When modern video game consoles first came out, it was typically on a one-at-a-time basis: Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo would release one model per generation, and typically wait anywhere between five to ten years to release a new version. All that has changed, however, and now both Microsoft and Sony have begun releasing multiple versions of their current-generation consoles, each aimed at a specific segment of the gaming market.
While that may sound confusing, it’s actually great news, particularly for Xbox fans: it means that whether you’re on a shoestring budget or you’re looking for the best 4K gaming experience there is, there’s an Xbox available in Microsoft’s lineup that’s perfect for you. Here’s everything you need to know about the current generation of Xboxes — the available models, what the differences are, and how to score a good deal on your favorite.
Different Xbox systems may vary in price because of the components included in the bundle. Read any product description carefully, so you know exactly what’s included.
Xbox is a gaming console that Microsoft created in the early 2000s. Gaming software can be stored on a disc, or can be downloaded from the Internet.
Many games also offer downloadable content — this is additional content that expands the game, such as added levels, new campaigns, or alternate visual designs.
To play games on an Xbox, you’ll have to purchase the gaming console and the game controllers. You’ll then have to purchase the games made for the Xbox platform.
Connect the Xbox console to your television, and start playing!
Did you know?
Most Xbox console bundles come with a single controller, but you can buy additional to allow your friends to play with you.
Some games are designed to be played by one person, while others can be played by multiple people. However, you’ll need multiple controllers to allow more than one person to play.
Some games can be played with other people through an internet connection.
Xbox competes with other types of gaming consoles, such as Sony PlayStation consoles and the Nintendo Wii.
Games made for an Xbox will not be compatible with other brands of consoles.
When researching Xbox consoles, we find out what games are included in each product’s library. We want to know if there are enough titles offered for everybody to have fun.
When researching Xbox consoles, we consider which ones can push enough pixels for multiple players to simultaneously enjoy gaming on a big-screen TV.
When searching for the best Xbox consoles, we take note of how precise, reliable, and ergonomically sound the various controllers are.
We take into consideration the different tiers of each generation of Xbox console to make sure our readers find something that satisfies their gaming itch while also making a sound investment.
We pay close attention to the hardware specifications of the Xbox consoles on our research list. This information gives potential buyers a good idea what to expect in terms of resolution and frame rate output.
We look for Xbox consoles with titles suitable for all ages and interests. That way, the entire household can get in on the fun.
We understand that gamers appreciate lightning-fast load times, which is why we look for this quality in the Xbox consoles on our review list.
In our research, we take a deep dive into both current and previous-generation Xbox console models. We want our readers to be certain of the differences between products.
We take note of consoles that enable digital downloads. We also look for consoles that are backward-compatible with older games.
We look for Xbox consoles that work with a variety of peripherals, such as headphones and advanced controllers, so you can enjoy the latest titles regardless of your preferred style of play.
Different Xbox options
The Xbox gaming console has been available in a few different configurations over the years. Only the most recent versions are sold new, but you may have an older unit around your home.
Xbox One X
This small gaming console also is the most recent and most powerful Xbox console on the market. Microsoft released the X in 2017 as a full upgrade to Xbox One. The Xbox One X gaming library offers backward compatibility with Xbox One games.
Xbox One S
The Xbox S appeared in 2016 as a slight upgrade to the Xbox One, featuring a smaller gaming console than its predecessor.
Released in 2013, Xbox One placed an emphasis on using the internet for gaming, for video streaming, and for connecting with other users. The Xbox One console also can run games from discs, though. Xbox One has backward compatibility with many Xbox 360 games.
Did you know?
Unlike some other gaming consoles, only the Xbox One family will work in a horizontal position.
Microsoft released the Xbox 360 console in 2005. A few years later, Microsoft introduced a new version of the Xbox 360 that took advantage of WiFi connectivity, and featured a smaller console box. Xbox 360 brought an enhanced Xbox Live service, and it introduced the Kinect motion control system. Xbox 360 had backward compatibility with about half of the Xbox games.
The original Xbox console appeared in 2001 from Microsoft. Within another year, Microsoft introduced Xbox Live, a community gaming system that gamers could access through an internet connection.
"When you are using Xbox Live, some data is stored in the cloud. This means it’s stored at an offsite location, rather than on your Xbox console, or on an external hard drive."
