How to Build a Brand New Gaming PC for the Price of Console
Sony and Microsoft’s latest gaming consoles both launched this past November. The PS5 launched at a retail price of $399/$499 for model variants, and the Xbox Series X at $499. This puts the cost of these new consoles on-par with an entry-level desktop PC package.
However, PC gaming enthusiasts often buy their own hardware and build computers from scratch, saving a bit of money. So it’s often said that you can build a PC that performs better than consoles, for about the same price.
With the hardware being packed into the PS5 and Xbox Series X, the idea of building a better PC for the same price may have just become a myth. But we’re going to try anyway, so let’s see what kind of gaming PC we can build for the price of a modern console.
Can a $500 PC match current gen console hardware?
Currently, as of writing, it does not seem possible to build a better gaming PC for the same price as a new console. In previous gens, this may have been true, but let’s examine what the PS5 is rocking inside.
The PS5 has an eight-core CPU that uses AMD’s Zen 2 architecture, which is the same as a Ryzen 7 3700x. For the GPU it uses RDNA architecture, which gives real-time ray tracing and optimizations that make it even better than an RX 5700 XT GPU for PCs. This makes the PS5 capable of playing io games online at glorious 4K resolution with minimal frame drops.
So immediately at launch, there is currently no cheap PC hardware that will beat the CPU and GPU combination in the PS5. However, console technology has a curve where it becomes a bit outdated after 2 ~ 3 years while PC hardware prices drop.
So after 2 ~ 3 years, building a PC that outperforms a PS5 for around $500 USD should be completely feasible.
In the meantime though, let’s see how close we can get in terms of gaming performance.
Sourcing the parts
One major problem we’re going to have is sourcing the various parts for a PC build. There has been a well-known shortage of quality components, due to bitcoin miners and scalper bots. For example, the AMD Ryzen 5 5600X should retail for $299 USD, but due to stock shortages, resellers are asking double the price on Amazon.
So for buying individual parts, you need to compare prices across different tech stores, both online and locally, and take advantage of rebates whenever possible.
The PC parts we need
For a CPU that competes with the PS5’s, we’ll need at least a Ryzen 5 3600X series. This CPU should retail for only about $199, but due to shortages and resellers, you likely won’t find it for less than $399, plus shipping. Thanks, bots!
So ignoring price manipulations, let’s pretend we actually bought a Ryzen 5 3600X at retail price for $199, leaving us $300 in our build budget.
We need a GPU that competes with the PS5, and while several come to mind, they would immediately put us over budget. The best we can do is likely the Nvidia GTX 1650 Super, which should retail for around $160. However like CPUs, the price of GPUs is being driven up by bots and resellers, so you currently cannot find this GPU for less than double its retail price.
But assuming we get it for retail price, that brings our total spent to $360, leaving us $140. That’s barely much to work with, we still haven’t bought a motherboard, RAM, storage, etc. And we can’t forget gaming headphones, of course.
You can buy a chassis for around $30 – $60. Your motherboard is limited to the ASRock B450, for $64. This leaves us $76 for RAM, SSD, and PSU.
We can get a cheap 8GB stick of RAM for around $25, a 240GB SSD for another $25, and now we’re about $15 short of a minimum 400W power supply.
As of writing, it is impossible to build a gaming PC that outperforms the PS5 or Xbox Series X, for the same price as those consoles.
If our budget was around $800 it’s more possible, but that defeats the purpose. However, if we just wait a couple of years, the current price of mid-top level PC hardware should drop, and then it will definitely be much easier to stay within the $500 range for a gaming PC that is superior to current-gen consoles.