Should I get a new PC or a 360?
August 17, 2007 5:25 PM   Subscribe

Bioshock is looking awsome, along with several other games, but I will need an xbox360 or a PC upgrade. Which would the hivemind recommend?

Right now I have a PC with an AMD Athlon 64 3500+ processor (2.19 GHz), 1 GB ram and a ATI Radeon x700 256 MB PCIe video card.

I don't have a HDTV, so I would have to play a 360 on my monitor anyway, so I am looking for a value comparison on getting the 360 over the cost of putting together a new PC.
posted by slavlin to Computers & Internet (26 answers total)
It is a real tossup, I have a feeling a small HDTV and 360 will roughly cost the same as a new PC (one with a video card and specs that won't be obsolete in a year). It depends really on which you would rather sacrifice. I personally, always go with the PC upgrade since I usually get long life out of a nice upgrade (spending ~$1k on a box usually lasts 2-3 years for gaming and 2 years of normal application beyond that).

If you do not plan on upgrading to an HDTV anytime in the future, do not purchase a 360.
posted by geoff. at 5:45 PM on August 17, 2007

If all you want to do is play bioshock I'd go for the PC. Your processor and ram are fine for a game, but you probably need a new video card. Even with the X700 you should get better-than-normal-TV res.

However, getting an XBOX 360 is good for other reasons. I'm definitely glad I got mine, mostly for the Live Arcade games
posted by JZig at 5:49 PM on August 17, 2007

I'm from the other school. I used to drop $1K+ every year to upgrade the PC to be able to play new games in all there glory. Switched to xbox and then 360 and haven't looked back. I like the more social aspect of console gaming compared to PC also. I now take the $1k and use that towards audio/video upgrades that the whole family can enjoy. Still chugging along with my old P4 3.0GHz for a PC and it does everything I need it to do.
posted by white_devil at 5:51 PM on August 17, 2007 [2 favorites]

After actually reading the specs, you definitely need a new video card, as the x700 falls below the minimum.
posted by JZig at 5:52 PM on August 17, 2007

The question is whether you use the PC for anything other than gaming. If not, there's less and less reason to go with anything other than the 360. I have a system very similar to yours (Athy 3800+, ATI Radeon X800 PCI) and I'm getting rid of it for a Mac to do my real work on it, but for gaming I'll be using a 360. I can't see a reason not to for the price, especially now that it's dropping. The only other issue is whether you like MMORPGs. If so, you really still need a PC for those. The console experience doesn't work there and probably won't for a long time.
posted by The Bellman at 5:53 PM on August 17, 2007

Why a whole new PC instead of just upgrading your video card? If the video card isn't enough, I'd go with the 360.
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:01 PM on August 17, 2007

I've seen this question asked other places before, and the best answer I've seen is,... if you have to ask, go for the XBox.

Reasoning is, if you're the type of person who likes to tinker and upgrade your computer, install new cards and drivers and make sure everything's working properly, you'd go for the PC.

If you're like me, you go for the XBox. Just turn it on and play. No messing with anything. Mindless fun.

Couple of issues if you go for the XBox... they will in the near future be selling systems that don't get as hot and will (supposedly) be more reliable. Do some research on this... I belive they'll be called the n65 chip, but I may be wrong. Might be worth waiting for this.

Lots of people have had problems with XBox, where you have to send it in for repair/replacement. Google 'red ring of death'.

Also, you probably know this, but most people think first person shooters like Bioshock are better played with mouse and keyboard.

I've played the demo version of Bioshock by the way, and it is amazing. And I don't even like first person shooters.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 7:08 PM on August 17, 2007

As for the Xbox-reliability issue, I sent mine in for repair after they extended the dreaded "Ring of Deah" warranty and have been perfectly happy.

Also, Bomberman. I'll be naming my first born Bomberman.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:30 PM on August 17, 2007

Many PC games now run better on the Xbox 360 than the PC. Consistent environment makes all the difference. The Bioshock demo looks lovely in 720p on my Xbox 360 plugged into a Dell LCD.
posted by Nelson at 7:49 PM on August 17, 2007

In general, game consoles will cost you less for a given level of performance than the PC upgrade treadmill does. This is because game console manufacturers run a similar business model to inkjet printer manufacturers: they sell you the hardware for very little to hook you, then sell you supplies for very much.

So if you're only going to play a few games, get the console. If you're going to play a wide variety of games, go the PC upgrade route.

