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Which gaming platform is best: PC or console? It’s a pretty loaded question. Debate over the superiority of PC or console gaming rages on endlessly across the internet, seemingly without a definitive conclusion. In view of this fairly tribal and sensitive issue, I will try to approach the subject with a degree of rational thought.

And for the record, I am an active gamer in both the PC and console arenas.

 

Design

We’ll begin purely with device aesthetics. For this particular subject, there is only one real winner. Neither of the current generation of PlayStation or Xbox consoles are particularly pleasing in their general design. Compared to your average shouty gaming PC, which you’d be forgiven for mistaking for a vital component of the Starship Enterprise, the sleek and slim design of games consoles wins through.

There are good reasons behind console design choices. Firstly, they are built for convenience. Modest in design and supremely quiet, a games console can be placed anywhere in the home without making too much of a statement. Its versatility allows it to be hooked up to a 40-inch TV in the living room or to slip seamlessly into your bedroom environment; a level of convenience not afforded by an unwieldy gaming PC. While a top of the line gaming PC can be appealing purely for its sheer brash appearance, a beacon of subtlety it is not. Gaming PCs generally have to housed away in the office or bedroom. Considering the best screen in your home is likely to be located in the living room, you’ll probably have to compromise on monitor quality. Console gaming draws first blood here.

 

Winner: Console     

Console 1-0 PC

 consoles

Performance

Despite comprehensively storming the opening round, console gamers will despair at the ace up PC gaming’s sleeve following the initial blow. Putting aside the relative costs of the rival platforms until later, the question of which device offers the greatest performance does not leave much room for debate. The console’s understated aesthetics foreshadow its understated performance compared to that of the gaming PC.

This is a point that has all too often reared its ugly head for those of us who choose to play the latest titles on a games console. When it comes to squeezing out that extra level of gaming sophistication, console developers are left facing an uphill task. Assassin’s Creed: Unity, one of the biggest releases on current-gen consoles to date, was locked at 900p and a paltry 30 frames per second on PS4 (the resolution was even lower on Xbox One). The story is similar for a number of other blockbuster console releases.

 

Far Cry 4 – 1080p/30 FPS

Watch Dogs – 900p/30 FPS

Dragon Age: Inquisition – 1080p (900p on Xbox One)/ 30 FPS

 

In comparison, the bulkier and more spacious design of a gaming PC lends itself well to high-end, premium gaming. Depending on how powerful your gaming rig is, the potential for seeing those specifications rise is a source of great pride for PC enthusiasts. Harnessing powerful components, PC games are able to smash through the glass ceilings that limit the experience of console gamers. One example is the recently released GTA V. On PC, Rockstar’s supreme sandbox supports 4K resolution alongside attainable frame rates of 60 and above. Achieving full 1080p HD resolution while running smoothly at frame rates in excess of 60 is commonplace in the PC gaming arena, yet entirely unattainable for console gamers.

The opening two categories of this titanic battle are closely linked. The limits that the PS4 and Xbox One place on themselves in terms of design make it impossible to cram sufficiently powerful components into their compact cases. The compromise is therefore felt in resolution and frames rates. Gaming PCs are not hampered by these constricting design issues. To enjoy the latest games in the form they were truly intended, a gaming rig is the only way to go.

 

Winner: PC

Console 1-1 PC

gaming PC

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Functionality

A games console has a very specific purpose: playing games. You purchase a games console because you intend to play the latest video games. Aside from that, there is little additional functionality. One advantage of a gaming PC is mentioned in its name; a gaming PC can easily double as a personal computer. And not just any PC. Tuned up for high performance gaming, it’s also likely to be an extremely capable device, ready to burn through your day-to-day tasks with consummate ease. A gaming PC can function as work PC, an entertainment PC and a general use PC. Luxuries that are, largely, beyond the capabilities of a games console.

Attempts have been made to evolve games consoles into connected devices capable of carrying out computer-orientated tasks. Microsoft originally promoted the Xbox One as an all-round entertainment hub (a move which subsequently backfired). Consoles now sport web browsers for general internet use, Blu-Ray players for movie viewing and TV streaming channels, such as Sky Go and Netflix.

Despite their growth into a more rounded, multi-channel media device, the functionality of a games console pales in comparison to that of a PC.

