PC gaming versus console gaming: the ancient battle. It’s a battle that divides gamers, so we took a closer look and our results might just surprise you.
Generally speaking, a PC offers better graphics, more upgrade options, and a greater variety of games than consoles, usually at a lower price.
Meanwhile, consoles tend to be much more affordable and accessible over the long run, but the performance and graphics aren’t usually as good, and console games tend to be more expensive.
There must be some discussion on this subject somewhere on the internet. If it’s not PlayStation vs. Xbox, then it’s PC vs. both. Let’s discuss this and decide which one is better.
You might be surprised to learn that there isn’t a straightforward answer to that question.
PCs and consoles both have their advantages and disadvantages. What is best for you ultimately depends on both your preferences and your budget.
Throughout this article, we’ll look at the most important factors that you should keep in mind as you choose which platform is right for you.
Types of PCs and Consoles
PCs – Desktop vs Laptop
When people think of gaming PCs, they often picture some fancy desktop setup with tons of RGB lighting, but let’s not forget that gaming laptops exist, too. In the vast majority of cases, a desktop is a better gaming choice than a laptop.
As it is difficult to keep a gaming laptop running cool when both the CPU and GPU are under heavy load in a cramped chassis, gaming laptops often feature underpowered components.
Sometimes, people turn to external graphics cards. However, those usually involve a rather hefty additional investment, and the bandwidth limitations still mean that a laptop with an external GPU won’t be as fast as a desktop with that same GPU. Additionally, an external GPU case might reduce the laptop’s portability, which is one of its main benefits.
See: Best Gaming Laptop
A gaming desktop is far superior to a gaming laptop both in terms of performance and value. One of the main reasons why you might consider a gaming laptop is if you spend a lot of time away from home and want to have your games with you. Other than that, a desktop setup is your best option.
There are a few consoles to choose from. The major players in this field are Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo, and each has its own console.
We have Sony’s PlayStation and Microsoft’s Xbox. Nintendo’s Switch is another option.
Generally speaking, the PlayStation and Xbox are more powerful than Nintendo’s consoles, and they offer a larger selection of games, many of which are available on the PC as well. In contrast, Nintendo is primarily known for its innovation and first-party titles.
It is therefore difficult to compare the Switch to the PC, and like its predecessors – the Wii U and the original Wii – it is a versatile console that is primarily appealing due to its innovative new features and games.
Conversely, the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One are very similar to each other and also to PCs. In summary, the two critical differences between the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One are that the former has more high-quality exclusive single-player games, while the latter has backward compatibility.
However, there’s little point in comparing them now that the 8th console generation is drawing to a close, the PlayStation 4 is about to be replaced by the PlayStation 5, and the Xbox One will be replaced by the Xbox Series X.
We can thank consoles for bringing gaming into the mainstream at a certain point in time. What did they do to accomplish that? It is more convenient and cheaper than a gaming PC.
A new budget gaming PC, excluding peripherals, costs roughly the same as the PlayStation 4 at $399, and the Xbox One at $499.
Furthermore, consoles are now not only cheaper to begin with, but also more cost-effective in the long run. It is possible for a console to last for an entire generation (about seven years), and you can play all of the games released for the platform without having to worry about compatibility issues or outdated hardware.
Estimates say that both the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X will start at about $500, but we’ll have to wait until the final price is announced before we can be sure.
While consoles have standardized hardware platforms, PCs have a wide variety of components, which means that their prices can also vary greatly.
Gaming PCs can be divided into several categories based on the kind of performance they provide and the cost involved:
- Entry-level – These are cheap, basic PCs that are ill-suited to gaming and will struggle to handle any of the more demanding games.
- Budget – Budget PCs offer reliable performance at relatively low prices. Generally, they can run even the latest AAA games, but not at maximum settings. To avoid becoming obsolete, they will need some upgrades every few years.
- Mid-range – A mid-range PC offers the best balance of cost, performance, and longevity.
- High-end – With some of the best hardware on the market, high-end PCs cost a lot but also perform well in all AAA games and last for many years before needing an upgrade.
- Gamers – Lastly, we have gaming PCs that push the envelope with cutting-edge hardware that is usually extremely expensive. However, very few people are willing and/or able to spend this much on a gaming PC, hence the enthusiast moniker.
With gaming PCs, upgradeability is a big deal, and you can upgrade them as you like. You won’t have to spend a lot on keeping your PC up-to-date if you’re able to sell your old components and use the money to buy new ones.
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However, there are sometimes problems on this front as well. Intel has been messing with LGA 1151 sockets over the past few years, making it impossible to upgrade the CPU without replacing the motherboard as well.
As we have established, the prices of gaming PCs can vary greatly. Additionally, most of them will need to be upgraded at some point, which means that they ultimately end up costing more than consoles both at the time of purchase and over time.
We’ll now discuss the most important aspect of any gaming platform: the games themselves.
Nowadays, many developers have consoles and console controllers in mind when developing their games, and this is reflected in the PC release as well. Today, console and PC games don’t have any significant gaps between their releases, except for some timed exclusive titles.
Most console exclusives are first-party titles developed by the console manufacturer in order to boost hardware sales and brand recognition. Sony and Nintendo are two prominent examples.
On the other hand, there are entire genres of games that are almost absent from consoles, such as MMOs, MOBAs, and strategy games. Also, PC has a more vibrant indie scene and, of course, mods.
Games on consoles can be purchased in two ways: digitally via their respective networks (PSN or Xbox Live) or physically via retail stores.
You can always resell physical copies of games or get them cheaper if you buy them used. You can’t do this with account-bound digital copies.
On the other hand, PC games no longer get physical releases. PC games are still available in stores, but these are usually simply boxes containing an activation code for what is currently the most popular platform for PC gaming – Valve’s Steam.
Some big companies like EA, Bethesda, and Ubisoft have their own platforms/launchers that aren’t necessarily connected to Steam.
It’s not those launchers, but third-party online stores like Humble Bundle, GOG, and GreenManGaming that matter. Stores like these, along with some others, often offer better deals than Steam does, so they are good alternatives to purchasing PC games.
Moreover, there are also “grey markets”, such as Kinguin, that serve as platforms for selling and reselling games.
We have already mentioned that every game released for a console will work well on that console. Nevertheless, there are always some exceptions, where certain games are either too demanding for the aging hardware or aren’t optimized enough.
Most PC games aren’t well optimized, and some releases might have serious issues with bugs and crashes, which is only natural since a PC may use hardware from several years ago. Therefore, optimization is more problematic in PCs than in standardized configurations used by consoles.
Backward compatibility should also be considered. With a PC, you can play most games right out of the gate, and while some older releases won’t run flawlessly on newer hardware, it is usually fairly simple to fix.
When it comes to consoles, backwards compatibility has been a bit of a problem. While the Xbox One could run most of its predecessors’ titles, the PlayStation 4 could not.
Now that both the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 will be backward compatible, the situation looks better on this front. The latter will only support PS4 titles, while PS3 games will only be playable via PlayStation Now.
Those are all the points to consider when comparing consoles and PCs. Ultimately, it’s all subjective, so it’s up to you to decide which of these presents the greatest value. We’ll conclude with an overview of the pros and cons of each platform: