PC, XBox X or PS5?
December 14, 2020 6:53 AM   Subscribe

I want to play Cyberpunk 2077 (among other things). I'm considering getting a Xbox X, PS5 or building a gaming PC.

I'm trying to decide whether I should go ahead and invest in a gaming PC or get a XBox X or PS5. The XBox X and PS5 are both about €500 here in Germany. I know that's roughly the cost of a high end video card alone. So which would be the better investment?

With a console, I just plug it in and go (well, after all the updates, of course). There's no upgrade path, but I expect games to look really good for at least a few years. I'm not crazy about console controllers, but I'm fairly sure I can use a keyboard and mouse on the XBox. And I've got a decent, 55" 4k TV to play on.

With a PC, I have to deal with a Windows license, but I do have the benefit of playing all of my Steam games that I've purchased over the years. I also have a decent 30" 4k monitor, but it means I would have to game in my work space (trying hard to keep them separate when working from home). I can also game using a mouse and keyboard.

My main goals:
- play Cyberpunk 2077
- play older games Some Star Wars games, and I desperately want to play the Tony Hawk games again)
- play games in 4k, relatively smoothly

I've watched the side by side gameplay videos of Xbox X, PS5 and PC. The PC graphics look the best, of course, followed by Xbox X.

Any suggestions? Thanks!

Oh, also, I have a Nintendo switch, and it's fun for casual gaming (Diablo III, Zelda, Animal Crossing), but I want to get back into more serious gaming.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts to Computers & Internet (22 answers total)
A few points:

The proper Xbox Series X (be careful not to get the Xbox One X, that's the old version!) and PS5 versions of Cyberpunk are not out yet, so no one can now how they will look compared to PC. And all of the versions are complete messes right now. So it's impossible to really predict how different they will end up being.

Keyboard/Mouse work on both the PS5 and XSX, but it depends on the game. You'll have to goggle the individual game to find out, but most shooters support it.

Playing older games is a bit complicated, your best bet for Tony Hawk is actually the recent Tony Hawk 1+2 remake which is on all 3 platforms and is great. Otherwise on PC emulators will play all of them but are a bit harder to setup, while on PS5 there is limited support for PS1 games. XSX will play pretty much any original xbox or xbox 360 game so you get a lot of access to that generation of games. PS2 and PS3 games are hard to play now

I actually think all 3 options will satisfy your goals. The PS5 has more exclusive games so look at that list to see if anything is interesting. The XSX is price efficient if you get game pass. And the PC is the most flexible but most expensive
posted by JZig at 6:59 AM on December 14, 2020

Over the whole run of PS and Xbox consoles, the PS has always had less bullshit imo, and The Xboxes are just full of shitty UI and ads, even though they otherwise work fine. This seems to keep getting worse with each successor, though I'm done with them now and won't be keeping up with precisely how they are sucking.
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:04 AM on December 14, 2020

A gaming PC is a better investment if you use your computer for literally anything else graphics or ram heavy or if you plan on being an invested next gen gamer moving forward. It doesn't seem worth it for this game in particular alone, however, based on what my friends are saying.

You could be fine with a PC that has a i9 processor or equivalent, 32 MB Ram, and a Ge Force 2070 graphics card (or anything higher, although some, like the 3090, might be overkill) for what you're aiming for but that is still quite expensive.
posted by Young Kullervo at 7:10 AM on December 14, 2020

I kind of hate consoles. They're not upgradable, and they're sometimes artificially crippled. I hate having to work within the bounds of planned obsolescence (that is, at least software obsoleteness).

Building a PC these days is surprisingly easy; the last computer I built before this one was decades ago in high school; it has gotten much much easier, and there's thousands of videos with help on youtube. It is easy if you know how to play with legos. I don't remember how much we spent on ours, because it was a few years ago, but I want to say it was less than $700 all in (we have a projector, and didn't need a monitor or other peripherals).

FWIW my friend who is dedicated to the console-only lifestyle is always shocked at how well my (largely budget) HTPC plays games. I will need to upgrade my graphics card to play Cyberpunk, but I expect that upgrade will last years. Current build has largely been left untouched (I added RAM once), and runs some pretty heavy games just fine.

Current roadmap is to get it refreshed with a new GPU, and slowly prepare it for VR stuff. But that shouldn't require too much based on my current build.

