The clearest decision right now is for anyone drawn to the Nintendo Switch—it’s a nice console with fun games and few downsides. Among the Wirecutter staff, there are casual Switch players who haven’t owned another video game system in ages (or ever), as well as folks who own every console and a PC but who still love playing the Switch. You can read more about the Switch, and why it appeals to so many people, in the Switch section below.
The next generation of Xbox and PlayStation consoles has arrived, and if you aren’t already sold on a certain model, this is a difficult moment to make a decision. But it’s also the time to get the most out of whatever you buy—whether it’s a secondhand, last-generation system with hundreds of games for a low price, or a brand-new console with many years of support and new releases to look forward to, as well as the ability to play many of your old games.
If you’re shopping for a console to give to someone else and know that they want an Xbox or PlayStation, we recommend sticking with whatever brand of console they last had (and saving the receipt). Sticking with one brand generally means that they can still play the games they already have and connect with the same friends online. It also means they’ll be able to play the sequels to any platform-exclusive games they already love. A warning, though: The new PS5 and Xbox Series X and S will likely be in short supply through the holiday season. If you see one available with no price gouging, be ready to jump on it.
The coronavirus pandemic and its associated quarantines and social restrictions have also caused a lot of people to look to video games as alternatives to activities that are harder to do right now. If that sounds like you, don’t feel like you need to jump on the latest and greatest. With the new consoles launching, you can pick up a used or refurbished Xbox One or PlayStation 4 and get tremendous value—we’d look for prices around $200—plus access to hundreds of great games from the past seven years already available for cheap.
For everyone else, if you’re ready to jump into the next generation with the Xbox Series X and Series S or with the PlayStation 5, we’ve been testing both since before the launch and can help guide you through the differences.
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