For a while now, it's been all quiet on the video game console front. Sure, there have been some minor tweaks -- for example, Sony took away some inches and some ounces from the Sony PlayStation 3 Slim (250 GB) (*Est. $270) in the fall of 2012, but left core performance the same. Of course, everyone has been waiting for the next big thing -- the Nintendo Wii U (*Est. $300 and up) -- which was released right before "Black Friday" 2012.
Though console gaming is on the wan by most accounts, interest in the Wii U is high -- so high in fact that presales for the console are sold out at many retailers, and reports of price gouging are on the rise. Initial reviews for the Wii U are in, and it's a tale of a very promising gaming system, but one that that might not be the very best choice until what's actually available catches up with that promise.
The other video game consoles available are getting long in the tooth, no doubt, with the occasional refreshes spiffing up cosmetics or fixing problems rather than adding notable new features. The major exception to this is the addition of motion control to the PS3 and the Xbox 360 in 2010, but even those innovations are now fading in the rear-view mirror.
That's not to say that the Microsoft Xbox 360 Slim (250 GB) (*Est. $300) and PlayStation 3 are not formidable gaming platforms, because they still are. Both are also blessed with formidable game libraries that will continue to give them an edge over the Wii U at first, until that console's game library ramps up to speed.
The original Nintendo Wii (*Est. $130) is also not going away in the near future. It can't compete with the Wii U, PS3 or Xbox 360 in terms of high-end gaming or gorgeous graphics -- and it doesn't try to. Instead its sweet spot is as a budget gaming system focused on kids and family fun, a role it continues to fill quite well.
To find the best video game consoles, we look at both expert commentary and user reviews to find which ones please, and which ones disappoint. Gaming is considered first and foremost, but so is media performance as video game consoles have steadily morphed into devices to bring streaming and, in some cases, recorded video to your TV.