Buyer’s Guide to New Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo Consoles | Games

Jhe console market has suddenly become quite confusing. A month ago we had three machines: the PlayStation 4, the Xbox One and a rather mediocre Wii U. Now, Sony and Microsoft have announced several iterations of their platforms, while Nintendo waits in the wings with a brand new creation.

If all that activity has burned your logic circuits, here’s a look at all the new machines, what they do and how they compare.

Xbox One S (available now)

Xbox One S…essentially, a redesigned version of the original Xbox One. Photography: Microsoft

Specifications: Eight-core AMD Jaguar processor; 914 MHz AMD Radeon-based GPU; 8GB DDR3 RAM; UHD Blu-ray player

The truth : Essentially a redesigned version of the original Xbox One, with a 40% size reduction, internal power supply unit, Ultra HD Blu-ray drive, and compatibility with HDR (high dynamic range) visuals. This last feature was supported with a slight increase in GPU clock speed, but its effect is minimal. So far, only four Xbox One titles have been announced as HDR compatible. The Xbox One S cannot render games in native 4K, but will upscale non-4K content to display at 4K resolutions. The controller has been slightly redesigned with better Bluetooth support and a textured grip.

Price: 2TB edition, £349/$399/EUR399; 1TB, £299/EUR349; 500GB, £249/$299/EUR299

Get one if: You want an Xbox One but haven’t bought one yet, or you fancy a cheap 4K Blu-ray player. It’s not worth upgrading to a standard Xbox One unless you’re extremely keen on installing a new 4K TV.

Slimline PlayStation 4 (September 16)

PlayStation 4
PlayStation 4… offering the same specs in a 40% smaller package. Photo: Sony

Specifications: Eight-core AMD “Jaguar” processor; 1.84 teraflops (trillion floating point operations per second), next-generation AMD Radeon GPU; 8GB GDDR5 RAM

The truth : A downsized PS4 that replaces the base model, offering the same specs in a 40% smaller package. The new machine comes with a redesigned Dual Shock controller with a light bar above the touchpad to make it easier to see. Power efficiency and fan noise have apparently been improved, and compatibility with faster 5GHz Wi-Fi is expected. The optical output port has been removed, limiting connectivity to certain audio equipment, such as home theater systems or stand-alone headphones (although HDMI cables can carry the same surround sound signal). All PS4 models are compatible with HDR visuals.

Price: 500GB version, £259 ($299, €299); 1TB (available September 29), £309.99 ($TBC)

Get one if: You haven’t bought a PS4 yet, you don’t care about 4K resolutions or improved PlayStation VR performance, and you don’t want to wait six weeks (and pay an extra £90) for a PlayStation 4 Pro.

PlayStation 4 Pro (November 10)

Playstation 4 Pro
PlayStation 4 Pro… an enthusiast version of the PlayStation 4. Photo: Sony

Specifications: AMD Jaguar, eight-core single-chip custom processor; 4.20 teraflops, AMD Radeon-based GPU; 8GB GDDR5 RAM; 4K compatible video and games

The truth : Designed as an enthusiast version of the PlayStation 4, the Pro offers increased processing power and improved graphics performance, enabling 4K-capable visuals and a smoother experience with the PlayStation VR headset. Many titles are unlikely to reach full native 4K resolutions – especially not more than 30 frames per second – but users should expect higher resolutions and frame rate performance than 1080p HD gaming. current ones (only if you have a 4K TV, of course). Some current PS4 titles will also be patched to take advantage of the machine’s improved specs. The PS4 Pro can stream 4K video from services like YouTube and Netflix, but unlike the Xbox One S, it can’t play 4K Blu-ray discs. Sony also said that users of 1080p HDTVs will also see visual improvements in their games with more stable frame rates.

Price: $399/£349 with 1TB hard drive

Get one if: You want a PS4 and don’t mind spending the extra £90 for 4K compatibility, or you want to get the most out of PlayStation VR. It’s not worth switching from a standard PS4 unless you have a 4K TV or, from October, a PlayStation VR headset.

Nintendo NX (March 2017)

Specifications: Unconfirmed at this time. Reports suggest that Nintendo will opt for the Nvidia Tegra, a cheaper smartphone-focused processor. Rumors have also suggested a much more powerful Radeon HD RX 200 GPU with 4.60 teraflops of computing power.

