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We see this a lot, and it’s getting old: Elitist behavior from strictly PC gamers and Console gamers turning up their noses just as much, but from a different perspective. With the announcement of the new PS4 Pro, we’re seeing a resurgent wave of side taking over which is better, as if this was an election. The truth is however, that neither is better, and it all comes down to individual tastes and needs. Let’s clear some things up by looking at facts and how they relate to costs, ease of use, graphics and exclusive content.
The PS4 Pro is 400 USD out of the box. That’s a decent price. There is a big, obvious “hidden” cost in there though. If you want to play online, you have to pay for PS+. That’s 50 USD per year for 3-4 years over it’s lifespan, which I’m measuring as its existence as a current gen console. The real price so far? 550 USD. The total if you bought a $400 PS4 at launch when it reaches the end of it’s 6-8 year life span? 700 to 800 USD.
Now let’s take a look at one PC that can be built presently using a mix of easily available used and new parts (all prices listed are at time of writing):
- i5 2500k (overclock it to like 4.5 ghz): $20
- Dell Optiplex 7010 SFF LGA-1155 DDR3 Intel Motherboard: $40
- Cpu fan: $10
- G.Skill Ares Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-2133 Memory: $40
- Seagate Barracuda 1TB 3.5″ 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive: $49
- Gigabyte Radeon RX 480 8GB Video Card: $240
- Xion XON-310_BK MicroATX Mid Tower Case: $25
- EVGA 430W 80+ Certified ATX Power Supply: $25
A total of 450 USD for a PC that is over 40% more powerful. That isn’t even the cheapest it can go, as more deals can be had for those willing to scour for used deals.
If that’s too much work for you or you are opposed to buying used parts, you can go a slightly more expensive route and buy those parts new for around a total of 550 USD. This is 150 more than the PS4 Pro out of the box, but the same price as the launch PS4, which was also $400, if you factor in the yearly cost of PS+. This is almost certainly cheaper than the launch PS4 Pro for precisely the same reason, and significantly cheaper than the PS4 (even at the current $350 price point) at the end of it’s several year life span with PS+ costs included.
Just to be super clear, let me put together a $900 PC using only parts available in 2013, which is when the PS4 came out, at their launch prices:
- R9 290: $400
- Intel i5 2500k: $216
- 8GB of 1333mhz GDDR3: $40
- Asus Maximus V Gene Z77: 165
- Rosewill Photon 550w power supply $64
- Seagate Barracuda 35′ 7200RPM 1TB HDD: $50
- Any decent case: $30
- OS: Linux, unless someone has a spare copy of windows for you.
This machine is a total of 965 USD, assuming you bought everything brand new, on launch and bought nothing on sale. If you bought that machine at the same time as the PS4 came out not only would you have a system more powerful than the PS4 at a slightly higher cost over the lifetime of the PS4, but you’d have a system more powerful than the PS4 Pro is right now. If you waited to buy the PC until you would have bought the PS4 Pro, you’re looking at a roughly 450 USD PC because the parts are old and cheap, as I demonstrated.
For completion’s sake, if you’re not upgrading to the PS4 Pro and want a PC to PS4 price comparison someone has beat me to it. It’s a $375 computer that will match or beat the standard PS4’s performance for less than the launch price of the PS4 and for $300-400 dollars less over the PS4’s lifespan if you factor in PS+, which makes beating the performance and price of the PS4 significantly easier in the long term.
If you’re upgrading from a PS4 to a PS4 pro in November, you will have spent $750-$800 on consoles and $150 on PS+ (again, only to date,), which puts your total at $900-$950 dollars and the lifetime total at $1000-$1100, and you’re still on a less powerful machine than the far older computer.
In the cost example, including the cost of the monitor is not relevant unless you include the cost of the TV for a console, but you can just as easily hook a PC up to a TV and have no need for a dedicated monitor. TVs tend to cost more than monitors but since you can connect a PC or console to either, the point is a wash.
Overall, PC is cheaper, and you can do more things with it. If you factor out the price of PS+ the prices are about even if you put no effort into finding any of the PC parts on sale. The Xbox One is even more expensive (it launched at 500 USD and is less powerful) so the PS4 is the best cost case for consoles.
Ease of Use
Consoles are idiot proof by design, and everything is done automatically although you have to spend just as much time as PC waiting around for things to update or install this gen it seems. Hooray for progress.
There is no question, that if you want to get those cheap prices I listed, you have to put together a PC yourself and acquire a copy of Windows or use Linux, so the initial effort required to make it work is higher unless you want to drive up prices. Once that’s done modern games are just as easy to play with Steam as they are on consoles, it’s only more work if you want to do more to it (like modding) except in the rare case of a missing file or corrupt install, which happens on consoles as well.
There are extra costs and considerations if you want to get a wireless keyboard/mouse/controller (or much cheaper UBS cord extensions) or an HDMI cable to play PC games from your couch.
PC is more work, although in relative terms, it’s not building a new shed. But it isn’t the plug it in and watch it do it’s thing experience you get with consoles.
This particular consideration isn’t much of a competition and that’s being as objective as possible. Any of the computers I listed the parts for are quite capable of running a stable 30fps on max settings for 1080p games and if you turn down settings that eat power but provide little benefit, such as turning anisotropic filtering down from x16 to x4 for example, it can manage significantly more. If you really want to kill the quality settings they will manage 4k 30 while looking more or less the same as the console versions. Some developers can quite frankly achieve startlingly high quality visuals and smooth performance out of consoles, but similarly priced, and more powerful PCs can run them just as well or better by virtue of a massive power advantage. If graphical fidelity is a huge need, PC is going to be the platform that delivers.
This particular debate is brought up a lot because there are literally thousands of PC exclusives. For starters, PC is backwards compatible all the way back to the 70s and 80s, although getting such games to run is not always easy, yet consoles aren’t even fully backwards compatible from last gen. As for strictly PC exclusives this is a list of PC exclusives for this year and the next 2 years. Some have since been announced for release on consoles since the list was written, but the majority have not. This is a list of mostly AA or AAA PC exclusives in general. There is no list of worthwhile indie titles because it would be one long list of titles. By comparison any given console gets very few exclusives, beyond any they develop 1st party like Bloodborne or the occasional indie title they publish exclusively.
Have I covered all the main arguments? Please don’t take this as me being down on consoles overall. I like consoles. I own 9 consoles and 5 handhelds. They’re easier to use, fewer things can go wrong if I do something stupid, local multiplayer is more common, I don’t have to do a bunch of research and/or legwork to get the parts I need at better prices, they’re easier to drag to a friends house to play with them, you get the idea. I get it. Just don’t pretend we’re paying for anything other than those listed conveniences. There is nothing wrong with paying for those things unless it’s blind devotion (which is odd considering these are all large multinational corporations) and whether either is “better” depends entirely on how much you value those things and how much of them you feel you’re provided, but that is all you’re paying for.
Thoughts on this? Feel free to point out any errors or oversights but let’s try and keep the conversation productive and flame free. If we can, perhaps there is hope for the gaming community after all.
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