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Consoles vs PC: Which is Best for You?

November 13, 2018 No Comments

Featured article by Katie Greene, Independent Technology Author

The topic of consoles versus PC is a hot debate that has raged on since the dawn of time. The debate is further compounded by the existence of several console brands, with their own loyal following. Spend some time on any video game community and you’ll see casual terms thrown around like “PC master race” (implying PC is best), “Sony fanboy”, “Xbone” (implying Microsoft ‘boned’ their customers with the Xbox’s hardware limitations). It’s a deep rabbit hole of brand loyalty – ironic, since many games are released on several different consoles.

What is the PC vs Console Debate All About?

The core argument of PC versus consoles boils down to upgradeability versus convenience (affordability as well). The hardware inside a PC can be constantly upgraded or replaced – if the graphics card, CPU, or RAM sticks inside a PC go bad, the owner can simply replace those parts (and often use that as an excuse to buy better, more expensive components). Indeed, there are many different brands of PC components, and PC owners are constantly comparing benchmark (performance) results of different brands of RAM sticks, CPUs, and graphics cards.

Whereas with consoles, the hardware inside cannot be upgraded or replaced.

XBox 300x225 Consoles vs PC: Which is Best for You?

An Xbox displaying the dreaded “Red Ring of Death” – it must be sent for repair or replacement.

If the CPU inside an Xbox, for example, should burn itself out, the consumer needs to send it in for repairs (or purchase a brand-new Xbox, if their warranty has expired). Of course, a technically-inclined person could purchase the necessary parts to repair the console themselves. The fact remains, however, that the hardware inside consoles cannot be replaced with different hardware than what the console is designed to work with.

PC also offers perhaps a much wider “library” of available games. There are not only AAA developers for PC games, but a huge “indie” game scene, and a strong history of browser-based games that will continue well into the future. There’s literally a ton of free browser-based zombie games for PC, or casual time-killers like Impossible Quiz.

Thus, PCs appeal to the “technical know-hows” amongst us. The people who enjoy opening the case and installing brand new hardware, performing benchmarking tests, and testing different brands. There are entire websites, like PCPartPicker, which are geared towards PC enthusiasts putting together their “ultimate system” from a huge selection of individual computer parts.

Consoles appeal to the people who just want it to work, no hassle involved. You plug it in, turn on a game, no need to install drivers, software updates, or tinker around with anything. Thus, it could be said that consoles appeal to people with less free time – people who come home from a long day at work, and just want to relax with a couple hours of Call of Duty.

PC vs Console: Price to Performance Ratio

It used to be that PCs were vastly superior to consoles, in terms of graphics and game performance. This is due to the upgradeability of PCs, the ability to put expensive hardware inside a computer. Thus, until not too long ago, even a mid-range computer could have superior graphics to consoles.

This wasn’t exactly the case around 2006 – when the Xbox 360 and PS4 were released, they actually had a better price-to-performance ratio than PCs. This is because about a decade ago, PC hardware was still incredibly expensive. The top-end graphics cards and CPUs for PCs, at the time, were upwards $600.

Thus, Microsoft and Sony operated a business model of selling consoles at a loss, due to the advanced hardware inside their consoles. However, they recuperated the profit loss through video game sales. They couldn’t keep this up forever, though, especially as the PC hardware landscape is constantly evolving, with new hardware being released every year (or even quarterly), which can then be used to upgrade a PC you already own.

Faces 300x168 Consoles vs PC: Which is Best for You?

So, while console hardware may be cutting-edge at time of release, it can be much longer before an upgraded console version is released. Thus, console owners are stuck with “last-gen” hardware for extended periods of time, while PC hardware tends to blow past console hardware within a relatively short timeframe.

This gap is starting to close, however. Current generation consoles, such as the Xbox One X and Sony Playstation 4 Pro, have made huge leaps in their technology. The Xbox One X, for example, was released last year with 12GB of GDDR5 RAM, a 2.3GHz x86 AMD Jaguar octa-core CPU, is capable of 4K resolution gaming, and a bunch of other shiny technical specs, for a price of $499.

Building a PC with similar or better hardware specs could cost significantly more – as high as the $1,699 mark. The argument in favor of PC, however, is the number of tasks a PC can do. While consoles are no longer geared towards video games only, with being able to stream media and other niceties, PCs still have the upper-hand in what they’re actually capable of.

Stop Explaining So Much! Should I Buy a Console or PC?

I explained so much, because its important to get an idea of why you would choose one platform over the other. With a console such as the PS4 Pro or Xbox One X, you are investing in cutting-edge technology at release, which will be good enough until the next iteration of consoles supersedes them. You’re also investing in the pure convenience of the overall console experience – sit on your couch, turn it on, it works. No hassle.

With a PC, you are investing in the ability to continuously upgrade your hardware as the latest hardware is released (if you can afford it). You’re also investing in a machine that can do far more than just play games and stream Netflix – I mean, what do you think those cutting-edge console game or 3D film graphics are designed on? Super-expensive computers with $800 graphics cards, of course!

With a PC however, you also need to deal with the drawbacks of PCs – troubleshooting the operating system, driver upgrades, and just all the other little headaches that come with PCs.

So, when deciding between console or PC, it boils down to whether you prefer great graphics and performance in a convenient package (consoles), with the drawback of not being able to upgrade until the next generation is released.

With PCs, you’re paying considerably more for amazing, bleeding-edge technology that you can constantly upgrade yourself, with the drawback of needing to be a bit more hands-on with ensuring your PC operates at its maximum performance level.

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