Buying the latest Xbox Series X or PS5 console has become impossible. Nasty scalper groups use bots to buy up the inventory online in fractions of a second and then resell on ebay for double the retail before the average consumer can add the console to their online shopping cart. At first, I was frustrated. The system seemed flawed. But with some reflection I realized this stock shortage may have been a blessing. Ebay is flooded with previous gen consoles for sale. Maybe what I want is the xbox gaming ecosystem… not an Xbox?
Instead of fighting bots for a console, instead I have decided to build a gaming PC that will be on par with a console yet capable of being used for far more than what consoles offer. In addition to building a gaming PC I am using this as a family project to do over the Christmas break.
Using this post we will:
- Build great system for less than what scalpers are charging for a console
- Still take be able to play xbox games
- Also be able to use other gaming ecosystems such as Steam and Origin
- Have a machine that will scaleup when prices are to my advantage
- Have a fun project to do with the family over the holiday break
Scalability = Affordability
Right now Graphics Processing Units (GPUs), also known as, graphics cards, are outrageously overpriced. Fear not! The intel based gaming rig will take advantage of embedded graphics to let you limp along with lower performing graphics until you can afford a proper GPU, whereas the AMD option is a higher performing system that requires a dedicated GPU.
You don’t need an Xbox to play Xbox games
It is no secret that manymodel over one time purchases. With a subscription based model the solution provider (e.g. Microsoft or Sony) can project anticipated annual income, strategically invest “safely”, and likely get the consumer to pay even MORE than they would have payed during one time purchases.
Console providers have already figured out that restricting the game ecosystem to consoles ONLY actually impedes their ability to reach more customers with the real product, which is the subscription service and not the console sale.
Xbox Game Pass for Windows 10 PC
Microsoft and others have launched PC subscription services for PC users to play console content. This allows the customer to play games on BOTH PC and console. That is, if you ever bother to buy a console after building an awesome PC.
If you haven’t already, you can purchase a subscription to either Game Pass on PC for $1.00 per month (that’s an introductory price; the full price will eventually be $9.99 per month) or to Game Pass Ultimate for $14.99 per month. The latter is Microsoft’s everything-in-one bundle subscription that also includes Xbox Live Gold for online multiplayer on consoles and Game Pass for Xbox One consoles, as well as Game Pass on PC. Remember, on PC you can also install the Steam and EA Origin game ecosystem to take advantage of all of the native PC content as well.
Xbox and PS5 controllers can be used with PCs too!
The new DuelSense controller by Sony is both USB and BT and can be used with Steam games after mapping the controller buttons in the Steam setup. In each game you need to set the properties for each game setting in Steam to “Steam Input Per-Game Setting = Forced On”.
Select and Purchase the Components
The PS5 and XBox Series X have some impressive hardware specs. It is obvious both Microsoft and Sony are counting on selling the hardware for a low price $499 with the intent to recoup the profit through subscriptions. A rival PC system is likely two to three times the cost (~$1200) with half of that cost being the GPU. However, we have a lower cost option that leverages the embedded graphics on our Intel version to keep the system in the ~$700 range and simultaneously keep an eye on the market to jump on a GPU when the cost is most advantageous to us. Remember, this is the advantage of a PC based solution. You control the cost, quality, and schedule of the build.
The Xbox Series X and PS5 console hardware is pretty good for the price. The GPU processing power — 10.3 teraflops for the PS5 and 12 teraflops for the Xbox Series X.
