Many will likely get a games console this Christmas but, equally, there will be plenty who get the cash instead.

That means they might be yet to choose which machine to buy.

You have the ground-breaking Nintendo Switch, the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One S. Then, for those with a larger budget, there are the 4K gaming powerhouses, the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X.

That's a lot to consider, which is why we look at the five major games consoles to see which would best suit you.


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Hardware

The Nintendo Switch is markedly different from its rivals in hardware terms. Without going too deep into the specifications, it has a mobile processing architecture from Nvidia that is a heavily modified Tegra X1 chipset, while the PlayStation and Xbox consoles all opt for more conventional computing power.

On the Switch, games have the potential of running in 1080p 60fps when in docked mode and fed to a TV, 720p 60fps on its own integrated screen when on the move. Most Xbox One S and standard PS4 games run at 1080p these days, with some achieving 60fps.

The PS4 Pro and Xbox One X are capable of stretching that resolution up to 4K at 60fps.

All the Xbox and PlayStation consoles are capable of high dynamic response (HDR) graphics too. The Switch is not.

Where the Switch has a distinct advantage over its direct rivals is in portability. It doubles as both a home console and handheld games machine so is the only one you can take on your travels with you, to play the exact same games on its built-in 6.2-inch screen.


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We continually monitor 1,000s of prices from a range of retailers to show you the lowest prices we can find. We may get a commission from these offers. Our reviewers and buyer's guides are always kept separate from this process. Read more about our approach here. © Squirrel 2019


Disc drives and storage

The Xbox One S, Xbox One X, PS4 Pro and PS4 have physical disc drives, with the Xbox One consoles also able to play 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays. Weirdly, Sony, even as a founding member of the Blu-ray Disc Association, decided against adding a 4K Blu-ray deck to its latest consoles. They are still able to play conventional 1080p Blu-rays, but not Ultra HD discs.

The Nintendo Switch can do neither. The Japanese firm opted to dispense with discs altogether, with games coming on cartridge instead, much like the 3DS and Nintendo consoles of yore.

Games are also available via download stores, but considering how stingy Nintendo has been with on-board storage, you'll have to invest in a microSD card to store more than a couple at a time.

The Xbox One S can be spec'ed from 500GB, although the 1TB version is the standard model you'll find in stores these days. The Xbox One X also comes with a 1TB drive.

The latest PS4 and PS4 Pro can be spec'ed up to 1TB. All Xbox and PlayStation machines have the ability to increase the storage through third-party hard drives - via external USB 3.0 HDDs. In addition, all PS4 models can be expanded through swapping the internal 3.5-inch internal drives.

The Switch, on the other hand, comes with 32GB of built-in storage. Big name games, especially those from Nintendo itself, often take up at least half of that. 


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Games

When it comes to quantity of games, the Xbox One and PS4 consoles clearly win hands down thanks to being around for five years apiece. The Nintendo Switch is relatively young in comparison.

The Switch's line-up is expanding at a rapid pace though and has a healthy enough library. There is also much greater support from developers and publishers than Nintendo's last console, the Wii U.

Quality is more subjective. Nintendo has some bone fide triple-A titles you won't find on any other platform (save for the defunct Wii U), such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Mario Kart 8 DeluxeSuper Mario Odyssey and the recently released Super Smash Bros Ultimate.

Of course, both Xbox and PlayStation have their own exclusives, with Forza Horizon 4 and Crackdown 3 out or coming soon for the Xbox One and Marvel's Spider-Man and God of War for PS4.

The area where Nintendo Switch needs to improve upon is in having some of the same big, multi-platform games as the others. FIFA 19 is available, for example, but there's no sign of a Red Dead Redemption 2 or the like.

On the other hand, the Switch does trump its rivals in motion gaming. While the other two have largely shunned the format, the Switch embraces its Wii heritage with its clip-on Joy-Con controllers also doubling as motion remotes. This has brought families back to Nintendo in their droves.

Media

All Xbox One and PS4 consoles are great media streamers as well as games machines. They each have Netflix and Amazon Video apps, with the Xbox One S and Xbox One X offering both in 4K HDR - even Dolby Vision on some compatible TVs. The PS4 Pro offers Netflix in 4K HDR too.

BBC iPlayer and other terrestrial TV catch-up services can be found on the consoles too.

The Nintendo Switch doesn't have any of the services available, at least not at present. It does have a YouTube app, but there's currently no sign of Netflix or Amazon anywhere on the horizon.

Price

As both the PS4 and Xbox One have been around for a while, prices have dropped dramatically since their original launches in 2013.

You can buy an Xbox One S for less than £200 these days. A standard PS4 is just around £30 more. What's more, they both come with at least one game.

The Nintendo Switch is £280 or thereabouts. And it doesn't come with a game.

The PS4 Pro will set you back around £350 with a game. While Microsoft's Xbox One X - dubbed the "most powerful console ever" - will still set you back around £400, even when discounted.

Game prices for all consoles range between £40 and £60. But if you shop around you can make some significant savings, even for brand new Switch games. Check out Amazon.co.uk, for example, it has many of the big titles for as much as £15 off.

Conclusion

It is clear to see that the Nintendo Switch is a very different games console to the other machines. In many ways, it could be seen as an ideal second machine for hardcore gamers.

If anything, it could be considered a Nintendo 3DS or PS Vita replacement as much as a home console alternative.

The motion gaming aspects could be a big draw too, especially if plenty of family-oriented games are your sort of thing. This is an area where Nintendo excelled with the Wii and it therefore offered something different to the Xbox 360 and PS3 of the time. The same is true again.

The biggest barrier is price, with the Switch considerably more expensive than the standard Xbox One S and PS4 thanks to being the new kid on the block.

If you have a 4K HDR TV, however, you really should consider saving those extra pennies for a PS4 Pro or Xbox One X. Games run better on them and those with enhanced graphics are simply awesome to look at, let alone play.