Editorials and Features
Article by: MrCHUPON
Article: PCs vs Consoles: Some Dollar Fun [Written 2005-01-14]
What do you think the answer is? Of course not. But it's an amusing challenge to partake on. So, let's build us a PC.
One thing to remember is that a PC was built to do more. Asking if I can build a PC to do games as well as a PS2 for $150 is like asking if one can purchase an RV like the one seen in Meet the Fockers for the same price as a Ferrari, and have it go from zero to sixty at the same clip. So invariably the argument turns into, "But think of the value that that extra money spent on a PC gets you! It word processes, does math for spreadsheets, and downloads pornography!" To be fair, since the challenge is games and games only, fck "value". To solve this problem, here are my rules:
Only the cost associated with gaming will be counted. The PC's value is, at the lowest common denominator, productivity -- before video editing and music downloading and all of that. The base machine that we start off with will NOT be included in the cost. My reasoning is this: walking into an empty house, a computer should be considered as an appliance because of the functions it serves. It's the only way to really isolate gaming performance.
Our base machine will be able to run today's applications -- Windows XP, Office 2003, whatever version of that crap known as AOL that you might use -- at a fair pace. That means we will not be dumbing things down to the Pentium 2 days. But that also means that we can live with yesterday's hardware. A motherboard from 2003 is more than feasible.
Performance must be measured on PS2 standards. That means that games must be output at the same resolution, with the same types of special effects, texture detail, filtering and aliasing.
Display and speaker cost is not included. It's a wash anyhow. You need a monitor for a computer, and a TV for a PS2. (Or you can use your monitor or TV for both, if you know how) To get full surround sound for either system, you need new speakers.
Libraries for the platforms are not considered because each platform is somewhat tailored for different markets. This is strictly a power test.
No hardcore benchmarks are used. (a) I don't have the resources. (b) I don't know if PS2 benchmarking software exists, and if it does, again -- I don't have it.
All parts are fresh! NO refurbished parts, no used parts. A PS2 out of the box is sparkling new. Cheaping out with refurbished parts means we drop the price of a PS2 to a used price, and how much can we truly leave that at? There're people on eBay with really cheap ones and retailers with more expensive used models. Keep it simple: everything new.
So with those crippling, annoying rules, making this challenge effectively pointless (but fun!), let's go!
Oh, and one more thing: I'm using Newegg as a resource. No this ain't an ad -- I just like them, and they offer fair prices for outstanding service.
Case: Antec Beige ATX Mini Tower PC with 350W Power Supply, $58.00
It's cheap, sturdy, includes a 350-watt power supply, and comes from one of the best case- and power-supply makers around.
Motherboard: Gigabyte "GA-7NF-RZ" NVIDIA nForce2 400 Chipset Motherboard, $50.00
It's got a nice, efficient chipset, and it's cheap to boot. On-board audio, of pretty good quality and at 5.1 surround sound, means you won't have to buy a sound card.
CPU: AMD Athlon XP 2500+ "Barton", $86.00
No matter what the budget for a productive machine -- unless you want to go back to the days of low-class Pentium IIIs -- this chip is the one to get. First off, the slower ones look like they're barely less expensive. Second off, if you're a bold intrepid overclocker, you can make this go as fast as a Pentium 4 3.2GHz (if you believe AMD's ratings standards). Why not?
Memory: Kingston ValueRAM 184 Pin 256MB DDR PC-2700, $38.96
This is a bit tough. I haven't really seen Windows XP and a reasonable amount of apps running simultaneously on a system using only 256MB of RAM. But it would be unfair to the challenge to go overboard with the RAM, and then say, "Oh guess what, I don't need to spend $$$ on RAM!" (The built-in sound in the motherboard already sort of does that, although you'd probably need audio cues for whatever you're working on with your PC). I'll be conservative and go with the 256 MB. I choose Kingston because it's the cheapest brand that I trust.
Input: Logitech Internet Keyboard & Mouse Bundle, $18.00
You get both a keyboard and an optical mouse. You get a quality product from Logitech. And you get it cheap.
Hard Drive: Maxtor 40GB 7200RPM IDE Hard Drive, $46.33
Well, not the greatest, but you could do much worse than Maxtor. And although 40GB may seem stingy, you'll still have enough room to do productive stuff.
Tally that up. We have a base system for $297.29, sans output (speakers, monitor, video). Now, let's wipe the slate clean, and tally how much it will cost to improve ONLY its game-playing abilities -- much like we would spend money on a machine, the PS2, that plays only games.
The Gaming Gear:
Video card: ROSEWILL RADEON 9600 Video Card, 256MB DDR, 128-bit, $89.99
You have got to be kidding me. A Radeon 9600 core. 256MBs of 128-bit RAM. For ninety bucks. What a steal.
Extra Memory: Kingston ValueRAM 184 Pin 256MB DDR PC-2700, $38.96
Hey -- why not? Same stick, just a second one. You've got half a gig of RAM -- that might be pushing it a bit (a little more couldn't hurt), but it should still be good for games.
Gamepad: Logitech RumblePad 2, $25.00
You can't play every game with a mouse and keyboard. And this pad resembles the good ol' PS2 pad. Even better, it bears the same pricetag. Even better-er, it just plain feels better than the PS2 pad (you heard me).
For the record, I could have stuck in a Rosewill Radeon 9600 card with 128 MB of 64-bit RAM, and it would have made our gaming costs actually BEAT the PS2's $150 budget by $6.03. But I'm sorry, I couldn't pass this bargain up. It's twice the RAM and at the proper, non "limited edition" 128-bit spec.
Tally that up: $153.96 with the 256MB video card, $133.96 with the 128MB version.
If you turn the resolution down to 640x480, the resolution that a PS2 outputs at, and set the texture filtering to bilinear -- which I think the PS2 doesn't normally output better than, I can assure you that this machine easily hands the PS2 its butt on a platter. And if you sum the cost up with the cost of the rest of the machine, you still get a great budget gaming machine for... $451.23 ($431.23 with the less powerful but still PS2-beating video card).
The answer to the challenge? On an absolute level, no, you cannot pay $150 for an entire computer and have it perform like a PS2. But you can reserve $150 for a gaming budget to spend on either a PS2 or PC upgrades, and you couldn't go wrong either way.
Now, bring the Xbox into the story, and that's a tougher challenge... I'll see you in 5 years when we ask, can a PC with the power of the Revolution, Xenon and PS3 be bought for the same price?
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