Nintendo Switch vs PlayStation 4: Which should you buy?

Not all game consoles are created equal, which you can guess just by looking at the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch side by side. But both of these consoles have a similar message in separate attempts to sell these unique experiences. Nintendo and Sony claim to have an intense focus on us, the players. That includes offering features we want, with games we want to play, and an overall desire to change or add features when users say that's what they want.

If your next console needs to be something that focuses on you as a gamer, are you going to go with a Nintendo Switch or a PlayStation 4? This guide should help you decide!

It's been a long time since Sony and Nintendo considered working together to release a single game console, and a lot has changed about the way these two companies approach gaming. Sony's plan right now is to make a console powerful enough to do everything, and cram every feature users want inside to make it truly a console for everyone. While the PlayStation 4 is easily the most capable console of this generation, it is no longer the smallest option for your entertainment center.

Nintendo consoles have never focused on being the most powerful or capable, and Switch is no different.

Nintendo's Switch is ridiculously tiny, because it's not really a game console. It's a tablet with some unique superpowers, including the ability to quickly connect controllers onto each side and take your whole gaming experience wherever you go. When you're at home, just slide it into the special dock connected to your television and it becomes a traditional living room console. That dock takes up very little space, but it also sits vertically which can be either very convenient or a little awkward depending on your entertainment center setup.

When it comes to raw performance, there's no contest here. The PlayStation 4 processor, graphics card, and available storage are significantly better than what you find on the Switch, not to mention twice the RAM and the ability to add a Virtual Reality headset if you so choose. The Switch is a tablet, and so it has tablet hardware. Specifically, the same nVidia Tegra 1 chip you'll find in Android tablets. While these tablets are plenty capable of delivering a decent mobile gaming experience, these aren't designed to outperform a full computer.

But Nintendo consoles have never focused on being the most powerful or capable, and Switch is no different. Since the core experience is a tablet, the games you play on your television are the same games you play when you leave the house. The thing that makes this experience really come together isn't the tablet at all, it's the controllers. Nintendo calls them "Joy-Cons" and they can do several truly unique things.

How to Deal with Loose Joy-Cons Joy-Con Assembled Correct (Image credit: iMore)

Each Joy-Con is actually a pair of controllers, a left half an d a right half. These can be connected to either side of the tablet to create a unique portable console, or you can attach the halves to a grip dock to form a more familiar wireless console controller. If you aren't the only person playing, those two halves can actually become entirely separate controllers recognized as player one and player two. Each of the halves has the exact same number of buttons, so it's the same experience for each half.

The Joy-Con are also motion-capable, so you can swing each half around and have that action registered on the console. This means a lot of Nintendo-style short party games with motion controls, but it's too early to see how many other game creators also use this hardware. As Sony learned with its SixAxis motion features, not everything needs motion controls.

PS4 vs Switch

It's going to seem a little odd at first, but Nintendo has no disk drive for the Switch. Even when connected to the television, there is no DVD player. There's also no Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, or any other streaming app. This console is all about games and nothing else, at least for now. It's likely Nintendo would add support for these apps if users asked for it, but nothing to do with movies or videos exists on Switch right now.

Instead, Nintendo returned to something it knows all to well. A little flap on the top of the tablet allows you to install game cartridges, similar to the Nintendo 3DS. Those cartridges hold the entire game, require no software installation onto the console, and can be played immediately once inserted. Compared to a PlayStation 4, where every game requires an install process after a disk is inserted, taking up space on the hard drive and adding time before the game can be played.

PS4 vs Switch

So which of these consoles is the one for you? Ultimately, it comes down to how you play games. If you're a fan of more realistic visuals and are a fan of doing all of your gaming on the couch, or if you're considering exploring VR some day, the PlayStation 4 is what you want.

See on Amazon

If you wish you could bring your console with you everywhere, or if you really want to play the next Zelda and Mario games, or even if you just want a small console with some fun games you can share with friends, the Switch is what you want. Either way you win, but you have to know what you want first!

See on Amazon

Russell Holly

Russell is a Contributing Editor at iMore. He's a passionate futurist whose trusty iPad mini is never far from reach. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Reach out on Twitter!