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PC vs. PS4 vs. Xbox One Hardware Comparison: Building a Competing Gaming PC

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The 7 Year Console Refresh

Be sure you jump to the second page to see our recommendations for gaming PC builds that are inexpensive yet compete well with the capabilities and performance of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One!!

The consoles are coming!  The consoles are coming!  Ok, that is not necessarily true.  One is already here and the second essentially is too.  This of course brings up the great debate between PCs and consoles.  The past has been interesting when it comes to console gaming, as often the consoles would be around a year ahead of PCs in terms of gaming power and prowess.  This is no longer the case with this generation of consoles.  Cutting edge is now considered mainstream when it comes to processing and graphics.  The real incentive to buy this generation of consoles is a lot harder to pin down as compared to years past.

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The PS4 retails for $399 US and the upcoming Xbox One is $499.  The PS4’s price includes a single controller, while the Xbox’s package includes not just a controller, but also the next generation Kinect device.  These prices would be comparable to some low end PCs which include keyboard, mouse, and a monitor that could be purchased from large brick and mortar stores like Walmart and Best Buy.  Happily for most of us, we can build our machines to our own specifications and budgets.

As a directive from on high (the boss), we were given the task of building our own low-end gaming and productivity machines at a price as close to that of the consoles and explaining which solution would be superior at the price points given.  The goal was to get as close to $500 as possible and still have a machine that would be able to play most recent games at reasonable resolutions and quality levels.

Continue reading our comparison of PC vs. PS4 vs. Xbox One Hardware Comparison: Building a Competing Gaming PC!!

 

The Basis for Consoles

The overwhelming reaction to the latest generation of consoles from Sony and Microsoft was how eerily similar they are in specifications.  Yes, there are some differences between the two, but the overall specifications are lock-step with each other.  The primary reason for this is that both companies tapped AMD’s custom silicon group to design the chip for each company.  The design is then signed off on and Sony/Microsoft takes care of the fabrication (eg. order wafers from TSMC).

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Since Sony launched the PS4, we shall take a look at them first.  The heart of the console is the AMD designed APU.  It features two quad-core Jaguar based processors, so it has eight cores in total.  This is clocked between 1.6 and 1.7 GHz in speed, but Sony claims that it can go as high as 2.75 GHz.  Obviously Sony is utilizing some of the Turbo Core functionality inherent in AMD’s CPU designs.  Clockspeed will depend on load and available TDP overhead.  In some situations where the GPU portion is working extra hard, the CPU will be as low as 1.6 GHz.  In situations where performance is balanced, we could expect the cores to go into the 2 GHz range.  Only when no graphics workload is present would we expect the 2.75 GHz number.

The graphics portion is a GCN based architecture that features 18 CUs, which make up a total of 1152 shaders.  This portion is clocked around 800 MHz and in total the APU gives around 1.86 TFlops of computing power.  The PS2 had around 6 GFlops of performance, and that was embargoed from certain countries because supercomputing trade rules.  The compute power of this particular console is very impressive, and the GCN architecture allows for very efficient use of power and an impressive amount of flexibility in programming.

The APU’s crossbar and memory controller are not well known, but it does appear to be off-the-shelf technology from AMD.  The twist here is that Sony utilized a full 256-bit GDDR5 interface running at 5.5 GHz, giving around 176 GB/sec of bandwidth.  It is well known that GPUs love large amounts of bandwidth, and Sony gives it in spades.  GDDR5 is more expensive than DDR3, but not excessively so.  It more than makes up for the cost by providing plenty of bandwidth to run at resolutions of 1080P with varying amounts of AA as required by the game developers.

The PS4 comes standard with a 500 GB hard drive spinning at 5400 RPM.  It also features a modern Blu-ray drive that can run many times faster than the BD drive of the PS3.  Oddly enough, it does not play back DVDs.  The interesting part here is that the hard drive is easily accessible and upgradeable by end users.  Ryan wrote an article exploring the performance possibilities of such an upgrade.