 

Winner: PC

Console 1-2 PC

Games

It seems a little daft for this kind of discussion to take place without reference being made to the actual games available for each platform. Once again, each entrant into this battle of gaming prowess has their own pros and cons when it comes to the breadth of games in their rosters.

Firstly, let’s look at consoles. AAA blockbuster titles will occasionally hit consoles first, leaving disgruntled PC gamers twiddling their thumbs for several months before they can sink their teeth in the latest titles. GTA V, for example, will be released on PCs on 14th April 2015, a full 18 months after the release of the original console versions on Xbox 360 and PS3. This is a slowing trend, however, with many of the recent top Christmas releases, such as Dragon Age: Inquisition, Far Cry 4 and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare all penned in for simultaneous PC and console release. Some of gaming’s biggest franchises, particularly those published by Nintendo (Mario, Zelda etc), will never see the light of day on PC.

VIEW GAMING PCS AT EBUYER

Given their continued reliance on discs, consoles also have a thriving second-hand market. The freedom to plough through a new title before getting a piece of your investment back is not a luxury extended to PC gamers, offering an extra slice of value to console gaming.

Now to PCs, where you can find an entirely new set of reasons to convince you of their game-playing superiority. One of the biggest reasons is choice. Online gaming libraries, such as Steam, provide a database comprising literally thousands upon thousands of games, many of which are entirely free. With games consoles no longer supporting backwards compatibility, your old favourites may find themselves sold off when you go next-gen. On PC, you can assemble the library of your dreams, free from the constraints of Xbox or PlayStation exclusivity, and safe in the knowledge they’ll stay with you no matter how many times your system evolves.

With services like Steam there also comes convenience and value. A veritable Pandora’s Box of gaming delights is available at your fingertips, downloadable with just a few simple clicks. New AAA titles enter the market at a considerably lower price than console releases and sales offering huge discounts are commonplace. Games consoles struggle to compete with the level of choice and value available via online gaming libraries. Agreements with high-street retailers keep digital prices high and the second-hand market means developers are missing out on a large chunk of potential income (making it in their best interests to ensure you continue to buy new titles).

All of this makes the decision on gaming choice what we call a no-brainer. PC gaming takes this landslide victory.

 

Winner: PC

Console 1-3 PC

pc

 

Price

We now rumble into our final category and this one’s a biggy. Price is a multi-faceted consideration for gaming, with so many subsequent purchases to be made after the initial investment in a given platform. As such, the issue of price must be broken down into a number of subcategories.

 

Initial cost

Even here, nothing is straightforward. On the face of it, consoles are considerably cheaper than their PC rivals. Investing in a gaming PC with enough sophistication to run the latest titles can cost in excess of £1000. High end PC gaming does not come cheap (as I discovered recently), so consoles can often fill the void with their easy plug’n’play access to the latest games.

As outlined earlier, however, that doesn’t quite tell the whole story. Include the secondary functionality of gaming PCs, with all their productivity and entertainment added value, and the balance is somewhat levelled. There is, of course, the added requirement to upgrade your PC’s components in order to keep up with the ever more demanding world of PC gaming. In comparison, a games console will keep you in touch with cutting edge gaming until the console cycle reboots, even if you have to compromise on resolutions and frame rates in the meantime.

With current-gen games consoles now plummeting down to sub-£300 levels, and a gaming PC’s need for annual component refresh to stay ahead of the curve, consoles take the early lead in the race for your cash.

 

Winner: Console     

Console 2-3 PC

VIEW CONSOLES AT EBUYER

 

Games

This subject was largely sewn up earlier, but I’ll restate the main points here. Console gamers can take advantage of a flourishing secondhand market, leaving you free to buy and sell any disc-based games you purchase. PC gaming deals almost exclusively with digital copies, meaning once you’ve bought a game, you’re stuck with it regardless. Alongside that, however, comes a substantial saving on price, thanks to the lack of manufacturing and distribution costs of discs and cases.

Aside from Steam’s generous game sales taking place throughout the year, a number of external sites offer discounted Steam keys for all the latest releases. Purchasing a brand new title on a console rarely comes in under £40, whereas on PC you’re rarely looking above £30. Coupled with a back-catalogue bursting with free titles, PC gamers can haul back a significant amount of that initial outlay when buying games over several years.

