p or 1440p resolution.
However, you may face issues if you try to upscale the 1440p to a 4K resolution. The rest of the features, such as Quick Resume and backward compatibility, are still available on the Xbox Series S, but you will have to make a compromise in performance.
Xbox Series S over PlayStation 5?
While the Xbox Series S dominates in the price range (due to a lack of competition), it’s still bogged down by the lack of a huge number of exclusive AAA games. Nonetheless, if you’re looking for a budget gaming console, this is a great choice.
While it comes down to preference and budget, Xbox owners will find solace in the fact that Microsoft has announced its Project xCloud for entry into the cloud gaming ecosystem. Compared to PlayStation Now (which allows only older PlayStation games to be streamed and played), Project xCloud is slated to bring the latest games to its streaming service. A silver lining!
I would definitely put this as one of the best gaming consoles for beginners, especially if you don’t have the budget to buy the flagship consoles of today’s generation.
Disclaimer: The product is out of stock
- Competitive pricing
- Game Passes makes it economical
- Good performance even without 4K
- Low storage
- Most games are at 1080p
- No exciting launch titles
4. Nintendo Switch: Portability master
- CPU: ARM 4 Cortex-A57 @ 1.02Ghz
- GPU: 256 Maxwell-based CUDA cores @ 307.2 – 768Mhz
- Storage: 64GB
- RAM: 4GB LPDDR4
- Optical drive: None
Nintendo Switch was Nintendo’s reply to the world after the lukewarm reception of its previous console. The move worked, as the Nintendo Switch became Nintendo’s second-highest selling console. There are multiple reasons as to why the Switch has worked so well for Nintendo.
Nintendo vs. the world
When the Nintendo Switch was released, the newer generation consoles (including the similarly priced Xbox Series S) weren’t released. Its main competition remained with PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The price of the Nintendo Switch was comfortably far off from the flagship consoles, thereby creating its very own segment in video game consoles.
Apart from the price, the other major advantage of the Nintendo Switch is its hybrid nature. While you can connect the Switch to the TV and use it as you would a regular console.
Besides, you can also use it as a handheld console. This dramatically increases the portability factor. While you can’t get all major AAA games on the Switch (due to the lack of processing power), there are many Switch-specific games released by Nintendo that are worth the buy.
The lack of processing power comes from its hybrid design, and while you can enjoy the benefit of taking a good console around the world, you will be limited by the gaming library.
This also means that while many games are trying to push the boundaries of graphical fidelity and realism, the Switch will miss out on some of these as the years go by.
In specs, there’s no comparison to the newer consoles. Nintendo Switch is limited in internals due to its design and philosophy of functionality. In fact, stating the specs compared to the newer consoles feels like I’m putting out the specs for a recently released smartphone.
However, attaching it to a TV will give you a better feel for the console. Just don’t expect AAA games to run flawlessly on this console if they are available or work on the Switch at all.
Nintendo has its very own niche in gaming. It’s given us some of the best game franchises (such as Legend of Zelda and Mario), and the gaming consoles provided by Nintendo are optimized for their games.
If you’re a Nintendo fan, you have to buy the Switch. As a casual gamer, you can look at the Nintendo Switch for some great games exclusive to the console.
If you’re a hardcore gamer, I wouldn’t recommend it. You’d be sorely disappointed due to the lack of AAA games, and if portability isn’t what you’re after, the money spent on this console would be a complete waste.
- Hybrid design provides many options
- Ergonomic for a handheld console
- Games load in a jiffy
- Display has an issue with glare
- Disappointing battery life
- Joy-Con lags sometimes
5. Nintendo Switch Lite: Most affordable handheld console
- CPU: ARM 4 Cortex – A57 @ 1.02Ghz
- GPU: 256 Maxwell-based CUDA cores @ 307.2 – 460Mhz
- RAM: 4GB LPDDR4
- Storage: 32GB
- Optical drive: None
AAA game lovers, look away! The Nintendo Switch Lite is the latest offering from Nintendo as a follow-up to its popular Nintendo Switch console. This new gaming console is smaller, lighter, and even more portable than its predecessor. It’s stated to be just as powerful as its big brother!
The good, the bad, and the ugly
The major point is that the Switch Lite cannot be connected to a TV system for home-style console gaming. This console is meant purely for handheld gameplay and offers a bigger battery than the original Nintendo Switch.
Unlike the Nintendo Switch, the Lite version’s Joy-Con sticks don’t detach. Neither is the Lite made for docking. A great advantage for lovers of the original Switch is that they can also transfer their game saves onto the Lite console.
The games for Nintendo Switch are said to be compatible with Nintendo Switch Lite. So, if you’re a massive fan of Nintendo, the Switch Lite will now solve your problems for portability in consoles (that is if this wasn’t already solved with the introduction of the original Nintendo Switch).
Nonetheless, I can’t find too many advantages to the Nintendo Switch Lite unless you’re a Nintendo lover or just want a console for some casual gaming on the move.
The $200 price tag seems fair enough if you’re looking for some light and casual gaming that’s better than the gaming found on your mobile devices. You’re bound to get the latest Nintendo game releases and a few others from other developers.
If you’re looking for AAA-level gaming, with some major franchises such as God of War, Halo, or the Uncharted series, the PlayStations and Xboxes are still your best bet.
- Longer battery life than Switch
- Competitive price
- More portable
- Smaller screen
- no docking options for external screens
- Lack of AAA games
This wraps up my list of the best gaming consoles! As you can see, I have covered consoles from almost every price range to fit different budgets and preferences. Which one are you planning to buy? Share in the comments below!