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Best games consoles for 2021

A gamer wearing a headset playong video games

Gaming consoles have come a long way since the early Ataris and Nintendo’s of the 70s and 80s.

Where they were once humble devices with simple, pixelated games, today a games console can offer visual spectacles that look almost like real life. And not only that – they’re a full entertainment package good enough for professional gamers and families alike.

This is perhaps why the games market exceeded £4 billion in 2020 in the UK alone, according to the Entertainment Retailers Association, with the average price of a physical game now just over £34. But which games console is the best, and which one offers the most value for you?

In this article, we’ll explore the best games consoles for 2021, how you can keep your family safe when using them, and why it’s important to have gadget insurance in place to protect all of your devices.

 

What should I look out for?

The consoles we will look at below are all from the biggest names in the industry – PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo. So, each one has a new or recent console to consider, as well as previous versions that are still popular.

What choice you make will depend on various things. You may be limited by a specific budget, or there may be things you plan to use the console for beyond just playing the latest game release.

It will also be important to consider who will be using the console and if that makes one better value than the others. For example, if you’re a passionate gamer, the hardware, capability, and available games are all going to be big considerations for you.

Meanwhile, if you’re buying a games console for the family, you may be just as interested in what else the console is good at, such as streaming movies or children’s programmes, and also the level of security your little ones will have – especially when they’re playing unsupervised.

As with any online purchase, it’s important to take care. However, it’s worth being extra vigilant right now when buying a games console.

Demand for the PS5 and Xbox Series X (both featured below) was high with both arriving in stores in time for Christmas 2020. However, with global supply issues relating to the Covid-19 pandemic, some customers were left disappointed as stores ran out quicker than expected.

This led to a rise in scammers taking advantage of gamers and parents desperate to get their hands on one, using bots to source any available stock then re-selling it at extortionate prices.

With that in mind, it’s best to double check where you’re buying the console from, and only purchase from reputable retailers.

Also, a games console can become a source of family entertainment, and therefore an important household gadget. So it’s worth protecting it with appropriate gadget insurance.

Now let’s examine the three most popular consoles available today, as well as some others that are still worth a look.

A couple sitting on a living room sofa gaming together

PlayStation 5

The Sony PlayStation 5, released in 2020, is the latest edition of the iconic console series that began back in the mid-1990s. It’s also the fastest-selling games console in US history and the best-selling console in the UK at the time of writing.

Sony promises that the PS5 is the console for the next generation. You can expect lightning-fast loading thanks to its ultra-high-speed solid state drive (SSD), and 3D audio.

Meanwhile, the console is compatible with 4k televisions, and with gameplay at framerates as high as 120fps in some games, gaming will be as fluid as ever.

The console has also been designed to offer a well-rounded entertainment experience for more casual gamers.

An improved user interface and apps for YouTube, Disney+, Netflix, Amazon Prime and more make it a breeze to watch your favourite shows and movies. There’s even a special TV-style remote to navigate the entertainment features.

The console currently has a somewhat limited range of exclusive PS5 games compared to its previous version, the PS4. However, if you currently have a PS4, this console may be the natural upgrade because of its ‘backwards compatibility’ features.

PS4 games are compatible with PS5, while some games can even be upgraded into better versions that make full use of the new console's increased fire power.

Parents will be reassured at the comprehensive safety controls at their disposal with a PS5. You can restrict children from playing certain games, set spending limits and time limits on how much they play each day, and control communication with other players.

The full PS5 should cost around £449. However, there is an alternative ‘digital version’ that costs around £359. While the digital version offers the same tech specs as the full one, the key difference is that it has no disc drive.

That means you won’t be able to play any older games that you have on disc, and if you use your console to watch DVDs then this will no longer be possible. Remember you will also need to pay for a subscription to use the console’s online features, which costs £49.99 for one year.

A Playstation 5 controller being used by a gamer

Xbox Series X

Microsoft continues to rival Sony with the release of the Xbox Series X, which was also released in late 2020 just in time for Christmas.

Promising the ‘fastest, most powerful Xbox ever’, it’s another console aiming to capture the next generation of gamers.

Expect 4k gaming with frame rates of up to 120fps for stunning visuals, and expansive memory capabilities designed for gamers who want premium graphics and fluidity.

The console also features high-end performance hardware, for example special fans and cooling systems that mean gamers can rely on it during long gaming sessions.

Meanwhile, the wireless controller has been upgraded, with newly designed surfaces and refined geometry to enhance comfort for gaming fans.

Microsoft has also featured backwards capability that favours current Xbox owners. You’ll be able to play your old games from the Xbox One, Xbox 360 and even the original Xbox console, which amounts to potentially thousands of games.

The focus of the Xbox Series X is firmly on immersive, cutting-edge gaming experiences and performance. So, while there are features available for more casual gamers or families, these are less prominently promoted than with the PS5. However, you can still expect to find streaming apps for various channels including Netflix, Disney+, Apple TV and more.