I'm in no way a gamer, so you should check the prices of these things yourself before taking any advice of mine.
posted by flabdablet at 8:03 PM on August 17, 2007

Are you running Vista? IIRC Bioshock uses the UT2k7 engine, which requires a version of DirectX that only runs on Vista, so that could potentially cost you another couple hundred bucks to go the PC route. Unless you were going to upgrade anyway, but it is a fine time to get off the treadmill. 360 hardware reliablility is horrible, but MS seems to be doing right by the unfortunate buyers of defective systems, so that seems to be just a matter of potential inconvenience rather than a dealbreaker. I'm in pretty much the same situation and am planning to get a used 360 that will hopefully get me through Bioshock in working-enough condition so that I can get rid of it on Craigslist when I need funds for Super Mario Galaxy.
posted by moift at 8:29 PM on August 17, 2007

I had to make this decision awhile ago, and I ended up choosing the 360. Most of the big title games are on both PC and 360. While the PC can for some games pull off better graphics, that only really matters if you have the insanely expensive hardware necessary to support those graphics. With the 360, you won't have to worry about upgrading for several years, until the new console comes out. With a PC, you might have to update relatively frequently to keep up with the new games.
The only regret I have about choosing the 360 is that RTS games are very, very few and pretty difficult to control. If you're not a fan of RTS's, then I would strongly suggest the 360.
posted by god particle at 9:01 PM on August 17, 2007

the onlything that I would add to the other comments is that the latest generation of GPUs can be useful for some computationally intensive apps like media processing, so a new graphics card *might* be useful for something besides gaming.
posted by Good Brain at 10:00 PM on August 17, 2007

moift: Er, no, BioShock is a DirectX 9 game, and will run fine in XP. If not people would be *all* over the emergence of an actual reason to switch to Vista.

Personally, I'd go for an extra GB of memory and a newer graphics card. If you're on socket 939 instead of 754 I'd also consider grabbing a dual core Opteron 1xx, but that's probably not critical just yet.

If you are still on socket 754, a new system *may* be in order, since there's no dual core support, or even dual channel memory. I'd be surprised if BioShock wasn't happy with just a bit more memory and a slightly newer graphics card, though; this is likely to come in at significantly less than the price of a 360.

For me it's a no-brainer; I want to play Crysis, Far Cry 2, World in Conflict, the next Supreme Commander, StarCraft 2, and the next few Half-Life games, and my computer gets tonnes of other use which benefit from the CPU and memory. On the other hand, "console ports" consistantly reduce my estimation of the point of a console; who wants to play those kind of games? :/
posted by Freaky at 12:08 AM on August 18, 2007

It ships Tuesday. I would strongly suggest waiting for at least a week to find out how well it runs in both environments.

Once you know where it runs best, then you can think the other issues. One thing you may not have considered: analog sticks in FPS games really suck. I would personally never play Bioshock that way.

You'll need to spend probably $750ish on pieces for your PC to get it fully up to snuff, as you'll have to upgrade the motherboard, CPU, RAM, and video card. You can cherry-pick components from the Ars System Guide: Gaming at Ars Technica. Note that their suggested Intel board has only 1 PATA port. This will work okay if you have 1 CD/DVD and 1 hard drive, but if you have any more than that, you'll need to find a board that has two PATA ports, or else buy an SATA hard drive as well. No P35 chipset board at Newegg has 2 PATA ports. If you need them, it looks like you'll need to go AMD with Socket AM2.

At this exact moment, the Core2 chips are substantially stronger than the AMD chips clock for clock; AMD has dropped their prices a long way to compete, so overall, the bang per buck is pretty similar. If, however, you are willing to overclock your chip, the Core2s are absolutely insanely good at this; it's not that uncommon for people to get 3.6Ghz out of Core2 chips on air cooling. I haven't heard of anyone failing with minor overclocks, either... they seem to have a ton of headroom. I'm running my 2.4Ghz chip at 2.7Ghz without a problem.

You also have the additional cost of a new Windows license, possibly; you may be able to transfer your existing license. If you have a retail pack, you're fine. If you have an OEM pack, you can tell them the old system broke and you had to replace the motherboard. (If you break it yourself, this won't even be lying.) And you have to invest the time to build and test. But if you use your computer a lot, you'll get the use of the pieces every time you sit down.

In comparison, a 360 Premium with a VGA adapter will run you about $400. But realize that the sound may not work with your existing setup; the 360 needs to drive a receiver for proper surround sound. I'm not sure what kind of sound the VGA cable provides, you'll want to check on that.

If you buy the 360, to make the $400 purchase worthwhile, you will need to buy many more games. Bioshock will have cost you $460 if you don't.

If you upgrade your PC, then you don't have to buy another damn thing to get the use out of the components... although if you're not gaming, that 8800GTS is a bit of a money sink.

