PC vs Consoles: The Ultimate Showdown

By -

Ever since the first gaming console came into existence, this debate has spurred the internet to argue which platform provides the ultimate gaming experience. You can visit any forum or news site, you are bound to witness the notorious PC vs Consoles argument, which has become kind of a cliché, much like the Apple vs Android debate. This article tries to settle if one of the platforms can be declared a winner or if both devices have their own pros and cons which cannot be provided by the counter-party.

Important note: This article is an opinion piece. You may not agree with some of the points mentioned by the author. Feel free to let us know your thoughts in the comments below but please keep it civil!

psc

So, before we begin, let’s clear a few things up beforehand:

  • Even though the title reads as PC vs “Consoles” but most of the arguments will be supplemented by Sony’s PlayStaion and Microsoft’s Xbox. I apologize to the Wii users but Nintendo takes a back seat because, let’s be honest, I don’t feel it beats the PS or Xbox in anyway, other than casual gaming, and here we are more interested in the hardcore gaming.
  • Both sets of fans, Sony and Microsoft’s, are facing a common enemy, the so-called “Master Race” aka PC, therefore, for the sake of this article (and as strange as this sounds) you console boys are “friends”. You guys have to unite against this mutual enemy if you want to come out as victors!
  • By any means of imagination, I CAN NOT be considered a console or a PC “fanboy”. I owned the PS1, PS2, Xbox 360, PSP (the first one when it came out), PSP-GO and Nintendo DS (mistake?). I also had a well-equipped PC which gave the consoles a run for the money

Now that’s out of the way, let the battle begin!

Non-Gaming Uses:

First of all, let’s briefly consider which of these platforms provide more services for the end user. Consoles are primarily marketed as a gaming device while PCs are all-in-one device. There is no denying the fact that PCs provide more uses as compared to consoles.

Winner: PC

The latest iteration of consoles certainly makes a huge jump to bridge the gap between themselves and PCs by providing many services such as ability to make video calls, watching movies online etc. but even then, they cannot match benefits offered by a computer.

I just discussed this concisely so that everyone is aware that consoles cannot replace computers for general use but can they replace the PCs for gaming? Lets find out! 

Cost flexibility:

Looking at the current market, you can get hold of a brand new, basic console bundle for $400. Generally speaking, you don’t have much room to wiggle the price. The console can be a bit cheaper or expensive if you go for the system with less or more storage respectively. Other than that, you don’t have much options irrespective of the fact if you have $300 in your pocket or $800.

PCs on the other hand, are the very definition of flexibility. Spending money on computers is like a pit that is deep enough to swallow all the money you throw in it.

If money is not a problem, then it is even possible to buy only a graphics card which costs more than what people earn in a month!! Similarly, if you are on a tight budget, you can get cheaper components and it is possible you can end up with a decent gaming PC that costs less than consoles…… But then, you shouldn’t whine that your neighbour’s GTX Titan performs better than your budget PC.

said-no-gamer-ever-memeWinner: PC

PCs are the clear winner here. Depending on your budget, you can get a gaming PC of any price and depending on how much you spend, the results would be that much better (more on this later). However, a real dilemma arises when you’re on a…..

Fixed budget:

As mentioned earlier, a no-frills console costs almost $400. Now the important question arises that if you have only $400, then what would be better? A console or a PC? Well, there is no black or white answer to this as this is subjective and depends on the person’s choice or preference but I feel that on a fixed budget there can only be one winner

Winner: Consoles

For me, a console would be my platform of choice if I was on a limited budget. The reasoning behind this is simple. I feel that for $400, consoles provide a better value for money than PC. Whether a $400 PC performs better than a console or not is still debatable with some games performing better on PC but due to some reasons (mentioned later), I would go for a console if I had $400 rather than building a computer from scratch.

Upgrades and Repairs:

As I’ve already said that if I had $400 to make a PC from scratch or buy a console, I’d go for the latter. However, what if I had the same amount but this time, the choice I had to make was get a console or “upgrade” my computer? In this case, I would be inclined to just upgrade my PC.