 

Winner: PC

Console 2-4 PC

 

Online

One final area we are yet to ponder is online capability. The main difference here comes down to price. As if several hundred pounds to purchase a new games console and 40 quid for each new game wasn’t enough, you also have to pay for the privilege of playing console games online. Roughly priced at £40 for the year, you essentially pay for a service that is free on the majority of PC games. To sweeten the deal, there is Xbox’s ‘Games with Gold’ and PlayStation’s ‘PlayStation Plus’ service, which offer two free games every month. But these are largely extra incentives aimed at quelling our anger at having to pay for this privilege in the first place.

Console gaming does retrieve some of its lost credibility when you exclude price from online gaming. For the casual gamer, a slice of online action is a little easier on consoles. The simple, party-friendly interfaces make it easy for you and your friends to jump into a game of FIFA or Call of Duty with little hassle. Certainly, the world of online PC gaming can be a daunting prospect for those of us who are not familiar with servers and getting owned on Counter-Strike.

Having said that, this is ultimately a question of cost and the online experience on games consoles just doesn’t warrant the extra investment over free PC gaming.

cyber

Winner: PC

Console 2-5 PC

 

Conclusion

There we have it, your definitive guide to which gaming platform is superior. At first glance, you might think that I’ve plumped for PC gaming. A 5-2 scoreline represents a bit of a hammering for the Xbox One, PS4 and, of course, the Wii U. I would, however, like to offer some final thoughts to those currently haring toward the shops to make a gaming PC purchase.

For me, it largely comes down to what level of gaming enthusiast you see yourself as. A gaming PC is a huge investment and only the most dedicated of gamers are likely to reap a return on their decimated bank balance. If you’re into MMOs and free multiplayer titles like Guild Wars, a gaming PC is the only way to go. You’ll begin to claw back that initial outlay with the volume of games you purchase, and you’ll appreciate the superior resolutions and frame rates only a PC can provide.

If all you want to do is play the odd AAA title in the few spare hours you have in your week, a games console is almost certainly the best way to go.

 

Steam Machines – The best of both worlds?

This has all been done without even pondering the imminent commercial existence of Steam Machines. Looking to marry the design and user-friendlessness of games consoles with the power and choice of PC gaming, Steam Machines could offer a great alternative for those struggling to pick a side. We’re eagerly awaiting their release in the winter.

Whichever side of the argument you fall down on, head to Ebuyer.com for all your console gaming needs and components for building the ultimate gaming PC.

 

build-gaming-pc

25 COMMENTS

  1. Pretty much agree with you, except for the cost of a PC.
    I’ve a PC and XBox One – although I hardly touch the Xbox.

    A decent gaming rig can cost under £600. Paying over £1,000 is overkill to me (unless you are loaded).
    You don’t need to play at 4k 60 fps to call it a gaming PC.

    1080p @ 50-60 fps can be achieved in all games for the £600 – I’m just building one for that tomorrow including the cost of a new Windows 8 OS. (as an upgrade to someones 6 year old Windows 7 PC using their existing case, OS, DVD, power supply and screen it would be £370 – you would save the difference to a console in the cost of games and online gaming within the first year).

    If you stay with a 1400×900 resolution monitor, you are laughing for another year on top.

    Yes, you need to understand what you are getting (and ideally someone who can build it).
    This PC will last 3 years as is as a gaming PC, or longer if turning down the graphics to console levels is acceptable.
    After the 3 years, probably a £100 spend on average every year will be needed to keep it up to date. No online fees and keeping your old games justifies this for me. No new controllers to buy, none of this starting off with 1-2 games like on a new console.

    My Steam library has grown over the last 18 months from nothing to over 125 games for less than £150 (that’s 5 games worth on a console.
    Many of these are AAA titles from the last 5 years – Tomb Raider, Far Cry 3, Splinter Cell Conviction, Grid Showdown, Bioshock Infinite, Mass Effect 3, Sim City etc.
    Many have been bought through Steam/Origin sales for less than £4 or for $1 as part of Humble Bundles.
    Others are top free games – Dota, War Thunder, Path of Exile.

