The console vs PC war has been going on since the beginning of gaming. But things started to change in favor of PC during the early to mid-90s. This shift can be attributed to the popularity of Microsoft’s Windows operating system, which also brought with it the DirectX graphics API (starting with Windows 95). PC also went through a hardware renaissance during this period, with the important releases like Intel’s Pentium CPU and the 3dfx Voodoo graphics accelerator. Games like DOOM, Quake, and Half-Life showed everyone what the PC is truly capable of greatness. Then, you had games like Baldur’s Gate, Age of Empires, and Starcraft which were best played on keyboard + mouse. Consoles had their exclusives too, and the 6th gen machines (PS2 and Xbox) brought some really innovative games- Halo, God of War, Shadow of The Colossus, Ratchet, and Clank were games that you could only experience by purchasing a console.
So, which side should you choose? Consoles for value and convenience, PCs for versatility and performance. A PC doubles up as a workstation since it enables you to do more than just gaming. You can do spreadsheets, documents, movies, music, write your own game code, etc. Modern game consoles are also multipurpose machines that can act as living room entertainment systems with their built-in Blu-ray players and the ability to stream content from Netflix, Hulu, etc.
Both consoles and PCs have their own unique advantages, although it can be argued that PC wins objectively on the basis of having more pros over consoles. It is what you make it be, and can be endlessly modified to suit your personal taste. PCs can be dirt cheap, or insanely expensive. But as long as you enjoy the platform of your choice, that’s all that matters. Consoles also. They offer a lot of value for money and can be operated by anyone from a child to your grandparents.
Console Hardware Compared to PC
If we go way back to the days of 6th and 7th gen consoles, they used proprietary or full-on custom hardware that you couldn’t just buy off the shelf at your local Microcenter. The PS2 had a custom RISC (reduced instruction set computer) processor called the Emotion Engine (a Toshiba R5900) that ran the MIPS3 instruction set. The Nintendo 64 used a 64-bit NEC VR4300 processor, with graphics being handled by a 64- bit reality coprocessor from SGI. The PS3’s Cell CPU was developed by Sony in collaboration with IBM and Toshiba. It consisted of a single general-purpose PowerPC core, along with 8 specialized cores called SPEs. But console hardware isn’t as exclusive anymore.
The PS4 and Xbox One use AMD APUs, which are basically SOCs (system on chip) with the CPU and GPU integrated into one single chip. These APUs use X86 processor cores, just like PC. And the graphics are based on the GCN architecture found in AMD video cards starting with the Radeon HD 7700 series back in 2013. The reason 8th gen consoles are so close to PC hardware is because of the convenience this design brings to porting games in between platforms. It is also much easier to develop games for this type of architecture, compared to writing code for the notoriously complicated PS3 Cell processor. And the upcoming consoles will use AMD’s Ryzen 2 cores, in combination with Navi graphics. It is pretty much confirmed at this point that they will use an 8-core, 16-thread part (similar to the Ryzen 7 3700x that you can buy today) and a 2nd generation Navi graphics unit with hardware raytracing built-in. So you can, in fact, buy parts off the shelf that matches console hardware specs.
PC is constantly evolving, it’s a modular platform that can be updated with new advances in technology. Consoles, on the other hand, suffer from a super restrictive design that is incapable of accepting upgrades or new parts. You have to wait 7 or 8 years until the next generation comes along. But this trend is slowly changing, as we can see from the mid-life refresh models introduced by Sony and Microsoft. The PS4 Pro and Xbox One X are designed to play all the same games as the base consoles, but with better graphics and higher framerates. So you pay more money down the line to get better performance- sounds a lot like PC, doesn’t it? Except, you have to purchase a whole new console, whereas on PC you can just slot in a new GPU or CPU instead of changing the whole system. The modular nature of the PC makes it super easy to upgrade or customize. On consoles, the only upgrades you can make are hard drive changes (like a higher capacity drive or swapping out the HDD for an SSD).
