With the PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch — each with their own unique features — to choose from, and Sony talking up the upcoming PS5's specs and price, buying a video game console isn't as easy a task as it used to be. Throw in variants such as the PS4 Pro and the Xbox One X and things become a bit more confusing. If you've been asking yourself which is the best gaming console to buy, what to keep in mind before making a purchase, and what you need to get the most out of your new console, you've come to the right place. Let's get started.
What are gaming consoles and who needs one?
Gaming consoles are machines whose primary function is to play video games. Popular current-generation consoles include Sony's PS4 family of consoles, the Nintendo Switch, and Microsoft's Xbox One range.
If you're looking to graduate from the likes of Candy Crush on your smartphone, or you're a lapsed gamer whose last tryst with a controller was playing Super Mario Bros, gaming consoles are arguably the most popular, cost-effective way to play video games.
If you prefer the flexibility and openness of the PC platform along with the convenience of digital services like Steam and GOG, along with the ability to mod your game, you should consider building a gaming PC instead. However, for most people, building or maintaining a PC might be too much effort, hence gaming consoles offer the simplest way of getting started.
What you'll need before buying a gaming console
Now before you run out and buy a PS4 or Xbox One, there are some prerequisites. For one, you'll need a fast, stable Internet connection. This is because most game downloads are in excess of 30GB. Even if you buy games on disc, developers keep updating them so if you want the latest, bug-free experience or if you play online multiplayer, you'll need to update the games. The bare minimum should be a 5Mbps Internet connection in our experience, though you'll be better served with faster Internet speeds, and definitely generous data caps.
You'll also need an HDTV with HDMI input, or a monitor with HDMI input, with a native resolution of 1280x720 (720p) at the very least. This is because every console works via HDMI (and ships with an HDMI cable) and most games support resolutions of 720p and above. Ideally though, you'd want a screen with 1080p or 1440p. And if you have money to splurge, a 4K TV with HDR is the way to go for the absolute best performance.
Our top pick for most people — PS4 Slim
The PS4 Slim is our number one choice for a host of reasons. After a rocky launch, Sony India has been able to ensure mass distribution of the console, which makes it really easy to buy. Be it sites like Amazon or Flipkart, large format retailers like Croma, Landmark, and Reliance Digital, or your own neighbourhood games store, getting a PS4 is easy.
It helps that there are several bundles to get you started such as a 500GB PS4 Slim with Horizon Zero Dawn Complete Edition, Uncharted 4, and Gran Turismo Sport with three months of PlayStation Plus (PS Plus) — the online service needed for online multiplayer. It makes the price of Rs. 23,580 palpable as you won't need to buy a new game or spent to play online anytime soon. That's not counting the two PS4 games you get each month with a subscription for the service.
And with great availability comes support for the console as well. If anything goes wrong with your PS4 Slim during the first year of purchase, Sony lets you get a brand new console rather than issue repairs to your existing unit. If your warranty has lapsed, you can get a new console for upto 50 percent off on the MRP. Of course, in both cases, you'll need to provide your warranty card and proof of purchase.
This doesn't extend to PS4 consoles bought outside India even if they are from other PAL territories like UK and the UAE. Sony has confirmed that its warranty terms extend to PS4 consoles bought in India with BIS clearance only and not units bought from the grey market.
Support aside, there's a massive library of PS4 games out there. From big budget exclusives like Uncharted 4 and God of War to indie titles like Pyre and Transistor or quirky Japanese fare like Persona 5 and the Yakuza series, there's something for everyone on the PS4. Most of these games end up making it to India officially in part due to an efficient distribution network and thanks to the PS Store, Sony's digital storefront for the console which now has prepaid cards so you don't have to use a credit card.
It also helps that there's a growing used game market. With most new PS4 games priced between Rs. 3,499 and Rs. 3,999 it's not exactly affordable for most to buy new games each month. Sites such as IndianVideoGamer and GameXS let you buy used games at lower prices. Your mileage will vary of course with newer titles costing a bit more than those three to six months older.