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The Xbox One is very similar, but slightly different in a couple of major areas.  First off they do bundle the device with the latest generation Kinect.  Their OS and media support is a big step above the PS4, but time will tell if that investment will pay off for the Xbox One.  It is still primarily a gaming machine, no matter what other bells and whistles we see.  Choices were made with the hardware that could affect performance in the long run, but we are not entirely sure what those effects will be.  The APU is again designed by AMD and integrates two quad-core Jaguar based units along with 12 GCN based compute units which comes out to be 768 stream units, or the same as a Bonaire based graphics card.  It is clocked at 853 MHz rather than Sony's 800 MHz, but the difference in stream units is a limiting factor against the PS4.  The Xbox One also features a 256-bit memory bus connected to 8 GB of memory, but it is DDR3 based and quite a bit slower at 63 GB/sec of bandwidth.  This is offset by the inclusion of 32 MB of eDRAM on the APU that services the GPU portion.  We have yet to see how this hardware tradeoff affects performance and abilities overall, but most expect the PS4 to be the faster overall solution.

This console has a Blu-ray drive and a 500 GB hard drive.  This drive is not user accessible, but MS does provide USB 3.0 ports that can access external hard drives.  This will of course incur a performance hit, but at least hard drive space can be increased rather cheaply (we think).  MS does provide a very interesting software stack, as it appears as though gaming and media features are supported by separate virtual operating systems.

Be sure you jump to the next page to see our recommendations for gaming PC builds that are inexpensive yet compete well with the capabilities and performance of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One!!
November 20, 2013 | 10:35 PM - Posted by KevTheGuy (not verified)

I would just go with an Athlon x4 750k and a dedicated GPU like the hd 7850 or 7790 and get slower RAM. It is going to be a bit more expensive but way better. :)

March 14, 2014 | 04:57 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I second this guy .... that is what i did

November 20, 2013 | 11:26 PM - Posted by boothman

Micro Center has an ongoing deal where you can get an FX-4130 for $90 with a free motherboard. I've cashed in on this deal a few times for builds, and now they even offer a Gigabyte board with 2x USB 3.0 (plus header) & 2x SATA 6Gb.

Pair that deal, with a 7850 & 1TB HD also from MC, and for under $300 you have a very solid foundation that will provide better performance than an APU based build.

Worth a look...

CPU + MB Deal
http://www.microcenter.com/site/products/amd_bundles.aspx

1TB HD (says its only sataII, but I think its sataIII)
http://www.microcenter.com/product/424488/1TB_5,700_RPM_SATA_30Gbps_35_I...

Radeon HD 7850
http://www.microcenter.com/product/411476/AX7850_1GBD5-DH_AMD_Radeon_HD_...

November 22, 2013 | 02:23 PM - Posted by aparsh335i (not verified)

Well said Boothman. It's frustrating to read a great article like this to get to the bottom and see the person picking the parts is overpaying because they don't know where the deals are. Overpaying and picking the wrong parts limits the performance. My opinion is if you are going to compare a gaming computer to a console you should build for the highest FPS at the lowest cost. Be thrifty on everything but the video card. Buy refurbished, often it's the same as new. Don't buy a blu-ray drive...you'll never use it.

-FX 4130 Black Edition 3.8GHz Quad-Core Socket AM3+ Boxed Processor $89.99 Microcenter
-GA-78LMT-S2P Socket AM3+ 760G mATX $0 Microcenter
-Intel 32GB SSD 2.5" SATA Solid State Hard Drive SSDSA2SH032G1GN $33 eBay Refurb
-Crucial Ballistix Sport 8GB 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model BLS8G3D1609DS1S00 $54.99 Newegg
-Western Digital WD Caviar SE16 500GB SATA 3.5" Hard Drive WD5000AAKS $20 eBay Refurb
-MSI AMD Radeon HD 7870 ( R7870-2GD5T/OC ) 2GB GDDR5 $129.99 AR Newegg
-LG 24X Internal DVD ReWritable Drive SATA $15.99 Microcenter
-Xigmatek CCM-23ABX-U01 (Aeos) Black SECC, Plastic Micro-ATX Computer Case $29.99 Newegg (will fit big video card)
-EVGA 500B 500 Watt ATX Power Supply $29.99 AR Microcenter
-Coolit Systems 120mm Case Fan $2.39 Microcenter
-Windows 8 Pro Upgrade (you don't need a previous installation for the upgrade to work) $39.50 ebay
Total
-$412.83, and that's with an SSD.