Similarly, if my console stops working for some reason, in 99% of the cases, the only thing I can do is get a new one (much like the infamous RROD which plagued the Xbox 360). On the other hand, I can just replace the malfunctioned component of a computer and there is a really good chance that it would be useable again

Winner: PC

The thing is that, unless you grandfather passed you his computer upon his death, you do not need to buy all the components again for an upgrade. You can just buy the relevant parts and upgrade your PC. Yes, technological advances are sometimes backwards incompatible but even then, not all parts need to be replaced.

hA1CA624DSo if I feel that my computer is slow, I can just plug in a SSD for faster performance. Similarly, if I need more graphics quality, I can just add a new graphics card with most of the other parts left untouched.

Ease of Use:

Let’s consider the process of playing a game on computer

  •  You insert the disc/download the game
  •  Install the game
  •  Install the companion app which is required for some games (Such as Ubi-Launcher or EA’s Origin)
  •  Enter the key to activate the game
  •  Select recommended settings based on what your PC can handle
  •  Play the game.

This list is not exhaustive as you would sometimes be required to update your graphics card drivers, DirectX or some other system application (for example Microsoft’s C++ Redistributable package etc.) to get the best performance.

Whereas, on a console all you have to do is

  • You insert the disc/download the game
  • Install some files (required by a couple of games)
  • Play

Yup, that’s it. Moreover, the UI of consoles is also more focused on the gaming side and provides an easy access to our library.

Winner: Consoles

Yes, computers provide more power to the end user but gaming on consoles can be considered more of a “plug and play” system, and hence, more “user friendly”. You don’t need to change any settings whatsoever. On consoles, the game either runs for you, or it doesn’t. There is no third alternative faced by PC users such as bad performance of a game, crashes, glitches etc.

Controllers:

Consoles are limited to their own controllers with usually no support for any third party controllers. So you won’t be able to play on your Xbox with your preferred PS’s DualShock controller. If you aren’t satisfied with the official controller, you can’t do much other than buy some after-market devices which might or might not work for you.

And you can’t use a mouse for FPS games.

apq1YZM_460s_v1

Computers face no such limitation as you can choose from a wide variety of devices to provide you the best gaming experience. You can plug in a Xbox/PS controller if you’re playing FIFA, a keyboard/mouse if you’re playing Battlefield, a joystick if want to fly some planes or even a steering wheel if you want to drive some cars. In short, the possibilities are endless

Winner: PC

Yes, consoles do have their fair share of gaming accessories but even then, the options are limited as compared to PCs. If a controllers isn’t ergonomic enough for you, you can easily switch to a different manufacturer until you’re happy with what you hold in your hands. Comparatively the competition among third-party controllers for consoles isn’t that saturated.

Mods and Tweaks:

Mods and tweaks not only provide you more entertainment, they can also enhance your overall gaming experience by improving the game and/or ironing out bugs missed by the developers. Due to the closed nature of consoles, mods are practically non-existent in the current generation of consoles (some mods were possible in the older consoles).

Winner: PC

The modding community is a whole new world in gaming. Many old games such as Skyrim are still very much alive due to this community. Mods can be used to further improve the graphics quality, as evident from this mod in Skyrim

8498992890_39a07fcd38_b

Or they can provide you some items not in the stock game, such as a Lamborghini in GTA IV

1390477066_GTAIV 2014-01-19 01-39-54-24Or sometimes they are just there to make you laugh

gta hulk

So, mods are a vital source of entertainment and sadly, consoles cannot benefit from them.

Games and Exclusives:

A great advantage consoles have over computers is that they are “owned” by a corporation which is committed to making it a household item. As console are a ‘gaming console’ therefore to ensure that they meet their goal, many breath-taking (exclusive) games make their way on consoles. These games may or may not be ported to other platforms.

waiting-for-gta-v-for-pc_o_2062227

This is not to say that PCs don’t get exclusives infact, the PC users get more exclusives as compared to consoles. But not all these games are backed by a big company hence they usually go unnoticed or they are not the exclusive AAA games which the console users get.

Winner: Draw

Well, there is no clear winner in this category. Both platforms have unique games and at the end of the day, it comes down to the gamer’s preference. Ask one person he will say he can’t live without DOTA and the other person will say he prefers The Last Of Us over any DOTAs or Counter-Strikes available on computers.

Personally, I would prefer a quality AAA game such as Halo, Ryse etc over strategic based games so I was inclined to say that consoles have better games. But I can’t because we, the PC users have Goat Simulator! ‘nuff said.

GAMES PRICES:

Any new game usually costs the same, irrespective of the platform on which we buy it. It doesn’t matter if we are buying the disc for PS4 or the PC, the cost would almost be same.