For example, we were able to pick up Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and Nier Automata for Rs. 4,500 combined. Not too shabby considering brand new versions of all games would have set us back by around Rs. 7,500 in total.
In addition to being our overall pick, the PS4 Slim 500GB bundle with three games and three months of PS Plus provides the best option for those on a budget as well. Reason being you get three games that show off the visual prowess of the system as well as being fantastic to play. With PS Plus thrown in, you get two games a month for the console as digital downloads. All of this gives you a total of three solid exclusives and six additional titles to check out which means you can technically, hold off for the first three months of owning a PS4 Slim before buying new games for it or renewing PS Plus, at the very least.
PS4 Slim vs. PS4 Pro
We've had several PS4 variants over the years. The original PS4 launched in November 2013 in US and Europe, with India getting it in January the following year. This was followed by the PS4 ‘Slim' and PS4 Pro in late 2016. The PS4 Slim — a colloquial name given to the console that replaced the PS4 — is essentially a thinner version of the PS4, while the PS4 Pro is a more powerful console capable of 4K HDR graphics.
The PS4 Slim is a surprisingly well-built console. Sony usually skimps on the build quality of its Slim variants as we've seen during the PS1, PS2, and PS3 days. This is not the case here. The PS4 Slim's dimensions are at 264 x 39 x 288mm, which is a considerable drop in size compared to the 275 x 53 x 305mm size of the original. A third of its height is cut off, and a few centimetres from each side.
These reduced dimensions should make it perfect for crammed entertainment centres or desks, and we can attest that it lives up to the community-given 'Slim' suffix (Sony simply calls it the PS4). It's small enough to comfortably fit into a messenger bag that's usually reserved for a 13-inch MacBook Air with ease, as well as occupying a cosy nook in your entertainment set up.
Plus, it's ridiculously light compared to the original PS4. Sony claims it's lighter by 30 percent, but combined with its low profile, it's surprisingly mobile for a console designed for gaming at home.
The all-matte finish is a welcome upgrade from the glossy-and-matte of the original PS4, and the rounded corners are a pragmatic fit for many a living room, as compared to the sharp edges of its predecessor.
Where the PS4 Slim truly shines over the original PS4 and even the PS4 Pro is its buttons and lighting. Rather than the feather-light touch power and eject buttons of the first PS4, or the slightly obtuse labelling and positioning of these buttons on the PS4 Pro, the PS4 Slim gets it right.
On the PS4 Slim the buttons are mechanical and rounded. There's a subtle yet assuring sense of feedback that lets you know when you've turned the console on or off. Coupled with this is a dotted light indicator that gives you clearer visual feedback of whether the PS4 is on, off, or in Rest Mode. This replaces the vertical light strip of its predecessor, making gaming in the dark a lot more tolerable.
Both the PS4 and PS4 Slim sport a near identical feature set. There's the same Blu-ray drive, as well as 500GB and 1TB storage options. You'll get the same two front-facing USB ports, an HDMI for video, an Aux port for the PS4 camera, and an Ethernet port. The key difference (apart from the size) is that the PS4 Slim lacks an optical audio-out port. In its place though, the PS4 Slim has a better Wi-Fi chip, which supports the 5GHz band for a more reliable connection (if your router supports the 5GHz band).
The PS4 Pro also sports an all-matte finish with a hamburger-styled design — it's as if a PS4 Slim was glued to an original PS4. You can differentiate between the eject and power buttons though they aren't as clearly demarcated as they are on the PS4 Slim. The light strip which ran through the middle of the PS4 has been replaced with a subtle bar below the power and eject buttons on the PS4 Pro. It's not as aesthetically pleasing as the Slim, but it's a functional device whose looks we warmed up to over time.