*Also remember you can try SteamOS as a free alternative to Windows, but there are some popular games that aren't on steam (like smite).

November 23, 2013 | 01:41 PM - Posted by boothman

Thanks, I believe its truly the way to go if you have the means & access. However, on the podcast Ryan made a good point...there are only a hand full of MCs around the country, and many deals they have, they dont offer via their webstore. Guess I'm spoiled being northeastern Ohio and having one 25min away :P

On the flip-side, and I'm not sure if this point has been made or not, but who says that you have to buy parts from this generation? You'd still get comparable performance out of a build based around Phenom/Athlon x4 + HD 5830-6870. Finding those parts new or recertified may be challenging, but they should be dirt cheap by now.

Thoughts anyone? Agree/Disagree?

November 21, 2013 | 12:19 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

You should also consider about $70 for bluray playback software in this equation. If that is something you're interested in.
Built something real similar last year except with a media center slim case.
$60 PSU + case bundle for like
$130 6800k APU,
$50 MSI fm2+ MoBo,
$60 8GB corsair for $60
$170 250GB Samsung 840,
$100 windows 8 pro w/ media center,
$40 Thermaltake heatsink,
$50 Pioneer Blu ray drive
$70 for blu ray playback software.
$20 wireless mouse and keyboard combo.

All in all though, windows 8.1 has given it a healthy boost, and it's been versatile, hitting medium at 1080p on most games with bearable framerates. The solid state definitely adds A LOT to the feel of the machine and most people think I spent twice that amount on the setup.

November 21, 2013 | 12:26 AM - Posted by Lou (not verified)

$5492 for an APU build? Like, for a 10-pack? :P

November 21, 2013 | 12:29 AM - Posted by IRQ6

What about mandatory subscription fees for online play?

PS4 is $50/yr
XBO is $60/yr

7yrs = $350-420
10yrs = $500-600

November 21, 2013 | 01:16 AM - Posted by Bill (not verified)

Excellent point that no console gamer I know ever takes into the cost equation.

November 21, 2013 | 01:36 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

These comparison articles always ignore the fact a console will offer far better efficiency and hardware maximization for a game than the Windows PC can give.

November 21, 2013 | 02:30 AM - Posted by Josh Walrath

Perhaps for the first year, but then the console remains static while the PC world evolves.  Consoles are very efficient, and are essentially appliances... but hardware is soon overshadowed.

November 21, 2013 | 10:54 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

No not just the first year Josh. Look at the games that come out on the A system like the PS3 at the later stages compared to its start. Those far exceed what was offered at the beginning. Sorry but this was a pointless article. You cannot just look at a spec sheet, find the closest thing you feel is a match and say well that's it. It doesn't work like that and you know better.

November 21, 2013 | 12:39 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

Nah, it wasn't pointless.  I thought we brought up some interesting discussion.  Also, consider this...  This time next year we will have 20 nm graphics parts that are a generation+ away from the current APUs.  In fact, there is talk that some may in fact skip 20 nm and go directly 16 or 14 nm (bulk, finfet, or FDSOI).  So, you will have advanced architectures and much smaller chips that can do more.  All the while those console APUs will be based on the same architecture for the next... 10 years?

Yes, games that come out later will look better than what we have now, but how much better?  Development tools now are so much better than what was offered for the PS3 throughout its entire lifespan.  X86 is easier to develop for.  So how much better will titles look a few years down the line vs. what was released now?  I don't know if we will see that big leap that we saw in the previous generation?  Hard to say.  Anyway, throwing out ideas and creating discussion is good.  Unless you don't like discussion or the free exchange of ideas.

