May 7, 2021

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Beauty Made Perfect

This Is How Much It Would Cost You To Build A PC To Rival The PS5, Xbox Series X

The PS5 and Xbox Series X have finally landed in Australia at $749 a piece — and they’re offering an awful lot for that price. So if you wanted to enjoy that same quality experience on PC, just how much would it cost?

Before we begin, there’s a few caveats we need to highlight. Games on aren’t built to take advantage of NVMe drives the same way they’re benefiting on consoles, so even on the fastest PCI-e 4.0 drive today you won’t get substantially better loading times than, say, a regular SSD. Price is also a major factor, so top-tier PC GPUs like the RTX 3090, RTX 3080 — they’re totally out of the question.

I’m also going to discount the cost of a keyboard and a mouse in the PC build. Those are accessories the majority of people generally already have on hand — or can acquire from a friend for nothing in a pinch. Similarly, the cost of a monitor won’t be counted. This one’s pretty straightforward: we don’t factor in the cost of a TV when buying a console, and so it makes sense not to add the premium into a PC build either.

However, I will be adding the cost of Windows 10 Home into the mix. You could use a PC without it if you really wanted to, but that’s like saying you shouldn’t buy PlayStation Plus or Xbox Game Pass Ultimate/Xbox Live on the consoles — it’s really not the same experience without it. However, if you’re capable of bringing your Windows 10 license over to a new rig, that’s a factor that should be considered.

Speaking of the subscriptions, I’ll also be calculating them over the course of three years. I’ll explain why in the following sections. And games will be covered too, although I’m not incorporating them into the price of each individual build.

As a final note: for the portion of international readers on Kotaku Australia, please note that all prices below are in Australian dollars. This isn’t something I usually earmark up front, but components pricing in Australia is significantly different than what’s available in the United States. The Australia Tax is still very real.

Cost of the PS5, Xbox Series X in Australia

Image: Kotaku Australia

Both the Xbox Series X and PS5 cost $749 in Australia, but the total end price is different after their respective subscriptions are factored in.

For the PS5, PlayStation Plus costs or $11.95/month or $79.95/year. So over three years, if you don’t buy any additional games, you’re looking at an extra $239.85, or $989.80 with the console included. 

For Xbox Series X, you’ll need Xbox Game Pass Ultimate — which costs $15.95/month. The first month is always $1, so over the course of one year you’ll pay $176.45, and $559.25 over three years ($15.95 * 35 months + $1). 

In total, that brings the Xbox Series X cost over three years to $1308.25. And while that doesn’t include the cost of games, Xbox Game Pass has a lot more titles, EA Play access, and exclusives like Halo: Infinite and future Bethesda games will be added to the service for free. So that’s something.

Cost of building a PC in Australia

pc ps5 xbox
Image: Kotaku Australia

Building a PC that can accomplish the same as the PS5 and Xbox Series X is a bit complicated, and there’s a couple of reasons why.

Firstly, consoles are traditionally sold at a loss. That doesn’t mean retailers like JB Hi-Fi are losing money on the consoles, but Sony and Microsoft famously sell them at a loss to recoup more money on games, services and these days, microtransactions. That doesn’t happen in the PC world, so there’s a higher margin on every individual piece of tech.

So to do this fairly, I’m going to spec out a couple of systems. The first is a PC matching how much you would spend on the Xbox Series X or the PS5 over three years. You could just build a PC around the upfront cost, but part of the PC platform is bearing an upfront cost for a longer-term benefit, so I think it’s fairer and more realistic to build it out that way.

The second PC will be one that can match the current capabilities of the new consoles. For this, I’m targeting something that can hit 1440p/120FPS or 4K/120 FPS in esports titles (like Dota 2, League of Legends, Rainbow 6: Siege, Counter-Strike and so on). This also matches the reality for the PS5 and Xbox Series X: they don’t hit a locked 120 FPS at 4K anyway, but it’s also still very early days for developers.

Building a PC for the cost of an PS5 or Xbox Series X

ryzen 3900x
Image: Alex Walker (Kotaku)

As nice as the new AMD CPUs are, we’ll want to grab something cheaper for this build. The new consoles are equipped with 8-core CPUs, but from a PC perspective that’s built entirely around gaming, the Ryzen 5 3600 is still a great bang-for-buck offering.

There are cheaper options: the Ryzen 3 3300X would be great, but it’s supremely difficult to grab because of stock limitations. Also, it’s unlikely to age well as games start to be developed around the stronger hardware in the PS5 and Xbox Series X. The 3300X might do fine today, but will it hold up in 2 years? Probably not.