While the PS4 Pro promises support for upto 4K visuals and the PS4 Slim maxes out at 1080p, the reality is a bit different. In most cases, the PS4 Pro resolution is higher than the PS4 Slim, but it's not always 4K, with developers resorting to tricks like checker boarding to make it possible. Furthermore, not all games look better on the PS4 Pro. Exclusives like Spider-Man PS4, God of War, and Uncharted 4 look fantastic on PS4 Pro, but other games like Overwatch, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim don't really take advantage of what the console has to offer.
While the difference between PS4 Pro and PS4 Slim in terms of visuals is apparent, save for the aforementioned exclusives, it's not wide enough to justify the extra cost in most cases.
With that said, if you care obsessively about frame rates, the PS4 Pro might still be worth the extra investment. Titles like Hitman 2 for example, have a smoother frame rate on the PS4 Pro versus the PS4 and even Xbox One X as does Sekiro Shadows Die Twice. Certain games like Monster Hunter World, Shadow of Mordor, and Rise of the Tomb Raider contain graphical options that allow you to choose which of the two you prefer.
It is important to note however that not all games allow you to prioritise better frame rate over graphics and vice versa and most games on the PS4 Slim hit the 30fps mark or higher often enough as to make them playable with no hiccups.
The PS4 Pro also features two modes, Boost Mode — which allows for smoother frame rates in non-PS4 Pro enhanced games and Supersampling — which improves visuals in some games on TVs with a resolution lower than 2K. They're nice options to have but don't do much to really change the overall experience compared to the PS4 Slim.
But for most, spending the extra Rs. 10,000 isn't worth it, making the PS4 Slim a better option. But if it's the smoothest — or quietest — experience possible that matters, the PS4 Pro is a great option. Although it has been reported by some that the PS4 Pro reaches jet engine decibel levels, we've never faced that problem with our unit. In our experience, be it running at full throttle in Uncharted 4, or installing a game via a disc, the PS4 Pro doesn't get very loud. Comparatively, the svelteness of the PS4 Slim results in a rather noisy console, particularly when installing a game via Blu-ray. It's not a dealbreaker by any means, but something to be mindful of.
As for upgrading the hard drive, it's easy on both the PS4 Pro and PS4 Slim. Simply slide off the side panel to drop in a new drive into the caddy in the PS4 Slim while the PS4 Pro has a cover at the back that needs to be removed. Sony's plastic trimmings work well for the console overall, but the PS4 Slim hard drive panel feels weak and could be prone to snapping. This isn't the case with the PS4 Pro where the hard drive casing is sturdier.
These aside, the PS4 Slim is a slick piece of kit and well worth the price of admission, especially in India. Markets like the US and Europe maintain a $100 (around Rs. 6,700) difference between the PS4 Slim and PS4 Pro. In India, the difference is Rs. 9,860, with the cheapest PS4 Slim costing Rs. 28,580 and the PS4 Pro costing Rs. 38,710 (MRPs, both are usually available for much less).
That difference is a lot more if you're willing to forsake warranty. Several consumers have reported being able to purchase the PS4 Slim 500GB for as low as Rs. 19,000 at grey market outlets in Delhi and Mumbai. For what it's worth, the PS4 Pro is around Rs. 33,000, if you go down this route, which we don't recommend. With a big difference like that, you're better off buying the PS4 Slim — especially if you don't have a 4K TV — and putting the money towards more games or a bigger hard drive.
If you already own an older PS4, there's no point in spending the money on a PS4 Slim — unless you really want two consoles for reasons best known to you. But if you're looking to join the PlayStation Nation, then the Slim has a lot going for it, and you can use the extra money to get three or even four games along with the console.
Should you wait for the PS5?
In a word, no. Sure Sony's announcement of the PS5 sporting a solid spec sheet may be tempting, but when you consider that the PS4 and PS3 got into their stride with host of great exclusives only two years after release, it's safe to say the PS5 may have the same early teething issues. Thow in the fact that the PS5 will have a price that's more than the PS4, it'll be awhile before its affordable too. All of these factors make the PS4 family the better option instead of waiting.
