PC gaming has long reigned as the champion of gamers everywhere. PCs have been the preferred system to own simply because of the raw power they hold over consoles. PCs can easily be built for gamers and they serve a far greater variety of needs than consoles. There’s no doubt that PCs have dominated in the past, but as technology improves, the focus of gaming has shifted. Games today are made with more of a console mindset, and the average gamer prefers something they can play on their big screen from a couch as opposed to shelling out thousands for a PC setup. Now, with the PS5 and Xbox Series X out in the market, the performance gap seems to have shrunk down to almost negligible sizes. So how can PC gaming continue to dominate in modern times?
How powerful are consoles?
Let’s start off by listing down performance metrics. The Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X are the newest offerings from Sony and Microsoft respectively. These consoles are designed for modern gaming needs and are the most powerful systems the tech giants have created to date. Most of the components that comprise these systems are top-of-the-line. Below, we’ve illustrated each system’s technical specifications.
Xbox Series X
The Xbox Series X is Microsoft’s flagship console for the new generation. It has been designed to be twice as powerful as the Xbox One X, and incorporate modern technologies to enhance gaming experience. One of the most prominent features of the console is its internal solid-state drive (SSD) storage. With a significant leg up over conventional hard drives, SSDs have become the most preferable means of storage on both consoles and PCs. However, consoles of the previous generation came shipped with mechanical drives out of the box, meaning that gamers would have to manually swap out the internals to be able to have faster I/O speeds.
Along with the faster storage, Microsoft has invested in the Xbox Velocity Architecture, a new storage solution designed to really speed up the loading of assets and core functions. This makes the Series X absolutely shred when it comes to loading games, even from a cold boot.
Besides the faster storage, the Xbox Series X has other internals to rival gaming PCs. The system uses custom GPUs with ray-tracing support, support for up to 8K resolution, variable refresh rate, and custom AMD Zen2 processors. The backwards compatibility is also a major selling point for the system, offering upgraded graphics and auto-HDR for older titles. Games from even the Xbox One are upscaled with better resolutions and more immersion.
The Playstation 5 has also been custom-built for the modern gamer. Boasting much of the same specs as the Xbox Series X, the PS5 kicks it up a notch in certain areas of performance. For one thing, the memory bandwidth and I/O throughput is scaled differently. The custom NVMe SSD also shows a more hardware-centric implementation of direct storage retrieval.
The PS5 places great emphasis on storage speeds and how data is pulled from the SSD. The system’s lead designer, Mark Cerny explained how SSDs can speed up loading to the point where it was near-instantaneous in a “blink and you’ll miss it” state. The goal was always to build next-gen consoles with faster speeds and more throughput at the forefront. To serve that end, custom hardware was designed over at Sony to leverage SSD technology in even faster ways than it is being implemented right now. The PCIe 4.0 protocol seems to be the key here, with consoles using it unlike how PCs do. The custom RDNA 2 GPU is also pushing the envelope to what modern gaming PCs can do.
Coupled with the system’s immense popularity, it’s easy to see why the PS5 is in high demand right now.
How does PC gaming fare against new consoles?
So with the new systems finally in the market, how do they fare against PC gaming? The answer, unsurprisingly, is that PC gaming still has a lot of benefits to it. Going over some of them shows just how much value you get from being part of the PC master race.
To start with, PC gaming doesn’t adhere to conventional architecture. When you build a gaming PC, you have a plethora of components to choose from. CPUs can be Intel- or AMD-based. GPUs can come from ATI or Nvidia. Storage can be configured in multiple different ways. RAM can be chosen in a number of configurations and sizes. Even the casing can be your own unique blend. There are so many variables that go into building a gaming PC that you’ll have an infinite number of possibilities.
This has been one of the strongest selling points of PC gaming. Getting a system that is designed exactly as you want it is a benefit that really helps out. You can adjust your build according to your budget or requirements, and still come out with a great system. It’s one of the many reasons why gamers still prefer having a PC instead of a console.
Tying into the customization aspect is the potential for upgradability. Say a few months down the line, you spot a great deal on some hard drives, graphics cards or RAM. With the nature of PCs, you can buy components later down the line and add them to your system. The upgradability of gaming PCs makes it much more preferable than consoles, which have limited options in terms of upgrades. The newer systems do allow you to add more storage, but that’s about it. What you bought on day one is what you’re riding with all the way through.
The hardware of the PS5 and Series X is truly spectacular. It does so many great things with its internals, and exclusive titles really make full use of it. However, PC components continue to have generational advancements at a much faster rate. Even if PCs barely manage to eke out consoles today, new technologies are introduced much faster to the PC space. This means that in a few years’ time, we’ll have much more advanced hardware powering our systems.
Take, for example, the situation when the PS4 and Xbox One were released. At the time, the most powerful GPU was the Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 Ti and the GeForce Titan X. That is a far cry from the graphics cards available today when those systems are still alive. The recently-released RTX 3090 and RX 6900 XT are overkill in terms of PC gaming. Comparing them to the PS5 and Series X absolutely decimates console numbers, and it’s only going to get better for PC from there.
Repairing a gaming PC is a lot simpler thanks to its customizable nature. Damaged components can easily be swapped out for another in the same line, and you’d still have the same great performance. They can also be individually repaired without much hassle. For a console, however, you’ll be facing a lot more trouble. Because of their specialized parts and configuration, consoles will need extra work put in. You might have to solder on new components, use special tools, and will always suffer devaluation of your entire system. Most importantly, you’ll almost always need to take your console to a repair shop. With PCs, you can even do it yourself.
Moving towards the software side of things, the PC platform has a lot more to offer for gaming. Many services like Steam and GOG offer great titles at cheaper prices for PC gaming, and it hardly costs anything to enjoy your favorite games. For consoles, however, you’ll have to buy into PS Plus or Xbox Live to play online with your friends. And in terms of content delivery, Xbox Game Pass and PS Now don’t really have the same appeal as owning a game and being able to play it natively. Finally, consoles limit your choices with their marketplace, whereas the PC lets you choose from multiple different platforms.
No matter how popular they ultimately are, a console still only can play games. You might be able to stream from them or enjoy Netflix, but the best use for a console will always be for gaming. PCs, on the other hand, offer much more.
With the raw horsepower of a gaming PC, you can run other intensive applications on it as well. Streamers can run their games and manage their stream from a single platform at the same time. Modders can create more content for existing games. Content creators can edit game footage and create images on a gaming PC. You could even run AutoCAD and create 3D models. And if those things don’t fall in your domain, you can run media off of it with ease. With a gaming PC, you can run just about any kind of application and use it for any purpose you want.
Summing up PC gaming
While most of this piece sounds like an argument for the PC master race, the truth is undeniable. Console gaming has come an incredibly long way, getting progressively more powerful with the years. However, the power and utility of computers make PC gaming the most preferred method of millions of gamers the world over.
Consoles certainly do cost less for the initial price, and being able to play the latest games and exclusives is very simple and easy. Yet PCs offer an endless degree of customization and use and work superbly for both work and play. Having deep pockets certainly helps if you’re a PC gamer, but even modest systems are able to enjoy many of the benefits PC gaming provides. And as time moves on, playing on console-level parity is only going to get much more affordable.