Which Side Has The Price Advantage?
This is the most talked-about point among the console community, how their platform is much cheaper compared to a gaming PC that delivers the same level of performance. While this might be true for the first couple of years after a new console is launched, PC tech is constantly advancing forward. The ultra high end $700 GPU of today will be a mid-range GPU 2 years later which you can buy for 200 bucks. Over time, you can build a PC that performs on the same level as a console for the same amount of money. Used hardware is also a huge market in the PC community, and you can often find some sweet deals on really nice previous-gen hardware depending on where you live. With used components, you can actually beat a console in the category of price to performance. But that requires a certain degree of knowledge on hardware, and the perseverance to fish around until you find the right parts.
Performance And Graphics
It’s no secret that the best graphics are a PC exclusive. There is no upper limit to your budget when building a PC, and even moderately high-end configurations will outperform 8th gen consoles such as the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X in terms of visual fidelity. On PC you have high and ultra-high graphics settings. As far as framerates are concerned, we know that consoles can’t go beyond 60fps. In fact, some consoles still run games at 30fps (yikes). On the other hand, a lot of PC users have been enjoying 144Hz gaming since 2015. In the last 2 years, 240Hz has become the new gold standard for esports titles. And if NVIDIA’s CES 2020 showing is anything to go by, we will soon have 360Hz gaming monitors. Meanwhile, consoles are only just entering the realm of high refresh rate gaming, since it is being rumored that the new 9th gen consoles which will release in 2020 are going to have support for 120Hz gaming. Even then, most console gamers are using TVs that refresh at 60Hz.
Once again, a clear win for PC. You can do much more than play games. You can browse the web, watch Youtube videos, stream movies, participate in online forums, etc. It is possible to do a lot of those things on console too, but you would much rather browse the web and type comments on a PC since it is so much easier. When it comes to social connectivity and gaming with friends, PC has a lot more options- Discord, TeamSpeak, Ventrilo, Steam, etc. The PC is an all-in-one machine that can do both – work and play. It’s also much easier to multitask on PC. You can have multiple monitors, set up a LAN network, connect various input devices, the options are limitless. Oh, and did I mention the fact that your PC can also be used for work? You can kill two birds with one stone by building a gaming PC. It will also double up as a workstation which you can use for editing videos and photos, creating 3D models, rendering, etc. A gaming PC is simply a regular PC with the necessary part upgrades for playing games. And if you want to pimp your PC with RGB LED strips, custom water cooling loops, fancy cases, etc. you can do that too. You can have a vertical, horizontal, small, big, fat, or skinny PC. You can even have a PC that looks like a hotrod or spaceship if you want. The potential for visual customizations is endless.
Consoles used to be the winners in this category, but modern-day game launchers have made it super easy to browse through your game and media library. You can enjoy couch gaming on a PC, by using a wireless controller and hooking up an HDMI cable from the PC to your TV. You don’t even have to move your PC into the living room, thanks to Steam Link which is great for in-home game streaming. Steam even has a big picture mode to give you a more “console-like” experience. NUCs and small form-factor PCs give you a complete home entertainment system while occupying no more space than a console. And we bet you can build an SFF that is much quieter than a PS4 Pro or Xbox One X. Just take a Ryzen 5 3600, undervolt it, and slap on a quality Noctua cooler like the NH- L9i or NH- L12. Pair this setup with a Gigabyte GTX 1660 Super MINI ITX OC, and put it all inside a nice mini ITX case. Now you have got yourself an SFF PC that can handle all modern games at the highest settings with 60+ FPS. No more noise while you’re trying to enjoy your games. Do you prefer to use a controller for gaming? Both the Xbox One and PS4 controllers are supported on Windows 10 PCs, you can buy a USB Bluetooth adapter and hook up the controller of your choice. Want to experience the precision of Keyboard + mouse, but don’t want to get up from the couch? No problem, grab a Corsair Lapdog or Razer Turret.
