PC Versus PS5: Where Should You Put Your Money?

PS5

The PS5 is now out in the world, and we finally get a chance to see what this next-gen console is really capable of. The thing is, for a lot of PC gamers the PS5 might represent a limitation in terms of scope and hardware ability. Some of the hardware that is set to be released in the newest generation of console gaming has actually been present in PC gaming for a long time. Curious? You should be. Read on for a full explanation of how PS5 hardware can (and is) replicated in PC gaming, and on which system can give you more for your money.

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The CPU

Ok, let's kick off by talking about the CPU in the PS5; It’s an 8 core Zen 2 AMD chip, which looking at the current line-up of processors on the market is easy enough for PC owners to match with the readily available AMD Ryzen 7 3700X. Why? Because it can handle multi-thread tasks pretty well, and even offer out 4K gaming performance at a decent price that clocks in around the $300 dollar mark.

It looks like beat for beat, this is the processor to go for if you are wanting to replicate the PS5 in a PC build. But let's talk about what you want to do if you are looking to beat the PS5 in a PC build.

Even taking the step up to a Ryzen 9 3900X is going to give you an advantage, despite the heftier price tag (coming in at about $450). This chip offers 12 cores, and 24 threads, beating out the PS5 equivalent, and it shows in benchmark tests when we see that the Ryzen 9 3900X goes head to head with Intel’s i9-990K, a throne holder in the gaming CPU world.

The point of this paragraph? To show that it's pretty easy to replicate the PS5 CPU in a PC – it’s nothing too special, just a customized AMD chip built to be fit for purpose in a mass produced unit, which is of course exactly what a console is!

But don’t forget – with the arrival of the new Zen 3 chips from AMD, it might just be that the chips that match the PS5 right now are heavily discounted, and by the end of 2020 for the same price as a 3700X right now, we could buy ourselves something even more impressive in the form of a Zen 3 chip.

The GPU

We all know that a big question a lot of people are going to have when it comes to PS5 versus PC is going to be about the graphics card. For some gamers, it's going to be the only question. So, to that end, what can we expect in the PS5?

Well, we know that it's going to be a custom version of an AMD RDNA2 GPU, and those sadly aren’t available just yet on the mass market. Give it some time, and we are definitely going to be able to buy one for ourselves – but as for pricing and technical details, we are still a little in the dark.

However...

A lot has already been revealed about what’s going into the PS5. We know that the RDNA2 architecture is going to support ray-tracing and that its performance benchmarks clock in at around the level of a 2070 Super right now – so we know that while we currently can’t go to AMD for an equivalent graphics card, we can look at the RTX 2070 Super for a contemporary equivalent.

This could be overkill though. As I mentioned before, the AMD RDNA2 architecture will be available direct to consumers before long, so if you're willing to demonstrate a little bit of patience, you will probably be able to find an equivalent GPU to what’s inside the PS5 at a much more reasonable cost.

The SSD

If you haven’t been paying attention, developers and Sony alike have been ramming the importance of the PS5’s solid-state drive (SSD) down the throat of every journalist and reader that will listen to them – and with good reason, as it represents the first SSD of this type to be put into a console, but why is it so important?

Basically, without having to spin a hard disk up to speed in order to pull in data load times are going to be cut right down, allowing for more assets to be put into games, and a higher level of rendering to be applied to the in-game worlds, making for a much more immersive experience. Good stuff too, as it comes in time to support the ambitious Unreal Engine 5.

From a technical standpoint, we know that the PS5 is going to be loaded with a PCIe 4.0 SSD, with around 5gbs reserved for performance, and another 825gb for storage.

You can buy a one terabyte equivalent for your PC right now – it's going to cost about $200, but it's possible. Again though, you might want to hold off just a little while so that the prices are more matched as the PCIe 3.0 dies out, and the reign of 4.0 begins. That is of course if you want to match the PS5 dead-on in terms of performance.

The Internal Media & Connectivity

One of the things that a PS5 has that many PCs won’t is its optical drive, which has already been revealed as being able to play Ultra HD 4K blu rays, and other media stored on those discs - physical copies of PS5 games will be released on the same format.

Realistically, is this something that you will need on your PC? Have a think about it, and tell me if it seems necessary to have a disc drive in your PC. In the age of Steam, and the Epic Games Store, and affordable external SSD drives, physical media is no longer the giant it was in PC gaming.

And sure, the argument can be made that home media will suffer because you are unable to play ultra HD 4k Blu-rays and the like. But really, unless you are playing your PC through the most expensive gaming monitors on the market today, or you have the equivalent TV locked and ready to go as an extension of your PC, are you missing out? Streaming services offer the same high-quality content in a variety of formats, and Netflix even dish out the ultra HD quality as part of its service now.

Really, you can do without that drive – And Sony knows it too, which is why one of their new PS5 models will ship without the Blu-ray drive, being a digital-only model. Bad news for those with a physical back catalog of games, good for those new to the console scene, and looking to save some money.

The PS5 has been shown as including two USB-C inputs and one USB-A port, which is no real surprise when you think about the level of connectivity you would expect on a standard console unit. We are yet to learn more about the other connections on the PS5, like what to expect from its HDMI port and power bank.

What we can take away from all of this is that a standard PC case matched with a decent PSU is going to match the PS5 in terms of its connectivity and input potential.

In fact, PC builders are going to be able to cut costs here by scaling the power (and price) of their PSU in relation to the parts they are powering – not paying through the nose for a PSU they aren’t going to be taking full advantage of.

Pricing

The PS5 is available to buy now (if you can find one in stock, that is) at a price of $499.99 for the standard edition and $399.99 for the digital-only version.

In this article I’ve looked at a few like-for-like replacements of parts you can find in a PS5 – the Ryzen 7 3700X being one of them. But let's think more about PCs as a whole, and what you can buy yourself right now for that money.

Let’s argue that you are a console owner, and building a PC isn’t for you. It’s easy, but it isn’t for you. Prebuilt PCs in the same price bracket are going to offer a very similar performance in comparison to what the PS5 is offering, with the added advantage of being able to upgrade components over time.

In fact, you don’t even have to look for a totally prebuilt option. A custom build option where you get to choose the parts going into your PC is going to open up a lot of doors in terms of weighting your PC towards its performance rather than its aesthetic or anything else – but not as much as building the PC for yourself.

Sure, the PS5 is the next generation of console gaming, and the fact that its mass-produced is going to pull some weight in terms of cost – it's much cheaper for Sony than the little guy – but realistically you can go part for part on the revealed PS5 hardware as it is at the moment, and still come out with an equivalent PC at a reasonable price.

And that price is set to only get more reasonable if you choose to wait and pick your parts once the new, various bits of hardware have been revealed. That Zen 2 AMD chip is going to cost a lot less now that the Zen 3 is on the market, so by waiting just a few months you will be able to save potentially hundreds on your build.