    I know these games will be with me for many years. I don’t need to lose them like console owners do.
    Yes, some of these games are from bundles that I will never play – but I do play the majority of them at some point.

    Star Citizen will prove all this wrong in terms of a “gaming spec”, but that is a one off.

  2. bringing up the games header twice was a bit unnecessary especially with the imaginary GTAV release date.

  3. There’s nothing inherently shouty or large about a PC. There are plenty of understated cases (those from Fractal for example), and you can build an mitx machine that’s not far off a console’s dimensions and like a console wouldn’t look at all out of place in a living room, but with far more potential power than the PS4 or XBox One (see Silverstone’s Raven RVZ01 for such a case).

  4. Whilst I mostly agree.

    1. Author should have got facts correct for the GTA V PC release, it’s due next week, the April 14th, it was not released in March,
    2. Comments on PC gaming cases are incorrect, as it’s down to personal choice. You can have a flashy case with neon lights and clear sides for viewing if you wish, or you can go for a sleek, understated look, or anywhere between.
    3. As for noise, again that’s dependant on component choice, pick air cooling, and small fans, and you’ve got yourself a dust-buster under the desk, fit liquid cooling (easy and not costly these days with pre-built kits), and you have a near silent machine.

  5. An interesting article but another one that shows the writer isn’t as much of an expect on this area as they make out.
    Agreed with above, dependant on your requirements you can make a gaming PC as small and quiet (or quieter) than a console. Equally you can connect any screen you desire so a 50 inch Plasma if you wish – console does not win that category.
    On starting price a console does appear cheaper but given that a similar spec PC is not much more, plus most console gamers will have a PC for regular use of £200+ this extra cost of a PC is negated.
    They don’t have to have £100s spent on them each year to ‘keep up’ either. Games may get more demanding but if you wish to play with comparable visual specs to a console you don’t need to spend any money.
    I have a top end gaming PC and haven’t spent a penny on components in more than two years yet still get away with high or ultra settings.
    Aside from the above, I can’t knock a console’s ease of set-up verses a PC, they certainly have that edge. It certainly is a pick-up and play devise. That is why I have both console and PC though I hardly touch my consoles.

  6. Hi Guys, thanks for all your comments.
    Just in response to the main point about a console being slighter than your general gaming PC. Remember, I am talking generally.
    Sure, you can get hold of a more subtle and sleek case. But gaming PC that’s AS small and AS practical as a PS4/Xbox One for the £300 that they currently sell for, that will still run anything remotely considered new in the gaming world? Not a chance.
    Also, Dave on upgradability, you might not have to send £100s upgrading a system, but that’s because you’ve already spent £100s buying the system in the first place! I simply cannot buy any arguments that suggest a gaming PC can be as practical as a console.
    Ooh, and on the GTA V PC release. I’ll hold my hands up to that one. The original release date was 24th March, but has now been delayed to April 14th.

    Still, thanks for the input everyone.

  7. I would have to agree
    One thing though to do with costs i brought a gaming rig for £600 just over 2 years ago ( i already had a monitor ) and the system is still going strong, and when you compare the costs of console games V’s PC the difference between console and PC it doesn’t take long to close the gap.
    I do own an Xbox one which its only used for Blu-rays, streaming services and Fitness but i refuse to pay £50+ then some more on add on packs for a game.
    Though one bonus on X1 is EA access for £20 per year you get a good range of games to play

  8. A couple of points. Surely controllers should be mentioned, on a console you are limited to using a game pad, which is not ideal for all games where as a pc is not limited in this way as we can plug more types of devices in.

    Secondly the whole cost issues is much mitigated by the average PC gamer re-using components rather than buying from scratch. This means ongoing costs are lower. Also taking games into account the savings mount up. Frequently the pc version of a game is lower and drop very quickly. If you are willing to only go through Steam Sales, GOG, Origin sales and buy your AAA titles several months after release it is a real bargain and the investment in the PC is quickly earned back.

    Lastly, having seen the equivalent price for a pc with the same components it is a no brainer the hardware in consoles is really low end.

