Overall, a PC offers better graphics, more upgrade options, and a greater variety of games than consoles, usually at a cheaper price.
On the other hand, a console is much more affordable and accessible in the long run, but the performance and the graphics usually aren’t as good, and console games tend to be a bit more expensive too.
You have most definitely come across a discussion on this subject somewhere on the internet. If it’s not PlayStation vs. Xbox, then it’s PC vs. both of them. So, let’s get into the discussion and find out which one is better.
Well, you might be surprised to know that there’s actually not a straightforward answer to that question.
Both PCs and consoles have many advantages and disadvantages. The question of which one is better for you is ultimately very subjective, as it depends on both your preferences and your budget.
In this article, we will be taking a look at the most critical factors that you should keep in mind if you’re trying to decide which platform suits you better.
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Types of PCs and Consoles
PCs – Desktop vs Laptop
The expression “gaming PC” often leads people to think of some fancy desktop setup with tons of RGB lighting, but let’s not forget that gaming laptops are a thing, too. When comparing desktops and laptops, however, a desktop will be a better pick for gaming in the vast majority of cases.
That’s because gaming laptops often feature underpowered components as it is tough to keep a gaming laptop running cool when both the CPU and GPU are under heavy load in a cramped chassis.
Sometimes, people turn to external graphics cards. However, those usually involve a rather hefty additional investment, and the bandwidth limitations still mean that a laptop with an external GPU won’t be as fast as a desktop with that same GPU. Not to mention that an external GPU case might take away from the laptop’s portability, which is one of its main strengths.
In any case, a gaming desktop is far better than a gaming laptop, both when it comes to performance and value. The main reason why you might want to go with a gaming laptop is if you spend a lot of time away from home and want to have your games with you. Otherwise, a desktop setup is your best bet on every front.
As for consoles, there are a few to choose from. The main players in this field are Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, and they all have their distinct consoles.
Generally speaking, the PlayStation and the Xbox pack more hardware power than Nintendo’s consoles, and they feature a wider selection of games, sharing many of them with the PC. Nintendo, in turn, mainly places its stock in innovation and first-party titles.
As such, it’s difficult to compare the Switch to the PC, and much like its predecessors — the Wii U and the original Wii — it is a versatile console that is primarily appealing due to its innovative new features and games.
On the other hand, the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One are very similar to each other and are also similar to PC. Without going too in-depth with comparisons, the two critical distinctions between the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One are the fact that the former has more high-quality single-player exclusives, while the latter has backward compatibility.
However, there’s little point in comparing them now that the 8th console generation is drawing to a close, the PlayStation 4 is about to be succeeded by the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X is replacing the Xbox One.
There was a point in time when gaming broke into the mainstream — we have consoles to thank for that. How did they do that? Simply by being more convenient and much cheaper than a gaming PC.
For example, the PlayStation 4 launched at $399, and the Xbox One launched at $499, which is roughly the price of a new budget gaming PC, excluding the peripherals.
Now, not only are consoles cheaper, to begin with, but they are also more cost-effective in the long run. Provided that you take care of it, a console can last for an entire generation (about seven years), and you’ll be able to play all of the games released for the platform without having to worry about compatibility issues or the hardware becoming outdated.
As for the prices of the upcoming 9th generation consoles, estimates say that both the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X will start at about $500, but we’ll have to wait until the final pricing is announced to be sure.
Unlike consoles, which are standardized hardware platforms, PCs can be comprised of a wide variety of different components, which means that the prices can vary wildly, too.
Based on the kind of performance that they can offer and the costs involved, gaming PCs are usually divided into the following categories:
- Entry-level – These are cheap, basic PCs that are often ill-suited for gaming and will inevitably struggle to run any of the newer and more demanding games.
- Budget – Budget PCs offer reliable performance at relatively low prices and will generally be able to run even the latest AAA games, but not at maximum settings. However, they will need some upgrades every few years to avoid becoming obsolete.
- Mid-range – A mid-range PC offers the best balance between cost, performance, and longevity.