November 22, 2013 | 07:15 PM - Posted by aparsh335i (not verified)

I totally agree Josh especially because of 4k gaming. The xbox 1 and PS4 are not capable of playing something like BF4 at 4k resolution even with the eyecandy turned off. Today 4k is not really popular yet because it costs so much for the TV/Monitor. For example - 65" 4k TVs are generally around $5,000 and the 32" asus 4k Monitor is $3,500. Sure there's the Seiki stuff, but 30fps doesn't cut it for gaming. In a few years those prices will have dropped like any other technology and if you want to play your favorite game @ 4k Resolution while sitting on the couch you'll need a PC and a controller (steam?) because these consoles just won't cut it. Based on today's graphics cards you need 2 high end graphics cards to get in the 60FPS ballpark. In most cases we are talking around 8-12 TFLOPs of graphics power. The PS4 has 1.8 TFLOPS and the Xbox 1 has 1.3 TFlops. It's not 100% apples to apples, but seriously, a 7870 just doesn't compete with two Nvidia Titans in SLI.

Another comment addressed to you said that the consoles will improve over their lifespan. Sure they will. Someone mentioned that the consoles don't have windows bloating up the performance. Also true. But seriously, how do you make up 6+ TFLOPS of pure graphics power without new hardware? It's not possible. And as you said, the graphics cards will only be that much better in a few years with 20, 16, and 14nm lithography. These consoles *WILL NOT* last 10 years. They will last 5.

December 6, 2013 | 11:45 PM - Posted by Sam (not verified)

Yeah, I agree. This will not be a long cycle for the reasons you stated. By 2017, 4k will be the dominate format in terms of market share. By 2018, the XBone and PS4 will be at their prime, but they will seem beyond primitive. When the Wii was released, Nintendo, stated that HD was not important because most people still used SD TVs. That was true in 2006. By 2011, hardly anyone had a SD TV and the Wii stalled as the other consoles peaked. I think that the next generation--PS5--will be a much-larger jump. The XBone can can't even max out my ten-year-old HD TV at 60FPS. How will it hold up to the 4k-era that is quickly approaching? HD is the new SD. I suggest that people keep playing ps3 or 360 instead of investing in a five-year console that is a mere stepping-stone. Cool new games will continue to be released on ps3 and 360 for several more years. By the time you are tired of ps3 and 360, you will have upgraded to a TV that blows you current one away. The upcoming 4k-era may open the door for new competitors that embrace the new format sooner rather than later.

November 21, 2013 | 11:16 PM - Posted by Scyy (not verified)

There is only so much a low level console api can do for hardware. You can already get computers with 10x+ the power if you are willing to spend the money compared to how the ps3 and 360 were proprietary versions of some of the best hardware of the time. I doubt we will ever see the consoles running something on the level of crysis 3 at max settings at even 1080p whereas you can run that at 4k on current computers if you are willing to throw enough money at your computer.

November 21, 2013 | 02:54 AM - Posted by hosko

They also don't take into account that when the APU on a PC is starting to not give the required performance in a couple of years, a GFX card can be purchased that will boost performance back up.

November 21, 2013 | 11:54 AM - Posted by KittenMasher (not verified)

Another argument I like to make is how many people own a console and have no computer? If you consider the fact that most people have at least a $500 comp already, and are adding a $400/$500 system on top of that, the actual budget can be closer to $1000. With that you can easily get a proper gaming pc that'll trounce a console either via upgrade (add $300-$400 gpu + $100 psu) or as a new system.

Of course in reality it's a bit more complicated...

November 28, 2013 | 03:24 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Alot of people have a laptop and not all desktop PC's are very good to upgrade. Besides, why upgrade a PC for slightly better graphics when you could get a whole bunch on amazing looking exclusives on the PS4.

December 22, 2013 | 02:55 AM - Posted by JohnPd (not verified)

> why upgrade a PC for slightly better graphics

Adding a discreet GPU gives you a huge graphics boost, not a slight boost.

> when you could get a whole bunch on amazing looking exclusives on the PS4.

The PC also has many amazing looking exclusives.

November 22, 2013 | 06:02 PM - Posted by Tim Thrush (not verified)

That's negated and then some if you're a pay-to-play MMORPG player.

November 22, 2013 | 07:19 PM - Posted by aparsh335i (not verified)

Or a Pay-2-Win player ;)

November 21, 2013 | 12:52 AM - Posted by Joe (not verified)

I would rather pay the extra money and go intel/nvidia. For an extra 250 dollars you can get the cpu replaced with an unlocked i5-4670k and a geforce gtx 770, I'd spend an extra 300 and get a nicer motherboard too. So for 1050-1100 over the 780 you can get loads more performance.

