You can play Minecraft just about anywhere–PC, consoles, and mobile devices all run Mojang’s seemingly immortal game. But the truth is that despite being on a dozen platforms, there are really just two versions: Bedrock and Java. If you’re looking to get into Minecraft, you’ll see people talking about these two versions, but what is the difference–and which one is best?
Java vs. Bedrock: Why are there two versions?
When Minecraft just started to become popular in the early 2010s, there was just one platform and one version. Minecraft was built in Java and played on Windows and Linux. Bedrock, meanwhile, began its life as Minecraft Pocket Edition, a version meant to run well on mobile devices, but would eventually form the base for Bedrock Edition.
Bedrock Edition exists for a few reasons. One is that Java has tons of security vulnerabilities; a major vulnerability affected Minecraft’s Java edition as recently as December 2021, in which the Log4j vulnerability allowed users to execute code on a Minecraft server just by entering text into the game’s chatbox. If you’re putting your game onto every console in existence, you probably don’t want to accidentally make them all hackable–as much as console modders would love that.
Java is also not terribly well optimized for 3D games like Minecraft, and wouldn’t have run well on the first round of consoles it released on, which includes the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Bedrock is a complete rebuild of Minecraft that both takes care of that security issue and lets Microsoft better optimize the game for modern game console hardware.
Java vs. Bedrock: What’s the difference?
There are a number of differences between Java and Bedrock editions of Minecraft, including little mechanical differences–Minecraft on Java has more combat moves, and some mobs and items have different variables–though Microsoft has made an effort in recent years to ensure that Minecraft’s Bedrock and Java Editions are getting closer and closer together, rather than further apart.
Which version you want will depend a little bit on your needs.
If you’re playing on a console or mobile device–an Xbox, PlayStation, Switch, or Android/iOS device, you’ll be playing Bedrock. If you’re one of the few and proud that plays on a Linux device, you’re going to be playing Java. So we’ll assume those players already know what they want and focus on the rest of us playing on Windows 10 and 11 PCs.
If you want to play with friends on other platforms, go with Bedrock and Realms.
So, all of your friends play Minecraft, but some of them play on PC, others play on Xbox, and some are even playing on their mobile devices. There are a couple of options for cross-play. With Minecraft Bedrock, you can hook up with them whenever you like for a single-session multiplayer game–you can join your friend’s game, but only while they’re also playing–stored on the host user’s device. If you use an official Minecraft Realm, though, you can have an always-online, always-accessible server provided by Microsoft for a small monthly fee. Anyone on Bedrock Edition that you invite–that includes players on Xbox One, Series S, and Series X, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and 5, Android, iOS, and Windows 10 and 11–can join a Realm and get building whenever they want.
As a side note, if you’re planning to build your own server or pay another provider with more flexible server options, you’ll need to stick with PC or take your chances with dicey hacks to get other versions working with servers, as only Windows devices support connecting to custom servers in Bedrock Edition.
If you want to go super deep with modding, play Java Edition.
You’re not one to just leave a game the way it was installed. You want to make it your own. That doesn’t mean just skins and texture packs, but total overhaul mods that introduce new game mechanics, shader packs, and more. If that sounds like you, you’ll want to play Java Edition.
If you have an older computer, play Bedrock Edition.
The older your computer is, the more leeway you’ll need to give it with games. Minecraft is anything but new, but Bedrock tends to run better on older systems due to Java’s generally poor optimization. Of course, Java will most likely run fine–but Bedrock Edition will give you a little more elbow room. Generally speaking, if you want the most stable performance, the general consensus in the Minecraft community seems to be that Bedrock offers a smoother, more stable experience over Java–regardless of whether your PC qualifies as a potato or cutting-edge technology.
If you want officially supported ray tracing, play Bedrock Edition.
If you want the most advanced graphical effects and prefer they be of the officially supported variety, Minecraft Bedrock Edition offers full integration with Nvidia’s ray tracing and upscaling features. Ray tracing allows you to enjoy all kinds of light effects that completely change the way the game looks, while Nvidia’s DLSS upscaling helps keep the game running smoothly by playing at a lower resolution and then using AI/deep learning to make the game look like it’s running at that native resolution. Minecraft Java Edition does offer shader packs and other mods that can change the way the game looks, but Bedrock is where the official support lies. At this time, you must be running an Nvidia RTX card of some kind–the newer the better.
If you want to see experimental versions first, play Java Edition.
While Bedrock Edition is the lead platform for Microsoft and Mojang, Java Edition is still under active development, and due most likely to it having a smaller player base (remember, PC only) that’s generally more tolerant of changes, Java will often get upcoming and experimental features first. If you want to see all that new stuff before it makes it to the official Bedrock branch of development, check out Java edition.
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