The Xbox One X is finally here – heralding a new era of games consoles.
Dubbed the most powerful console ever made, Microsoft’s supercharged Xbox is a tantalising prospect for graphics enthusiasts.
But with so many amazing options out right now, is it the best choice for you?
Here, I go through the best options – from retro game emulators and ‘Netflix for games’ to high-end graphics cards.
Let’s kick off with the new kid on the block, the Xbox One X.
Xbox One X
The Xbox One X is, hands down, the most powerful console ever made. In fact, it holds its own with some top gaming PCs.
Under the bonnet is a six TFLOP graphics processor running at 1172 Mhz, 12GB of GDDR5 memory and a 2.3 Ghz custom central processing unit.
It’s significantly more powerful than the Xbox One S and, crucially, Sony’s PlayStation 4 Pro, which has a 4.2 TFLOP graphics processing unit and 911 Mhz CPU.
The X aims to play games at native 4K at 60fps – while the PS4 Pro can only manage this with some titles.
There’s also a UHD Blu-ray player, a component missing from the Pro.
For those without a 4K TV, the X will shorten loading times and boost quality at 1080p.
This is where the X really falls down. There are no Triple-A exclusive games on launch.
Thankfully, with the likes of Assassin’s Creed Origins, Anthem and Metro Exodus on the horizon, there’s still plenty of titles for it to show off its muscle.
The X is also backwards compatible with Xbox 360 and some Xbox games.
Price and Verdict
At £449, the X is very, very expensive.
However, if you’re after a raw power and want the most powerful console in the world, then X marks the spot.
The PS4 Pro will likely see price cuts around Christmas, adding some serious competition – so we may need to wait until next year before the X really takes off.
Xbox One S
It may look the part, but the Xbox One S is essentially the same machine as the original Xbox One – bar a couple of minor improvements.
The S has a 4K Blu-Ray player, supports 4K video steaming and high dynamic range (HDR). The latter will result in more vibrant, life-like colour when you play games.
It does make a huge difference – and if you’re playing on a screen smaller than 32 inches, it’s more than adequate.
All Xbox One games can be played on the S.
However, as time goes on, more and more games will support HDR, to make the most of the S’s tweaked hardware.
Thankfully, all games can still be enjoyed with some form of HDR, even if they’re not officially supported.
If you have a Gold membership, you’ll also get free games to download via Games with Gold.
These can be a bit of a mixed bag, but are usually very good.
Price and verdict
If you’re after a good all-rounder, the S is the way to go. It’ll give you decent performance and the 4K Blu-Ray player is a masterstroke.
Sadly, if you’ve got a large 4K TV (plus 40ins), visuals will lack the crispness offered by the more powerful X.
The average Xbox One S will cost you around £250, a figure that may drop now the X is out.
If you want more power but don’t fancy forking out £449, then the Pro is the way to go.
Think of the Pro as the ‘sports car’ version of the PS4 – tweaked, refined and built for raw performance.
In fact, it’s twice as powerful as the standard PS4 in some tasks.
The Pro’s graphics chip is rated at 4 TFLOPS (trillion floating point operations per second), where the standard Xbox One is 1.4TFLOPS.
Unlike the Xbox One S, it doesn’t have a 4K Blu-Ray player. These can cost around £400 if bought separately.
Elsewhere, you can opt for PSVR, which works a treat for games such as Resident Evil 7.
PSVR is still too expensive to recommend a purchase, though – with units retailing for around £350.
Huge win here for Sony’s console, with certain games getting a ‘Pro’ upgrade to capitalise on the power boost.
This means the Pro can deliver games at higher resolutions, whilst maintaining a stable frame rate.
We’ve already started seeing some games taking advantage of the new hardware.
Battlefield 1 on Pro, for example, has seen a 40 per cent increase in frame rate in some areas over the standard PS4.
Sony’s best exclusive is Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, but Horizon Zero Dawn is also outstanding.
Pro will also arguably make cross-platform games look their best (apart from if they’re running super-expensive high-end PCs).
Agents of Mayhem for example, sees more stable framerates and crisper presentation than its Xbox One S counterpart.
Price and verdict
The Pro usually comes in at around £349 – but without a game. However, with the X now out, Sony will likely improve bundles or discount the price.
If you have a 4K TV and want to see a noticeable step up in visuals and performance, Pro is definitely for you.
While it’s not quite up there with top-end PCs, Pro is massively more cost effective – and will serve you well for years to come.
The standard PS4 Slim is no slouch either, though – and at about £150 cheaper, is remarkable value for those gaming at 1080p resolution.
It even has HDR – putting it right up there with the Xbox One S.
The Nintendo Switch is arguably the most exciting console of the lot.
It’s comprised of a portable tablet-like device and a docking station for home play.
The hybrid machine boasts a decent 6.2-inch HD touch screen and clip-on ‘Joy-Con’ controllers that can also be used independently as mini gamepads.
When in ‘handheld mode’ the Switch can be used on the go – which is where it really comes into its own.
If playing on the TV is your thing, you simply connect the screen into a dock. This ups the graphical resolution from 720p to full 1080p.
The Joy-Cons can be clipped to a ‘Grip’ to make a normal-style game controller.
Under the hood there’s a Nvidia ‘customised’ Tegra processor – essentially the same architecture as the cheaper Nvidia SHIELD TV.
The Switch is home to some of the highest-scoring games of all time.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Super Mario Odyssey are absolutely essential purchases.
Another exclusive, Mario and Rabbids Kingdom Battle is superb, too – although its RPG-turn-based combat may put some people off.
The Nintendo store, which offers some smaller indie and retro titles, is relatively sparse but will become more populated in time.