You can get every stripe of controller for a gaming PC too; but I still prefer using a keyboard. YMMV.
posted by furnace.heart at 7:11 AM on December 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

Husband and I have low-ish end desktop PCs. We ended up buying Cyberpunk 2077 on Stadia (which looks to be avail in Germany) to basically stream the video game to our desktops. It's been surprisingly painless! Nothing to install, no patches to worry about, and I've played about 6 hours, and if it were not for all the press, I would not have described the game as buggy. (I was even able to get through character creation on my basic chromebook.)

There may still be a deal available where if you buy Cyberpunk, Stadia'll send you a Chromecast Ultra + controller (which'll slowly ship out), so you can plug it into your TV and play from the couch. With Google products, everyone's mileage may vary in terms of long term support, but I've been quite pleasantly surprised.

To your specific question, get a low/mid range PC, get Cyberpunk on Stadia.
posted by ellerhodes at 7:17 AM on December 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

I used to be a PC gamer but I've almost complete transitioned over to console as I've gotten older. It's easier on my body to sit on a properly ergo recliner vs. upright at a computer, and it's helped my arm/wrist not hurt due to K+M control. The other factor for me is that my gaming time is limited, and console is more conducive to that (in my experience) - no fiddling with settings or patches - just start the game and play. I was a dedicated PC gamer for 20+ years and console gaming is just so much easier and better for my lifestyle. The other thing that made me transition was the lack of need for dedicated desktop - I have an ultrabook for work so having a gaming PC on top of that feels like a little more than I need.

With that opinion in mind, I went with Xbox Series X this generation as it has more of the exclusives I like as well as game pass ultimate. Being able to netflix games will probably save me hundreds if not thousands of dollars over the next few years; I'm a compulsive game-tryer and all those $20-$60 "I wonder if I'll like it" purchases add up - I've only bought one game since I purchased the console but have a regular 10 I play, and I can switch around at any time. Other selling points for me are the form factor (monolith realness) and the fact it is silent - coming from a PS4 Pro that sounded like a jet engine, having a silent console is a major selling point for me.

It really depends on what your long-term goals are. PCs are more powerful, more expandable, and dead-easy to build. They take more work in terms of maintenance, but they are more flexible and can a lot of stuff that consoles can't. If you just want to play games with no hassle, console gaming is the better option (in my opinion).
posted by _DB_ at 7:22 AM on December 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

My vote is to buy or build a PC. Note that building a PC right now is going to be pricey, if I'm not mistaken - there's a bit of a "shortage" on GPUs and the prices for current-gen GPUs is eye-popping. I ultimately decided to just buy a gaming laptop this week instead of putting $600+ into just the GPU.
posted by jzb at 7:22 AM on December 14, 2020

PC gaming is a arms race.

Unless you like/can afford regularly updating hardware - particularly storage space, then PC gaming is not for you. Pro's; largest game catalogue possible - you did mention having a Steam catalogue, you'll also have access to itch.io and depending on how geeky you want to get emulator games from yesteryear.

Also depending on what you like playing you might have to faff with various 'Launcher' software from companies that have game exclisive rights : GOG, Epic, Steam, Bethesda etc

Console gaming is 'hobbled', but has the advantage of - YMMV - being plug n play.

You mentioned not liking console controllers, so it feels like no console will really make you happy in that area. No controller on the current market fully emulates everything a keyboard can do / ways a keyboard setup can be used.

With the newest generation of console you also have the headache of (currently) expensive storage.

If you sign up to either the PSN Network or XBox (whatever they call their online service now) - subscription services, you'll have cloud access to larger catalogues of older (and some new games) at minimal cost

If you specifically want to play Cyberpunk 2077 - then the optimised versions for PS5/X Xbox Series X aren't out yet so no one really knows what they will look/perform like.

I find it interesting that you own a Nintendo Switch and yet don't consider the catalogue of games available 'serious'.

If by 'Serious' gaming you mean high spec, minimal ping FPS games, or things akin to Dark Souls : Darker than Dark, then you should probably go the PC route.

Pick ya poison.

Good Luck.
posted by Faintdreams at 7:37 AM on December 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

For our primary game system we went with the xbox - better backwards compatibility, game pass and frequent deals make it a reasonable/adult/not a complete sucka approach to gaming. We also have Switch and I have built PCs & hackintoshs. If you aren't aware of the exclusives on Sony (which are nice but new are $$$), aren't interested in 'family' gaming on the switch (which is fun with the kids but every damn game is 60$), don't have a pile of Steam/GOG/humblebundle games (they taunt me in their unplayed multitudes) then the Xbox is your ticket.
posted by zenon at 8:23 AM on December 14, 2020

Game Pass Ultimate is the best deal in gaming, IMO. It's even got EA Play now.
posted by aramaic at 8:25 AM on December 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

The Stadia bundle promo has expired, but you can play in your PC browser with K+M or most controllers. Or on an Android phone with a compatible controller. There are a couple free games (Destiny 2 and a Bomberman) to try it out if you want. Could be a great option to try a modern game and see if PC gaming is the route you want to take. Note that you do need the "Pro" subscription to get 4K, otherwise the cost is per game.