The build will be broken down into two options. The first table lists all of the common components. You need to get these regardless of the direction you want to go for processing (AMD vs Intel). The following tables show both an AMD and Intel build option. Personally, I am going with the AMD but the Intel is probably going to be the budget option.
|Storage||Sabrent Rocket 1TB NVMe Gen 4 SSD||$190|
|PSU||Cooler Master Watt 750 Watt Modular Power Supply||$95||Includes two 8 pin PCIe Connectors for GPU|
|Case||Cooler Master MasterBox MB511 ARGB ATX Mid-Tower||$90|
|OS||Windows 10 Pro License 64bit||$40|
At this point you need to decide if you want to go with an Intel based processor or AMD (Ryzen) solution. The Intel i5-9600K processor is going to be about $100 less than the Ryzen 7 3700x. The intel also has UHD embedded graphics so you can delay purchasing the costly GPU until prices stabilize. However, the memory for the Intel solution is twice the cost of the AMD rig so the delta is around ~$30.
|CPU||AMD Ryzen 7 3700x w/ |
Wraith Prism Cooler
|CPU Cooler||(Already Included)||$0|
|Motherboard||ASUS TUF Gaming X570-Plus (WiFi) ATX||$190|
|Memory||G. Skill Ripjaw V 16GB DDR4/3600 (2x8GB) Model F4-3600C18D-16GVK||$70||QVL Confirmed|
Note: With the AMD Option a GPU must be used whereas with the Intel the embedded graphics may be used until a discrete GPU can be purchased.
|CPU||Intel Core i5-9600K w/ |
embedded UHD graphics
|CPU Cooler||DEEPCOOL GAMMAXX400 CPU Air Cooler||~$20|
|Motherboard||ASUS TUF Z390-Plus Gaming (Wi-Fi) LGA1151||~$170|
|Memory||G.SKILL 16GB (2 x 8GB) TridentZ Series DDR4 PC4-32000 (F4-4000C19D-16GTZ)||~$170||QVL confirmed|
Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)
Now for the tough part. The GPU will be required for the AMD option but it may be delayed for the Intel option while you make use of the embedded Intel graphics.
When selecting the GPU we need to consider a few factors:
- G-Sync (Nvidia) vs FreeSync (AMD) – Both of these technologies synchronize the refresh rate between the video card and the display to eliminate tearing. Check which your monitor supports. If neither, FreeSync monitors are a little cheaper usually. Since January 2019, recent Nvidia GPUs using the latest drivers can now enable G-Sync on FreeSync and other adaptive sync monitors. So an Nvidia card will work for more monitors.
- PSU Compatibility – Most modern GPUs draw more than the standard 75W that the x16 PCIe slot provides. These GPUs may require connecting supplemental PCIe power connectors that come in 6- and 8-pin varieties. Some cards have one of these connectors, some two, and six-and-eight-pin ports can exist on the same card. Our 750W PSU includes dual 8 pin connectors so we can support any of these combinations.
- Price & Availability – The last 6 months have just been a bad time to buy a GPU. This is likely going to continue until the first quarter of 2021. If you have an old GPU you can use to limp by you will get more value for your money to keep deal searching for the right GPU.
As of this writing in December of 2020, the GeForce RTX 3060 Ti is probably the best bang for the buck. However, you can’t find it in stock for MSRP ($400) so keep checking back for deals.
Step by Step Build Instructions
My parts are on order, I will post build instructions over Christmas.
Your own build will be BETTER than the Xbox!
Building a gaming PC can be even better than an Xbox:
- Control the cost and pace of hardware upgrades – by doing them incrementally and yourself. Memory goes on sale? A new graphics card? Buy it when ready and when the price is right. With a console, you are going to wait until major console releases which can be 5-7yrs and then you will have to fight the bots to buy the console.
- Much larger use case – Writing a term paper, completing a research project, or doing your taxes is hard to do on a console game system. You will get way more day to day productivity out of a PC than you will a dedicated gaming console.
- Similar user experience to console- You can still use the Xbox game controllers. Because the last few generations of controllers are Bluetooth, you can just pair them with your PC and get the same gaming experience.
- Education – When building a PC the research is part of the experience. Our kids are used to click, buy, deliver, and use. Building a PC slows that process down, they can learn about the benefits of each component and learn to make informed trades on what they want to use.
- Family bonding – Use this opportunity to spend some quality time with your kids. Order the parts over several weeks/months and use that time to research the components before they arrive.
- Screen time limiting – Ok, this one is a break even as with the Microsoft family application you can assign screen time limits for not only your Xbox console but also your new Windows 10 based PC as well.