So you're wondering which games console to buy yourself, a friend or family member and are finding it tough considering there's so much choice?

Nintendo has the Switch, Sony has the PlayStation 4 and PS4 Pro, and Microsoft is soon to add the Xbox One X to its line-up, alongside the existing Xbox One S. That's not even including dedicated handhelds and reimagined retro games machines, such as the SNES Classic Mini.

Here then is our handy guide on what each has to offer and their major consoles. Hopefully, it'll help you decide which games machine is best for you.

Best games console: Xbox

When the Xbox One was first released in November 2013 it was a different beast to the console available today, with "beast" being the operative word. It was a boxy, clunky monster of a machine.

The first Xbox One, which you can still pick up second hand today, runs all the games and performs many of the features and functions of today's version(s). However, it does lack 4K HDR output and an Ultra HD Blu-ray drive, so you can't watch Netflix in 4K or play UHD discs. It also came with an enormous power brick - something the latter day models dispensed with.

If you are looking for an Xbox One, it's more likely you'll opt for one of these:

Xbox One S

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Released in 2016, the Xbox One S is now the de facto standard console for Microsoft. It plays games in up to 1080p at 60 frames per second (for smoother gameplay), with several of them also available with high dynamic range (HDR) visuals when played on a compatible TV.

Streamed video from Netflix and Amazon Video is available in up to 4K HDR, while all versions of the Xbox One can now output audio in Dolby Atmos. This works with Blu-rays and 4K Blu-rays that support the surround sound format. It will also work with future games that come with Dolby Atmos soundtracks.

All Xbox One games will work on the machine, plus a vast collection of Xbox 360 games through backward compatibility. Original Xbox games (from the first machine Microsoft released) will also be added to the list soon.

Xbox One X

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Officially announced during E3 2017 in June, the Xbox One X will be released worldwide on 7 November for the princely sum of £450. That's a chunk more than the Xbox One S, but you do get a 1TB machine that is considerably more powerful. It's a touch smaller too.

It is capable of up to 4K gaming at 60fps, again offering HDR graphics and Dolby Atmos surround sound where possible. Games that support 4K resolutions will look crisper and far better defined on the Xbox One X than on its sibling. Developers can also use the extra power to enhance visuals further, including better draw distances, frame rates or other impressive tweaks.

Importantly, all games that run on the Xbox One S will work on the One X too, and vice versa, including all archive games and backward compatible titles. Games going forward will support both machines, but some will offer improvements for the One X only.

The Xbox One X also works as a 4K Blu-ray player.

Best games console: Playstation

Like the Xbox One, the first iteration of the standard PlayStation 4 was a chunkier machine that the one currently available. It works in almost exactly the same way, however, so might offer a bit of a bargain if sought second-hand.

If you are looking for a new console though, and want a Sony machine specifically, there are two more recent options available at two price points.


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Sony refreshed its standard games console in 2016 too, with the introduction of a slimmer, smaller version of the PlayStation 4 that effectively does everything the 2013 model could do, just in a tidier package.

Since the original launch though, all PS4 consoles, this slim model included, are capable of HDR visuals. There are plenty of PS4 games that embrace HDR and many more on the way. The standard PS4 is a 1080p machine maximum, with many games having Full HD resolutions and capable of playing in up to 60 frames per second, but that also means media streaming services, such as Netflix and Amazon Video, are also limited to playing in 1080p.

It is a capable Blu-ray player but does not support 4K Blu-rays, unlike its direct rival, the Xbox One S.

PS4 Pro

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The PS4 Pro was released at the end of 2016 and therefore the first 4K-capable games console to be released globally. It will run all games that are available and coming for the standard PS4, except many of them use its beefier, more powerful processing and graphics to enhance the experience.

In many cases, this extends to greater resolutions. Many games will play in native 4K (2160p) or thereabouts, or use a form of upscaling called checkerboard in order to present more detailed, crisper graphics. The difference can be astonishing at times. Alternatively, developers use the extended power of the PS4 Pro for better frame rates, allowing for smoother play. Other benefits can also include longer draw distances and even reduced loading times.

Bizarrely, while the PS4 Pro is a 4K HDR gaming machine, the only way to watch 4K movies and videos is through streaming services. It does not play 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays.

Best games console: Nintendo

While Sony and Microsoft go head-to-head with their PS4 and Xbox One machines respectively, Nintendo always likes to do things differently. It doesn't so much as compete as complement.

Certainly in its most recent release, it offers a distinct alternative. And with production stopped on the Nintendo Wii U, the Nintendo Switch is the company's only main option.

Nintendo Switch

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The Nintendo Switch was released this year, in spring of 2017, and gave us a very different kind of games console to what we've been used to.

It comprises a tablet-like device with a 6.2-inch 1280 x 720 touchscreen and two Joy-Con controllers - one attached to either side. This means you can play any Switch game when on your travels. The Joy-Cons can also be detached and used as independent gamepads, enabling two-player games anywhere you like, with each player getting their own controller and the screen doubling as a small TV.

The console's talents don't end there though. You can also house it in an included dock, which is subsequently plugged into a home television via HDMI. The Joy-Cons can then be slid onto an adapter to make a normal-style controller and games can be played on the big screen in up to 1080p. An optional pro controller is also available.

Game support is a little lacking in comparison with rivals at present and, in some cases, the version of a game on Switch might be cut back from the version for PS4 or Xbox One - FIFA 18, for example, which lacks the graphical fidelity and some features. However, its portability makes up for such shortcomings.

At the moment, it does not have an media streaming apps or other ability to watch movies or TV shows on the console, at home or away.

Best games console: Handhelds

Should you not be enamoured by the consoles above and would prefer something even more portable than the Nintendo Switch there are a couple of handheld games consoles on the market.

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The most recently released is the Nintendo 2DS XL, a flip-book style handheld gaming machine that is compatible with the thousands of DS and 3DS games that have hit the market in the last 13 years. It dispenses with the autostereoscopic 3D screen you find on Nintendo's other models - the new 3DS XL and new 3DS, which are also still on sale. The 2DS XL also has a funkier casing, we feel.

Alternatively, for younger kids, you can get a Nintendo 2DS, which is the same kind of console and plays the exact same games but comes in a solid two-screen format, rather than a clamshell.

Finally, Sony continues to support the PlayStation Vita handheld, which you can also still buy. What's more, if you are a PlayStation Plus subscriber you will get free games for the PS Vita each month, alongside those for PS4 (and PS3).

Best games console: Anything else?

Retro gaming fans have even greater choice than the home and portable consoles above. As well as plenty of reimagined older games machines available from third-party gadget manufacturers, Nintendo has embraced the nostalgia market in the last year more than any other.

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That's because it has released miniature versions of two of its finest games consoles from yesteryear. The Nintendo Classic Mini: NES Edition and Nintendo Classic Mini: SNES Edition are smaller editions of the Nintendo Entertainment System and Super Nintendo Entertainment System respectively.

They come with a stack of classic games pre-installed, which you can access through an all-new games menu, and plug into a TV via HDMI - even upscaling the pictures to a glorious 1080p.

The only problem with both is that they are so popular they sell out quickly. The NES Classic Mini sold out completely in 2016 and pre-orders of the SNES Classic Mini went in minutes.

However, the good news is additional stock of the latter is expected to hit stores on the build up to Christmas and the NES Classic Mini will go back into production in 2018. Hurrah.

One final choice could be to make your own retro games console, and it needn't even cost you the Earth. We tell you exactly how here: Can't buy a SNES Classic Mini? How to build your own retro console for just £50.