How we test video game consoles

For a very long time, video game {hardware} cycles had been fairly easy. You’d solely have to fret about three main video game methods and a handheld or two at any given time. It was doable to personal just about each main piece of gaming tech launched in a era with out going into debt.
The gaming {hardware} panorama has considerably modified within the 2020s, although. You’ve bought consoles and their frequent upgrades, VR headsets, handheld PCs, cloud-streaming units, quirky indie {hardware}, and far more. It might be extraordinarily tough to maintain monitor of all of it and know what’s value shopping for. Luckily, you don’t should; we’re right here to assist.
Digital Trends has been a supply of video game {hardware} opinions since 2005, relationship again to the Game Boy Micro. We’ve all the time stored up with the most recent generations of consoles and helped our readers make knowledgeable buying choices. Now with much more units than ever to select from, we’ve modernized alongside the trade to cowl all the things from the PS5 to the Playdate. Here’s a peek into our video game {hardware} testing course of, which offers you a greater sense of how we test a wide selection of units.

Any {hardware} evaluate all the time begins with that unboxing second. While the visible design of a console is all the time going to be a matter of style, we spend a while checking the construct high quality of a tool. Does it really feel like a sturdy piece of tech that we gained’t have to exchange? With one thing like a base mannequin Nintendo Switch, we may inform straight away that its flimsy kickstand may current some issues down the highway. On the flip facet, we may inform that the Xbox Series X seems like a premium console constructed to face the test of time. While there are all the time long-term elements which might be laborious to account for, we make the very best judgment we can early on based mostly on the construct high quality and the way sturdy it feels.
Device measurement and luxury have develop into an more and more vital a part of our testing course of currently too, particularly as we’ve begun to see a resurgence of moveable units within the Steam Deck age. With residence consoles, we’re all the time seeking to get a way of simply how laborious they’ll be to fit into an leisure heart. But for one thing like an Asus ROG Ally, that testing is much more important. How heavy is it in our palms? Are the controls naturally laid out? Does it really feel prefer it’ll put a pressure on gamers after lengthy play classes?
Questions like which might be additionally important to VR headsets, as consolation is a main concern there. When testing any gadget, we ensure to place it via as many use instances as doable and spend lengthy classes with them to see the place we begin to really feel discomfort.
Controller testing is particularly vital to our course of; in any case, you’re probably going to spend near a decade with one thing just like the PS5’s DualSense. Our first test is all the time for consolation, testing how effectively any controller (exterior or built-in) sits in our palms. We’re all the time taking a look at button format and ensuring all the things seems like a pure attain that doesn’t require a lot pressure.
Build high quality is simply as vital right here too. We desire a controller that feels premium, not one thing flimsy that we know we’ll substitute instantly. That’s essential for units just like the Steam Deck since it may be extremely tough to exchange damaged components. We search for high-quality buttons that really feel correctly reactive out of the field, in addition to joysticks that really feel like they’ll maintain as much as put on and tear effectively – one thing that’s particularly prime of thoughts in an period stricken by stick drift.
From there, we dive into any particular contains a controller has, whether or not that be HD rumble or one thing extra advanced. With the DualSense, for example, we spent a good period of time getting a way of how its adaptive triggers labored and judging whether or not or not the additional effort wanted to make use of them is value it for the in-game expertise.
Setup and options