How we picked
The consoles we considered were restricted to what's present in India officially with warranty and support. This limited our choices to the PS4 Slim, PS4 Pro, Xbox One S, and Xbox One X. The original PS4 and original Xbox One consoles that were available at launch have been omitted simply due to lack of widespread availability.
While the Nintendo Switch is a game changer for some, it lacks the convenience in terms of availability — both in purchasing the console and its games both physical and digital as Nintendo is not officially present in India. This also throws the Nintendo 3DS out of contention too.
Although the PS3 and Xbox 360 can still be bought in some pockets of the nation, they're not getting any new games and have been discontinued by Sony and Microsoft respectively.
We've spent countless hours with major offerings by both Sony and Microsoft, playing platform exclusives and other games. We believe the PS4 Slim is the best pick due to its relative affordability and the sheer number and quality of exclusives that Sony's platform offers, apart from other reasons detailed below.
The competition: Xbox One S, Xbox One X
The Xbox One S and Xbox One X — while in the running, fall short in several categories. Microsoft simply does not have the length and breadth of exclusives that Sony possesses. Sure there's Halo, Gears of War, and Forza but there's little else and this is a glaring concern. Granted the company has stitched up PUBG for timed exclusivity, but the drought of Xbox One exclusives is telling. Particularly when pitted against GT Sport, Uncharted 4, Horizon Zero Dawn, Persona 5, Yakuza 0, Nier Automata, and Gravity Rush 2 that Sony's consoles offer. This isn't counting upcoming titles like God of War, Spider-Man, Detroit: Being Human, and The Last of Us Part II.
Games aside, Microsoft India's distribution of the Xbox One range in India has been a never-ending series of bad decisions. Despite the company claiming the support of close to 100 stores, you're hard-pressed to find Xbox One games offline, let alone consoles. This impacts games that are present in India too. Certain titles like Metal Gear Survive, Okami HD, and Devil May Cry Collection to name a few, while available on the Xbox One globally, only saw PS4 versions hit the shelves in India with distributors and retailers citing lack of demand and presence of the Xbox One as the reason for this.
Plus, games such as Sonic Mania, Firewatch, Virginia, and the Turok remasters aren't available on the Microsoft Store despite being digital only releases on the Xbox One. Even Microsoft's own exclusives like Sea of Thieves and State of Decay 2 weren't available locally on disc at launch.
The only reasons why we'd suggest the Xbox One S or Xbox One X over the PS4 is if you're a hardcore racing fan. With Forza 6 and 7 along with Forza Horizon 2, 3, and 4 you have four great racing games and one flawed entry (spoiler alert: it's Forza 7) or if haven't experienced all the Xbox 360 has to offer, making backwards compatibility — the ability to play Xbox 360 games on your Xbox One S or X — a very tempting reason to go with Microsoft. Keep in mind that for the latter you'll need to download the entire game even if you own it on disc (around 5 to 20GB depending on the game) so it's not like you can simply put it an Xbox 360 disc and start playing it immediately.
Some might argue that Xbox Game Pass and EA Access — two subscription-based services on the Xbox One — are reasons to continue using Microsoft's platform, but we beg to differ. Game Pass lets you play over 100 Xbox 360 and Xbox One games for Rs. 699 but much like Netflix, you have no control of which games leave the service and when, making it a safe option only for Microsoft's own exclusive games that are almost certain to be on the service.
As for EA Access, while it gives you a chance to play games like FIFA and NFS a week prior to their global releases — if you've pre-ordered them — in addition to letting you play select, older EA titles. EA's output of late has left a lot to be desired, making this an option only for hardcore FIFA and NFS fans and few others, though do remember that the absolutely latest stuff outside of EA's own, is unlikely to be on the service.