The 3600 ships with its own cooler, so we’ll stick with that to save on price. A B450 motherboard is sufficient, and we won’t be overclocking. There are slightly cheaper boards, but the ASRock B450 Pro4 offers what we need with storage. (Cheaper motherboards will disable the SATA ports if the M.2 drive is filled, which is problematic down the road.)

16GB RAM should cover the needs of next-gen games, as well as people’s terrible habits when they never close their Chrome tabs. The Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB DDR4-3200 CL16 kit is cheap and performs well, but

Storage is the tricky part. You can either go all out on a single NVMe stick or go for a cheap SSD (for Windows) and a main drive (for your games). In normal circumstances I’d recommend just a regular SSD, but the Crucial P1 M.2 1TB costs the same, if not cheaper, than many 1TB SSDs. So you might as well grab that.

The GPU is gonna be costly, and the best we can manage here is going to be a Radeon RX 580. A Thermaltake Smart 500W 80+ power supply will do the job, even though it’ll be an ugly bastard while doing it. And we still need something house all of it in. It’s not a hefty unit, so a Deepcool Tesseract ATX Mid Tower for $49 will do just fine.

Don’t forget: we still need Windows. So that’s another $129 on top.

Here’s the total price list so far:

  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 3600 3.6 GHz 6-Core Processor ($319.00 @ Centre Com)
  • Motherboard: ASRock B450 Pro4 ATX AM4 Motherboard ($133.00 @ Kogan)
  • Memory: Corsair Vengeance LPX 16 GB (2 x 8 GB) DDR4-3200 CL16 Memory ($109.00 @ Centre Com)
  • Storage: Crucial P1 1 TB M.2-2280 NVME Solid State Drive ($145.00 @ Mwave Australia)
  • Video Card: Asus Radeon RX 580 8 GB DUAL Video Card ($219.00 @ PC Byte)
  • Case: Deepcool TESSERACT BF ATX Mid Tower Case ($49.00 @ PCCaseGear)
  • Power Supply: Thermaltake Smart 500 W 80+ Certified ATX Power Supply ($68.20 @ Newegg Australia)
  • OS: Microsoft Windows 10 Home Full 32/64-bit ($129.00 @ Amazon Australia)

Total: $1171.20

Not really quite around the $989 mark. If you’re happy to halve the RAM to 8GB, the G.Skill Aegis 8GB 3200MHz stick is available for $49. That brings the price down to $1121.20. If you halve the storage, and convert down to a regular 2.5-inch SSD, the Seagate BarraCuda 120 500GB SSD is only $69.

At that point you’re looking at $1045.20 for the whole system. There’s a kicker though: you’ll notice that the cost of the parts above is all from separate retailers, which means the price will skyrocket due to all the extra shipping fees.

So to limit that, most people generally buy all their PC parts from the same retailer, or two retailers at most. And when you do that, the prices can wildly change. (One other caveat though: Windows 10 keys are digital, so there’s no need to pay extra for a Windows license from a certain store — just order it from the cheapest place possible.)

I’ve used Mwave as an example here of what happens when you just buy all the parts from the same place. But you can swap that for whatever your local PC retailer is.

  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 3600 3.6 GHz 6-Core Processor ($319.00 @ Mwave Australia)
  • Motherboard: ASRock B450 Pro4 ATX AM4 Motherboard ($139.00 @ Mwave Australia)
  • Memory: G.Skill Aegis 8 GB (1 x 8 GB) DDR4-3200 CL16 Memory ($69.00 @ Mwave Australia)
  • Storage: Crucial BX500 480 GB 2.5″ Solid State Drive ($67.00 @ Mwave Australia)
  • Video Card: Asus Radeon RX 580 8 GB DUAL Video Card ($269.00 @ Mwave Australia)
  • Case: Deepcool TESSERACT BF ATX Mid Tower Case ($65.00 @ Mwave Australia)
  • Power Supply: Corsair CV 450 W 80+ Bronze Certified ATX Power Supply ($69.00 @ Mwave Australia)

Add on the $129 for the Windows 10 licence from Amazon (because it’s $219 from Mwave for the exact same product) and you’re looking at $1126 total. That’s in between what the PS5 and Xbox Series X would cost, but if you added a bigger (or second) drive to beef up the storage, then the system’s total cost would be closer to that $1300 mark.

rtx 3080
Image: Kotaku Australia

The problem with the system above is, clearly, it’s not going to accomplish any of the high frame rates that the next-gen consoles can do. Sure: most games on the PS5 or Xbox Series X will be running at 60 FPS or 30 FPS with ray tracing.