Once it’s time besides up a console, there’s lots to dig into. Naturally, that begins with the setup course of, as we test how straightforward it’s to get it working. That’s vital for moveable PCs particularly, as we wish to ensure anybody can boot up an Asus ROG Ally and begin taking part in their video games with ease. Can you get Xbox Game Pass working on a Razer Edge with out having to search out an advanced YouTube tutorial? We attempt to reply questions like that early when eager about fashionable units. This is the place we additionally test how straightforward it’s to arrange exterior units, like Bluetooth headsets, to a console.
There’s lots to look at as soon as it’s powered on. We’re on the lookout for a clear interface that’s straightforward to navigate, and we dive into settings menus to see how customizable it’s, see what sort of apps we can get working on it easily, and far more. While we do a number of deep diving into each function we can discover and messing round with settings, a giant a part of our testing comes right down to the extra informal expertise we have when taking part in. We attempt to flip our reviewer hats off for a short time and simply use a console the best way we’d usually use it. How straightforward is it to work together with a tool each day? Can we flip a PS5 on, purchase a game off the shop, navigate to the Netflix app, or test our trophies with out eager about it an excessive amount of? We all the time try to ship deep dives on tech, however we really feel it’s simply as vital to seize that base-level person expertise that we really feel most customers can have with a console.
These days, we are likely to do a number of device-specific function testing too. During our PS5 evaluate course of, we made positive to test the system’s distinctive card function and simple trace methods as a lot as we may with a restricted software program library. Extras like which might be usually large elements that set consoles aside, so we all the time wish to interrogate whether or not these bells and whistles are value it. We’re particularly all the time seeking to see whether or not or not it feels just like the console producer is definitely dedicated to its {hardware} gimmicks or in the event that they’re going to go to waste. Remember the Joy-Cons’ IR sensors?
Also prime of thoughts is space for storing. We normally know a system’s storage forward of time, however we all the time wish to get a way of how briskly that house winds down when you begin downloading video games. It was a main level of criticism in our Xbox Series S evaluate, as we famous that its storage was so paltry that you simply’d have to spend money on an expensive exterior answer that may wind up making the console an funding on par with the Series X anyway.
Performance and energy
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends
The major course of any console evaluate is efficiency and energy, however that’s truly the trickiest a part of our course of at instances. When reviewing one thing like a PS5, we solely have entry to so many video games proper out the gate — and normally, firms attempt to put their finest foot ahead at launch. We test issues like body price, decision, and graphical constancy, however you usually don’t get the complete story of a console’s efficiency proper out of the gate. Just take a look at the present state of “next-gen consoles” that battle to hit 60 frames per second on main releases like Redfall.
So when we discuss efficiency, we’re extra reviewing a system’s potential. Based on our checks, we attempt to discover what we consider a console’s ceiling shall be. If one thing like a PS5 blows us away from day one, we comprehend it’s solely going to get extra spectacular as time goes by. The Nintendo Switch is on the flip facet of that dynamic. Games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild had been spectacular proper out of the gate, however it was all the time clear that the system wasn’t as succesful as even a PS4 in 2017. We attempt to issue within the long-term outlook as a lot as doable when we evaluate {hardware}, bearing in mind how fluid the state of affairs might be.
Performance turns into a way more vital and closely examined consider units just like the Steam Deck. In these instances, we know that we should be extremely thorough with our checks and decide the place the tech peak from the beginning. What video games does a Steam Deck battle to run? What does that imply for its long-term potential as extra current-gen-only video games launch? How customizable are these units, permitting us to squeeze extra energy out? That’s a completely totally different set of questions than those we face in conventional console opinions, making them extra like PC checks.
In the moveable renaissance, battery life is of the utmost significance too. Being in a position to run Elden Ring on a Steam Deck is nice, however is it that thrilling when your battery dies in 45 minutes? It’s a key test in cloud gaming units too, as handhelds like Logitech’s Cloud G excel at what they do due to prolonged fees. We attempt to put any moveable we test to its limits, looking for what we can get out of it performance-wise whereas nonetheless making it a sensible handheld.
Of course, you’ll be able to’t test a video game console with out precise video video games. With any gadget, we attempt to test a big unfold of titles, from probably the most technically spectacular factor it may possibly run right down to smaller indies. We all the time wish to guarantee that there’s a great library of video games that reap the benefits of a brand new console out the gate. The Nintendo Switch, for example, was a straightforward suggestion on day one due to Breath of the Wild, whereas we urged a bit extra persistence for the Xbox Series X.
This is one other space, nonetheless, the place we’re extra reviewing a tool’s potential than something. We solely have a really restricted variety of video games to test at a console’s launch and we solely know a small proportion of what’s on the horizon. We attempt to set your expectations early with a {hardware} evaluate, bearing in mind what video games are coming and the way dedicated the platform is to new releases. With the PlayStation VR2, for example, we famous that the headset had a missing launch lineup with little or no within the pipeline. That gave us a way that Sony isn’t planning to load the platform up with tons of high-profile exclusives in the identical means it does with the PS5. We draw on our lengthy information of console cycles to make cheap judgment calls on what you’ll be able to count on from a software program library over a platform’s lifespan.
Reaching a verdict
All of this underscores one thing that’s basic to our console opinions: It’s an evolving course of. We know that one thing like an Xbox Series X goes to look a lot totally different 4 years out from launch. Our preliminary opinions pull collectively all our testing and observations to inform you if it’s value shopping for at launch, however we consider {hardware} opinions are supposed to be revisited. We usually return and replace console opinions to offer an replace on their libraries and efficiency over time. We don’t need you shopping for a PS5 in 2023 based mostly on what we wrote at launch in 2020 except nothing has actually modified.
Our aim with {hardware} opinions is all the time to offer you an knowledgeable buying resolution that mixes our tech experience and our extra informal interplay with a tool. It’s our hope that we’ll assist you make good shopping for choices that aren’t merely based mostly on hype round a shiny new toy; we gained’t simply give a console a five-star evaluate as a result of we performed one nice launch game on it. Rather, we need you to purchase a system when it truly is smart to take the leap. Sometimes ready is the very best name.

Editors’ Recommendations

Recommended For You