So if all the games cost the same then why are we even discussing this? Well, that’s because now-a-days, disc retail is only half the story and many people are using digital distribution channels to buy games.

The consoles are limited by their manufacturer’s online stores but computers face no such limitation. Of all the online stores for computers, the most popular is Steam due to its wide user base, features and the huge sales.

Console users not only get discounts on games but they can also benefit from some free games after a stipulated time (such as GAMES FOR PSN) but is that enough to rival Steam?

Winner: PC

Chances are, you won’t agree with me if you don’t know what Steam is, or you would be shedding a tear (of joy?) if you’ve linked your credit card details with your Steam account. Steam annual sales are a nerd’s equivalent of Black Friday (except people being trampled to death) with jaw-dropping sales in which you can buy a quality game with the price being in single digits.

steam

For those who still don’t believe this, they can just go to the Steam Store and see for themselves. You can buy some great games such as Far Cry 3, Grid 2 etc. all for a mere $7.49. Moreover, many games, such as Witcher 2, Assassin’s Creed III, Amnesia etc. all cost less than $5.

Can console sales beat this? I don’t think so!

Backwards Compatibility:

The last-gen of consoles was backwards compatible, for example, the PS3 (earlier builds atleast) could play almost all the PS2 and even PS1 games. However, as the years moved by, the old games were forgotten (or we were forced to forget them?) and the current consoles are NOT backwards compatible. Yes, yes, I know Sony is working hard to provide us backwards compatibility but it isn’t a trusted and working solution as of yet.

PCs however face no issue of backwards compatibility and in most cases, any old game can easily be played on it. Heck, I sometimes play the good old Unreal Tournament on my computer just to kill some time. Moreover, many online stores, with GOG being the leading one, provide a huge access to many of the classic games for PCs

Winner: PC

Computers are the clear winner here. Moreover, a huge arsenal of emulators allows them to play vintage games, ranging from Genesis games to PS2 and Wii games.

Graphics:

Now, this is the most important, yet controversial, discussion in this war.

If you’ve been on the internet in the last five here, then you know the drill. Here is the current “food-chain”:

  • Xbox One people enjoying their Voice commands and Kinect.
  • Xbox One picked on by PS4 “lolololol 792p. That’s not HD. Come to our side to play in 900p 30fps”
  • PS4 boys picked on by PC “lololol 900p with 30fps? What is this 2010? Join the Glorious Master Race”

Ok, you get the idea!

As discussed earlier, computers can easily be upgraded to a processing/graphics power of your choice so obviously they are more powerful as compared to consoles but there is an important thing to note. Consoles are designed to run games whereas PCs are not a dedicated gaming system. A major portion of the resources are used by the operating system and other services.

pcvsconsole

Generally speaking, more power equals to more pixels which in turn means more quality graphics. Due to the nature of computers, they can harness more raw power as compared to consoles which should (theoretically) mean that their graphics outperforms consoles…. So does it?

Winner: PC

Yes, it does. But not by the margin you would expect it to. There is a difference but only if you’re looking for it, as evident from some in-depth comparison between the platforms. In most cases the PC outdoes its counterpart and in the worst case scenario, the PC performs at the same level as that of consoles.

The biggest difference comes down to the resolution difference. The newest consoles ultimate target is 1080p gameplay, which the PC gamers have been enjoying for quite some time. Yes, the Xbox One and PS4 are miles ahead of their predecessor consoles but they still haven’t been able to reach the height of computers, in terms of graphical processing power. Moreover, besides PCs raw computational powers, the hardware vendors continually strive to provide the best experience by sugar-coating the game with effects exclusive to PCs and other tweaks to increase the performance.

A defence in favour of consoles is that they are a relatively ‘new device’ and therefore developers are not fully able to utilize their power. There is certainly some truth to this and much like last-gen, the results would only get better from here but at the same time, the same is true for computers as the hardware manufacturers are also continually rolling out new drivers and optimizing the code (such as DirectX12 or Mantle) to improve the performance of their graphic cards!

However, at the end of the day, consoles would still be behind computers (graphically) due to less power. One evidence that points to this is that the ultimate target resolutions of consoles is 1080p in 60fps whereas the PC community is already moving towards 4K gaming.