Also, in our experience, the Xbox One series of consoles — particularly the Xbox One X, Microsoft's iterative console that competes with the PS4 Pro — consume a lot more bandwidth. A month with the Xbox One X saw us download close to 1.3TB data. Titles like Gears of War 4 and Halo 5 — while receiving 27GB and 15GB updates respectively — forced us to download them in their entirety, clocking in around 100GB each. Games available on both the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro like Hitman and Skyrim were a lot more forgiving at 4GB and 8GB respectively.
Sony doesn't treat the PS4 and PS4 Pro as different consoles with both downloading the same set of updates and patches. Having said that, we never used more than 300GB a month downloading games and updates on the PS4 Pro. All of this results in a situation that demands a generous data cap (or FUP as it's known as in India), more so with the Xbox One X.
Pitfalls of buying a console, especially for Indian buyers
Despite the ease of use and widespread availability, there are some concerns regarding console gaming. You'll need the aforementioned high speed internet access for game updates. This however, goes hand in hand with requiring more storage. For example, if you bought Final Fantasy XV at launch it had updates totalling to around 21GB. This is before any of its Season Pass or additional content. Couple these with updates for 4K textures (if you're playing it on an Xbox One X or PS4 Pro) and you're looking at a file size in excess of 100GB.
Thankfully, both the PS4 and Xbox One support external hard drives so you can offload a fully downloaded game to an external drive when you're done playing it or if you're running short of space. On the PS4, you can upgrade the internal hard drive yourself with just a screw driver. It's a simple process. With the Xbox One X, unless you have specialised equipment and don't mind voiding your warranty (Sony encourages upgrading the internal hard drive on the PS4, it doesn't impact your warranty) you're stuck with the hard disk capacity your Xbox One shipped with and external drives.
Accessories, and how many you need to buy after purchasing the console
Each PS4 and Xbox One has what you need to get started immediately as they both ship with the needed controller, power adapter, HDMI cable, and a few games. This results in the need for accessories being limited to a second controller for either console. It's useful for games like FIFA which thrive on local two-player matches. Sony has realised this and has released a PS4 bundle with a second controller.
With the Xbox One though, you'll always be springing extra for a second controller. That being said, with the PS4, your options range from the official DualShock 4 from Sony for an MRP of Rs. 4,990, the Nacon Revolution Pro controller that retails in the range of Rs. 6,500 to Rs. 7,000. There's even a wired controller from Snakebyte that's the most affordable of the bunch at Rs. 2,499, making it the best option thanks to its long cable length and sturdy build.
On the Xbox One side of things there's the official Xbox One controller that retails for around Rs. 4,599. There are several variants of this, ranging from a Gears of War 4 themed version for Rs. 5,699 and the Xbox One Elite controller that has a price of Rs. 11,990. They're all well-built with excellent ergonomics. Aside from Microsoft's own offerings, Hyperkin has an Xbox One controller up for grabs on Amazon, though its quality leaves much to be desired, making it one to avoid for now.
Why you shouldn't buy the Nintendo Switch in India
For some, the Nintendo Switch is a revelation of sorts, allowing you to game on the go and continue playing on a big screen. Although Nintendo has ensured the Switch has lived up to this promise, we cannot recommend buying one in India. This is simply because the lack of an official presence from Nintendo means that you don't have any after-sales support or warranty. Some sellers on marketplaces like Flipkart or Amazon India may offer a dealer warranty, they're no substitute for proper replacement policies that come with an official presence. This alone makes Sony's and Microsoft's offerings a whole lot better. You don't want to be left with no means of recourse in the event your console fails.
This is compounded when you realise that the even though buying a Nintendo Switch in India would set you back by around Rs. 25,000, game prices, particularly of those worth playing like Super Mario Odyssey, Pokemon Let's Go Pikachu, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, don't really drop in price and will set you back by around Rs. 4,000 each. The running costs of owning a Switch are a lot higher due to the expensive game prices. This isn't the case with the PS4 where tons of great games like Uncharted 4, Horizon Zero Dawn, Gran Turismo Sport, and Bloodborne regularly drop in price, going as low as Rs. 999 or are bundled with the console itself.
