PC Gaming is Dead. Your Console is a PC, we’ve already One.
PC Vs Console
While I have never truly considered game consoles to be in competition with PC gaming, the audience surrounding this ideal does prove to be entertaining. Where the console has the attention of the general consumer with the average person making up much of the demographic that amounts to sales, PC is of a drastically different crowd. Surveyed in February 2015, the number of active users on Steam alone crossed 125 million, rising to 1.2 billion users the following year. Compared to this year’s estimated install base of 55-58 million users on the PlayStation 4, with less than half those numbers on the Xbox One and it’s clear that PC gaming is in a league of its own.
Worth $10.5 billion in the year of 2016, the hardware sales of game consoles clearly isn’t touching that of the $30 billion that came from PC hardware sales. Given the fact that the most popular online games are exclusive to the PC platform – primarily comprised of competitive games often played for eSports, then it’s understandable as to why PC gaming is the go-to place for hardcore gamers. Regardless of the chosen platform, gaming by all its namesake is about having fun and spending time with or without friends in order to immerse yourself in make believe fantasy. Whether that be for an engaging experience filled with narrative, or a highly competitive one which encourages you to improve your skills and conquer the battlefield, gamers will do so on whatever platforms appeals to them.
The New Kid On The Block
Much anticipated by PC and console gamers alike, Microsoft’s unveiling of their latest game console – Xbox One X, certainly proved to be a head-turner. With a lack-luster line-up of exclusive games failing to entice PlayStation gamers, PC gamers by their very nature were only interested in the technical make-up of the machine as opposed to the games themselves, which are all in-fact available on the PC. Falling into the same generation of their current console, this introduction of their latest machine is intended to serve as a premium model for those in need of a visual upgrade to heighten their gaming experiences from the original Xbox One. In a much similar fashion to Sony’s PlayStation 4 and PS4 Pro, the Xbox One X features a significant uplift to hardware specifications, while keeping a familiar aesthetic to the base console.
As Microsoft’s latest machine will play the exact same games as the original model with no games being exclusive to take full advantage of the more powerful hardware, the Xbox One X has been designed to play games at higher resolutions with improved image quality. Said to be available at retail towards the later half of the year, the machine has been confirmed to cost £450. Within this article I will be exploring the possibility of building a gaming PC that either rivals or exceeds the capabilities of the Xbox One X at a similar build price. As the audience for these two machines are entirely different within their views and opinions towards gaming, all the while being an audience who just so happens to be using them for the exact same thing, it’s worth noting a set of rules to guide the process along, with valuable information to better understand the goal.
What It Does
Microsoft’s Xbox One X has been designed to offer a premium experience over the base model. Compared to what’s available on the PC and taking into consideration the hardware specifications of the Xbox One X, the machine should in-theory deliver image quality ranging from High to Ultra settings, with screen resolutions higher than 1440p. As Microsoft has built the machine to target 4K resolutions, with the majority of games shown so far being upscaled from a lower resolution, games such as the upcoming Forza 7 along with other less demanding games should indeed reach 4K.
Due to certain hardware choices still retaining to that of the original model, high frame-rates will still remain a difficult task to master, again, proven by the games shown thus far. Traditionally sold at a loss with profits being recuperated from games and online-services, much is the case with the Xbox One X. Confirmed to not make any profit on each unit sold, one can easily gather that the BOM cost (bill of materials) is either identical or greater then the retail price. Taking into account the mass production of components which affords the company discounts through the production process, the hopes of building a machine at the exact same price with identical specifications does indeed seem quite out of reach.
Featuring the same AMD APU (advanced processing unit) technology as the Xbox One as well as the PlayStation 4, the Xbox One X uses the same Jaguar processor from 2013, designed for low-power machines and notebook PCs. With an 8-Core design and a clock-speed of 2.3GHz, it shouldn’t come as a surprise as to why high frame-rates will still be off the table for the majority of games. Where things start to look up for the machine resides in its memory bandwidth and GPU structure. Running at 1172MHz with 326GB/s of bandwidth, the 40 compute units pushing this level of performance amounts to 2000+ Shader Cores with 12GB of GDDR5 memory. Totaling 6 TeraFlops of computing power, this falls greatly in-line with AMD’s current Mid-Range GPU the RX 580.
Proving to be a noticeable improvement over the original Xbox One, the 6TFLOPs of processing power should rival that of Nvidia’s upper-tier GTX 1060, which despite its lower technical specifications of 4TFLOPs (maximum), either rivals or beats the AMD RX 580 in real world practice. This is due to a little theory I like to call“The Core Effect”. Based on the differences which Nvidia and AMD have taken to the design process of their GPU architectures over the prior years, GPU performance metrics cannot simply be measured by core counts or TFLOPs ratings.
“The Core Effect”
In most recent years, Nvidia GPUs have seen a reduction to core counts only to improve upon GPU efficiency and raising clock-speeds. AMD has taken the route of lower clock-speeds with a higher number of cores. Looking towards the GTX 1060 we see 1280 Shader Cores at 1708MHz+, 192GB/s memory bandwidth and 8000MHz of memory speed. This delivers a maximum performance rating of 4TFLOPs. The RX 580 features almost twice the number of Shader Cores at 2304 with a maximum speed of 1340MHz. Aided by memory bandwidth that reaches out to 256GB/s, 6TLOPs of computing power is just within reach.