Microsoft has comprehensive parental controls in place for the Xbox Series X, which will be encouraging for parents – particularly as they are designed to be easy to use.

As well as being able to manage all the family’s screen time, interactions, and prevent access to adult content, you can review activity reports from each family member’s Microsoft account when you’re on the go.

This is all made easy to manage through the Xbox Family Settings app. Parents can download the app on their mobile phone and use it to pause screen time, allow or stop purchases, while getting insight into what games your children are playing, or who they’re talking to at the same time.

The Xbox series X costs the same as a PS5 at £449, and you’ll need a subscription to Xbox Live Gold to go online, which costs £17.99 per quarter.

And like the PS5, there is also a reduced-price, ‘digital only’ version of the new console available called the Xbox Series S.

This has a lower RRP of £249, however it’s worth knowing that Xbox’s disc-less alternative also has reduced tech specs and less storage space than the full version.
An Xbox Series X with a controller against a green background

Nintendo Switch

Although a little older than the two consoles above, released in 2017, the Nintendo Switch has proven a hugely popular console and could be what you’re looking for if you are interested in a slightly different gaming experience.

The Nintendo Switch isn’t built for the high-end gaming experience of a PS5 or Xbox Series X. However, it is a fun, fluid gaming experience.

Additionally, it’s a hybrid console, which means it can be docked for use at home while connected to your TV, or act as a portable, handheld gaming device for use on the go.

Nintendo says it takes around 3 hours and 30 minutes to charge, with battery life lasting up to 20 hours depending on the use.

This console has clearly been created with families in mind, so parents should give it serious consideration. There are more than 2,000 games available and most of them are family friendly.

These include iconic Nintendo games, such as Mario Kart, that can be played together for hours of family fun. You can also access classic Nintendo games like Zelda and favourites such as Pac Man, alongside brand-new releases.

There are some other entertainment features available, for example a limited number of streaming apps including Hulu and YouTube. If you want to watch Netflix, it won’t be possible through your Nintendo Switch.

Meanwhile, as you would expect with a console aimed at families, the parental controls available are strong.

Use the dedicated smartphone app to review and restrict what your children are doing on the Switch online, stop them from playing age-restricted games, and control the amount of time spent playing the console.

The price of a full Nintendo Switch, with two controllers, is £279, while using the online features requires a subscription. A family subscription can be set up for £31.49, which gives eight accounts access for a full year.

Also, like the PS5 and Xbox Series X, Nintendo is offering a version of the Switch with a lower entry point in terms of price. You can pick up a Nintendo Switch Lite for £199, however it’s handheld only, so it won’t come with controllers and you won’t be able to hook it up to the TV.

A person playing a game on a Nintendo Switch

What older consoles are available?

If you’re new to gaming or just looking for something to entertain the family, the latest technical enhancements may not be top of your priority list. Therefore, you might be open to considering some of the older consoles from these gaming giants.

These are still highly advanced gaming systems with great gaming capability, entertainment features and parental controls, but with new versions entering the market you will be more likely to pick up a good deal.

According to Price Spy, when released in 2013, a PlayStation 4 would have cost around £389. However, with a PS5 now available, a PS4 in April 2021 could cost around £239.

Meanwhile, an Xbox One would have originally cost £336 in 2013, now £199. For both older consoles, going online still requires a paid subscription.

 

Keeping your children safe online

Although they are more advanced than ever, parental controls are not a guarantee of dangers slipping through the net, so it’s important to be on top of your family’s online activity.

The organisation Net Aware recommends maintaining an open dialogue with your children about what they’re doing online, and who they’re communicating with.

Check the chat features on the game or platform they’re using and make sure they can only chat with friends who they know in real life, for example school friends.

Try to encourage regular breaks from gaming, too, particularly if playing a game is making them stressed or upset.

Keep an eye out for the PEGI rating, which will be clearly visible when you purchase a game in both physical and digital stores just like with movie age ratings.

This will tell you what the recommended minimum age is for a specific game. But these ratings only consider a game’s content and don't refer to any in-game chat features.

With that in mind, be sure to check out a game for yourself to make a fully informed choice about whether it’s appropriate for your child.

It’s also worth thinking about how you can protect your games console from your children. Gadget insurance will protect against accidental damage that might occur, including liquid damage, so you don’t have to worry about those spilled drinks!

 

Gadget insurance for your games console

Children are not the only risk to your games console. It can be one of the most used gadgets in the entire house, making it a constant accidental damage risk.

Meanwhile, given their value, they also tend to be a target for thieves.

At Gadget Cover, our gadget insurance can protect against theft, accidental damage and liquid damage to your games console.

Get a quote for gadget insurance today.

Policy benefits, features and discounts offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.

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