Do you need extra storage after buying a 1TB console?
When it comes to buying games, we recommend physical over digital. It's easier to trade-in or sell your game if it's on disc versus refunding a digital purchase, which only happens in rare cases on console. Plus, you end up having to download a lot less since the data is on disc. Unless of course, the game is broken at launch like Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 that required users to download the entire game. Others include multiplayer, always online fare like Overwatch and Destiny 2 that receive regular updates.
While most games prompt you to update if you're connected to the Internet, you can simply choose not to update them and keep playing offline. But if you value the latest fixes and features, updating your game ends up being a necessary evil. Even then, we'd still prefer physical over digital thanks to the aforementioned resale value.
Nonetheless, all of this points to a situation where 500GB is adequate if you play only a handful of games a year, 1TB is the bare minimum we'd suggest given how lackadaisical some video game companies have become with the size of the patches and updates.
Should you buy a used or 'second-hand' console?
Although we'd recommend buying games used or pre-owned as they're sometimes referred to, we can't say the same for buying a second-hand console. While it's pretty easy to ascertain if a used game works or not, used console is a relatively higher investment and if it suffers from problems aside from obvious, physical damage like broken buttons, it's tough to figure out what could be wrong unless you take it apart.
A used PS4 or Xbox One usually goes for 40 to 50 percent lower than a new one but more often than not you lose out on warranty which means you have no recourse in the event something goes wrong. In the event you decide to buy a pre-owned console, you'll have to check if the previous owner maintained it well by inspecting dust build up in and around the device, how noisy it gets when you start it up and when you play games, and how hot it gets.
Even then, you can't really tell if something is wrong with your purchase or not short of games regularly crashing or the absence of a display when starting up the console. The lack of any official support or recourse makes it more trouble than its worth and we'd suggest staying away from this option completely.
About importing consoles or buying from grey market
As for importing or buying a console from the grey market, a lot of it depends on what amount of support is extended to you. Certain stores offer support or technical assistance in the event something goes awry with your purchase but that's usually for the first three to six months and the level of help — be it a minor repair or a full-blown replacement — depends on your rapport with the store staff. If timed well, you can save around Rs. 8,000 to 10,000 on buying in grey.
Importing a console is more expensive affair as you're subject to customs duty and other taxes that bring the cost up by close to 40 percent over what you already paid making it a non-starter. You could coax or cajole a friend or relative to get you a console from abroad — particularly the US or UK which tend to have the best deals — if you aren't travelling yourself, though again in this case, while the savings can be stellar, it would be prudent to check if your purchase works before flying back home.
Thankfully, voltage isn't a concern with the PS4, Xbox One, and even the Switch supporting universal voltage which means you won't need a step down converter to use it when you're back.
Is PAL vs NTSC still important in buying a video game console?
For most part no. This is because the PS4 Slim, PS4 Pro, Xbox One S, Xbox One X, and the Nintendo Switch are region-free. This means a game bought from NTSC territory like the US and Canada will work just fine on a console bought in a PAL country like India. The only check necessary is if the game is playable in the language you understand. Usually NSTC/J, releases which are earmarked for Asian nations like Japan and Singapore are in Japanese only. There are some exceptions like the Nintendo Switch game The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild being playable in English regardless of the region you bought it from.
What is important however is how DLC or downloadable content works for each console. For the PS4, if you bought a physical copy of a game, the corresponding DLC needs to be of the same region. What this means is if you bought a PS4 game in India, you'll need to get your DLC from the India PS Store. This is crucial for games like FIFA 19, Fortnite, or PUBG on PS4 where their DLC is tied to the region of your version of the game.
As for the Xbox One? DLC is a non-issue as it's universal across the board. You can buy games anywhere, and DLC from the Microsoft Store, regardless of region, will work.
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