I have been playing computer and video games since childhood. For example, I blogged about the C-64, my first home computer in the 1980s. As for consoles, my “career” started on the Nintendo Game Boy and then continued on the SNES, the first Sony PlayStation, and the GameCube. I then returned to the Sony camp with the PlayStation 3, happily sticking with the PS4 (Pro) and PS5. Since the Xbox One X, I’ve been on two tracks, so the Xbox Series X is also in my living room. But what about the gaming PC comparison? Wouldn’t that be better advice?
Honestly, I’ve been on two tracks for a long time: a gaming PC was under my desk to enjoy a few titles in the best possible quality, while my respective console was used for exclusive titles. In 2016 I assembled my own computer for the last time – but never gambled again after that. Why? Well, I work at least 8 hours a day on the PC, so the incentive to spend more hours at my desk after work is gone.
Of course it is possible to lay another track: pure office PC and a second computer connected to the TV as a game box. This is how I’m currently going with the system linked above, which Nvidia gave me for testing purposes for a while this year. But I’ll be honest: privately that would be too expensive for me. I prefer to sit behind the console and am happy with that. But hey, I shouldn’t get ahead of myself too much. In this article I want to compare the pros and cons of gaming PCs and consoles.
Consoles – really more convenient than PCs?
Everything used to be different: On the PC, you had to contend with arguments during the installation: does the title really run under Windows, or should I switch to MS-DOS mode? Does the game need EMS memory? Is my sound card recognized at all? Hmm, the picture just flickers so I’m waiting for the next graphics driver or maybe tinkering with the INI file in the meantime… Younger readers might be scratching their heads, but in my mid 40’s I still already know these hardships. Thankfully, at least those times are largely over: anyone who buys a PC game today will, in most cases, have far fewer problems with hardware incompatibility or tangled settings than they did in the 1990s. You should not forget that if you (rightly) get angry about bugged ports.
Not everything is rosy, though: bugged ports are key. The game consoles are usually the leading platforms because it is easier to optimize “up” after that. However, this also means that many PC games don’t exhaust the high-end systems at all. In addition, the main developers are usually not at the gates, but external, smaller studios. There are those who are excellent at their craft – Nixxes, for example. However, in some cases, there are also debacles such as “Batman: Arkham Knight”. The PC version was later even pulled from stores because it just remained almost unplayable even on high-end systems.
But are consoles really better positioned? Until the era of the PlayStation 2 / Xbox & GameCube, you could say a clear “Yes!” on answers. Because the rule was: place the game and get to work. But times have changed. In short, today’s consoles like the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S are almost modified PCs with similar hardware. Here too, you now first load your games on an internal SSD and you usually not only download an extensive day-one patch, but also countless later updates.
In this regard, PCs and consoles are now almost on par here. Especially since consorts like “Cyberpunk 2077” show that sometimes it’s the consoles that get the bugged ports. Nevertheless, I still see consoles ahead: since the developers can optimize specifically for specific hardware, there is at least a little less chance of problems. Unfortunately, the previous preference “play along and get started” has now disappeared.
Teuro: Are Gaming PCs or Consoles the Better Investment?
When I first had enough money to fund my own gaming PC in 2000, I paid a lot more than a console. This is even more difficult these days, when graphics card flagships change hands for amounts well over $1,000 or even $2,000. In the past, I’ve always argued to pure console players that you’d get the money back quickly after buying multiple games: because PC games are and always were cheaper than console games. This is still the case today, but with endless digital sales and dealer price wars, as well as price increases in the PC segment, a gaming PC is unlikely to pay for itself in this regard, even for the most avid game buyers.
You can of course regularly take free games with you on the PC – for example weekly in the Epic Games Store. At best, something like this is available on consoles in the form of the monthly games on PlayStation Plus or Xbox Games with Gold – but requires a paid subscription. Here, players on PC take advantage of the fact that platforms such as the Epic Games Store, GOG.com, Steam and more are competing against each other. This is not the case on the consoles as Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony each have full control over the stores.
