It’s pretty much a given that games are going to be fun. However, to get to that point one needs to know just what system to play them on.

As games have become more exciting and expansive, the consoles themselves have become more and more complex.The choice of which console to buy can be a bit confusing at first.

But with a little examination of the options, anyone can figure out the absolute best path to the perfect game console for their needs.

Perhaps the biggest question that one needs to ask themselves is where they want to play. Home consoles are intended to be used in the exact place that the name suggests. They’re very powerful systems, but that power means they’ll need a larger display and power supply than a portable console. A portable console can fit right into one’s pocket and contain their own video display. The portability comes with a price though, they’re less powerful than their home console brothers. So the first question one needs to ask themselves is whether they envision gaming on the go, or at home.

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Portable Consoles

If one chooses portable gaming, the two most popular options are the Nintendo 3DS XL and the Sony Vita. The 3DS XL has two separate displays built into it. The bottom display is a 4.18 inch touch screen display. The 3DS XL’s top screen is a 4.88 inch display which supports 3D without the need or 3D glasses. The 3DS XL is also backward compatible with the older Nintendo DS library of games. When loaded into the system it will scale the graphics to fit the larger display. At the same time the 3DS XL will apply some light filters to soften the sometimes jagged pixels found in the older DS library.

The Sony Vita has a single 5 inch screen, compared to dual screen of the 3DS XL. At the same time though, that single display is able to display graphics at a resolution basically double that of the 3DS XL. The Vita’s screen also supports more robust touch screen interaction. The Vita supports multi-touch, in a similar way to many smart phones. The 3DS XL’s touchscreen is instead best used with a single press of a finger or stylus.

As a general rule, one can make the decision based on what types of games seem the most fun. The 3DS XL has a larger library of games that aren’t as graphically impressive but are still quite fun. The Vita has a smaller library of games, but they tend to be more time intensive and graphically polished.

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Home Consoles

If one decides to go with home consoles than there’s three main choices. The current generation of home consoles consists of the Nintendo Wii U, Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony Playstation 3. The Xbox and Playstation are extremely similar in terms of general power and capability. The Playstation uses a cell based processor while the Xbox has a PowerPC based architecture. While code optimizations allow for some interpretation of what the numbers mean in real world situations, they both more or less run at 3.2 GHz. Both units are also centered around a control scheme based on standard gamepads. Both consoles are also similar in that their parent companies decided to offer optional expansions to that basic control scheme. The Xbox has an optional motion control system called Kinect, while the Playstation’s entry into motion control is called the Motion Plus.

The general services and games tend to be fairly similar as well. Both have support for Netflix, both have the option of buying arcade style and independent games online and both offer options for online play with friends. One minor difference is that the Xbox does charge a small fee for Netflix and online play. However, the biggest deciding factor between the consoles will usually come in the form of exclusive games. Each console has games which by contract will only be released for that system. The general appeal of any particular exclusive title is usually the major deciding factor on which console will be the best purchase.

The Wii U is fairly new compared to the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. The more recent release means that many features are still on the horizon. At the moment it’s marked mostly by the unique controllers and a heavy focus on casual gaming. The Wii U gamepad is far larger than the traditional gamepad design and incorporates a secondary display. Essentially this means that some Wii U games will display a game’s main action on the TV while using the gamepad display for things such as inventory management or to provide alternate points of view within the game world. Nintendo also has a long history of ensuring wide family appeal for their consoles. This ensures a wider selection of games which will appeal not only to the more intensive gamers, but their friends and family as well.

In the end, the current generation of consoles offers a variety of choices and options. The healthy ecosystem can make the initial choice of a console seem a little intimidating at first glance. However, all these choices ensure that there’s always a console that will perfectly fit one’s lifestyle. Whether one wants to play video games on the subway after work, or spend time with the family all clutching a controller, there’s years of fun to be had when the final decision is made.