Is a 6TFLOP AMD GPU just a 4TFLOP Nvidia GPU?
And this is why Nvidia and AMD graphics cards cannot be directly compared by specifications alone. GPU architecture and efficiency must be taken into account, as this single piece of information only does well to strengthen the claims of Nvidia GPU efficiency , all the while leaving AMD graphics cards appearing over-spec’d yet under-performing. “The Core Effect”
This build is intended to serve as a guide for those looking to build a gaming PC with equal or greater than performance of the Xbox One X, albeit at a reasonable price. Despite the marketing buzz and the many slogans drooling from E3 2017 drooling 6TFLOPs of performance, and the Xbox One X being as powerful as a £1000 gaming PC equipped with a GTX 1070, this is not in-fact what consumers will be getting from the Xbox One X.
As stated previously, the history of console manufacturing as well as the information provided on the Xbox One X does lead to the possibility of a higher manufacturing price than to that of retail. With that being said, the list of components that have been chosen for this build are of a suitable pricing and performance rating for the intended purpose.
Featuring AMD’s latest Ryzen 3 1200 processor, the quad-core design of the 14nm architecture allows for high clock-speeds at 3.4GHz, with great temperature control and energy-efficiency.
While the RX 580 retails for a similar if not identical price to that of the upper-tier GTX 1060, at this current time AMD graphics card prices have risen and are in short supply due to the popularity of crypto-currency mining. For this reason we opt for the upper-tier GTX 1060, which in many benchmarks has proven to match or exceed the RX 580. And it’s only got 4TFLOPs of computing power.
Allowing for a maximum speed of 1600MHz of DDR3, Crucial offers a single 8GB DIMM to meet these requirements.
While many may choose to go with a hard disk drive due to the additional amount of storage available relative to its price, we chose to go the route of an ADATA 128GB SSD. Equal to both consoles and PC alike, storage upgrades will be inevitable due to the install size of games. For these reasons it’s possible to add a hard disk drive later down the line.
Providing communication between every component forming the build, the Gigabyte 78LMT meets all the requirements for driving the gaming experience.
Feeding the components the necessary amount of power while still adhering to the 80 PLUS standards, the AeroCool Integrator 500W 80 PLUS Bronze PSU features the required cables and safety we’re after. If it ain’t 80 PLUS, it ain’t worth installing.
While the chassis, keyboard and mouse will be up to each individual’s personal tastes, needs and preferences, in order to meet a reasonable price for this build we opt for the CiT Lightspeed gaming case and the Logitech MK120 keyboard and mouse combo. Many articles of this nature will not feature an operating system as part of the build.
While Linux is an alternative to Windows and it’s free, the lack of support both in regards to available games and hardware drivers, means it’s not a viable platform for those seeking to play a wide array of games. As of such, Windows 10 appears to be the logical choice. Available through a variety of online retailers at a starting price of £30, official prices start at £85, which is what will be chosen for this build.
CiT Lightspeed: £26.64
Logitech MK120: £15.84
Windows 10: £85.74
Total (including shipping)
Exceeding the price of the Xbox One X was clearly obvious in the hopes to match or improve upon its performance. Where the difference between each of these machines resides it’s down to the games and services each platform offers. While the Xbox One X will require a £39.99 annually charge for its online services. The PC will be free. Where the cost of games are nearly double to that of the exact same game on PC, they offer no options or improvements in regards to personal preferences towards visuals or frame-rates.
While the genre of games will always be personal to each individual, every Xbox exclusive title is available on Windows 10, along with a great number of third-party games being purely exclusive to that of the PC. Offering the opportunity for performance upgrades later down the line should gamers desire a visual improvement over their current set-up, graphics cards, RAM, and CPUs will always be interchangeable, while the Xbox One X will always be stuck with its current hardware configuration.
PC Vs Console – Never Again.
While the case for console-optimization and “close to the metal” access will afford a game console superior performance to that of an equally spec’d PC may have reigned true back in 2008, times have changed. While I have no doubt that Microsoft as well as game developers will push the system to its limits and make the most of its hardware, the days of exceeding equally spec’d PCs are over. Much like the original Xbox One and the PlayStation 4, these latest consoles do not feature any custom designed components that aren’t already available or of similar technology on the PC.
These consoles run the same X86 architecture as the PC, with the Xbox One in particular using a custom-version of a Windows operating system. Taking into account the incredible number of improvements that game developers and GPU manufacturers have taken with driver support and the DirectX 11 API, with Nvidia in particular designing low-spec graphics cards that either rival or surpass both the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4, then one has to question what exactly this machine can offer when the prior performance benefits of console hardware are practically non-existent.
However, there is one thing to take away from all of this that affords the Xbox One X an incredible benefit – it has killed the pricing for custom built Mid-Range PCs at the £500 mark. For gamers who aren’t too interested in the PC ideologies of upgrading hardware and making the machine your own, those looking for a descent machine that plays their games at a high visual quality will best be suited to the Xbox One X. This will inevitably change a few years from now as hardware becomes cheaper to produce due to much more powerful hardware being released on an annually basis, but as for now, this is clearly a benefit in favour of the Xbox One X.
The hardware featured in this Combo-Breaker build are available at Dino PC.