When it comes to measuring up the Xbox Series X (opens in new tab) vs. PC question, there's no easy answer. For a start a machine from our best gaming PCs list will offer plenty of gaming power and access to huge library of old and new games, for $1,000 or more. The Xbox Series X offers plenty of practical gaming power for half the price at least, but then has a more limited, albeit still expansive, library of games.
And then there's a good deal of crossover between the platforms, with Xbox Game Pass available on PC, yet the Xbox Series X having PC-like components and graphics features; heck, the Series X even looks like a compact PC.
In short, both the Xbox Series X and PC have pros and cons, and that every user’s situation is a little different. But with the Xbox Series X, the calculus is a little bit different than before. The Xbox Series X isn’t selling itself on exclusive games or bespoke hardware; it’s just one way to access an entire gaming ecosystem. And, perhaps for the first time in console history, you’ll be able to access the exact same ecosystem on a PC.
This story isn’t really about comparing an Xbox Series X and a gaming PC head-to-head, partially because there are thousands of different gaming PCs. Instead, here’s a look at which platform might suit you gaming needs the best.
Xbox Series X vs PC: Games
I recently wrote a piece comparing the PS5 to gaming PCs, in which I pointed out how PlayStation’s strong library of exclusive games was reason enough to buy a PS4, and will be a strong incentive for PS5 as well.
With Xbox Series X, though, there’s basically no such thing as an “exclusive” title. Every first-party Microsoft game will be available on both the Xbox Series X and the PC. (Many will also be available on the Xbox One, at least for the next year or two, but I don’t think a current-gen console is a great investment at the moment.) As such, if you have a reasonably good gaming PC already, there’s not much incentive to get an Xbox Series X — unless you want a separate living room system. Save data will sync across PC and Xbox versions of a game thanks to Smart Delivery, so that’s one argument in favor of buying a new console.
However, there’s still one big area where the PC won’t be able to match the Xbox Series X, and that’s backwards compatibility. The Xbox Series X is backwards-compatible with every Xbox One game, as well as a ton of Xbox 360 and original Xbox games. You can get most Xbox One games on PC already, but Xbox 360 and the original Xbox had more than their fair share of beloved exclusives. “Buy a brand-new console specifically to play old games” is admittedly an odd pitch, but if the games are good and you’ve never played them before, it’s a compelling argument.
It’s also worth pointing out that PC owners will be able to fully leverage their Xbox Game Pass subscriptions, and even download some PC-exclusive titles, such as Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition. Not every Xbox One game on Game Pass works on PC, but many of them do, and every Xbox Series X game will. The Xbox Series X controller will be fully compatible with PC, streaming boxes and mobile phones, just as the Xbox One controller is.
Microsoft seems to be building a whole gaming ecosystem around the Xbox Series X rather than simply a console. My colleague Roland Moore-Colyer wrote an article on this subject, but the bottom line is that between Smart Delivery, Game Pass and Project xCloud (which can stream Xbox games to mobile platforms), the Xbox Series X is more of a central hub for gaming than a single, comprehensive machine. In essence, you can get the complete Xbox Series X experience without ever touching an Xbox Series X.
Xbox Series X vs. PC: Price
Of course, there’s one area where an Xbox Series X still has a major advantage over a PC, and that’s price. Custom-built gaming PCs are always going to be more expensive than mass-produced consoles, while an Xbox Series X costs $499. You can build an extremely bare-bones gaming PC for that price, but it almost definitely won’t match the power of a CPU, GPU or SSD on the Xbox Series X.
Out of curiosity, I went on Newegg and tried to create a PC with Xbox Series X specs. Even with the cheapest parts I could find, my total was almost $1,500 — and that’s not counting a case or a copy of Windows 10. It’s easy to say that a gaming PC can do whatever an Xbox Series X can, and more. But it’s hard to justify doubling or perhaps even tripling what you’d spend on an Xbox Series X just to play the same games with (perhaps) slightly better graphics and frame rates.
Granted, PC parts drop in price over time, and by November, this setup could cost hundreds of dollars less. But consoles are always going to be cheaper to buy and simpler to set up by a wide margin. Building a PC can be fun, but it’s also a complicated, time-consuming process. And when (not if) something goes wrong, being your own tech support is absolutely, positively no fun. Buying pre-built systems is even more expensive.
As such, Xbox Series X vs. PC isn’t so much a matter of specs. You can always build a PC with better specs. The question is whether said PC is really worth the money. If you want to do video editing or graphic design, then a gaming PC is a smart investment, as it can pull double duty. But if you really just want to play games, watch movies and listen to music, an Xbox Series X will get the job done for one-third of the price.
Xbox Series X vs. PC: Which one should you get?
There is no one-size-fits-all recommendation for Xbox Series X vs. PC.
If you already have a good gaming PC, you probably don’t need an Xbox Series X. Try games like Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5 and see how they perform on your system. If one or both work well, great! If not, consider whether you want to spend a few hundred bucks on a new console, or on a substantial upgrade for your PC.
If you don’t have a powerful PC, the Xbox Series X would be a good choice — but so would a gaming rig. Consider how much money you want to spend, and whether you could also use a PC for productivity purposes. If you just want a gaming and multimedia machine, the Xbox Series X would probably fit the bill. So would a PS5, but that’s a separate story.
Xbox Series X vs. PC: What if you have a PS5?
So if you already has a PS5 yet want another gaming machine, weighing up the Xbox Series X vs. PC question becomes a little easier to answer, at least in our opinion.
Given the PS5 and Xbox Series X essentially use the same core hardware, you might find it better to get a PC for added variation, more customization and a machine that has a library of games that spans decade, as well as access to Xbox Game Pass. This is basically something our computing writer Tony Polanco has done.
Of course, getting a gaming PC is a more expensive proposition but it offers much more flexibility and a different experience to a games console, which you'll already get with the PS5.