I was on the fence between Stadia or PC since my machine is old and I wasn't sure how it would run. My PC is roughly 8 years old (CPU falls between the minimum and recommended) and I've swapped around parts to have the OS on an SSD and a 1060 GPU (which meets the "recommended") and I'm pleasantly surprised that I'm able to play Cyberpunk on the medium graphics setting and get a fairly solid 60 fps at 1080. It doesn't look better than the consoles, but it looks good enough for me and it's playable. Even a lower-spec gaming PC still offers more flexibility than console gaming.

If you have a decent library of PC games already, aren't crazy about using a controller, and are are trying to keep the costs about the same, I'd definitely recommend a PC over a console, and I'd suggest something low to mid range with upgrade paths (CPU, GPU, RAM) you can use as you need them.

But if you have to have 4K, then it's a tougher decision. You will need a high end GPU so the build cost for a PC will definitely be 2x (or more) compared to a new console. If you are looking more at a "couch gaming" situation, I'd argue that 1080 would probably be fine. I also have a 55" 4K TV that my PC uses as a second display and from the couch, it's pretty difficult to see much of a difference between 4K and 1080. However, if you are going to sit at a desk with a large 4K monitor and play with K+M, you already know the answer. :)
posted by hankscorpio83 at 12:38 PM on December 14, 2020

If you expect to have the money over the next couple of years, the sweet spot for this generation will be a pc and a ps5. Just about everything that shows up for the new xbox will also appear on windows (but maybe not in the store you want), and then a ps5 for the next Horizon game or Last of Us 3 or other Sony exclusives.

Building a pc now is more complicated than usual because the stuff you'd likely want to get -- nvidia 3xxx or amd 6xxx video cards, amd 5xxx cpus -- are all in markedly short supply.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 1:24 PM on December 14, 2020

If you want to play at 4k native, PC is the only way to go. I don't know how well your particular displays will look at non-native resolution especially given the very large sizes of your panels.

For true 4k gaming, an overclocked 3080 at a minimum, a 3090 realistically - and that's with DLSS on.

fwiw, I have a 2600x CPU and a RTX 3070. It looks absolutely gorgeous on a 28" 1440p gaming panel with G-sync but I'm only managing 40-60fps with occasional dips at mostly-Ultra. Which is fine. The panel was $700 CAD and the 3070 $800 CAD (all in).

I got lucky getting the 3070 at MSRP a week after launch - would not advise paying more than MSRP. The second hand market for video cards are stupid right now, with used 2060Supers still being listed at $600+.

The minimum I'd recommend for a PC build is a reasonable CPU and at least a 2060Super (not the regular 2060). This should be acceptable for 1440p and more than adequate for 1080p. I imagine that the second hand 2xxxS will get better once the new 6xxx Radeon cards become more available - cryptocurrency mining has been sucking GPUs out of the market and the Radeons are much better than the Nvidias for that, this generation. Or after Christmas as kiddies replace their 2xxx's.

Current gen Radeons do raytracing less well, but have a lot more raw horsepower at comparable price points.

If I was in the market for a budget but powerful GPU, I'd wait until the second hand market for 2060Ss start hitting the $250 CAD range. For unoptimized games, it'll get you better performance than the new consoles at 1080p, and loads better performance at 1440p. At 4k it's inadequate but the consoles are definitely cheating at 4k.

If you're willing to spend, the 3060Ti is an interesting card and would have been named a 3070 using the old Titan/ Ti naming schemes as the 60Ti is a cut down 70 instead of a different architecture.

Looking at screenshots and video from even new consoles - it's not worth playing CP2077 on them right now. Last gen consoles? Muddy garbage, such a travesty.
posted by porpoise at 2:49 PM on December 14, 2020

Also - be aware of benchmarks for the game. Just ran into a few. The intro is deliberately lower complexity leading to much better FPS performance than the game proper. In the intro I was consistently hitting buttery 60-80 FPS on Ultra/ Ultra at 1440p (on a 144hz monitor with G-sync).
posted by porpoise at 3:32 PM on December 14, 2020

A Nvidia 3090 card as porpoise recommends starts at $1,499 this Nvidia website is accurate. So y'know, that's a lot. Not saying don't do it, but either the Xbox Series X or PS5 (disc) is $500. PS5 also has a discless version for $400. It's just a lot cheaper if that matters.