But with the system above, forget about ray tracing. The GPUs literally can’t support it, and to buy one that can (like the RTX 3000 series above, or the upcoming Radeon RX 6000 GPUs from AMD) is almost equivalent to the cost of the console itself. I’m personally expecting AMD to be a bit more price competitive with their new GPUs, but that’s still going to cost around $600-700 given where the RTX 3070 sits in the Australian market.

Our RX 580 build above will get good frame rates in games like Counter-Strike or Dota 2, but not at 4K. And you’ll be able to get around 120 FPS in more modern games at something like 1080p, but you might have to sacrifice some image quality — using High or Medium instead of Highest/Ultra presets — to get there.

So what would it take to build a PC that can match the consoles in terms of image quality, has support for ray tracing (but only at 30 FPS — we’re not aiming for 4K/60 FPS with this) and has storage that better mirrors what the PS5 and Xbox Series X can do?

Let’s find out.

Building a PC that can match the PS5, Xbox Series X in Australia

nvme deals
Image: Kotaku / Alex Walker

That means we’re going to need some serious upgrades. I’d love to include the new Radeon RX GPUs for fairness, but AMD hasn’t released Australian pricing yet, so the $809 RTX 3070 will have to be a mandatory inclusion. It gives us the best chance of hitting those higher frame rates at 1440p (like DiRT 5 does on the Xbox) while also supporting ray tracing at 4K, if that’s something you want to dabble in. The DLSS support means you should have no issues getting near 4K / 60 FPS in existing titles, which means a locked 4K/30 is guaranteed.

But to also match the consoles we need better storage. Slow NVMe drives are out of the question; we need ones that better utilise PCI-e 4.0. That’ll cost, so we’ll need a better motherboard. A new power supply will be mandatory too, and we’ll want an 8-core CPU to match the consoles. That’ll help the system not fall behind over the next few years too, as developers build their games around the CPU cores in the next-gen consoles.

The cheapest 8-core CPU with stock at the time of writing was the Intel i7-9700F, but I don’t think that’s much of a starter. You’ll lose PCI-e 4.0 support because of the older motherboard platform. It doesn’t have the architectural benefits, and the 9700F’s threads are disabled … so it’s really a non-starter option.

The best alternative here for now will be the Ryzen 5600X at $469. It’ll come with a box cooler as well, which should be sufficient since overclocking isn’t a factor in this build. There’s an argument for paying a bit extra and going for an 8-core CPU as well — the 3700X offers some more cores for about the same price, but it doesn’t do as well in games. It also won’t have extra benefits coming to the Ryzen 5000 series, so for practicality’s sake we’re sticking with the 5600X.

Motherboards start from around the $200 mark for what we need; I’m picking the ASRock B550 Pro4. The Corsair RAM from previously will do just fine here, so that slots right in. Storage wise, we need something that can at least get close to the PS5’s 5.5GB/s speeds. That’s not quite possible yet, but the Samsung 980 Pro does get 5GB/s sequential write speeds (and even faster for sequential read). So that’s our best pick for now at $369. We’ll also want a smaller SSD just for the Windows installation. The Crucial P1 NVMe 500GB at $79.50 is very well priced, however, and the NVMe speeds are a nice bonus.

The GPU is going to be the biggest problem. The closest models to the Nvidia Founders Edition MSRP is the Inno3D RTX 3070 line, but the cheapest ones are out of stock with no pre order. So $869 is the cheapest we can pay for now.

A fully modular 650W Seasonic 80+ Gold power supply will juice everything we need. A NZXT H510i has plenty of room for an ATX Mid Tower and is easy to work with, and $129 on top gives us the Windows license we need.

