The Xbox Series X offers excellent value for the hardware within, but the fight against gaming PCs isn’t as easy as you might assume.
Are you looking for a brand-new gaming machine that you want to use for gaming solely and will provide you with the rawest firepower for your money? Then you should look at the $500 Xbox Series X, released on November 10th, 2020. You won’t be able to create a Series X-equivalent PC for less than $500, which is the price of Microsoft’s next-generation console.
However, there’s much more to consider than price when comparing the Xbox Series X to gaming PCs. Let’s get started.
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Microsoft’s killer value in the Xbox Series X vs. gaming PC specs
First, let’s address the behemoth in the room. Like the Xbox Series X, new gaming consoles tend to provide far better value for money for the first year or two following launch than equivalent gaming PCs. It’ll probably put your gaming rig to shame, and it’ll only set you back $500.
The AMD custom chip that powers the Microsoft Xbox One has eight “Zen 2” CPU cores and Radeon’s new “RDNA 2” GPU architecture. These parts alone would push the overall cost of an identical PC well beyond $500. The Xbox’s CPU is similar to a $300 last-gen Ryzen 7 3700X with a lower clock speed. Its 40 RDNA 2 graphics computing units have a 1,815MHz clock speed.
When it comes to GPUs, the $580 RDNA 2-based Radeon RX 6800 graphics card has 60 CUs at the same clock speed, meaning the Xbox Series X will most likely be on par with a step-down Radeon RX 6700. Microsoft’s console performs similarly to the RTX 2080 from the previous generation, if not slightly worse.
When you add in a lightning-fast PCIe 4.0 SSD and the ability to play Blu-ray discs, the Xbox Series X’s hardware value proposition completely smashes a similar gaming PC—and that’s before you consider the expenses of cases, motherboards, and other components. The cheapest PCIe 4.0 SSDs are around $200.
Our first attempt at building an Xbox Series X-class PC cost roughly $1,500 in total. Oof. There’s a reason many decided against buying a gaming battle station because of Microsoft’s next-gen console.
Xbox Series X and Series S
The Xbox Series X (and the less powerful, $300 Xbox Series S) have specific vital capabilities that aren’t available on Windows PCs. Quick Resume, for example, saves the state of many games in the system’s memory, allowing you to jump back in virtually instantaneously. On a general-purpose PC, you’re unlikely to find anything equivalent.
Another practical application converts non-HDR games to pseudo-HDR, allowing you to get the most out of your expensive high-dynamic-range TV. (Hopefully, this will be available for Windows in the future!) Of course, you should not disregard a box designed to allow you to relax on your couch after work or school and play games. You won’t have to worry about driver updates or Blue Screens of Death on an Xbox.
The advantages of a PC
All of this is to say that the PC isn’t as bad as you imagine.
As the owner of both Xbox and Windows, Microsoft has invested considerably in making your games operate regardless of where you play them.
Do you have an outdated Xbox One and wish to play Gears of War Tactics? Is new Xbox Series X? What about the new but slightly less competent Xbox Series S? What about your gaming PC? Have fun with it. Many games will sync your Xbox Live friends, achievements, and saves between consoles.
Microsoft is working on bringing DirectStorage—the backbone of the Xbox Series X’s ultra-fast Velocity Architecture storage—to Windows 10 PCs to eliminate game loading times if you have an NVMe SSD installed. Ray tracing and variable rate shading are among the DirectX 12 Ultimate features that function on PCs and are fundamental to the Series X’s capabilities. (They started on a PC, after all!)
More importantly, all of the factors that make PC gaming more affordable than console gaming remain the same (aside from the price of the new hardware). By purchasing an Xbox, you are committing to Microsoft’s restricted environment.
On the PC, however, you can choose from Xbox Game Pass, Steam, the Epic Games Store, Origin, GOG, Ubisoft Connect, Battle.net, and various bespoke games such as Valorant or League of Legends.
Because there is so much competition, you’ll discover amazing games on sale or even given away by numerous storefronts—most notably Epic’s weekly freebie. While Microsoft deserves credit for devoting so much time and work to the Xbox’s backward compatibility initiative, you can still play DOS games on your PC if you want to.
Even with Microsoft’s cross-platform Xbox Live games, you don’t have to pay a monthly fee to play online multiplayer games on the PC. On a platform where competition rules supreme, that nonsense won’t fly.
You don’t need to buy a new gaming pc.
Given the benefits of the PC, the Xbox Series X’s hardware value likewise diminishes when seen through a wider perspective. Sure, Microsoft’s console is less expensive than a gaming PC if you’re buying a new machine only for gaming.
You can do a lot more on a computer than play games—you can pay your taxes, email pals, shop online, edit movies, produce music, handle spreadsheets, and a whole lot more. If you require hardware for both business and recreation, you must account for it.
Console gamers welcome to the SSD life (at long last). It’s pretty nice here.
You don’t need to recreate the loadout of an Xbox Series X if you already have a competent, somewhat modern PC. The ability to expand and upgrade is still a key PC element.
The new consoles outperform their predecessors, although most of it is due to the Xbox Series X’s switch from sluggish 5,400rpm hard drives to SSDs and the switch from outdated slow-even-at-the-time AMD Jaguar CPU cores to current, kick-ass AMD Ryzen CPUs.
In other words, they’re catching up to any gaming PC produced in the previous five years.
If your PC already has a good CPU and SSD, all you need to do is add an equivalent graphics card to match the Xbox Series X’s power. Here where things get tough, but only because of time. Microsoft’s console produces frames on par with a GeForce RTX 2080 ($800) GPU. But we’re also amid GPU generational improvements.
For less than half the price, the $500 GeForce RTX 3070 already equals the performance of the previous $1,200 RTX 2080 Ti flagship, while the $400 GeForce RTX 3060 Ti outperforms the last-gen RTX 2080 Super. It already beats the Xbox Series X in terms of graphics.
Last-generation graphics cards like the GeForce RTX 2080 Super are only now catching up to the performance of the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5.
If you can find stock of those graphics cards—demand for gaming hardware is now at an all-time high—you can update your existing gaming PC to Xbox Series X-level performance for a fraction of the cost of Microsoft’s new console.
For the time being, a standard SSD should be enough for gaming. If Microsoft’s DirectStorage technology proves to be a game-changer in the future, you can always switch to an NVMe SSD to take advantage of the speedier loading speeds. The ability to upgrade is a fantastic thing.
The Xbox Series X is a great deal. If you already have a somewhat modern computer and want to play the latest games at decent frame rates with all the eye candy turned on, take advantage of the PC’s flexibility and pop a new graphics card in it when you’re ready.
You’ll get the same gaming experience as with Microsoft’s new console, as well as all of the additional advantages that the PC platform has to offer, such as a more extensive game library.
The victor of the Xbox Series X vs. gaming PCs match is decided by your needs. Microsoft only needs to produce an Xbox gaming laptop to bridge the gap between the two worlds.