The rivalry between PC and console gamers is often fierce. People can get downright nasty on the internet (but they’re usually more good-natured in real life, at least). It’s true that gaming PCs and consoles are very different machines that cater to different needs and preferences, but there’s no reason that should divide us. Let’s celebrate our differences and unite around gaming in general, yeah?
Throughout the 90s and even into the early 2000s, PCs weren’t really made for gaming. Once PC hardware manufacturers realized that gaming was growing exponentially as a mainstream hobby, they decided to start working for a slice of that sweet market share. The resulting competition has been great for gamers—it’s driven quality up and prices down, and given us a huge variety of platforms, software, and peripherals to choose from.
Still, the “Console or PC?” question is a tough one. In this guide, we’ll weigh the pros and cons of both in an effort to help you decide which is best for your particular gaming habits and preferences.
Price is the most constraining factor for the majority of gamers. Competition among PC and console manufacturers is part of what made gaming accessible and popular in our culture. Consoles are an easy and affordable way to play video games in your home. Today, prices of consoles are still kept low to keep them accessible.
The cheapest current generation consoles you can find today are the Xbox One and Nintendo 3DS. They can be obtained for $200. Next, we have the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch, which both cost around $300. The PlayStation 4 Pro costs $400, while the most expensive console at the moment is the Xbox One X, which costs $500.
Building a gaming PC has historically been more expensive than buying a console. For the price of the cheapest console we mentioned, you can only find an entry-level budget gaming PC that will not be able to come close in performance. These PCs are destined to become obsolete almost as soon as you put them together. They aren’t really worth your money and time. A PC equal in performance to a PS4 would cost around $400, while one equivalent to an Xbox One X would cost around $600.
If you want to build or buy one of the best gaming PCs available, the price ranges are even higher. You would have to devote at least $800 to your cause and in most cases, you would probably spend quite a bit more.
When it comes to peripherals, the situation is a little bit different. For PC gaming you can find a great 1080p monitor for $100. Although consoles can use monitors too, TVs are the traditional console display. TVs vary wildly in price depending on quality, but if you want to strike a nice balance, you can always buy a decent 1440p gaming monitor for around $200.
Consoles usually come with one controller, but if you want to buy another one, it will cost between $50 and $70. A PC can provide a decent gaming experience with any mouse and keyboard, which on the cheap end cost around $15 to $20 each.
As for gaming headsets, you can use many of them across all platforms. However, Sony makes a special PlayStation model that you might want to use if you’re going for aesthetics. It’s listed as the top pick in our review of the best PS4 gaming headsets.
Game prices are generally lower for PC gamers. Physical games are much more readily available for consoles and they are sold at a bunch of different stores. There are even game shops like Game Stop that offer good bargains on used games. Sadly, PC games cannot always be found in stores.
Physical games for consoles cost up to $50 or $60, and online stores for consoles rarely offer discounts. On the other hand, PC gamers benefit a lot from different online platforms such as Steam, Uplay, and Origin.
These gaming platforms offer games at much lower prices with regular sales, discounts, and gifts. It’s important to mention that PC gamers don’t need paid memberships for online gaming, while console gamers have to pay anywhere from $20 (for Nintendo) to $60 (for Xbox and PlayStation) per year.
It isn’t easy to pick a winner for this category. PC offers much cheaper gaming in the long run, due to market competition. Consoles themselves are way cheaper for the system itself. Since there is a massive difference in system cost, we’ll call it as consoles being the more affordable option and the official winner of this category.
Winner: Console 🥇
Many of the games made nowadays are available to play on every console and PC. Usually, there is a slight difference between release dates for each system. We should also mention that consoles sometimes have exclusive content that is reserved for a specific console. PC currently rules the world of indie games, and PCs have fewer issues with games tied to one particular generation of hardware.
So, there is no clear winner in this category. The answer ultimately depends on your gaming style. PC is usually better for simulators (Eagle Dynamics, IL-Sturmovik) or strategy games (Total War series). Consoles have the specific exclusive games they are known for (Xbox and Halo, Nintendo and Super Mario). We would call it a draw.
Winner: Tie 🏳️
VR gaming is a new and still-growing technology. At the moment, both PS4 and PC can offer a VR experience. PS4 has its own headset that can be found for around $200. We list it as an optimal choice for console gamers in our review of the best VR systems.
PC, on the other hand, provides a greater variety of manufacturers and models. HTC and Oculus rift offer better quality than the PS4 headset, but they cost a lot at $350 (Oculus Rift) and $500 (HTC Vive). PiMax is a new VR brand from a Chinese manufacturer, which comes in different resolutions and price ranges.
Even though PS4 provides a more affordable VR experience, we have to declare PC the winner because it offers much better quality, a more immersive experience, and a variety of hardware options to choose from.
Winner: PC 🥇
Compatibility and Upgradability
Within the category of upgradability, PC is a clear winner. Consoles, except for the Nintendo Switch, only allow hard drive upgrades. You can upgrade the internal HDD or get an awesome external hard drive for consoles.
PCs, on the other hand, give you complete freedom. You can repair, upgrade, change, or add any component you want. If you built your PC, each part has its own warranty, and you are allowed to remove them or replace them. In the case of consoles, you will lose the warranty if you try to repair them yourself.
PC also has amazing compatibility with many older games and an enormous game library. You can also use emulators to play games created for different generations of consoles. It’s also worth mentioning that the PC community has rich user-made mod communities for various games.
Consoles have a serious issue with backward compatibility. Newer-generation consoles can’t always play games released for previous generations. Nintendo Switch and PS4 do not have any backward compatibility, but Xbox One does let you play some games released for the Xbox 360 and original Xbox.
For this category, we declare PC a better option because it allows much more freedom and variety than consoles.
Winner: PC 🥇
Controls and Accessories
Consoles are very strict about what you can use. They limit the user to specific controllers released for specific consoles. Although manufacturers try to create different controllers for their consoles (steering wheel, guitar), third-party options are still scarce.
PCs allow you to use pretty much anything you can physically plug into it, making the gaming experience much more customizable and comfortable for the user. It can handle every controller made for consoles and many more. Once again, we have to give the PC its deserving victory.
Winner: PC 🥇
PC vs. Console Gaming: Pros & Cons
Before I come to a clear conclusion, let’s look at some of the obvious advantages and disadvantages on both sides of this war. First, here are the pros & cons of PC gaming:
|Better Visuals||Cheaper Models Soon Become Obsolete|
|Available Sales and Discounts on Games (Cheaper)|
|Better Compatibility with Different Controllers and Old Games|
|Better VR Gaming|
|Easy to Upgrade|
Now, let’s take a look at both the good and bad sides of consoles. We’ll look at them as a group instead of analyzing each system on its own.
|More Affordable||Bad Backward Compatibility|
|Plug & Play (No Need for Settings)||Games Are More Expensive|
|Future-Proof||Required Membership for Gaming|
|Exclusive Titles||Upgrades Are Limited to the Hard Drive|
In the end, PCs seem to have more positive than negative sides, but it’s all highly personal.
At first look, it seems that PC should be declared the overall winning platform of the PC vs. Console debate because it won most of the individual categories. We’re not going to do that though.
Gaming is a unique activity that means different things to different people. Questions like these are highly personal and depend entirely on your individual preferences and gaming habits.
As a gamer, you should always make choices based on your own highest priorities.
- Antonio Villas-Boas, 12 reasons why gaming on a PC is better than game consoles, Business Insider
- PC vs. Console, What Is Better for Gaming, Crucial US
- Daniel Horowitz, PC Gaming vs Console Gaming: Which is the Ultimate Winner, HP Blog