Better or worse than a console?
Readers debate the pros and cons of PC gaming and how it compares to consoles, in terms of performance and value for money.
The subject for this weekend’s Inbox was inspired by reader David and asked if you own a gaming PC and if so how much did you pay for it and how well does it run modern games? If you don’t own a gaming PC what would make you consider it and what has put you off so far?
The majority of responses were from PC owners, most of who, as you’d expect, preferred them to consoles. Although there were also plenty of console owners who were put off by the vagaries of PC components and preferred the simplicity of consoles.
The PC age
I’ve been a PC famer since the dawn of time. I had a slight love affair with consoles during the Xbox 360 boom but went back to PC after the PS4 Pro was announced. I won’t bore you with the specs and intricacies, but I paid £1,300 to build it and it’s alright. I bought it last year before lockdown. It runs anything reasonably well at 120fps+ and 1080p (not bothered about 1440p or 4K).
I don’t worry as much about settings and gimmicks as I used to and it’s pretty much as easy as a console with GeForce experience installed. I load up Windows, I click an icon, I play a game. If I was in the market today though, I’d get a PlayStation 5/Xbox Series X just because for the price you’d get a similar CPU to the one I have now and 120fps on most games.
The only thing that really keeps me on PC is that I play MMOs and playing them on a controller isn’t a pleasant experience. I also enjoy a good park simulator and real-time strategy. I don’t get the whole PC vs console argument, just get what works for you and enjoy yourself. On that note looking forward to playing Kena: Bridge Of Spirits on the superior PC version.
Cheap and cheerful
I bought a cheap gaming PC from eBay for £500 just over a year ago. It’s a 7600K i5 processor with GTX 1060 and loads of RAM and stuff. It plays pretty much everything except Cyberpunk 2077. I enjoy the variety of games and I also find it to be far more social with games like GTFO or Hell Let Loose, which are both games where communication is key.
I have just bought the Call Of Duty Black Ops Cold War game for the PC and it crashes every now and then. I have yet to finish a game of the new Outbreak zombie mode on it and ended up downloading the free demo on my PlayStation! Doesn’t crash on that!
Strategy games like Civilization 6 or Stellaris are way more fun to play on PC thanks to the mouse and keyboard.
Also, I am yet to buy Half-Life: Alyx and plug in my Oculus Quest 2 but will be doing so in the near future.
I have a laptop that I play the occasional retro role-playing game or adventure game where mouse and keyboard are essential (shout out to Legends Of Grimrock here). I’ve never seriously considered a dedicated gaming PC for modern games though. And the reason has nothing to do with the perceived costs and complexities of PC gaming – I don’t think it sounds much more complex or expensive than consoles these days. It’s just the simple fact that I don’t want a PC in the living room.
I’m a 40-something year old gamer and gaming for me is a living room activity with my consoles neatly tucked away in the TV/entertainment unit. I don’t have room (or more importantly permission) for a PC tower, keyboard, mouse to be cluttering up the place. Even the laptop games I play are done in my home office when I should be working!
I’d need a dedicated games room before I bought a gaming PC these days. Maybe when I’m retired it will be the way to go but for now that ship has sailed.
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I owned a PC back in the 90s, which is what I feel was the golden age of PC gaming. As the PlayStation became dominant I eased into becoming a console gamer, never bothering to upgrade my existing PC and then never buying a new one afterwards.
This was partly because of the price involved but mostly because of the death of PC exclusives. Back in the 90s, with games like X-Wing, Descent, XCOM, and Deus Ex there were lots of games that were made purely for the PC or at least primarily for it – with any console ports that did exist being pathetically cut down. Now that just doesn’t exist.
Sure, there are plenty of indie games but I can’t remember the last time there was a big budget PC exclusive from a major publisher. Maybe when EA published Crysis in checks Wikipedia 2007. To be honest I’m surprised PCs have stayed relevant given that’s the case, as that’s what I loved most about owning one.
I built a PC in summer 2012, initially to make music on, but the following February I invested in a graphics card (HD7870 Tahiti LE) that came bundled with four or five games, including Bioshock Infinite and Far Cry 3. It was an incredible deal for just shy of £200 and was my reintroduction to mainstream gaming – my last consoles had been the PlayStation 2 and GameCube, although I did have a Wii that quickly gathered dust.