Price and Verdict
When used as a handheld, nothing comes close to the Switch. It’s ever so slightly too big for commutes but this won’t put people off.
Connect it to a TV and it’s not as spectacular – with its visuals not able to keep up with the PS4, Xbox One or SHIELD.
That being said, the quality of games on offer really is superb – especially Mario Odyssey.
The Switch can be picked up for around the £280 mark, with games costing between £40-60.
The Pro controller, which resembles a traditional game pad, costs just shy of £70 – but is not recommended.
Nvidia Shield TV
The Nvidia SHIELD is a small but mighty Android TV streaming service that doubles up as insanely powerful gaming rig.
Rather than the old school way of having a dedicated graphics card, SHIELD TV taps into super computer farms placed strategically around the world.
These “play” the games – streaming them back to you at 1080p / 60FPS – providing your internet connection is fast enough.
It’s all thanks to the Nvidia TEGRA chip – yep, the same processor found in the Switch. It’s also capable of streaming on-demand TV and movies from sites such as Amazon Prime in UHD (4K) – making it an excellent all-rounder.
For PC gamers, the SHIELD can team up with your rig and stream games from your PC.
This means you can have your PC in the office, and be playing the games on the main TV in the living room.
Thankfully, it looks the part – with clean, crisp lines and an attractive, well-built remote and game pad.
NVIDIA offers a service called GeForce Now, which offers hundreds of titles – which, admittedly vary in terms of quality – for a £7.49 monthly fee.
Think Netflix for games.
Don’t expect FIFA 18 on there, though.
While the selection is impressive, including Tomb Raider, The Witcher 3 and a load of Batman games, some of the most popular titles won’t be appearing on the platform any time soon.
Thankfully, there are a host of games playable via the Android Store – which all run perfectly.
There’s an impressive selection of Indie games on there, too.
Price and verdict
Here’s the best bit – the SHIELD comes in at £189.99 – which, for this amount of hardware is an absolute steal.
SHIELD is a brilliant all-rounder that excels at streaming UHD TV and delivering breathtaking performance in games.
A word of warning, though. Nvidia recommends a 5-10 Mbps internet download speed to use GeForce Now… that’s super quick.
Oh, and best invest 5GHZ router, too. By far the best one out there at the moment is the insanely powerful NETGEAR Nighthawk.
If your speed isn’t up to the mark, you’ll still be able to play games – but expect some lag and the resolution to drop.
However, if it’s fast enough, the SHIELD is a viable, attractive alternative to the mainstream consoles.
A few years ago, PC gaming was thought to be on the way out. How wrong we were.
In fact, it’s never been more popular – and building a powerful PC has never been easier or more cost effective.
We’ve broken it down by resolution and included the costs below.
1080p gaming – equivalent to the Xbox One S / PS4 Slim
If you’re looking for something with similar performance to the Xbox One or PS4 at 1080, opt for the GTX 1050Ti.
It’ll offer great performance at 1080p resolution and, at around the £130 mark, is much cheaper than a new Xbox One S or standard PS4.
The AMD equivalent, called the RX 460, isn’t quite as refined, but for the same price will offer solid 1080p performance.
Games such as The Witcher 3 still look stunning at 1080p on PC – easily trumping the console versions.
Ultra graphics at 1080p and beyond – (PS4 Pro-level of performance)
For around the £200 mark, you can end up with an AMD RX 480 – which runs at around 5.2 TFLOPS… more than the PS4 Pro.
With all this extra horsepower comes a host of cool features that are often parred down on console.
For one, thanks to greater GPU memory, you’ll be able to activate advanced anti-aliasing techniques, which smooth out the overall image.
Textures, frame-rates, draw distance – all of this will be massively improved, too.
To test it out, try Crysis 3 (above) on Ultra settings.
For a game that’s more than three years old, its visuals will still blow you away.
4K Ultra-level graphics gaming at 60FPS (Beyond PS4 Pro and Xbox One X)
This is where PCs really start to pull ahead from consoles.
Nvidia’s older Geforce GTX 980Ti is currently the best budget option – but even that will struggle a bit at 4K.
For a little over £600, Nvidia’s GTX 1080 offers superb performance at Ultra settings at 4K.
Expect silky smooth framerates even with graphics options turned up to Ultra. Battlefield 1 looks absolutely stunning at 4K using this card, especially.
For those after the very best performance, it’s hard to top the incredible GTX 1080Ti.
This packs an eye-watering 11GB of dedicated graphics memory – that’s about three Xbox One Xs!
PC gaming is the only way to go if you’re after the very best in graphics and performance.
Don’t get put off by new waves of graphics cards coming out either.
Opt for a card that has at least 4-6GB of graphics memory and you’ll be fine for at least the next two years.
However, make sure to read the graphics card specifications carefully.
Putting a huge 4K-capable beast into a massively-ageing PC won’t work due to power supply and cooling issues. Always make sure to check your power supply (PSU) is up to the task.
A true blast from the past, the Retro Freak is actually 11 consoles in one.
It supports NES, Famicom, SNES, Super Famicom, Genesis, Mega Drive, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, TurboGrafx-16, PC Engine and PC Engine Super Grafx.
There are ports for each of them, – just plug in the cartridge and you’re off.
Now for its greatest trick. You can save your games to a SD card or the system’s internal storage – so you can create a library of your favourite retro games.
Need we say more. Any game released on the compatible consoles can be played. There are even high-quality filters you can put on them, but they don’t work too well.
The standard controller is a bit lame, too.
If you want to play with friends, you can plug in a PS4 controller – but you’ll need to keep it connected via USB.
Price and verdict
The Retro Freak comes in at around £170 – pretty heft for an emulator. Plus, it looks horrendous – so you’ll want to keep it hidden in a cupboard.
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