So yes, the graphics of PCs are better than consoles but…

Optimization:

Computers provide more detailed graphics as compared to consoles but sometimes, graphics are not the only factor to consider. Stable frame rate and a consistent gameplay is equally important. After all, what good is all the eye-candy if the game is stuttering like anything?

Winner: Consoles

I feel that this is console’s trump card! The principal strength of computers, our ability to cherry-pick and mix all the best components and the fact that it can be upgraded easily, turns it into a disadvantage. This happens because it is easy for a developer to optimize a game for a fixed hardware (a console) as compared to optimizing it for a million different combinations of components.

carmack-ps4

Another thing is that (as discussed earlier) consoles are backed by their manufacturer, and due to their pressure and the inherent financial benefits of a successful console game, the game developer is more focused for a solid performance on the console. This also results in a poor quality port when the game finally arrives on the PC. Games such as Assassin’s Creed 4 and more recently, Watch_Dogs, prove this point as even people with top of the line Titan GPU in SLI failed to run the game without stuttering.

Future-proof?:

Now, it comes down to one final question; which one would be more beneficial in the long run, assuming no hardware failures occur? In other words, if you buy a console/PC today, which one would provide you with a more stable gameplay after, say, 5 years without any more investment on your part?

Winner: Consoles

Well this was a tough call but I feel consoles are a better investment. Yes, the graphics won’t be as good as computers but the thing is, you won’t feel left out as the lower graphics would be countered by stable and enjoyable experience due to better optimisation as discussed earlier.

Looking at last-gen consoles, their life span was about 6-7 years. So if you bought a console on launch day, again assuming there were no hardware failures, you could enjoy a game with the same graphics quality as someone who bought a console a week back! However the same cannot be said about computers. Just take a 6 year old computer (graphics card, processor etc.) and try to run a latest game, there is a really good chance it would struggle to even run it on the lowest settings.

Yes, the game is better optimized for console that equates to a better gameplay but that’s the thing. Whatever the reason, a 5 year old console would provide a much better experience than a PC bought 5 years ago!

Conclusion:

Long story short, consoles and gaming PCs are different markets. Both these platforms attract different groups of people.

So which one should you buy? Well, that depends on you! There are many pros and cons of both devices but at the end of the day, the decision rests with you and your preference.

You could go for a PC if you are a ‘power user’ who likes to tweak and mod the games to get the best graphics and gameplay experience and you are not afraid of running into (and solving) problems and bugs caused by your actions. However, there is a good chance you would need to spend more cash as compared to your consoles counter-parts. As our friendly hero Spiderman’s uncle once said “With great power comes great responsibility”.

Consoles-as-Friends

On the other hand, if you prefer a smooth and user-friendly gaming experience over all the eye-candy then go for a console since it’s much easier to operate as compared to a PC. But then again, what’s stopping us from getting both and enjoying the best of both worlds?!

Well, hope you liked this! Do you agree with what you read or not? Let us know in the comments!

Hammad Shahid
  • good ol gav

    great article, but you are forgetting the community (consoles and squeakers apposed to pc’s and men that can afford a decent machine) squeakers are taking over console!! whereas there are no where near the amount of squeakers on pc because its “too complicated” or “pc is too expensive” I own both and pc is just better :)

    • Ben

      LOL “Men that can afford a decent machine”, yes I’m sure you “men” can afford quite the updated rig when only having ever lived under your parents support. Men indeed *chuckles*. When you’re in a position as myself where I study and work full time, paying off a house and looking after someone else other then myself it becomes a bit of a nuisance for the expenditure of keeping a PC upgraded and thenmessing around with the few problems that pop up from time to time on them with limited time as is. I have a decent PC, but consoles are always a better pick for those not so tech savvy or who want something incredibly convenient and easy to use. Not saying one is better then the other (well PC is better) but they both have there uses.

      • DrDoctor18

        You dont jave to upgrade our pc at all. Its purely choice

  • gonza

    I stopped reading when you put a draw on the exclusives. The consoles have way better exclusives than the pc. It is pretty obvious.

  • Ben Dover Kuntz

    pc sucks and are only for nerds without a life. that is the facts….

  • Orange Lada

    While the author apologizes for the Wii, he forgets the Wii U in its entirety. Maybe because it is the lowest cost? WIN. Maybe because it has a controller that no one else replicates? WIN Maybe because it has backward compatibility WIN.