My PC was very much a mid-tier build – i5 Ivy Bridge CPU – but it allowed me to play new games at 1080p with near max settings. I was actually blown away. Coupled with the, at the time, amazing Steam sales, I quickly began making my way through the biggest games of the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 gen that I’d missed out on.
In 2017, I upgraded the graphics card to an RX 480 8GB, again, firmly mid-tier, as well as treating myself to another 1080p display, this time with Freesync. The improvement wasn’t as huge this time, but the 2GB VRAM of the 7870 was becoming an issue in newer games. In 2018, I upgraded the CPU to the fastest possible for my motherboard’s socket – an i7 3770, and more recently I went from 8GB DDR3 to 16GB. So, I’m basically running a high end 2012 PC now!
That’s the great thing about PC gaming, the incremental upgrades you can make. It’s lasted me from the latter days of the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 generation, through the Xbone/PlayStation 4 gen and into the Xbox Series X/PlayStation 5 gen. It’s showing its age to an extent now, but the RAM upgrade made a huge amount of difference. I was also fortunate enough to snag a 3070 FE, and sell my RX 480 for a very good price, but my nine-year-old CPU is holding it back and I’m hoping to be able to upgrade the CPU, motherboard, and RAM within the next six months. That should hopefully last me a considerable amount of time going forward – I’ll also get a 4K monitor at some point.
Would I recommend PC gaming to everyone? No, I wouldn’t. I love it, but I’ve spent many a weekend and evening troubleshooting random issues. Right now, I would definitely not recommend it, as prices are insane – I sold my graphics card for more than what I paid new in 2017! If you have the money, then why not I suppose, but it’s really a terrible time to build one. Hopefully, things will settle down later this year.
There are some amazing benefits, like not paying for online gaming. But there are occasions when I want to just lie on the sofa and play a game rather than sit at my desk. I’ve used Steam Link in the past to overcome this, but the tech wasn’t quite there for faster paced games. Let’s see what Microsoft do with xCloud, because Game Pass is great.
Every second counts
I’ve never had a PC and frankly I don’t want. I mean, I’d take one if you gave it to me, and I’m sure I’d be very happy with it, but the second it needed upgrading or I had to start ticking off options in order to simply get games running… that’s not for me.
I’m in this for the games not the hardware and every second wasted messing around with the machine itself is too much for me.
I am a PC gamer first and foremost and haven’t owned a console since the PlayStation 2/Wii era.
Personally, I love the flexibility of a PC. My current PC (i5 7400, RTX 2060) was bought four years ago for about £600. The GPU has been upgraded since (£300) so about £900 in total.
However, I needed a new PC anyway, so it was either a gaming PC or a rubbish PC and console. If I went the latter I would have also needed a new steering wheel, as I love racing games, so the cost would begin to ramp up.
How does it run games? Well, I haven’t come across anything it won’t run yet (although I haven’t tried Cyberpunk 2077). I game in 1080p and can generally run on high settings. Wolfenstein: Youngblood will run at 60fps with DLSS and ray-tracing, shame it’s a rubbish game really! My sim racing is on triple 1080p monitors and that runs fine on Project CARS 2 and DiRT Rally 2. I would struggle with Asseto Corsa Competizione mind.
So why PC? Personally I like the playing around and upgrading. I’ve already decided my next gaming PC will be a complete home build.
Another reason is mods. You know the phrase ‘there’s an app for that’, well replace it with ‘there’s a mod for that’. Don’t think The Witcher 3 is pretty enough? There’s a mod for that. Your favourite racetrack isn’t in a game? There’s a mod for that. Want dragons to look like trains? There’s a mod for that. Don’t like the aiming reticule? There’s a mod for that. You get the idea.
I also like to game in a different room to keep the TV free, but, if I do want to game on the TV (for example, my better half likes playing Overcooked) we stream from the PC to the TV using Nvidia Shield. Granted, this a further cost, but I bought my Shield tablet years ago and it still gets the job done.
I totally get why many prefer consoles, and right now is a pretty awful time to buy a gaming PC, with the great GPU drought of 2021. But for me, I’m pretty sure I’m gonna stick to PC.
Whatever you game on, have fun!
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