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

Author: Josh Walrath
Subject: Systems
Manufacturer:

Why Go PC?

There are many obvious answers for this question, but they do not fit everyone’s needs.  Any kind of productivity software will require the use of a PC.  Email is not natively supported on either console, and why would a user want to store emails on a console anyway?  But what about gamers?  What is the balance?  I have put together two builds that I would implement personally if I were limited in my budget (and believe me, I am).  These builds are based on an APU that can do gaming, OR a full blown multi-core system with dedicated graphics that can drive all modern games at resolutions of at least 1080P.

Option 1 - $500 APU Gaming System

  APU Build PlayStation 4 Xbox One
Processor AMD A10-6800K - $129 8-core Jaguar APU 8-core Jaguar APU
Motherboard MSI FM2-A75MA-E35 mATX - $59 Custom Custom
Memory Corsair Vengeance LP 8GB 1866 MHz (2 x 4GB) - $80 8GB GDDR5 8GB DDR3
Graphics Card None 1152 Stream Unit APU 768 Stream Unit APU
Storage Seagate Barracuda 1TB 7200 RPM HDD - $64 500GB 5400 RPM 500GB
Case Corsair 200R ATX Mid Tower Case - $59 Custom Custom
Power Supply Corsair CS 500 watt 80+ Bronze - $60 Internal External
Optical Drive None Blu-ray Blu-ray
OS Windows 8.1 OEM - $98 Custom, FreeBSD Custom, Windows
Peak Compute 765 GFLOPS 1,840 GFLOPS 1,270 GFLOPS
Total Price $549 - Amazon $399 - Amazon $499 - Amazon

The first build is based on the latest AMD Richland APU.  The A10 6800K is a dual module/quad core unit with the previous generation VLIW4 graphics architecture.  This combination can run most games at up to 1080P resolutions, but with much lower quality settings.  Then again, when can a user adjust quality settings on a console?  The FM2+ board will allow a user to upgrade to a Kaveri APU when those are released, or they will have the flexibility of purchasing a standalone graphics card that will likely outperform the latest generation of consoles for around the $150 mark.

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The system comes with 8 GB of DDR3 memory at 1866 speeds, so it will not hinder the APU’s performance by any stretch of the imagination.  It features a full 1 TB drive because most users will quickly fill up a 500 GB unit.  The case is good sized and has ample cooling ability and room for upgrades.  The 500 watt power supply will be able to handle any single standalone GPU offered, except perhaps units like the GTX 690 or HD 7990.  It comes with Windows 8.1, which may or may not be a popular choice with users.  Still, it has a lot of functionality built in, but any productivity software will have to be either bought or downloaded later.

The price ($549) is above the $499 mark of the Xbox One, and well above the PS4.  Still, the overall functionality of the PC in terms of productivity, video encoding, communications, social interactions, and flexibility are unparalleled when it comes to consoles.  It does fall down in terms of gaming against both consoles.  This is an older graphics architecture comprising fewer stream units and a much slower main memory connection.  It is a 128 bit memory bus running at DDR3 2133 speeds (around 34 GB/sec theoretical).  It will not be able to outperform the console APUs in terms of graphics quality and performance, but the flexibility for the user in terms of other applications is a big draw.  Gaming will be “good enough”, but it will not match this latest generation of consoles.

If there is one small (or large) drawback for this APU build, it is the lack of an optical drive.  Adding a Blu-Ray drive will be around $50.  This may or may not include bundled BD playback software (there there are free/open source applications around).  For the average user who may not be comfortable in searching and installing these options, this could be a big drawback.  While streaming services like Hulu and Netflex do a very good job, we still do not have the bandwidth requirements needed to stream high quality, high definition video with HD sound (like DTS-Master or Dolby TrueHD).

Option 2 - A Little More Money for a lot More Power

  Gaming Build PlayStation 4 Xbox One
Processor AMD FX-6300 6-core CPU - $109 8-core Jaguar APU 8-core Jaguar APU
Motherboard MSI 970A-G43 AM3+ - $59 Custom Custom
Memory Corsair Vengeance LP 8GB 1866 MHz (2 x 4GB) - $80 8GB GDDR5 8GB DDR3
Graphics Card Gigabyte Radeon R9 270X 2GB - $199 1152 Stream Unit APU 768 Stream Unit APU
Storage Seagate Barracuda 1TB 7200 RPM HDD - $64 500GB 5400 RPM 500GB
Case Corsair 200R ATX Mid Tower Case - $59 Custom Custom
Power Supply Corsair CX 600 watt 80+ Bronze - $69 Internal External
Optical Drive Pioneer Blu-ray Reader - $49 Blu-ray Blu-ray
OS Windows 8.1 OEM - $98 Custom, FreeBSD Custom, Windows
Peak Compute 2,690 GFLOPS 1,840 GFLOPS 1,270 GFLOPS
Total Price $780 - Amazon $399 - Amazon $499 - Amazon

The second build is much more robust, and much more expensive.  It tops out at around $780 and will outperform the consoles on essentially every aspect.  The 3 module/6 core CPU has 8 MB of L3 cache to rely upon, as well as the full DDR3 1866 main memory.  The 270X features 2 GB of memory on a 256 bit bus, and it also features more active CUs at a faster clockspeed than either of the consoles.  This card will push 1080P content, as well as 1600P content, without issue.  It should, in nearly all cases, outperform both consoles by a significant margin.

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It features a 600 watt power supply which will easily handle another GPU in CrossFire, or a heavier GPU in general.  There is enough room to overclock the CPU into the 4.4 GHz range without issue as well, which will again improve performance overall to a great degree.  It again has the ability to address more hard drives, more memory, and another graphics card without issue.  The CPU has enough oomph to push said graphics cards in most applications.  We again have the added flexibility in terms of installed applications that are both free and for pay.

 

Closing Thoughts

The consoles can be looked at as an appliance anymore.  They will have the functionality that is assigned to them by the manufacturers.  With a PC, this is not the case.  A user will define the vast majority of functionality.  It can be media streaming, transcoding, gaming, productivity, or simply an email and internet browsing machine.

The primary advantages of the console over the PC will most likely be ease of use and platform specific titles for gaming (titles such as Gran Tourismo for PS4 and Forza for Xbox).  They will also both play Blu-ray content more cheaply than a home-built PC.  Xbox will be interesting with its VM’d OSes and the interaction with the second generation Kinect, but we have yet to see if that will trump the PC’s flexibility.

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In terms of power consumption for these products, we are going to have some interesting results.  At full load the PS4 can pull around 150 watts from the wall.  The Xbox One is around 135 to 140 watts at the wall.  The APU selection will eat around 130 watts with everything churning.  The FX-6300 system with a standalone GPU will get to the 250 watt range.  Overall the consoles do give quite a bit of performance for lower power consumption.  While the APU build is similar in wattage, it is significantly less powerful than the custom built units in the consoles.

Personally I like all of the options we have laid out here.  Each has their strengths and weaknesses, but the user/consumer needs to know their expectations for each platform.  Education and hard work will reward those who build their own PCs, but not every bit of open source software will achieve the results that the tight integration of the Xbox One will offer casual users who are not interested in getting their hands dirty.  The PC might not match the price/performance of the PS4 and the expectation is that Sony will improve the platform over the years with updates to more adequately match the Xbox in terms of media serving capabilities.  Knowledge is certainly power in this area with four very compelling options with distinct features, all revolving around the core gaming audience.  None seem like a bad choice at this juncture, but users need to fully understand their needs and expectations when choosing an option.

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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