Console vs. PC: How Should You Spend the Next Generation of Gaming?

A man daydreaming about the next generation of gaming.
Rido/Shutterstock

With the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 launch around the corner, gamers are asking whether they should buy yet another home console or make the leap to PC. But Microsoft and Sony are throwing a wrench in the usual console vs. PC dynamic with low prices and monthly service plans like Xbox Game Pass. So, how should you spend the next generation of gaming?

Consoles Are Affordable, Simple, and Reliable

A photo of the PS5.
Sony

Tech outlets and gamers like to compare the newest PlayStation and Xbox to gaming PCs, thanks in part to the consoles’ fantastic capabilities and familiar-sounding GPUs. But next-gen consoles offer an experience that’s decidedly more straightforward and affordable than PC gaming. And thanks to fundamental changes to the gaming landscape, there’s even less reason to make the leap to a PC this year.

Some of this year’s PlayStation and Xbox perks are well-advertised and hard to overlook. Both consoles support 4K 120Hz gaming, yet cost less than the cheapest 4K-capable PC graphics cards. They’re both backward compatible, and they come with hundreds of games through the Xbox Game Pass and PlayStation Now programs. Sony is also offering a 15-game PlayStation Plus Collection to PlayStation Plus customers with a PS5, and that’s on top of the two titles that Plus subscribers get for free each month.

And then there’s the small quality of life stuff. New games like Rocket LeagueFortnite, and Call of Duty support cross-platform multiplayer, so you can buy the cheap Xbox Series S and still enjoy games with your PC or PlayStation friends. The new consoles also have 4K Blu-Ray drives and double as streaming machines, and of course, they don’t require the same assembly and troubleshooting as a PC.

But while consoles make it easy to hit the ground running, they lack the power, upgradability, customization, and flexibility of gaming PCs. For many, now is the time to build a gaming PC and leave behind the limitations of living room consoles.

PCs Are Multipurpose, Upgradable, and Powerful

A photo of the Cooler Master Masterbox MB311L ARGB case.
Cooler Master

Spend enough money on a gaming PC, and it’ll blow the new Xbox and PlayStation out of the water. That’s a good enough reason for most people to go for a gaming PC, although it certainly isn’t the only reason. PCs are much more modular, customizable, and multipurpose than game consoles, and in the long run, they’re often a cheaper investment than the constantly rotating box in your living room.

Wait, aren’t game consoles cheaper than PCs? Console manufacturers often meet their low prices by selling hardware at a loss and making up the difference through software sales and subscriptions. That’s why Microsoft can sell the Xbox Series X for $500, while a comparable gaming PC would easily exceed the $1,000 mark. The problem is that, over time, the average console gamer pays for hundreds of dollars in subscription services and may even shell out an extra $500 for the “pro” or “slim” version of their console.

PC gamers don’t have to pay to $10 a month (or $120 a year) to play multiplayer with their friends. And while PC hardware is absolutely overpriced, it’s not like you have to replace your entire rig to make incremental upgrades. You just replace your GPU and sell the old one to a friend, or add on RAM and storage as you see fit.

Once you put together that gaming PC, everything else falls into place. You can tweak and customize things to your heart’s content, or tack on a bunch of RGB stuff to impress your friends. And because PCs are multipurpose, you can use that big fancy system as a reliable work, school, or hobby machine. Yeah, PCs are a bit temperamental and require some troubleshooting, but it’s a lot less work than you’d expect, especially if you build something with popular compatible components.

If you want to assemble a gaming PC today but don’t have $1,000 lying around (or don’t care about all the 4K stuff), then follow one of the modest gaming builds on PCPartPicker and worry about upgrades later. A $700 build is a good place to start (especially if you can find parts on sale), and there are plenty of resources on YouTube and How-To Geek to help you assemble everything properly.

A New Option: The Xbox Game Pass Lifestyle

A screenshot of the Xbox Game Pass website.
Microsoft

Everyone likes to argue about console gaming and PC gaming. Thing is, both platforms kick ass. They both have their perks, and ideally, you could use both a console and PC without worrying about which platform you should buy the newest games on.

Well, maybe this is the generation that you play for both teams. The Xbox Game Pass Ultimate program lets you play hundreds of games, including brand-new blockbusters, on your console or PC for no extra charge. You could start building a decent gaming PC today while there aren’t many next-gen games, and wait to buy the $300 Xbox Series S a few months or a year from now (saving the money that you would usually spend on new games). Before you know it, you’ll have the console and PC gaming experience together in your home.

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate also lets you stream games to your Android phone or tablet, giving you just one more reason to live the Game Pass lifestyle. Sure, Microsoft may ruin the party one day by hiking up the Game Pass monthly fee to an exorbitant amount, but it’s inarguably the best gaming deal coming into 2021.

Andrew Heinzman Andrew Heinzman
Andrew is a writer for Review Geek and its sister site, How-To Geek. Like a jack-of-all-trades, he handles the writing and image editing for a mess of tech news articles, daily deals, product reviews, and complicated explainers. Read Full Bio »

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