TV: For the best gaming experience, you'll want to include a good TV in your gaming setup.
Headset: If you want more immersive play and to chat easily with teammates, you'll want a dedicated gaming headset.
Controller: You'll need multiple controllers if you want to game with more than one player. You can also find controllers with a variety of configurations to suit your preferences.
Xbox consoles come bundled with the basic hardware needed to play, but it’s quite common for people to buy extra controllers and other accessories.
You also should have some choices in the model of console you buy. Microsoft is still selling the Xbox One and the Xbox One S, even though it has recently released the Xbox One X.
And you still might find an Xbox 360 available for sale in some places, although Microsoft has officially discontinued the Xbox 360.
For your safety
To prevent overheating in the Xbox gaming console, make sure the vents in the case are clear from dust and pet hair and have free space available around them.
Although the gaming console should ship with one or more compatible controllers, you may want to purchase additional units later. Basic individual controllers should cost $10 to $30 apiece, although more complex units are available for a higher price.
You may need to purchase USB or HDMI cables to connect your Xbox console to your television. These cables will vary in cost, based on the length of the cable. Cables can cost anywhere from $5 to $25.
Did you know?
Players can connect their gaming console to Xbox Live through either a wired or WiFi internet connection.
Expect to pay anywhere from $250 to $500 for a new Xbox console, whether it’s the One, One S, or One X. You’ll pay on the higher end of the range for the Xbox One X.
On the other hand, the older One and 360 consoles — when you can find them — will sit at the lower end of the range.
Consoles that have a larger amount of storage space will cost more than those with a lower storage capacity.
Some consoles will ship with preloaded games, too, which may cost a little more.
If you want more storage space than the Xbox console provides, you may need to purchase an external hard drive. Such hard drives can cost $30 to $150, depending on how much storage space you’ve purchased.
You’ll need an internet connection to use Xbox Live. As you probably already are paying for an internet access account at your home, this likely won’t be an extra expense. Additionally, Xbox Live Gold requires a subscription price per year, although Xbox Live is free.
The cost of new games varies quite a bit for Xbox owners.
Depending on how you like to play games, you have the option of purchasing games on disc, purchasing a digital download copy, renting a game for a limited amount of time, or buying a used game.
Microsoft also offers an Xbox Game Pass, which gives you access to dozens of games for a monthly subscription fee.
New games can cost anywhere from $25 to $75, while you can purchase used games for about one-third the cost of new.
For the best possible image quality, make sure your TV resolution can at least match, if not surpass, the maximum video output resolution on the console.
Q. What’s the best way to gain more storage space for Xbox One games and apps?
A. By connecting an external hard drive (or two) to your Xbox One gaming console, you can store extra data. This allows you to receive more storage space than what’s available in the console alone. You can attach one or two hard drives to the gaming console. They must be USB 3.0 compatible, and they must have at least 256GB in storage capacity.
Q. What is the Kinect controller for Xbox?
A. The Kinect gaming controller uses motion sensing to provide input to the gaming console. It allows people to control the console without the need for a physical gaming controller. The player stands in the middle of the room and moves about; the Kinect hardware uses a webcam to monitor and interpret the person’s movements. Even though you can still buy Kinect, Microsoft has cancelled the Kinect program, and it will no longer manufacture the hardware.
Q. How do Xbox 360 and Xbox One family of consoles relate?
A. The Xbox 360 console is an older technology than the Xbox One family of consoles (which includes One, One S, and One X). If you own Xbox 360 games that you want to play on any Xbox One console, backward compatibility is available. Just insert the old Xbox 360 discs or download digital copies of the games again to your Xbox One console, and you can begin playing them. Any game scores and achievements you earned with Xbox 360 should translate to Xbox One as well. However, you cannot use Xbox 360 controllers or other physical accessories with your Xbox One console.
Q. What is Xbox Live?
A. Xbox Live is an online network that you can use to gain numerous extra features for gaming. Through Xbox Live, you can use your Xbox One console to connect to other users remotely, allowing to you play games against live opponents. Xbox Live also has streaming video, and apps available through which you can access all kinds of content. Xbox Live offers a free account, but you can gain more features with a subscription-based Xbox Live Gold account.