Nintendo Switch VS. Xbox One: Which should you buy?

For hardcore gamers, this question is going to seem a little odd. The Xbox One and Nintendo Switch are both technically game consoles, but that description is just about where the similarities end. Microsoft has built the Xbox One to be a living room powerhouse, the portal through which all of your couch-based entertainment flows into your television. Nintendo's new Switch console is all about offering the exact same gaming experience no matter where you are, including on an airplane or sitting under a tree at the park.

But those differences are significant for another reason. There isn't just one kind of gamer in the world, and if you're buying a single console for your life it's important to buy the one that offers the experience you want. Here's a quick look at how to choose which is right for you!

Switch vs Xbox One

You can just look at these two boxes and see there are some significant differences. Microsoft's console is a giant stylized box, taking up more space on an entertainment center than your average DVR or cable box. There are vents all over the outer casing for airflow, with a single slot on the front for games and movies.

On the back of this box you'll find a pair of HDMI ports, so you can connect your cable box directly to the Xbox and use Microsoft's software to control your TV time. There's also an extra port for Microsoft's camera-based motion control system, Kinect. This accessory isn't usually included with the console anymore, as it increases costs and few games support the technology.

The Switch isn't one solid piece of anything, in fact it's basically a small tablet that docks into a larger casing when you want to play games on the television. As a result, this console takes up very little space and actually stands vertically so you can quickly remove the tablet part.

The Xbox One is a great deal more technically capable than the Switch.

The ports to this console are actually hidden inside a plastic flap on the back, and includes a single HDMI port as well as a power and USB port. Because Nintendo's motion control system is baked directly into the controllers included with the console, there's no added hardware to buy in order to access the many motion-based games Nintendo and its partners offers.

While the Xbox One is indeed much larger, it's also a great deal more technically capable. The included 8-core AMD GPU and 8GB of RAM can offer more realistic visuals than the mobile-focused nVidia Tegra X1 GPU with only 4GB of RAM. Neither console offers a consistent 1080p experience or a consistent 60fps performance threshold with every game, however. In many cases, both consoles will play at 900p at 30FPS. When removed from its dock, the 720p display built into the display is obviously not as high a resolution as your average television or tablet.

If your goal is to play games that offer a more photo-realistic set of visuals, you'll find the Xbox One is a great deal more technically capable than the Switch. It's also a capable entertainment platform, with apps for nearly every streaming video service and the ability to play broadcast television through its extra HDMI port. It's a great all around entertainment experience from your couch.

Nintendo's Switch experience includes three big features you won't find on the Xbox One. The first is in the unique controllers included with the console. These "Joy-Cons" exist as several different kinds of controller all at once. You can connect both halves of a controller to the tablet and make your whole console portable, and you can connect both halves to a more traditional grip controller that more closely resembles the Xbox experience.

When you put a game cartridge into the Switch, that game is immediately available to play.

But separating the two halves allows you to play multiplayer games where each half is a separate controller. Each half is capable of acting entirely independent of one another, including acting as a full Nintendo Wii-style motion controller. This single controller allows you to play multiplayer games no matter where you are, and Nintendo's library of motion-based games means you can quickly bust you Switch out at a party and play really fun games with friends.

The truly unique feature to the Switch is its portability. When you pull the Switch tablet from the television dock, you are getting the whole Nintendo Switch experience wherever you go. The battery on the Switch lasts up to six hours, where you can play anywhere. You can connect to any WiFi and play online with friends, or you can create a local WiFi network from the tablet itself and play with up to seven other Switch players.

Switch vs Xbox One

Finally, Nintendo has done something with the Switch the simply doesn't exist on the Xbox One right now. When you put a game cartridge into the Switch, that game is immediately available to play. When you put a disc into the Xbox One to play, there's an install process that occupies space on the internal hard drive of the console before you can play the game. Both consoles offer an online store to download games that bypass this process, but the point stands. There is never an install delay with the Switch, even with large complex games.

So which console should you buy? It really depends on you. If you want a focus on realistic graphics and a gaming experience that encourages you to crash out on the couch while you enjoy those games, the Xbox One has a massive library of great games for you to choose from.

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If you want to be able to bring your game with you everywhere, and you like quick multiplayer experiences you can enjoy with friends, Nintendo has done a great job delivering this with the Switch.

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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!