It has always been the case that a gaming console has been the first choice for living room entertainment, with small proportions and a selling point adding to its appeal. With the advance of technology it is now possible for a mini PC to offer much more performance and features, without encroaching your living room space.
On face value, a gaming console seems far cheaper with a far lower initial outlay. Currently, an Xbox 360 console package with a game and controller can be bought for just 150, whilst a cheap gaming PC would in the region of 300 – 400. This is nifty loss-making pricing employed by the manufacturers of Xbox and PS3. In fact, both companies lose money when a gaming console is purchased as the development and manufacturing costs are much higher.
It is important to realise that the profit element comes from the games, online subscriptions and extra peripherals. The prices for console games are about 20% – 30% higher than PC games, and there are no online subscription charges when gaming on a PC. If these elements are taken into account, then over a lifespan of 5 years of gaming on a console you would spend as much if not more money in total in comparison to buying a cheap mini PC.
Taking the price out of the equation, there is no doubt that a PC has much more to offer than a console. A mini PC connected to a big screen in the living room can be turned into an entertainment hub able to access the internet, check emails, watch and record TV, play music, load media from an external HDD or any portable device, play DVDs, play online media and do much more.
The performance of even a mini PC is always a step ahead of a gaming console. An Xbox360 or PS3 uses a graphics chip that was developed over 5 years ago; it is less powerful than even the most basic of modern graphics cards. Graphics card development is such that a top-of-the-range model a year ago can be out-performed by a mid-range model today. With a gaming console, you will never be able to appreciate a game at its maximum quality settings and highest resolution. Although playable, the game would never leave you in awe with its realism and depth, which is a shame as the latest games are developed to give you that wow factor, except when playing on a console.
The proprietary technology used in a gaming console means that upgrading any parts or carrying out any repairs is not a possibility. There is also little scope for design customisation, although there are companies that will paint your console or controller to make it unique, carrying this out usually voids the warranty as a seal would be broken. On the other hand, a PC can be easily upgraded or modified, even a mini PC can be opened up and a component replaced or upgraded if need be.
Now let’s take a look at some of the advantages that gaming consoles have that a PC will find hard to compete with. A gaming console has been and always will be very simple and intuitive to use. You don’t need to install a game before playing it, you don’t need to worry about downloading the latest updates and drivers before running a game – a person of any age can just plug and play! The controllers for consoles are also very straightforward to get your head round, whilst PC gaming requires a bit of preparation to familiarise yourself with which buttons to use.
Gaming consoles are also perfect for multiplayer living room fun, where a number of controllers can be connected and your buddies can simultaneously play against each other on the coach. Popular multiplayer games are traditionally fighting games such as Smash Brothers and Street Fighter, as well as racing and shoot-em-up games. PCs are not usually used for playing against friends in the same room, but can be adapted for it by connecting USB Xbox360 controllers.
Overall, the advantages of the gaming console are the simplicity and intuitiveness, as they are dedicated devices for gaming only, a PC would always be less straightforward and require certain amount of technical knowledge as it’s designed to do far more, and is inherently complicated.
From my point of view, there are much more advantages of having a mini PC in your living room instead of a gaming console. But most people have not considered this an option as they cannot get their head around the idea of a PC moving into their living room and the low price and intuitiveness of a gaming console will always give it more appeal.