The truth : Little is known about the next version, but there are suggestions that it will be a hybrid of handheld machine and home console, with its own screen and detachable controllers. Users will be able to take it with them or plug it into a base unit so it’s playable on a TV. Experts have also suggested that Nintendo will return to cartridge games.

Price: TBC, but Nintendo generally keeps manufacturing costs low enough to support an affordable retail price.

Get one if: you like Nintendo games. Support from major publishers like Electronic Arts, Activision, Ubisoft and Bethesda is likely to be mixed at first, as software sales on the Wii U have been disappointing.

Xbox: Project Scorpion (Winter 2017)

Scorpio Project
Project Scorpio…”the most powerful console ever built”. Photography: Microsoft

Specifications: TBC, but the industry expects an eight-core processor and over 320 GB of memory bandwidth; Microsoft announced a graphics processing performance of 6 teraflops.

The truth : Microsoft is touting it as “the most powerful console ever built” and no doubt it will be, with a GPU that – on paper – outperforms the PlayStation 4 Pro by a considerable margin. The machine is designed to run games and videos at 4K resolution, although whether those games run at full native 4K resolution at 60fps (or even 30fps) is another matter. Virtual reality is another key part of the machine, but it’s unclear which Scorpio headset will support. All Xbox One game discs will be able to run on the Scorpio and Xbox One S, with Scorpio owners benefiting from a performance boost.

Price: TBC, but probably around the £399 mark.

Get one if: You want the most powerful console to go with your new 4K TV or compatible VR headset.

A quick Q&A

Answering a few remaining questions…

What exactly is 4K TV?

4K or Ultra HD (UHD) is the successor to high-definition television (HDTV), offering up to four times the screen resolution (3,840 x 2,160, compared to 1,920 x 1,080). When we talk about a game running in native 4K, we mean a game that specifically renders its visuals at the highest 4K resolution, at 30 fps or higher. Games on Xbox One S and PlayStation 4 Pro are unlikely to reach this benchmark, although they do reach higher screen resolutions than HD. TechRadar has a good detailed guide to understanding 4K and UHD TVs.

What is HDR?

HDR stands for high dynamic range and refers to a visual technology that increases the contrast and color of a video display. This results in a more nuanced image, with more diversity between lighter and darker areas, as well as richer coloration. All PlayStation 4 models support HDR, as does the Xbox One S and Project Scorpio. You will need a 4K UHD TV to take advantage of this feature, but be careful as not all 4K UHD TVs support HDR. Look for models that meet the UHD Premium standard, which requires HDR to be implemented.

Should I buy an Xbox One S or a slimline PlayStation 4?

If you haven’t joined this generation of consoles yet, both machines are very good, have plenty of games, and will be supported throughout this generation’s lifecycle. At first, the PS4 versions of cross-platform games were better, but that edge has pretty much worn off. Now it’s down to two questions: which exclusive titles do you prefer (are you an Uncharted fan? Or do you like Forza titles?); and what machine do your friends have? However, if you just bought a 4K TV and want to get the most out of it, the Xbox One S is the best bet because it supports 4K video, has a 4K Blu-ray player, and supports supports graphics resolutions approaching 4K.

Should I buy an Xbox One S or a PlayStation Pro?

Sony’s top-end machine is more expensive than the Xbox One S, but for that price you get a more powerful processor and more polished support for 4K visuals. If you already own a PlayStation 4, all of your current games will play on the Pro, and some will be patched to take advantage of the new visual capabilities. However, the Xbox One S has a 4K Blu-ray drive, so if you want to start buying UHD movie discs, you’ll need this machine. Plus, if you’re really into virtual reality, the Pro will offer an augmented experience with PlayStation VR.

Should I buy a PlayStation 4 Pro or wait for a Project Scorpio?

Difficult question. It’s clear that Scorpio is going to offer a spec upgrade over the PlayStation 4 Pro, and it will undoubtedly match (or exceed) the 4K gaming performance of Sony’s machine – although it’s still doubtful whether the console will shoots native 4K gaming at something like 60fps. Unlike PlayStation 4 Pro, Scorpio will surely support 4K HD Blu-ray playback, as Microsoft made it a big selling point with the Xbox One S. Also, although PlayStation has its own VR headset (which Pro will draw the best part), Microsoft mentioned VR compatibility, which may mean support for a third-party headset like the Oculus Rift.

If you already have a standard PS4 or Xbox One and aren’t in a rush to upgrade to 4K, it might be worth seeing what Project Scorpio has to offer before upgrading your current console.

Timothy C. Mayo