  9. Something that hasn’t been mentioned is the fact that over the years some very good AAA titles have been ruined by the rise in the console market. Only a few years back you would have multiplayer games on PC that had large maps, dedicated servers and the ability for the community to produce free custom maps/mods. This all changed with the rise of the console as the games are mostly produced for the console and its limited resources then ported over to the PC. A prime example of this was the Call Of Duty series look at CoD4 (Modern warfare). We had dedicated servers, large maps, free custom game modes and custom maps. This all changed from there on as everything was mainly made for the console market and just ported to the PC.

    If it wasn’t for the PC a lot of current games and their modes would not even exist (eg. Gun mode in CoD, DayZ mod (Now becoming DayZ SA) there are too many to mention.

  10. One thing you don’t mention is the existence of numerous free PC games, often open source, especially for Linux but also Windows and Mac. There’s nothing like that for consoles.

  11. I’ve always been a console gamer… up until this generation. Once I found out Ps4 was going to charge you extra to play online I made the switch to PC. Console games cost to much as it is, without the extra cost of paying to go online. I decided to buy a used custom made mini itx PC for my first. As I didn’t feel comfortable building my own yet. I found a really good deal, and I’ve never looked back. I wish I’d made the switch sooner. Now Windows 10 is out (and free) things just keep getting better. Also as I opted for a mini itx PC I can use it in the lounge and connect it to the TV. I have a a wireless mini keyboard and an Xbox controller. So I get the best of both worlds.

  12. An entertaining read and some points I found interesting.

    Not sure why aesthetics gets the same weight as performance which is clearly a more important category (probably the most important one).

    You can put together a gaming PC for much cheaper than £1000 . Although the technology is comparable now, the PC will totally outclass these consoles within a few years.

    It’s perhaps no surprise that the PC wins on a site chiefly known for selling computer parts.

  13. Hi,

    I love my console and I have a PS3 and the version that can play the PS2 games. I am desperate to upgrade but don’t play enough to justify the cost.

    I have got to say though, with the link between Microsoft Xbox and Windows I have been tempted to go to getting a mid-range gaming rig and taking on the Xbox genres as the link is apparently seamless and then I have access to everything that a PC can do as well.

    A PC in the front room will be the future, especially if they can make it for the size of a console with superior performance.

  14. Consoles are just pc’s in a plastic box, also why use the price tag they are now years after release, use the price that they first sell for which was over £400

  15. I have always played console, largely for convenience, and to some degree cost, though I think when you compare games cost and the online cost now this gap is closing and I am more open minded. I know people make a case for how cheap you can get a gaming pc for, but if you compromise the components to make it cheap it kind of defeats the point. I think in all honesty at this point I am still too casual a gamer to justify the outlay, but I will give it further thought before upgrading later this year.

  16. I think the big mistake with this post is it misses many other vital aspects such as accessibility, fairness, community and ease of use/support. PC Gaming may be high performing but costs a lot to maintain and does not provide an even playing field. PC’s are harder to support as more can go wrong with hardware and software. There is limited community as there is no universal chat or communication service….the list goes on. The simple answer is the PC suits those tinkerers, spenders, tweakers, modders and coders who play a very set amount of games and consoles suit those who just want to play games. So, in conclusion neither are better….you simply cannot compare them, its like applying the same pointless measure against a mobile phone. You have to have both to get the best experience as they both further the market.

  17. Although most of what you say is true I built a good gaming pc for £350,it runs the latest games at full spec and at 50 plus fps ( all of the components bought from ebuyer)
    The main difference in online play is the kind of gamer that you meet, Console’s seem to attract the less considerate and impolite gamer .
    I find PC gamers to be a more mature , and fairer minded, also the social side of Pc gaming is more welcoming and friendly and better structured

  18. alan
    22 February, 2016 at 12:26
    Although most of what you say is true I built a good gaming pc for £350,it runs the latest games at full spec and at 50 plus fps ( all of the components bought from ebuyer)
    The main difference in online play is the kind of gamer that you meet, Console’s seem to attract the less considerate and impolite gamer .
    I find PC gamers to be a more mature , and fairer minded, also the social side of Pc gaming is more welcoming and friendly and better structured

    £350 for a PC that runs games at full spec. STOP LYING

  19. “alan
    22 February, 2016 at 12:26
    Although most of what you say is true I built a good gaming pc for £350,it runs the latest games at full spec and at 50 plus fps” ( all of the components bought from ebuyer)

    You are defo lying and most probably in the employ of ebuyer

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