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Best gaming systems to give this holiday season

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(Dec. 23, 2014) - Gaming consoles make a great gift. Besides playing video games, the high-end consoles can stream video, surf the Web, and help you get in shape.

Consumer Reports gaming experts checked out the Xbox One from Microsoft, the Nintendo Wii U, Sony’s PlayStation 4 and newcomer LeapTV from LeapFrog. Leap TV is aimed at children three to eight for $150. It comes with educational games and a controller that’s just right for little hands.

If you’re choosing a console for older kids, expect to pay a lot more. The question you should ask yourself when picking a console is do you want it just for gaming or do you want all of your entertainment through the console?

While any of the higher-end consoles will stream video from services like Netflix and Hulu Plus, Xbox One has advantages as an entertainment hub. When bundled with the Kinect motion-sensing camera, you can use voice commands and switch easily between games and watching TV without having to pick up a separate remote.

The Xbox One is a good choice if you like to split your focus between gaming and watching TV or movies and it comes with a Blu-ray player.

The PlayStation 4 also has built-in Blu-ray. It really shines for gamers who like graphics-intensive games and want to share video clips or live streams or sample a friend’s game over the Internet. You just press the share button and you have access to all the PlayStation’s sharing features. But if you don’t want your kids to view shared content, it can be tricky to restrict.

And finally, if having the greatest selection of family-friendly games is your priority, the Wii U is the console that delivers. The Wii U costs $300.

The PlayStation costs $400 and the Xbox One with Kinect is $450. But Consumer Reports says around the holidays, you can often find the consoles bundled with different games and accessories at a discount, so it pays to shop around.

Complete Ratings and recommendations on all kinds of products, including appliances, cars & trucks, and electronic gear, are available on Consumer Reports’ website. Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org.

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