Now is a really good time to get a PC. Broadwell wont be socketed and next year is mainly just a chipset refresh to series 9 with more haswell processors. What I would probably do is just go for a cheaper gtx 760 since 20nm maxwell will be out next year then splurge on a top end gpu. By buying a pc now you can easily assure yourself you will have the latest cpu architecture for over a year and easily get maxwell gpu when it comes out. Skylake the 14nm socketed desktop shrink is still a long way out so now is a good time to get a pc.

November 21, 2013 | 02:57 AM - Posted by hosko

You can't really say an extra $300, you could almost get two PlayStations for that much. The idea is to keep the costs as similar as possible or a slight increase. If price isn't an option then just go here http://www.pcper.com/hwlb

November 21, 2013 | 12:52 AM - Posted by Joe (not verified)

I would rather pay the extra money and go intel/nvidia. For an extra 250 dollars you can get the cpu replaced with an unlocked i5-4670k and a geforce gtx 770, I'd spend an extra 300 and get a nicer motherboard too. So for 1050-1100 over the 780 you can get loads more performance.

Now is a really good time to get a PC. Broadwell wont be socketed and next year is mainly just a chipset refresh to series 9 with more haswell processors. What I would probably do is just go for a cheaper gtx 760 since 20nm maxwell will be out next year then splurge on a top end gpu. By buying a pc now you can easily assure yourself you will have the latest cpu architecture for over a year and easily get maxwell gpu when it comes out. Skylake the 14nm socketed desktop shrink is still a long way out so now is a good time to get a pc.

November 21, 2013 | 02:06 AM - Posted by Amrael (not verified)

Intel Core i3-4130 129.99
BIOSTAR Hi-Fi Z87W 99.99
Mushkin Enhanced STEALTH 8GB 74.99
MSI R9 270 GAMING 2G 179.99
Western Digital WD Blue WD10EZEX 1TB 7200 RPM 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 59.99
NZXT Source 210 39.99
OCZ ZT Series 650W 74.99
LG Internal Blu-ray Drive 49.99
Microsoft Windows 8.1 64-bit OEM 99.99

809.91

And it will evolve really nice. Very much prefer to spend this much on a PC than $500 on a bloatware nest like Xbox one or $400 on a PS4. I like both consoles, still like the XB360 more than the new one of course but would better spend my cash on a PC which I can upgdate/upgrade and do everything plus really evolved gaming, its less restraining than any console.

November 21, 2013 | 02:24 PM - Posted by anon (not verified)

Biostar start fires.
Also, I'd just stick to the $45 Corsair 430M modular PSU.

November 28, 2013 | 03:27 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

For half-price and a soon to be optimized pc, I'd think the PS4 is a steal.

November 21, 2013 | 02:18 AM - Posted by anon (not verified)

I understand wanting to get as close as humanly possible, but I question if completely applicable. While surely things like a blu-ray drive are nice, netflix and steam are things that inherently are advantageous to the platform that allow you to bypass that expense. Even on my high-end gaming htpc, I have used my blu-ray burner for anything (including as a reader) approx 0 times.

Suddenly you could take the higher-end rig, and it make it dollar comparable.

Take everything listed, perhaps find a cheaper case/psu and ram, and replace it with a 7870 (they are available for as low as $130AR at newegg which is absurdly cheap for decent 1080p performance), realize that most everyone has a copy of windows available to them one way or another, and you're darn close to the price of an xbone for a much better gaming experience.

Link to cheap 7870 (which essentially similar to a 270x):
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814127722

November 21, 2013 | 03:00 AM - Posted by dragosmp (not verified)

The comparison is welcome, but somehow I (like many) think I can do better on the PC hardware config. I would really replace the 6800K with either an Athlon x4, FX 4xxx or a Pentium plus discrete GPU. For the GPU one would have 50-70$. I would also get a cheaper but good 400W-ish bronze-rated PSU as it is largely enough.
The better option is more to my liking for whatever it's worth, but I'd still get a smaller PSU in order to improve efficiency at low loads and save some cash,only to spend them on a CPU cooler.

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