- High-end – Boasting some of the best hardware on the market, high-end PCs cost a lot but also offer excellent performance in the latest AAA games and will last a long time before needing an upgrade.
- Enthusiast – Finally, we have gaming PCs that push the envelope, featuring cutting-edge hardware that usually comes at extremely high prices. That said, very few people are willing and/or able to spend this much on a gaming PC, hence the ‘enthusiast’ moniker.
Now, upgradeability is a big deal with gaming PCs, and you are mostly free to upgrade them as you see fit. Being able to sell your old components and put the money towards new ones means you won’t have to spend too much on keeping your PC up to date.
However, sometimes there are problems on this front, too. There might be some compatibility issues, such as the way that Intel kept messing with their LGA 1151 socket these past few years and made it impossible for people to upgrade their CPU without replacing the motherboard as well.
In any case, as we’ve established, the prices of gaming PCs can vary immensely. Also, most of them will need to be upgraded at some point or another, which means that they ultimately end up being more expensive than consoles, both when it comes to the initial purchase and in the long run.
We’ll now discuss the most important aspect of any gaming platform: the games themselves.
Many developers these days have consoles and console controllers primarily in mind when working on their games, and this is reflected in the PC release, too. Luckily, there aren’t any significant gaps between most games’ console and PC releases these days, except for some timed exclusive titles.
At the moment, most console exclusives are first-party titles developed by the console manufacturer trying to boost their hardware sales and brand, and this is most notably the case with Sony and Nintendo.
On the other hand, there are entire genres of games that are almost absent from consoles — MMOs, MOBAs and strategy games. On top of that, PC also has a more vibrant indie scene and, of course, mods.
One advantage of getting physical copies of games is that you can always resell them or get them cheaper if you buy them used. This is something you can’t do with account-bound digital copies.
PC games, on the other hand, don’t get physical releases anymore. Of course, you can still find PC games in stores, but these are usually just boxes containing an activation code for what is currently the most popular platform for PC gaming – Valve’s Steam.
Of course, some big companies such as EA, Bethesda and Ubisoft also have their platforms/launchers that aren’t necessarily connected to Steam.
However, it’s not those launchers but third-party online stores that are important, stores like Humble Bundle, GOG or GreenManGaming. These, along with some other stores, often have better deals than Steam does, so they are good alternatives to acquiring PC games.
On top of that, there are also the so-called “grey markets“, such as Kinguin, which serve as platforms for selling and reselling games.
As we have already mentioned, every game released for a console will work well on said console. However, there are always some exceptions where certain games are either too demanding for the aging hardware or simply aren’t optimized well enough.
PC games usually aren’t as well-optimized, and some releases could have serious issues with bugs and crashes, which is only natural considering that a PC could be utilizing all sorts of hardware from across several years. That’s why optimization is a bit more problematic in PCs than when it comes to standardized configurations used by consoles.
Something else that should be considered is backwards compatibility. On a PC, you will be able to run most games straight out of the gate, and while some older releases won’t be running flawlessly on newer hardware, it usually doesn’t take much effort to fix.
Meanwhile, backwards compatibility has been a bit of an issue when it comes to consoles. The Xbox One was compatible with most of the older Xbox releases, while the PlayStation 4 couldn’t run any of its predecessors’ titles.
The situation is looking better on this front now that both the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5 will be backwards compatible. However, the latter will only be able to run PS4 titles, and PS3 games will only be playable via PlayStation Now.
And those would be all the points to consider when comparing console and PC gaming. Ultimately, it’s all very subjective, so which of these finally present better value will be up to you to decide. We’ll leave you with an overview of the pros and cons of each platform:
- Superior performance
- Better graphics
- More ways to acquire games at lower prices
- More indie, strategy, MMO, and MOBA titles
- More expensive
- Cheaper configurations aren’t very future-proof
- More affordable
- Easy to set up and use
- A number of great first-party exclusives
- Very future-proof
- Dubious backward compatibility
- Fewer discounts than on PC
- Performance not as good as on most PCs