    At the moment the Wii U has more AAA games in this latest generation. I love my PS3 and maybe someday I’ll love my PS4 or X1 but ….. at the moment, given the games, it’s all Wii U.

  • Saryk

    I like the article, very nice.

  • Axe99

    One small point of order – consoles actually pre-date PCs by about a year, so the debate would have started when the first PC popped onto the scene, not the first console ;).

    • DrDoctor18

      You are saying that consoles came out before the PC’s that they were designed on? First console: 1978. first computer: 1946

      • Axe99

        Actually, you could argue the first real computers were developed in Bletchley Park during (not just after) WW2, but regardless, neither those or the 1946 version you’re talking about were PCs – they were C’s – PCs, or “Personal Computers” came about after the first consoles, and were a very, very different thing from whole rooms full of vacuum tubes that read punch cards ;).

  • Axe99

    That was a pretty good article of the pros and cons :). The only thing I’d mention on the PC side is reliability, although you could sneak it in under ‘Ease of Use’. Due to the multiple hardware, OS, controller and background software configurations, you get many more bugs on PC than console (some PC gamers will dispute this, but any visit to a sample tech support sections of forums shows you get far more issues on PC). I game on both a heap (a bit more PC at the moment, because it’s early in a new generation, but the PS4 is slowly edging its way back to parity, and I’d expect in a year it’d be a 1/3rd PC, 2/3rds PS4/Vita mix, more or less) but tend to get my multiplats on console because of three big reasons:

    - Reliability – it took over three hours of searching forums and trying out a range of fixes to get Mass Effect to run on PC. Mass Effect 2 ran on my PS3 without skipping a beat.

    - reliable Gamepad support, including in multiplayer – while PC gamers swear black-and-blue by using a mouse and keyboard in shooters, it’s not my preferred device. It’s definitely an easier and more accessible device to play shooters with, but because using a mouse in a shooter means you’ve got almost no modelling of turning or aiming, you end up with unrealistically fast aiming and turning speeds in PC shooters online (campaigns I can use a pad easily enough). Even if they don’t model turning/aiming in a console shooter, it still takes longer to aim with thumbsticks, and the time it takes for a skilled user to aim with a pad is far closer to the actual time it takes a skilled marksman out there in the real world. In lieu of someone finally modelling the physics of human turning and moving, it’s the next best thing (short of playing a move-supported FPS and strapping 3-5kg of weight to it (for an assault rifle)), but I’m not _that_ hardcore, and new shooters aren’t supporting it in any event).

    - I game from a recliner, about 2.5 metres from a 32″ screen in 1080p. Every console game I’ve ever played has a useable UI at that distance. PC games, on the other hand, are pretty hit-and-miss. Ironically, some of the games used to promo Steam’s Big Picture when it launched (EU IV, I’m looking at you) are unplayable in 1080p from a couch because the UI text is too small). I had similar issues with Tropico 3. Yes, you can force the resolution down so you can see what’s going on (I play Paradox strategy games in 1368 x 768 for this reason), but a multiplat on console gives you 1080p (on PS4 at least, but increasingly on XB1 as well) and a UI you can read every time.

    The only other bonus I’d give to consoles is the integration of the UI towards a gaming focus. It’s just smoother navigating around my gaming and gaming-related stuff on PS4. Of course, the flip side of that is that there’s a whole lot you can’t do on console that you can do on PC, but I game enough that it’s a benefit having the dedicated device rather than the jack-of-all-trades.

  • rudero

    Most of the opinions seem rather shallow in the sense like someone’s feelings are hurt.
    Who, exactly, are you trying to convince?
    There are the all around consumer and age friendly machines that guarantee an equal experience to people who are not savvy then there is PC. Period.
    There are cars, but then there are “cars”.
    About arguing, go to any forum over specific parts and/or PC builds and you will find THE most annoying conversations ever. Two machines, or parts, that cost the exact same will always be scrutinized between consumers and it very well should.
    But this type of opinion is like a lotto winning rich person being boisterous in a Walmart so that people would know that they don’t have to shop there, they’re just there for the savings. Or, that’s my opinion.
    Cost effective gaming on a PC is only a reward in the games you buy, but in the five or so years of a consoles life and going for the “bang your chest” graphics, you are really spending some money. The savings from the games argument is not a point, because if console gamers wanted, they could wait for price drops. But machine costs are far more heavier on PC.( for the big boy graphics not the barely better graphics)