All in all, this is what we’re looking at:

Image: Kotaku Australia
  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 5600X 3.7 GHz 6-Core Processor ($469)
  • GPU: Inno3D RTX 3070 Twin 2X OC 8GB ($869 @ Umart Australia)
  • Motherboard: ASRock B550 Pro4 ATX AM4 Motherboard ($209.00 @ Mwave Australia)
  • Memory: Corsair Vengeance LPX 16 GB (2 x 8 GB) DDR4-3200 CL16 Memory ($115.00 @ Mwave Australia)
  • Storage: Crucial P1 500 GB M.2-2280 NVME Solid State Drive ($86.00 @ Mwave Australia), Samsung 980 Pro 1 TB M.2-2280 NVME Solid State Drive ($369)
  • Case: NZXT H510i ATX Mid Tower Case ($195.00 @ Mwave Australia)
  • Power Supply: SeaSonic FOCUS Plus Gold 650 W 80+ Gold Certified Fully Modular ATX Power Supply ($159.00 @ Mwave Australia)
  • OS: Windows 10 Home ($129 @ Amazon Australia)

Total: $2600

That’s quite a bit away from $749. And if you are the kind of person who can’t extract the cost of a monitor from their PC, then you’ve got several hundred dollars to wack on top of that. And you’re not getting any HDR benefits either; PC monitors at that price point just can’t handle HDR properly, as good as they are for gaming. But even discounting that, I can imagine people would want to look at a new keyboard, mouse and maybe a headset too.

If you wanted to cut down the price further, you could go a couple of routes with the storage. Cutting out the PCI-e 4.0 NVMe drive lops almost $400 off the price immediately, but you’d want to pay a little bit extra to have the Crucial P1 1TB drive instead of the 500GB model. That’s still around $2230, although you’ve got a decently capable system that should have no qualms running any next-gen game you can throw at it for the next little while. I don’t know that the system would hold up after 7 or 8 years, but if there’s a mid-gen console refresh with the PS5 and Xbox Series X, this rig should comfortably hold its own until that time.

So the price can really add up fast, and we haven’t even touched on the games yet. Another note with the build above is that some parts — like the consoles — simply aren’t in stock locally. The Ryzen 5000 CPUs have been super popular, as have the RTX 30-series graphics cards. Stock of anything good is just really, really hard to come by these days.

Cost of games on PC vs. PS5, Xbox Series X

Image: Cyberpunk 2077

One area where PC has a longer-term advantage is that discounts generally tend to be much steeper and more frequent on the PC. That’s helped by healthier competition across platforms, and while there’s no automatic freebies as a result of owning a PC (given that we’re not factoring in, say, the cost of Game Pass on PC) you can access games that become free to own on Steam or Epic Games when they’re available. And generally, they’re pretty damn good.

For instance, one of the more recent PlayStation sales had Death Stranding for $42, Crash Bandicoot at $24.95, Civilization VI for $40, Control for $30 and Hitman 2 for $22.95. First-party games like Horizon: Zero Dawn or God of War tend to drop a little further in price than third-party games too: Death Stranding has only even fallen as far as $46 on PC, but you can frequently get Civilization VI for a lot cheaper.

AAA games can vary too. GreenManGaming has Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War for $91.95 on PC, and that gets you everything. On consoles, the version of Black Ops Cold War that’s optimised for the Xbox Series X / PS5 will set you back $109.95. You can get the current-gen version for $79, but don’t expect nicer frame rates or any of that jazz.

So it’s really hard to say whether you’d save more in the long-term buying games on PC vs. the PS5 or Xbox Series X. It comes down to what games you’re actually buying, and whether you’re happy to wait to play a few months to play them. The PC can be a lot better for indie titles and AA games that are discounted more frequently than on the consoles, but the consoles also have the benefit of super aggressive discounting by the likes of JB Hi-Fi, Big W and so on. (There’s also the Xbox Game Pass factor: what happens to things like the next FalloutElder Scrolls, Starfield or DOOM when you can access them via a $1/month special deal?)


ps5
Image: Sony

What the comparison really makes clear is just how much the consoles are sold at a loss. When you look at how much a lot of the individual components cost, it’s hard not to appreciate the upfront value for the customer when thinking about the availability of future technologies like ray tracing or the superfast SSDs.

This doesn’t mean all the platforms are equal or that the value is equivalent from a purely gaming perspective — because PCs, of course, are capable of doing much more than playing games. Some games just aren’t, and won’t be, accessible on consoles. A lot of good MMOs, free-to-play games and indie titles aren’t available on consoles.

You can’t get something like Command & Conquer: Remastered Collection, one of the best games this year, or the AOE 3 remaster on consoles. Microsoft Flight Simulator is still a PC only game. And I haven’t spoken about the power of the modding community, and the difference that makes to older games (which can be a cost-saving of its own).

So there’s a lot of caveats and asterisks with all of this. But even factoring that in, if you’re wondering whether the consoles are worth the price — honestly? For what they can do, and the fact that PC upgrades come around a lot more frequently than console generations, $749 is a bloody good deal.