Basically, if you buy lots of games, it really depends on how much you use your PC... and whether or not you can stand an FPS with an analog stick to aim.
posted by Malor at 2:59 AM on August 18, 2007 [2 favorites]

My vote is for PC, but then again I am a somewhat of a hardcore PC gamer.

1. Bioshock will play better on PC, purely because mouse and keyboard is superior for FPS games. The PC Gamer Podcast this week had their Bioshock reviewer on who had played through the entire game already on PC and 360 confirmed he vastly preferred the PC version, and not for the control scheme alone.

2. You don't need DX10, or Vista, to play Bioshock. As Freaky said, it will run just fine under DX9 in XP, in fact the 360 version is also DX9. So actually to get the DX10 experience the only way is Vista, which I wouldn't reccommend.

3. You are above the minimum specs and you could upgrade to the reccomended specs without too much cost. Another gig of ram and a top of the line video card would probably make it play quite well. And cost you a lot less money then buying an HDTV and a 360.
posted by sophist at 5:22 AM on August 18, 2007

Are control issues with the 360 going to be an issue? I have playing FPSes on consoles compared to the mouse and computer combo. I just saw the demo of Bioshock at my friend's place last night though and the 360 graphics and fluidity of play was well beyond anything I've been able to get out of my PCs in the last few years. I would see if you could check out the demo on the 360. It was stunning.
posted by zackola at 6:11 AM on August 18, 2007

have = hate playing FPSes. Just woke up.
posted by zackola at 6:11 AM on August 18, 2007

This is why I have adopted a "wait and see" attitude towards games, on consoles and PCs. Being an early adopter is expensive. The upgrade treadmill is expensive. And if a game is really good, it'll still be around (perhaps discounted as a "classic") a year from now when I'm ready for it.
posted by SPrintF at 9:43 AM on August 18, 2007

My vote is for 360, but to really make your decision it depends on what the 'several other games' you mention are.

Both the 360 and PC have a number of exclusives this year, and even with all the crossover in games like bioshock there's a whole lot of difference in natural playstyle.

Come november, would you rather rock every piece of a four part band or a annhilate a hostile military?

In general, if you aren't good at RTS or hardcore online FPS games then a console is the better choice. Those are the only genres that just don't play as well on a console, although Halo fans would disagree.

I should also mention that you don't need an HDTV to play or enjoy the 360, it's just sort of a really neat bonus (unlike the hard drive). I personally play on a 27" standard def set, and everything except occasionally small text still looks pretty good.
posted by sandswipe at 10:24 AM on August 18, 2007

I'll be playing BioShock on my 360, simply because I bought the damned thing to play Mass Effect and now I hafta use it for something until that comes out, and since it's a single-player game, I don't mind the analog-stick control scheme.

I've been surprised by how much I like Xbox Live, too. It wasn't much of a consideration when I bought the console, but I've really enjoyed some of the games available.

And, like, robocop, I had the "Red Ring of Death" problem. I was blown away by Microsoft's response: they were friendly, responsive, apologetic, and efficient in getting my console repaired and back to me in about a week. I was all revved up to complain about it, but it was probably the best warranty repair customer service I've ever experienced. Which it damn well should be, because it shouldn't have broken in the first place.

I vote 360, for ease-of-use and future gaming goodness.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:56 AM on August 18, 2007

I appreciate all the feedback. I think I am going to opt for a 360 sometime soon. I hate RTS games and am kind of burned out on MMORPGS (Thanks WoW.) so there aren't many games that I would say must be played on the PC over the console.

Sophist, just FYI, the specs have changed since those were announced, I think. I don't have it up right now, but as I recall it does require DX10 now.
posted by slavlin at 2:45 PM on August 18, 2007

slavin: Operating Systems:
Windows XP (with Service Pack 2) or
Windows Vista

Being the publishers I suspect they would know.
posted by Freaky at 5:09 PM on August 18, 2007

If you don't plan to get an HDTV to go along with a 360, stick with a new or upgraded PC. HD adds so much to the experience.
posted by aerotive at 8:55 PM on August 18, 2007

Thanks Freaky. I see that it is not necessary, but I still only have an x700 while it requires an x1300 minimum, but I don't think an x1300 or better would cost much to get.
posted by slavlin at 10:36 PM on August 18, 2007

You can get X1950Pro cards at Newegg for about $170. The 1950XTs are quite a bit faster, but I see only one of those left now, at $260. 1650Pros are about $90.

Most likely, none of these would let you play the game at full glory, but it would run.
posted by Malor at 1:20 AM on August 19, 2007

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