Computing

I Created a Gaming PC That Outshines the PS5 — and You Can Too

Introduction

If you’re on the lookout for the next generation of gaming and have been considering the PlayStation 5, I urge you to consider building a PC instead. For a similar price, you can create a gaming experience that far surpasses what the PS5 offers. In this article, I’ll show you how.

Meet the PS5 Killer

A gaming PC with the RX 6600 XT installed.
Image courtesy of Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Before delving into the details, I want to establish that consoles such as the PS5 still have their own unique advantages. If you’re specifically interested in the Sony console experience, then the PS5 is the way to go. Despite some unfulfilled promises, even two years later, the PS5 delivers excellent value for its current generation. However, for everyone else, let me convince you to consider a PC instead.

To achieve a balanced budget, I set a limit of $600 for our PC build. This price range not only matches the cost of a PS5 but also gives you the flexibility to find deals, cut storage space to save money, or slightly increase your budget for more power. By spending just a little more than the PS5, you can enjoy significantly enhanced performance.

Here’s the PC build that I recommend:

  • AMD Ryzen 5 3600 — $95
  • Gigabyte B450M DS3H Wi-Fi — $80
  • G.Skill Aegis 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR4-3200 — $42
  • Western Digital SN250 960GB NVMe SSD — $55
  • ASRock RX 6600 XT Challenger D — $275
  • Thermaltake Versa H17 — $50
  • Thermaltake Smart Series 500W — $40
  • Total: $637

I went slightly over budget, but if you shop around, especially on secondhand marketplaces, you can easily reduce the price by $100 or more. The main reason for going over budget was the RX 6600 XT. Initially, I had planned to use the RX 6600, which is approximately $50 cheaper at the moment. However, considering the significantly higher power of the RX 6600 XT, I believe the slight price increase is well worth it.

Please note that the PC I built might look different from the one listed above. This difference arises from the components I had on hand. I used a different case, motherboard, and power supply, primarily because of the Lian Li A4-H20 PC case I used. While these components add about $300 to the build price, they do not affect performance and are not necessary upgrades.

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To align the PC build with the PS5, I made every effort to match the PS5’s specifications. Although the Ryzen 5 3600 has six Zen 2 cores compared to the PS5’s eight, the Ryzen 5 3600 can be overclocked with a single click, so I chose a motherboard that supports overclocking. However, please be aware that if you choose this build, you may need to update the motherboard’s BIOS to support the CPU.

Similarly, the RX 6600 XT is an RDNA 2 graphics card with 32 compute units (CUs), aiming to match the custom RDNA 2 GPU with 36 CUs on the PS5. Although the PC has slightly less power, it benefits from dedicated VRAM and RAM, unlike the PS5, which uses shared memory. Lastly, I included a 960GB PCIe SSD, slightly larger than the PS5’s 825GB SSD.

A small gaming PC sitting next to the PS5.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

To recreate the full console experience, I recommend a few additional accessories. The 8BitDo Wireless USB Adapter 2 provides a superior alternative to relying on Bluetooth for your controller, while a mini Bluetooth keyboard like the Rii X8 makes using a PC on the couch much more convenient.

Before diving into performance and image quality comparisons, I want to reiterate that the PS5 remains an excellent choice, even two years after its release. If you simply desire a set-it-and-forget-it gaming console, I advise purchasing a PS5. Building a PC’s main advantages lie in having access to a broader game library, a versatile system for various applications, and the ability to easily upgrade for better performance in the future.

Unmatched Performance

The PS5 is marketed as a 4K gaming console, so I ran all my tests at 4K, although the RX 6600 XT isn’t precisely a 4K GPU. Nevertheless, the compact PC put up an impressive performance. I tested each game aiming to replicate the Quality and Performance modes found in PS5 games. For Quality mode, I used native 4K with the highest graphics settings, without any additional tweaks. In Performance mode, I maintained 4K with the highest graphics settings but utilized dynamic upscaling tools like AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR) to improve performance.

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In direct comparison, the PS5 falls short. At native 4K, where PS5 games are capped at 30 frames per second (fps), the PC achieves between 35 fps and 50 fps. Similarly, with a bit of upscaling, the PC effortlessly reaches 70 fps to 80 fps, whereas the PS5 mostly remains locked at 60 fps.

Performance differences between a custom PC and the PS5.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The only exception is Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, where the dynamic resolution on the PS5 effectively maintains a smooth 60 fps, slightly surpassing the PC. This exception likely arises from the PC’s processor, showcasing the magic of a few extra cores in CPU-limited games.

However, it’s essential to note that these tests, particularly in Performance mode, favor the PS5. For instance, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order runs at 2,169 x 1,220 resolution in its Performance mode, whereas the PC version attempts to achieve 4K with dynamic resolution. Similarly, the performance mode in Guardians of the Galaxy reduces the game to 1080p, with some scenes dropping below 60 fps. In my tests, I used FSR’s Quality mode, which renders the game at 1440p.

As mentioned earlier, I ran all the PC tests using the highest graphics settings. The PS5 typically employs custom settings to fine-tune performance, so tweaking some graphics settings or lowering the resolution on the PC can yield much higher performance. Due to the frame rate caps on the PS5, you don’t have the same flexibility to surpass the limits imposed by the various graphics modes.

Image quality between PC and PS5 in Guardians of the Galaxy.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

However, the highest graphics preset does come with its advantages. For example, in Guardians of the Galaxy, the PC utilizes significantly higher-resolution textures compared to the PS5’s Quality mode (pay attention to the metal sheets at the bottom). Similarly, in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, although the difference is less pronounced, you can still observe a similar improvement.

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Image quality comparison of Star Wars between PC and PS5.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

It’s important to note that the PC’s strengths may not always be apparent. Games like Miles Morales, optimized specifically for the PS5, showcase the hardware’s true potential, which the PC struggles to match. However, the PC truly shines in multi-platform releases, where developers don’t directly target specific platforms.

The Return of Console Killers?

A mini PC sitting in front of the PS5.
Image courtesy of Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Building a PC is becoming increasingly expensive. Graphics cards like the RTX 4090 are pushing prices to unprecedented heights, next-gen DDR5 memory is still considerably more expensive than DDR4, and high-quality, high-capacity power supplies required to run the latest hardware are not budget-friendly.

Thus, achieving a classic console-killer PC between $400 and $500 is challenging in 2023. However, with careful shopping, you can come close to this range. Achieving a lower price point will likely be even more manageable in a few years when the PS5 begins to show its age. My hope is that when the eventual PS6 arrives, building a similarly priced PC will also be possible.

This article is part of ReSpec, an ongoing biweekly column that provides discussions, advice, and in-depth reporting on the tech behind PC gaming.

Editors’ Recommendations

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  • Why I refrain from using Nvidia’s game-changing tech in most games
  • My experience testing Nvidia’s new RTX feature, which fixed the worst part of PC gaming
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