With the recent release of the latest generation of gaming consoles, it feels like they have finally made their way back to being more affordable and objectively better than an equivalent PC with a matching price point. I say made their way back because the Xbox One and PS4 could be outmatched by a PC for roughly the same price, if maybe a small amount more. Compare that to the Xbox 360 and PS3 that both introduced advanced hardware at a fraction of the price it would have cost to build an equivalent PC back in 2005/2006. The Xbox Series and PlayStation 5 feel like an emphatic return to the glory days of consoles being much cheaper while also being super competitive with PCs for years to come.
So let’s put some numbers behind this to explain just how incredible of a value these new consoles are. The Xbox Series S is the cheapest of the bunch coming in at $299 USD. That’s cheaper than you could even reasonably build a new PC at all for, let alone one with competitive specs. The Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 come in between $399 and $499 USD, which makes them both cheaper than even just the graphics card that would be needed for a competing PC. Trying to add all the other components to get you an equivalent PC would put you far beyond the most expensive of the consoles by a considerable amount. You could make the argument that used prices for equivalent PC hardware may be competitive in the future, but you could also buy used consoles in the future for cheaper than they sell for today. PCs still enjoy the benefits of free multiplayer and deeper discounts on games during events like Steam sales, but services like Xbox Game Pass, Games with Gold, and PlayStation Plus’ free games introduce quite a lot of value to consoles. Xbox Game Pass for example allows you to play some AAA titles day one for a fraction of the cost of having to buy each of them individually at full price. This new generation of consoles is chocked full of truly incredible hardware at a fraction of the cost that it ought to be.
So I keep talking about the hardware but what does that even mean? Well all the new consoles come with the latest generation Zen 2 CPU, RDNA 2 GPU, NVMe SSD, GDDR6 memory, and even ray-tracing capabilities. 4K and 120 FPS have long been the rally cry of PC gamers when talking about PC vs. consoles, but the Series X and PS5 are now more than capable of hitting those benchmarks. Features like Quick Resume on the Xbox Series consoles are currently not possible on a PC unless you intend on keeping all your games open at once. Input latency has also been drastically reduced in the Xbox Series consoles thanks to overall hardware and architecture improvements, as well as higher framerates, as you can see in the graph below for Gears 5. This helps games feel responsive or “snappier”, much like how PC games feel when played with a keyboard and mouse. The quick start up times of the Xbox Series and PS5 give even the highest end PCs a run for their money with both taking 25 seconds or less to cold boot thanks to the introduction of high-end SSDs. The Series X also bests absolutely everything available on the market by a huge margin with its immensely impressive four second start up when left on standby mode. Part of the reason for these incredible speeds is thanks to the raw hardware performance on the PS5, and Microsoft tackling lots of the fundamental bottlenecks deep within technical systems which they have branded as the Xbox Velocity Architecture.
Gaming consoles have always benefitted from not having to do tasks such as managing device drivers, managing resources (such as closing or stopping non-game applications or services for better performance), and not having to deal with games not working correctly on your specific hardware. Being centered around gaming and media means that consoles do not have much additional functionality like a PC, but that also means that they are much more focused and offer a simpler gaming experience overall. PC gaming does offer up substantially more variety and quantity of games, though consoles still have some very good exclusives on both the Sony and Microsoft sides. That being said, this is becoming less of an advantage for the Xbox as Microsoft is bringing more and more of their exclusives over to the PC world. Backwards compatibility in the new consoles helps moot the benefit that PC gaming used to almost exclusively offer, even more so for the Xbox consoles. Microsoft has done a tremendous job of bringing games dating all the way back to the original Xbox on to their backwards compatibility list and has taken things a step further by improving old games running on the new hardware in ways a PC does not. Improved texture and anisotropic filtering, automatic HDR, and features like quick resume all put the Xbox ahead of a PC for playing old titles. As with every new console, the games will only get better and better at utilizing the new architectures and systems within the consoles to continue pushing their capabilities further over their lifetime.
It’s great to see Microsoft and Sony finally going back to the roots of what made consoles a great alternative to PC gaming in the first place. Hopefully we see improvements made for the new consoles trickle in to the PC world to help improve gaming for everybody. I can’t wait to see what game developers can do with the new consoles in the upcoming years, and I can’t wait to explore the brave new worlds that will come along with that.