In addition, the developers are teasing impressive things out of the outdated hardware throughout the lifecycle of a console generation, currently about 7 years. If you want to keep your gaming PC running smoothly, you will need to upgrade at least once for top games during that period. So I guess you can say budget conscious gamers generally do much better with a console.
Pure performance: gaming PC flattens consoles
When it comes to performance, there’s no arguing: if you put the money on the table, you can laugh and point your finger at PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X – peanuts! A powerful gaming PC puts the consoles in the shade. After all, this time around, PS5 and Xbox Series X were significantly more powerful in relation to the PC landscape when they came out in late 2020 than Xbox One and PS4 in 2013. The latter consoles were already quite outdated when they came out. This is especially true for their Jaguar based CPUs.
Overall, the gap between PCs and consoles has narrowed somewhat. This is also due to the already mentioned factor that the consoles are usually the leading platforms for which the greatest optimization is performed. But one thing is clear: if you want to gamble in maximum quality with 60 fps in native 4K, you will hardly be able to do this on the consoles. A powerful gaming PC is the device of choice. Mainly because I’m still very impressed with Nvidia DLSS – the best upscaling technology in my opinion at the moment.
Sure, there are a few AMD FSRs on consoles now, but there’s still room for improvement. It’s impressive that we can use features like ray tracing at all on the current generation of consoles. Still, it opened my eyes when I was able to launch “Cyberpunk 2077” on my current test system with maximum settings and highest ray tracing. By contrast, even the beefed-up PS5 and Xbox Series X versions of the game look like they’re a full generation behind.
Flexibility or closed system?
Until now you are much more flexible on the PC than on consoles: play with the controller or rather mouse and keyboard? Shop from GOG.com, the Epic Games Store, Steam, or do you prefer an indie platform? Download mods for free or even develop them yourself and put them online? Browse the game files and make minor adjustments or exchange music? All this is possible. Of course everyone has their most important experiences. One thing for me at the time was to blast around town playing GTA Vice City with my custom 80s soundtrack – my MP3 collection made it possible.
Very little of that remains on the consoles, aside from official DLCs. Yes, the peripheral base is also bigger than it used to be, but no one can seriously argue that consoles can rival PCs. There have always been attempts in the past to make mods socially acceptable in console games, but no real progress has been made – even if, of course, there is user-generated content in the digital universes of PlayStation and Xbox. But you will search in vain for extensive customizations or even total conversations.
So “free spirits” are better off on the PC – both in terms of hardware and software. While I’m not a fan of RGB bling, some gamers will see things differently. What the PC of your dreams looks like, what technology is in it, what input devices you use, it’s all up to you. Anyone who has tasted the boundless freedom of the PC market here can smile more at the PS5’s adjustable side wings.
What I am describing here for you is still very subjective. Ultimately, everyone has to choose which platform they feel most at home on. For a long time I went two ways – with a console and a gaming PC. But as I got older, I lost interest in tinkering with the computer, going through settings, or researching in forums why I was having such serious problems with my hardware combination in a game. I also admit that the demand to play THE technically best version of a game has declined somewhat. I just see the consoles at a high level right now.
Nevertheless, a “Cyberpunk 2077” with the highest ray tracing or the “Microsoft Flight Simulator” or “Star Wars: Squadrons” on a powerful gaming PC with HOTAS controls, they are experiences that impress. Ultimately, my conclusion won’t please every reader, but I don’t think you can say clearly “PC Master Race wins!” or “Olé, Konsoleros!” Free time not to squat in front of it. And if you bring the necessary change with you and want the absolute best technical quality, you still can’t get around a gaming PC.
And you: what platforms do you play on? pc or console? Or maybe even via cloud gaming or on mobile devices? Why did you choose your specific platform? Tell the other readers and me more in the comments!
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