As others said, Microsoft's Gamepass is the best deal in gaming with all first party titles coming to it for free. It's on Xbox and PC. I just got the Xbox Series X (which is in short supply, as is the PS5) and it's great at lowering loading times and improving some old games, but we're still waiting for the killer game for it. PS5 has more exclusives right now.

Every Xbox One game (except Kinect motion sensor games, very small minority) plays on the Series X as well as a ton of older Xbox games.

Eventually Cyberpunk will get a next-gen patch, but for right now, I already returned my copy and may just not buy it again. Not a recommend from me, but YMMV of course. There's... problems... with it.

There really isn't a bad option among the three. I lean toward Xbox/PC because of the insane value that is GamePass. I do some gaming on my gaming laptop w/ a 32" 1440p 165hz monitor and it's fun.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 3:39 PM on December 14, 2020

Also the 3090 is difficult to find currently.
posted by Young Kullervo at 4:12 PM on December 14, 2020

Geforce Now is also an option. You can even try it for free (without RTX) to see if it would for you before paying the 5 Euro a month, though it may take a while of waiting in the queue to give it that try these days.
posted by wierdo at 7:23 PM on December 14, 2020

In addition to the Xbox's backward compatibility, people have already successfully ported emulators to it so it has a fairly large catalog if older or homebrew games are something in which you are interested. The same is true for a PC, of course, but an acceptable gaming PC will be (much) more expensive than an Xbox.
posted by ElKevbo at 8:24 PM on December 14, 2020

So many great answers! I tried out Stadia and was really impressed. I'm certainly not going to get the same level of quality as a console or jacked up PC, but it would be playable.

I havem't been able to get any GeForce Now games to work yet (running a 2017 macbook pro).

I guess I really don't need full 4k. I'm sure games look great at 1080p or 1440p.

I think that, if I had to choose a console, I'd go XBox. The PS5 exclusives aren't that appealing to me, but the some Xbox ones are (Flight Simulator, Wasteland 3..I know, both are available on PC).

I'm going back and forth about the PC. I think I'm willing to spend some extra money. But I'm still not thrilled with sharing my working space. I guess I could always stow a mouse and keyboard in my living room, so I can use the tv for gaming.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 5:09 AM on December 15, 2020

But I'm still not thrilled with sharing my working space

I was a desktop-gamer for basically my entire life past childhood, and now that the Plague Times are upon us I snagged a Series X because, why the hell not everything sucks and I can afford it. My desktop is 3yrs old, but still reasonably capable.

...and now I discover that having an entirely different setup with rapid startup aimed at playing from across the room while reclined on a couch is frankly great. Couch gaming, geez, why didn't I pay any attention for all those years? Sure, yes, I can't aim as accurately but ehhhhhh maybe I don't care about accurate aim as much as I once did, and tbh the transition from Working-I-am-Working-Now PC to Time-Off-Has-Started console is frankly nice.
posted by aramaic at 7:53 AM on December 15, 2020

I've landed on getting a Xbox X.

I hemmed and hawed over the PC. I've been building PCs for nearly 30 years, and have no issues doing that. I realized that I'm willing to blow a ton of money on something totally tricked out. And I would easily justify notching up each component one by one. "Oh, maybe I should just get the Ryzen 7 over the 5. Ok, I guess spending a little more for the unlocked one would be good." Same for the video card. Like slowly bringing a frog to a boil, I could easily cook myself to death by justifying $2500. Stepping back, I just can't justify that. Or even half of that. Must. Be. Responsible. Adult.

A big point for the console route was well-stated by @aramaic:
"...the transition from Working-I-am-Working-Now PC to Time-Off-Has-Started console is frankly nice."

Also, the Xpass Ultimate subscription looks pretty amazing. And the fact that it works for both console and PC gives me a lot of flexibility moving forward.

And Stadia - wow. Graphics aren't GREAT, but games are playable. I'm gong to keep that as an open option. The free games there are enough for me.

There was a local shop that had an Xbox available, but we're back to lockdown today in Bavaria, so no non-essential stores are closed until January, or the case numbers come down. I ordered online, and have a delivery date of January 2.

So thanks again for all of the advice. I look forward to melting away into my couch in a couple of weeks.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 1:03 AM on December 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

It's worth noting that the reviews of cyberpunk are not good especially for xbox & Playstation. Sony has taken the unusual step of offering a universal refund for the game.
posted by zenon at 6:41 AM on December 18, 2020

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