Call this a PC exclusive, because that’s exactly what it is. Emulation is a major advantage of PC; it enables you to enjoy old and forgotten titles from multiple generations ago. You can use PCSX2 to play PS2 games and CEMU to enjoy Nintendo Wii games. DOSBOX lets you load up old DOS games like Wolfenstein 3D (1992), Prince of Persia (1989), DOOM (1993), Civilization (1991), Duke Nukem (1996), etc. You just can’t play PS1 games on your PS4. You can’t even play PS3 games on your PS4, because the console isn’t backward compatible. But there is no such restriction on PC, you can run a PC game from 2001 on a modern Windows 10 system without any major hiccups. And the best part? Your 2001 game will probably run at better frame rates since you’re using modern hardware. But on a console, an old backward-compatible game runs at the exact same frame rate and graphical settings that it had during the time of release. You can’t play old Xbox games on a PlayStation. But on PC, you can play old games from all 3 major consoles- Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo.
Which Side Has Better Games?
Consoles like the PS4 have certain exclusives which are often the main reason for people to purchase that specific console over another. Xbox used to have Halo, Gears of War, Forza, etc. but all of those titles can now be enjoyed on PC. The entire Master Chief Collection is on Steam (except Halo 5), and the upcoming Halo Infinite will launch for both Xbox Series X and PC. Nintendo lives in its own little bubble and focuses on family-friendly entertainment. Titles like Zelda are the main reason people pick up a Switch, but you can experience a lot of Nintendo Wii games on PC using emulators. Besides, PC has the widest variety of game genres to choose from. The best RTS games are on the PC. MOBAs like Dota 2 and League can’t be played on consoles. And the backward compatibility of consoles is a joke compared to that of PC- you can still play DOS games from the 80s and 90s on your Windows 10 PC. The PC game library is far bigger than that of any single console- literally thousands of games to choose from. If you wish to play the latest PlayStation AAA exclusives like God Of War, Marvel’s Spiderman, Shadow of the Colossus, The Last of Us, etc., buy a PS4. Or, you can download the PlayStation Now app to your Windows 10 PC and stream all these exclusive games. It should be noted that streaming isn’t the same as playing on local hardware, it introduces a bit of input lag and the graphics might be downgraded due to data compression. Also, you need to have a fast internet connection in order to stream games.
For more about gaming subscription, you can check out my post Top 7 Subscriptions To Enjoy Gaming (PC, PS, Xbox, Switch) On A Budget
PC encourages modding, something that’s nearly impossible to do on console because of how tightly Sony and Microsoft regulate everything. You can take a boring and broken game like Fallout 4, and add high-resolution textures, unique models, and even fix bugs to make the game better than the original. We’ve all seen funny videos of Randy Savage and Thomas the Train in Skyrim. Community-made mods are the lifeblood of PC gaming, they allow you to get several hours of extra gameplay for free. The Steam Workshop and Nexus Mods are two of the biggest modding communities. Things like these are just not possible with console gaming because the publishers and manufacturers don’t allow you to add something unless they get a cut of it.
In the end, it all comes to personal preferences. Maybe you have been a console gamer all your life and are reluctant to switch over because all your friends are on console. PC can be slightly intimidating for people who aren’t very technology- savvy. But with great system integrators like iBuyPower and CyberpowerPC, you can simply order a prebuilt gaming PC and enjoy PC gaming without having to go through the hassle of building your own. Services like the Xbox Game Pass for PC and PlayStation Now allow you to play console games on PC. With PlayStation Now, you can stream PS2, PS3, and PS4 exclusives to your PC. Some gamers don’t mind the lower framerates, and would rather enjoy the convenience of couch gaming that a console offers since they primarily play story-driven games. Others actually prefer to play Call of Duty or Rainbow 6: Siege on console because there are fewer chances of encountering a hacker or cheater.